Our Man In Canada
February 17th, 2003

Fly-Ins, Part 1

By Dr.Martin Lamont
From Fly Fishing Canada From Coast to Coast, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. We appreciate use permission.

After many hours of pondering over 1:250,000 field survey maps, I decided on a new destination for a river fishing trip. Ahh, the best-laid plans...

My route involved many miles of lonely driving along the dusty Dempster Highway, which was under construction at the time. After driving as far as I could, it was evident that I was short of my destination. Although I could see the remote Peel River valley by the contours of the land, my optimism faded. Obviously, hiking through the bush from road's end would be hazardous, with every possibility of my becoming disoriented. With no alternative plan, I cursed my bad fortune and wasted time, then retraced my route along that damned gravel road.

In those days, my backyard play areas were sparsely populated northeastern British Columbia, Yukon and the western Northwest Territories. Although the local fishing was good, it still necessitated driving long distances. The logical progression to greater fishing experiences was to fly in.

Anglers are always seeking adventure in new, unexplored locations, and Canada's vastness offers some real challenges. It is 3,400 miles (5,400 km) from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, and if a latitude line were drawn at a northerly 55°, there are approximately 2.7 million square miles (7 million square km) filled with fish above and beyond any roads.

Considering that the majority of Canada's angling population lives close to the 49th parallel, thoughts of northern fly-in fishing trips are compelling; however, in some cases the prospect of visiting a remote lodge may seem intimidating. Ontario, for example has some 2 million waterways in the form of creeks, rivers, ponds, lake and inland freshwater seas. Where does one start?

It should not be surprising that world-class fly-fishing locations in Canada have been "discovered" by countless adventurous explorers. Many now operate air charters, lodges and wilderness camps, and there are lots of knowledgeable people in those groups who are willing to help you plan a successful trip.

Maximize your fishing time by contacting the tourism office in the province or territory in which you are interested and ask specifically for information on fly-in destinations. Talk to as many sources as possible, asking where to catch the fish you seek, the best times to go, how to get there, what special equipment is required and the costs.

Timing is critical. Some areas cater heavily to hunting, so air charters are pre-booked each year with hunters, guides and outfitters. In such cases, charter services prefer accommodating anglers at either end of the hunting season.

Fly-ins require lots of preparation and a firmly committed group of fellow fly fishers. All should be willing to contribute their fair share of determining what is required by way of transportation, maps, camping equipment, food supplies, boats, motors, fuel, canoes - all of which may take months to organize.

There is effort and cost in planning an extended stay or extensive overland or river trip, so your group should have flexible time frame, say more than two weeks.

Consider hiring a large aircraft; in the long run it may prove more economical. Small aircraft may carry only one canoe strapped to its pontoons, and its limited internal cargo space also affects a party's size. A slightly larger, twin-engine plane may carry up to three canoes and all of the camping equipment for six anglers. Thus, splitting the costs six ways makes sense.

If the destination is remote, the pilot must be familiar with important details like whether the water is deep enough to land safely and whether one can beach on a gravel or sandbar for easy unloading and loading. Equally important the pickup area should be predetermined and plans made for an alternative pickup location if necessary.

Canadian aviation history is closely linked to the development of northern communities. Anglers, lodge owners and outfitters owe much to the bush pilots who flew floatplanes like the classic de Havilland Beavers, single and twin engine de Havilland Otters. More common these days are Cessna 185 and 206, and Bell Jet Ranger helicopters. Although some lodges and logging or mining camps have remote dirt landing strips, there is far more need for floatplanes.

For extended trips, choose your fishing companions with care. Some should have wilderness experience, so their skills can be used to help out. Otherwise, consider hiring an experienced camp boss.

Inform several people of your intended destination, the expected length of time you intend to be there and your return date. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can provide a Wilderness Trip Registration form to officially record your plans.

Fly Fishing Canada

While summer tent camping on the tundra near the outlet of Kathawachaga Lake in the Northwest Territories (NWT), I set out early one morning to fish by boat. Passing a nearby island, I spotted a large group of people vigorously waving at me. I went ashore and discovered they were canoeing down the Burnside River to Bathurst Inlet, which was still three day's travel. After battling constant strong headwinds on the open waters of Contwoyto Lake, they were behind schedule and had run out of food. This sorry group had put up camp the night before, unaware of my presence. They were invited to my camp and soon revived by a large breakfast. Reluctantly, they continued their journey later that day, but fully provisioned from my supplies.

Continued Next Time

Credits: Excerpt from Fly Fishing Canada written by Outdoor Writers of Canada, edited by Robert H. Jones, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. Used with permission.

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