Our Man In Canada
March 31st, 2003

Fly-Ins, Part 6

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

Northwest Territories - Piscatorial Penultimate

Visitors to the Yellowknife Airport are familiar with the large mural of an inuskuk painted by Ontario artist Ken Kirkby, an avid angler and steelheader. The inuskuk is symbolic of the arctic tundra, a stone way-marker for ancient and modern travelers. Coincidentally, its protruding arms closely resemble the shape of an aircraft, leading one to wonder if the ancients foresaw the day when air travel would dominate transportation in the north.

Fly Fishing Canada

Although enjoyable, my visits to Yellowknife often made me feel the need to leave the large hotel's comfort for some outpost camp. It is only a short downhill walk from the city center to the lakeside floatplane staging area. Morning rush hour is evident as floatplanes await their turn to take off for points west, north and east.

It was a sunny morning when my teenage son and I left Yellowknife for a three-hour charter flight into the central coastal Arctic. We flew over an extensive expanse of forest which eventually gave way to a seemingly endless blanket of tundra, sun-dimpled by countless lakes and rivers. Our bird's-eye view enhanced the sinuous eskers, scoured glacial bedrock and drumlins, pointing out the path of an ancient, vanished ice field.

On previous trips we had successfully caught lake trout, graying and freshwater char on flies. This time our tent camp was located on high ground near a sizable coastal river. After disembarking on the gravel beach, we met with the camp boss, who had spent most of his working life in the Canadian Arctic, and his Inuit assistants. Leisurely, we discussed our strategies, for there was no rush to go fishing in the northern summer when day merges into the twilight of night only briefly. Arctic char was our target species, and I reflected on the Inuit wisdom of following the rhythm of the seasonal timetable. After the inland passage of migrating caribou herds, the Inuit headed for the coast to make a fishing camp at the same site. They were good fishermen. As soon as the river is free of ice, char that have overwintered in fresh water head downstream to salt water, and then later in the year, other year-classes of large, anadromous arctic char return to the river to spawn.

Using heavy 8-and 9-weight rods with fast-sinking lines, we cast No.6-2/0 streamer flies - Polar Shrimps, Mickey Finns, Marabou Streamers, Woolly Buggers in orange, chartreuse, and silver and blue. These flies attracted fresh, fighting, sea-run char. They took gently and rarely jumped, but they ran - deep and fast like silver torpedoes - and did not give up easily. We were occasionally blanked when the fish went off the bite, but never for long. The runs in that area are strong and large in volume. The world record of 32 lb 9 oz (14.8 kg) was caught just 125 miles (200 km) north, and it will be broken. It is only a matter of time. ~ ML

Dr. Martin Lamont's Must-Have Patterns for Fly-Ins
  • Fry or Alevin patterns

  • Glennies Green' n' Silver

  • Hellgrammite

  • Mickey Finn

  • Polar Shrimp

  • Purple Egg-Sucking Leech

Credits: Excerpt and photos 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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