This year I was fortunate to spend my spring traveling and fishing all across Western Canada. From ice out, until the heat wave set in at the end of June, I was out on the water, flinging flies. From the Bow River fishing with my good friend Josh Nugent in Calgary, to the stillwaters of Western Manitoba fishing with local friends. I was able to get some epic days on the water and catch some fantastic fish!
Before the 2012 season began, I was called by Plummer’s Arctic Lodges, asking if I’d be interested in guiding this past summer. I was flattered and looked into the lodge further. Placed just above the Arctic Circle on Great Bear Lake, the seventh largest lake in the world, Plummer’s offers a unique fishing experience with access to remote waters and spectacular sceneries.
I was very fortunate to guide some incredible guests and travel to some remote fishing destinations from the main lodge. The fishing was nothing short of amazing for Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling, and Arctic Char with opportunities for fish of a lifetime on every cast.
One of the unique things about the Arctic is you can be very successful for Lake Trout with a fly rod. Typically Lake Trout are known for residing in the depths of unfertile, oligotrophic lakes well below the fly fishers reach, except for early spring at ice out or in late fall when the fish come up onto the reefs to spawn. In the Arctic however, the water remains frigid all “open water” season long. Lake Trout seldom reside below 35 feet in Great Bear Lake, and there are multiple morphs of Lake Trout that occupy different niches in the food chain.
With approximately 11 different morphs of Lake Trout in Great Bear Lake, there is a unique opportunity for fly fishers.
If you enjoy dry fly fishing, you can catch Lake Trout up to 20lbs on Caddis dry flies. The red-fin and butterfly morphs are primarily insectivorous and can be seen taking Caddis from the surface.
If you prefer to cast big streamers and rip them, the piscivorous morphs in the lake provide fly anglers with an opportunity at giant Lake Trout of a lifetime. At ice out, 40lb+ fish can be found in less than 10ft of water on sand flats. They pile up in the shallows in search of warmer waters and food. These giants can be sight fished to and provide anglers with a epic battle!
For fishing the Lake Trout in the Arctic, I suggest 6 weight fly rods for dry fly fishing and 9 or 10wt rods for streamer fishing. The Lake Trout in the Arctic are not line shy and you can get away with using heavier tippet than most situations. Also, the heavier tippet helps to reduce bite offs, as Lake Trout have a mouthful of teeth. When streamer fishing it is advised to use bite tippet to keep from bite offs on big fish.
For flies bring a selection of fairly large Caddis dry flies and nymphs, size 12-8. These will not only be eagerly taken by the lake trout but also are great for catching a few trophy Grayling, which infest the lake. Also small streamers in sizes 2-10 will eagerly be taken as well.
For streamers I suggest large deceivers and Pike style flies. Good colours are chartreuse, Red/Black, Orange, White, and Black. No fly is too big for Lake Trout. LargeLake Trout will not hesitate to eat a 8lb+ Lake Trout and will never pass up a tasty 2lb Grayling. We typically will run 8-inch or larger streamers for Lake Trout.
Trolling is effective as well with the fly rod. You can cover water more efficiently if using a weighted fly and a fast sinking, type 6 or 7 line. I like to use the Echo3 Saltwater 10 weight for the simple fact it has the backbone to firmly plant the fly with tension already on the line from trolling. This method is great in the fact that Lake Trout are notorious for following the fly and are nomadic. Sometimes it is the best method for finding fish. Often times a quick change of direction or a fast strip retrieve will trigger a strike.
If you ever get a chance to fish in the Arctic, be forewarned, it will spoil fishing for you. The fish are eager to take a fly and wage strong battles in the cold waters. The numbers of Lake Trout you can catch in a single day is staggering! I have a hard time getting excited about fishing for Lake Trout anywhere else after guiding and fishing at Great Bear Lake.
It is paradise.”