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Subscriber Bryan Griffith has checked in with a fascinating and encouraging report about a great place to catch Arctic char – namely, the Ekaluk River in Nunavut, Canada. He writes:
“This past August I was privileged to be invited for the second week of the two-week Arctic char season on the Ekaluk River in Nunavut, Canada. Bill Lyall owns a camp on the Ekaluk and Jack Elofsson operates it for 12 anglers each week. Their company is called B & J Flyfishing Adventures. I had fished the Ekaluk during the first week of the season in 2009. While the fish were exceptionally late that year and hard to come by, those I did catch were among the strongest freshwater fish I had ever had the pleasure to hook. Because of the short season and because regulars keep coming back every year, just getting into the camp requires a bit of luck. At this point, someone pretty much has to drop out or die for an opening to occur in week two. I was very lucky to be asked back in 2010, and I was looking forward to a week of catching a lot of huge char. Upon arriving at the camp after the short half-hour floatplane ride from Cambridge Bay everyone geared up and, indeed, we all started taking fish immediately. I personally landed five and lost three in a little over three hours, all on floating line and brightly colored streamers. It looked as if we might have actually timed our trip perfectly.
“What we did not realize at that point is that a commercial netting operation had moved from its traditional site on Ferguson Lake, upstream of us, to the mouth of the river where it flows into Wellington Bay. Jack and Bill discovered this just before we arrived. They hoped it would not impact the fishing too much. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The netters began taking fish the day we arrived and for all practical purposes shut off the flow of new fish coming into the river. We continued to catch fish but they were mostly char that had already entered the river and were holding there before making their three-mile journey up to the spawning grounds. The fishing was certainly better than in 2009 but each day the numbers got lower and the fishing tougher. The last day I landed one fish at 5:30 am and did not touch another fish for the next 12 hours despite fishing hard. For the week, my totals were 30 fish landed out of 41 hooked with ten between 30 and 35 inches in length.
“While 30 quality fish is not a bad week on most rivers, it was a bit disappointing for the Ekaluk. What made everything particularly difficult was watching planeloads of char being flown out overhead. I knew I could not honestly recommend fishing this river to fellow subscribers unless this netting problem was cleared up. Hence, I delayed this report until now. I’m glad I did because here is what has transpired.
“In 2010, after our week on the river was over, a group of us from week two along with many former Ekaluk anglers began writing letters in support of B & J Flyfishing Adven- ture’s operation on the Ekaluk. The Nunavut Tourism board saw the validity of our point of view and joined our cause. Under the auspices of the Federal Fisheries organization, all the parties met and discussed the situation. The upshot is, Bill Lyall and the commercial netter came up with a solution to the problem. Quite simply, they both decided that the nets would go back to Ferguson Lake. The speed with which this matter was turned around amazed all of us who were involved in it.
“The Ekaluk River is truly a world-class sea run char fishery and Bill and Jack run a great fishing camp there. The camp is comfortable, the food is good and the company on one of these trips is congenial. The size and numbers of these fish are astounding. The way a tragedy was averted here is a great story that shows what a few people can do when they get organized. Because the nets will no longer be at the mouth of the river, I have already asked Jack to save me a spot in 2011, and I’ll be going back as long as I keep getting invited! Bill Lyall and Jack Elofsson deserve kudos for saving an incredible flyfishing river. If you ever get a chance to fish this river, by all means do so. – Brian Griffith.
(Postscript: You can read more about B & J Flyfishing Adventures and inquire about an opening on the Ekaluk by going to the company’s web site: www.arcticflyfishing.com. E-mail: [email protected].