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You’ve heard of lake trout fishing in the Northwest Territories. It mostly involves trolling with large lures and heavy tackle. But not always, according to subscriber Karl Fischer, who tells us he fished for lake trout with a fly this past August during a special fly fishing week at Plummers Great Bear Lake Lodge (www.plummerslodges.com). The trip also included fly-outs for char and grayling.
He writes: “When you hear Arctic Circle, you think of barren tundra, snow, ice, and polar bears, right? Well, think again! I took a weeklong trip to Plummer’s Great Bear Lake Lodge this past August 13 to 20 and there was no snow or ice. I fished in shirt sleeves every day but one, and that day I wore a fleece jacket. The scenery is breathtaking. “Plummer’s mostly caters to traditional fishermen, but the week I was there is typically set aside for fly fishing. It is at this time of year that the lake trout move from the deeper parts of the lake to more shallow water in preparation for spawning. This makes them more available to fly fishing. The fly fishing package includes a fly-out to the Tree River for two days of fishing for arctic char, plus another fly-out to a remote stream to fish for grayling. The Tree River is fished by fewer than 200 people a year. The remainder of the trip is dedicated to fishing for lake trout or pike. “Great Bear Lake is the fourth-largest lake in North America. The lodge is about 20 miles inside the Arctic Circle, and only about 400 people fish this part of the lake in a year. There were 11 anglers at the lodge while I was there, though they can accommodate up to 44 anglers. The cabins at Great Bear Lake Lodge are plain but comfortable. The staff was very anxious to please, and the food was superb—some of the very best meals I’ve ever eaten. Our chef, Greg Fuchs, who graduated from culinary school several years ago, has been Plummer’s chef for the last three years. He made a different bread for us each day to accompany the evening meal. “The trip involves flying into Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories. I was met at the airport by a Plummer’s expeditor, taken to my hotel, and briefed on the schedule for the flight the next morning from Yellowknife to the lodge. All my hotel arrangements were made by Brenda Prins, Plummer’s office manager. Day one started with a two-hour flight from Yellowknife to the lodge. I was shown to my cabin and then served lunch, after which I met my fishing partner for the week, Greg Walker, and my guide, Terry Grant. Terry was a great guide, extremely accommodating, and very familiar with the water and the fish. We fished for lake trout until 6 PM that day. I caught about 10 fish in the eight- to 10-pound range. “Day two started with breakfast, followed by a 200-mile flight to the Tree River, where we were shown to our cabins, served lunch, and introduced to our guide, Chance Prestie. Chance was a fabulous guide, extremely knowledgeable, and he was willing to do whatever he could to make our efforts successful. There are no trees on the Tree River, incidentally; it gets its name from the fact that when seen from the air it is shaped like a tree. It is a large river, probably 100 to 150 feet wide, and one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever fished. There were huge waterfalls each mile of the three miles of river that we fished. The cabins at the Tree River were sparse—a bed and an oil stove. The shower was in a separate building, but everything was clean. We were accompanied by our chef, so, once again, the meals were superb. Breakfast and supper were served in the dining hall and lunch was a sandwich on the riverside. “All three days we were there we hiked upstream to fish for char. The fishing involved sight casting to individual fish. It is challenging—not a game of quantity, but one of quality. I caught a lake trout and a char the first afternoon. I would guess that each weighed between eight and 10 pounds. We fished two more days, and each day I caught three char, most of which weighed between eight and 10 pounds, though I did catch one that weighed a bit over 18 pounds. Greg, my fishing partner, caught about six fish each day. His largest fish weighed about 14 pounds. We used 8-weight rods with sink-tip lines. The flies we used were Imperial Char Destroyers, sizes 1/0 to 6, in pink and black. These were a pattern developed by Chance, and were a variation of the Popsicle. The largest fish was caught on a huge pink-and-white fly, size 6/0, that Chance designed, which he called a Mr. Rat. It was a whitefish/cisco imitation. “Day 4 started with breakfast, followed by the flight to return to Great Bear Lake Lodge. We spent the afternoon fishing for lake trout. The fishing was very slow that afternoon. I don’t remember exact numbers; I just remember the fishing being slow. Day 5 started with breakfast and a fly-out to the Sulky River, where we fished for grayling. The Sulky is a small river—I would guess no more than a very long cast wide. There was a beautiful waterfall about a quarter of a mile downstream from where we began fishing. The fishing was incredible! The fish ranged between 10 and 17 inches, with about two-thirds of those coming in at 17 inches. We caught all our fish on dry flies—small Stimulators, Parachute Adams, and Elk Hair Caddis in size 14 to 16. I feel sure I caught at least a hundred fish before the float plane returned to take us back to the lodge for the evening. On day six, we again fished for lake trout. I caught about ten fish, most of which were on the small side (three to four pounds) except for one that weighed a bit more than 28 pounds. The whole trip was wonderful, including the meals, the fishing and the spectacular scenery.” Postscript: Fischer gives the cost of his trip as $6,290, not including gratuities or flights to and from Yellowknife.