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Continuing subscribers know we’ve repeatedly deplored the fact that most fishing outfitters in the far north of Canada have done almost nothing to promote the use of sporting equipment and tackle for species such as lake trout and char. Anyone who has ever trolled a gargantuan Lazy Ike lure in search of lake trout will know what I mean. It’s a ridiculous way to fish, and the sad part is, most outfitters up that way just don’t seem to understand that most travelling anglers nowadays want to use either fly tackle or lighter spin tackle.
At any rate, we just received word that at least one outfitter up that way is catching on to the changing tastes of travelling anglers. He’s Steven Ashton of Arctic Adventures (*), whose endeavors in northeastern Canada include the operation of Payne Bay Fishing Camps on the Ungava Peninsula in northern Quebec. Ashton just lured The Angling Report’s Tim Jones up that way with a request that he look into the possibility that Payne Bay char can be taken on a cast (as opposed to a trolled) fly. Rest assured, they can. Tim Jones writes:
"After this trip I can only conclude that spin fishing and trolling flies for char up that way is so easy and rewarding that no one really bothered to try to take them with cast flies. In 3 1/2 days of fishing, I landed an average of better than three char per hour between 30 and 40 fish per day and hooked, fought and lost many others. Most fish I took weighed between four to six pounds, the largest almost nine pounds.
"My assessment of char is, they will take the right fly presented correctly. Once hooked, they fight with the same strength and spirit if not the same flash as Atlantic salmon. Char are great head shakers and often throw a barbless fly. The fly which produced best for me was a variation on a Joe’s Smelt #6 6XL hooks, tied with Krystal flash instead of a mallard wing (though the mallard version worked almost as well). When my supply ran out, I had good success on Popovic’s Surf Candy in green and blue, white/silver #6 Zonkers and very sparse green/white Deceivers.
"Anyone who has fly fished saltwater in the northeastern US and Canada will have all the tackle and skills he needs for this fishing. I took most of my char on a 7 weight rod with a 10 foot high speed sink tip line. The seven was definitely too light for the largest char, but it was lots of fun. In addition to the sink tip, I used an extra fast full sinker at high tide and an intermediate line at slack low tide. Overall, an 8 weight is perfect and a 9 weight certainly isn’t out of place, especially when you consider that stiff winds are common.
"As for Ashton’s camp as an overall destination, I was pleasantly surprised to find it is not hard to reach. You simply take a commercial jet from Montreal to Kuujjuaq, then a Twin Otter charter plane directly to the camp’s own landing strip. The facilities are the most comfortable I have encountered on my four trips to the Ungava Bay region. The camp is located on a side bay with a beautiful view of the fiord and the surrounding hills. There are four oil heated, steel sided bunk houses with four bunks in each. These cabins are tight enough to keep the heat in and the wind and mosquitoes out. You sleep on firm foam mattresses in light sleeping bags with washable cotton flannel liners. A diesel generator supplies 24 hour electricity.
"Ashton has another camp in this area. It’s upriver and offers mid summer visitors the option of getting into some brook trout fishing. A two day excursion to the upriver camp is a free add on. To be sure, the brookies tend to be on the small side. They average 10 to 17 inches. A 6 weight or 7 weight rod is about right for this fishing. At one spot I took 15 fat, scrappy brookies on as many casts. Slower water produced lakers. The best laker I landed weighed 6 1/2 pounds. The largest taken by our party weighed 17 pounds, though the party before had taken one weighing 40 pounds, which was a new camp record. I hooked one on my 7 weight that ran out all 150 yards of backing against a stout drag before snapping a 12 pound fluorocarbon tippet.
"While I was there, improvements were being made to the upriver camp, including installation of new siding. Eventually this camp will have electricity and running water. The boats, motors and other equipment here were all new or nearly new and in good operating condition. Both the bayside and upriver camps at Payne are owned by an Inuit federation and are controlled by the Inuits of Kangirsuk, the nearby village.
"A seven day trip here offering five full days and two possible part days of fishing costs just over $2,400 (US). That’s the all inclusive cost from Kuujjuaq. Enjoy!" Tim Jones.