Field Team member Jeff Fisher is a traveling guide and angler. Every year he and his girlfriend pack their bags and head out on fishing adventures most of us only can dream of.
In Part 2 of this multi-blog series, Jeff shares his summer adventures from Canada’s Northwest Territories. If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out here.
Headed North of 60
It’s now late May and I can feel the temperature dropping the further north I go. I am making my way past the sixtieth parallel, towards Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada—the Land of the Midnight Sun. Yellowknife is the capital of the NWT, and was named after the local indigenous Dene tribe who were once known as the Yellowknife Indians who inhabit this region to this day. It is located on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, 400 km south of the Arctic Circle, and famous for being the deepest lake in North America at 2100 ft and—most importantly—world class freshwater fisheries.
Great Slave Lake is a fisherman’s paradise. Opportunities abound for fly and conventional fishing, from the boat or shore. This is the land of trophy pike and lake trout, although there are many other species you can target such as Whitefish, grayling, shefish aka inconnu, burbot and walleye. The north end of the lake is pike heaven—covered with little islands and shallow waters throughout. The deeper east end is where you will find the trophy lake trout, where 40lbs plus is not uncommon.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to fish many of the big lakes and rivers in the Northwest Territories, including Great Bear Lake and let me tell you—when you time it right, the fishing is magical.
Single hand fly rods are my main weapon of choice when it comes to all of the northern Canada fishing. I fish multiple setups. For Lake Trout, 9 to 10 wt rods with weight forward floating lines, full sink and shooting heads to get down deep and over structure. For pike, an 8 or 9 wt rod with a floating line and leader with a colourful streamer or popper for the ever exciting surface takes which we all can’t get enough of. When I really want to go deep, I fish with a trolling rod and mooching reel with lead core line. My favourite outfit for this style of fishing is an Islander Premier Series Rod paired with a serious work horse of a reel—the Islander MR3 mooching reel. Tie on a big spoon like a husky senior and get ready for action. If regulations allow it, I like to fish a second rod with a herring rig. I find the big ones just can’t resist some days and it can turn things around fast on slower days.
My favourite way by far though, is with my two-handed rod (aka spey) when the rivers flow well. I prefer a 13’ 8 wt rod paired with an Islander L.X 4.5 for maximum power and retrieve. My flies of choice are large white streamers on 3/0-6/0 hooks and fished on a downstream swing across the rivers current in hopes of a large Lake Trout lying in wait for a quick and easy meal. The takes can be extremely aggressive and the fight is just as wild when dealing with sub-arctic char in the cold, clean waters of Canada’s far north.
Today, however, I am in search of something a little different. I grab my partner, my trusty 4wt rod and my Islander IR2 and deep into the sub-Arctic wilderness, we hike. Blue skies, skinny trees and exposed rock all along the way. I am in search of a remote lake that holds little lakers that have rarely seen a fly. We arrive after a few hours and were well rewarded for our efforts—it was a beautiful place. I tie on a streamer and start casting into the pristine waters. Wasn’t long before I hooked up and we were able to have our shore lunch. Bellies now full, I continue fishing, catching and releasing, until it is time for the long trek back to the car.
More than Just a Fishery
As we were driving back towards the city, we spotted a white wolf on the edge of the bush line, only 25 yards away and we came to an immediate stop. There he was, in all his Northern glory, just off the road. He stopped and stared as if he knew I wanted him too, then he slowly turned away and disappeared into the bush. These are the moments I cherish most in nature. These rare moments and encounters, along with the opportunities to see and experience more of our wild planet.
The Northwest Territories is a truly unique place within Canada—the people, the culture, the Land of the Midnight Sun… Incredible fishing, beautiful scenery and I always look forward to coming back for another visit.