Our Man In Canada
March 3rd, 2003

Fly-Ins, Part 2

By Dr.Martin Lamont
From Fly Fishing Canada From Coast to Coast, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. We appreciate use permission.

Ensure you have enough food, spare parts, boat props and fuel. Thorough preparation pays off; alternatively, a resupply flight is very expensive.

It pays to start off with a group of healthy, low-risk companions, but a comprehensive first-aid medical kit and a bush radio are also essential.

Tents should be lightweight for hiking or canoe trips, but for site-specific summer camps used for prolonged periods, use quality canvas tents. When camping in bear country, fortify the cooking tent with "bear boards" (nailed 4 x 8' plywood sheets), and use all other recommended bear-avoidance tactics.

Surprisingly, fly-fishing equipment is not very important, so keep it simple. Limit yourself to pack rods and a couple of reels, lines, a selection of flies, light-weight (and reliable) waders, self-inflating personal flotation devices which are not too bulky and spare waterproof bags in which to keep a change of clothing and your sleeping bag.

Getting to these last frontiers starts with international carriers delivering anglers to airports at Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Whitehorse, with Edmonton and Yellowknife serving a wider northern distribution. From these centers, scheduled carriers fly to smaller towns, most of which have nearby floatplane facilities. These charter operators provide fly-ins to full-service lodges, drop-off and pickup services to remote tent camps, day trips to alpine lakes, lake hopping, and camping and heli-fishing on some rivers.

Northern wilderness trips are confined to a short season, mostly July, August and September; however, some western locations open in the spring.

I will share a few of my experiences, but bear in mind that there are many more excellent locations.

The Coastal Island and Saltchuck Floatplanes

"Spectacular" describes fly-ins through British Columbia, there being a great variety of terrain and fish species. Flights which originate in Vancouver and Victoria connect with peripheral areas closer to the action, places like Campbell River, Prince George, Fort St. James, Smithers, Burns Lake, Nimpo Lake and Fort Nelson.

Small floatplanes are perfect for exploring remote coastal rivers on the Queen Charlotte Islands, a land of permanently green trees and undergrowth dripping wet from constant, moisture-laden weather fronts blowing in from the Pacific Ocean, where misty landscapes merge with the sky and rich marine environs embrace the archipelago.

We touched down with a watery swish as the pilot dump-landed onto a small coastal tarn and then beached. It was only a short forest hike to reach the open river estuary where smells of salt and seaweed blended with the cries of gulls. It was late fall and vast schools of coho were advancing with the incoming tide, waves of fish pushing upstream. Coho broke the surface with their backs, and out in the surf occasional fish hurtled into the air to avoid pursuing seals.

Our group split up, some to the river, others to the beach. There was no need for deep wading on the beach; knee depth was enough to avoid the narrow seaweed line which so annoyingly fouls leaders and flies. We used intermediate sinking lines to cast No. 8 flies with silver bodies, sparse white hair wings and fluorescent green heads. Fishing was hot - about 20 hook-ups, some bright silver fish, others with the pinkish purple color of early ripening fish, all 5 - 15 pound (2 - 7 kg).

Fly Fishing Canada

In the river, our companions were casting No. 4 Purple Egg-Sucking Leeches with equal success. Coho after cartwheeling coho, hard-fighting, were more out of than in the water. At one point the density of fish was astonishing; the water went dark as they swam by the anglers. So many fish, so much fine - a rare utopian occasion. I stopped fishing, content to sit back and simply watch the arcing fly rods as others played and released those wild salmon.

Continued Next Time

Credits: Excerpt from Fly Fishing Canada written by Outdoor Writers of Canada, edited by Robert H. Jones, Published by Johnson Gorman Publishers. Used with permission.

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