Our Man In Canada
March 17th, 2003

Fly-Ins, Part 4

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

The Northwest - Yukon Klondike Charters

Like it's people, there is a youthfulness in this northern land, which has more square miles per angler than the rest of Canada. Travelers are tempted by excellent fly-fishing opportunities for lake trout, pike, grayling, Dolly Varden and white fish - including inconnu. Transected by the Alaska Highway and only a few side roads, fly-ins are essential. Whitehorse has waterftont floatplane facilities on the Yukon River. Many fishing destinations are within 50-200 air miles (80 - 320 km), so it is only a few hours' flying time to various full-service lodges and wilderness camps.

The bright yellow Super Cub made a long approach, then descended onto the remote Yukon lake and touched down smoothly. After we disembarked near the lake's outlet, I quickly decided to split from the group as they paddled in their float tubes across the flat, calm lake. Exploring the outlet river was made easy by its low water, and the large boulders were great for walking on. The first few pools were crystal clear, and fish shadows were visible in the depths. Looking closer, I identified them as Dolly Varden.

It was frustrating as fish after fish followed my flies out of the depths, almost into the shallows at my feet, but refused to take. I accidentally hooked a small fingerling, and when it started darting about, it was instantly consumed by a 5-lb (2-kg) Dolly which set my rod to bucking and throbbing. When I finally brought it into the shallows, I discovered the Dolly was not hooked, merely clamped tight onto the now dead and badly mutilated fingerling. The almost grounded Dolly eventually opened its mouth, and slowly departed for deeper water. Clearly, Dollies prefer meat to feathers.

Farther downstream, where feeder creeks were slightly coloring the main stem, I found a midstream school of feeding grayling. They were holding in fast water and constantly rising to small blue-gray Ephemeroptera. They were very selective and required constant changes of flies. A small Gray Wulff worked for a few fish, then a Gray Hendrickson started more hook-ups. I realized that as the grayling became familiar with one pattern, a change provoked more strikes.

The next half mile of the river was white water. There I dredged the deeper pockets with a big, ugly, ultra-fast-sinking black Hellgrammite pattern to take grayling to 3 lb (1.5 kg). Below that section, the river again formed deep, isolated pools, and the rock formation changed to brown, broken sandstone. Fishing with Glo-Bugs, Mickey Finns and Sculpin patterns constantly produced smaller, darker Dollies with bright scarlet spots, strangely different from those caught in the outlet's clear water.

Fly Fishing Canada

My return to the lake revealed that my companions had found good fun in the shallow bays catching pike on streamer flies. The aroma of filleted and cubed "Yukon gold pike" sizzling in the frying pan was a harbinger of one of the finest of wilderness meals.


Alberta's fly-out centers are widely separated. The southwest Rocky Mountain area is served by Calgary and Canmore which, being major tourist centers, have aircraft for heli-hiking and fishing in the high mountains readily available. To the northeast of the province, in the boreal forests and to some extent in the northwest Caribou Mountains, are about 10 fly-in lodges with fishing for lake trout, pike, walleye and whitefish. Some are the original full-service fishing lodges like Andrew Lake and Christina Lake, while others are tent camps. Northern Alberta fly-in operators use Edmonton, Cold Lake and Fort McMurray as home bases.

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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