Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Plummer's Arctic Lodge - Arctic Circle Fly Fishing

At 66.4 degrees latitude, just above the arctic circle, this furthest northern sport fishery in the Americas wasn't even on my radar.  Legendary amongst Canadians and serious conventional gear anglers around the world, you wouldn't think a fly fisherman would have any business this deep into the North West Territories, but you might be surprised.  
Red Fin Lake Trout

Plummer's Arctic Lodges have been operating an exceedingly remote lodge on Great Bear Lake (4th largest lake in N. America) since 1960.  In this Arctic no-man's land, summer last for only a brief few days and the entire fishing season is constrained to 8 weeks.  After that the lodge is abandoned for 48 weeks as weather changes very quick in this part of the world.  

The lodge is fully self contained, there are no roads to it, ingress egress is limited to two options: 1) a charter flight (part of your package) out of Yellow Knife or 2) a multi-day ride on an ice-road truck in -40F the winter.  Equipped with 19 guides, a like number of boats and complimented by 2 private turbo otters with floats, the lodge is able to get you quickly to just about anywhere within a 220 mile radius.  Whether you want to fish for any of 8 sub species of lake trout, sea-run Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, or Northern Pike, you're but a boat ride (or flight) away.

Plummer's Arctic Lodge - Main Lodge
The lodge is renown for IGFA world records.  Aside from booking this lodge, there is no other practical way to fish for these world record Lake Trout (78lb/7oz unofficial, 72lb/0oz official), Arctic Char (32lb/9oz official), or Arctic Grayling (5/15oz official).  For the past 13 years, the lodge has been dedicating a week (this year they dedicated two) to fly fishing and the unique gear/techniques/needs of fly fishermen.  If conditions are right, there are ample blind and sight casting opportunities for lakers prowling the shorelines and shallow reefs, but if mother nature decides to skip summer (as was this case this year), plan on mostly trolling large 6/0 flies behind T-20.

If you know where to look, wildlife is plentiful in this tunderous region which makes Alaska look like a metropolis.  Keep a camera handy and eyes peeled for herds of Caribou, Musk Oxen, Grizzly Bears, Moose and Arctic Wolves.  Also be aware that this is not Alaska where you rarely see wolves and where bears are fat dumb and happy with bellies full of salmon.  This is a no-man's land, animals aren't use to seeing people and there are no calorie-rich salmon runs, so the predators up here will not necessarily try and avoid you, they may even come close to check you out.  You may interpret this as a photo opportunity, but chances are they're sizing you up to see if they think they eat you.  Unlike Alaska, guides immediately turn back when they see a bear.
Arctic Wolf captured by my drone at the Coppermine River - part of a pack of 5 or 6
We did 3 fly outs, one to the Coppermine River, famous for feisty sea-run Arctic Char in addition to the Sulky River, known for large numbers of hungry Arctic Grayling.  We also did a fly out for 2.5 days to the remote Tree River which is just 2.5 miles off the Arctic Ocean (separate post to follow).  The Tree River is the real reason I came this far north...to swing flies to its salmon-sized sea-run Arctic Char, the largest of their kind on the planet.
Grayling Fin - Underwater their iridescence comes to life, take them out of the water and they're dull grey.
The Sulky River Fly out has some magnificent water falls and photo opportunities.  Be aware that lake trout also inhabit the river, so if you hook a grayling that takes you into your backing....now you'll know why.
Grayling on a fly-out to the Sulky River - dull grey when out of the water, see photo above for iridescence.
Turbo otters are fixtures at the lodge and on standby at all times.  Your fishing package likely will include a basic fly out, but there is an a-la-carte menu in the main lodge for additional custom tailored fly outs once you get there.  My best advice is starting on day 1, talk to other like-minded individuals that are also jonesing for an adventure.  If you can corral 3-5 people to join, you cut the cost per person down to a fraction.


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