Great Bear Lake - June 26 to July 16, 2023

Harold Written by 

(4 votes)

 

Net Zero

In green speak, Net Zero is generally understood to mean:

“… the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) that's produced, and the amount that's removed from the atmosphere.”

But on this particular jaunt, it takes on an entirely different meaning, as you will come to understand as the story unfolds.

June 26

God Bless Us Every One!

Those of you who are familiar with the Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol, will no doubt recognize the above as Tiny Tim’s most famous line - but I digress.

In an attempt to avoid a debacle similar to the one that befell us last year, instead of trying to get from Toronto to Yellowknife on the same day, we left a day early, overnighted in Edmonton, and then made our way to YK the following morning. This way, if there was a problem with our flight, which is not unheard off nowadays, we had a much better chance of getting to YK from Edmonton on either the same, or a different carrier, than we would ever have if we were stuck in Toronto.

Check in and getting through security was a breeze, and while waiting to board, the agent at the check in desk paged Mr. Kenneth Gold. Hmmm. Being the curious sort, I joined him at the desk, wherein the agent asked our very own Tiny Tim if he still required wheelchair assistance.

At least he had the grace to look somewhat sheepish while declining, and when I asked him what the hell that was all about, got a convoluted answer about requesting one when booking the flight several months earlier – just in case.

In case of what?

What a dick.

While our flight was a bit late getting off, we made up the time en route, and landed in Edmonton as scheduled.

There was a very nice young man who, unfortunately for him, was assigned the seat between us, and was likely going to need some form of therapy at the conclusion of his flight.

He asked if we were fiends, and was immediately treated to our best Stadler and Waldorf impersonations, as we tried to explain that while we have had a relatively long relationship, it was born of necessity, flavoured with a sizable measure of mutual loathing, and had nothing to do with friendship. We went on to explain that if we never saw each other again, that blessed event could not come soon enough, but of course not before we had finished this, and our August fishing trips.

I don’t recall him asking any more questions, or for that matter speaking to either of us for the remainder of the flight.

That evening, we enjoyed a pleasant dinner in the hotel dining room, where I tried a tasty locally brewed ale, which MAY have been called Electric Avenue Alberta Blonde from the Wild Rose Brewery.

Because of the 2 hour time difference, we were able to kick back after dinner, and watch the Jays put it to the Giants.

June 27

He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My What???

While on our way to clear security, right out of the blue, some random person asked us if we were brothers.

OMG! The only thing I could think of to say under the circumstances was to ask if either of us had offended her in a previous life. We must be giving off some sort of very weird vibe, because first there was the kid on the plane asking about our relationship, and now this.

Both Kenny and I are now accepting new friend/fishing partner applications, which can be submitted through this site. Assuming anyone is dumb enough to apply, interviews will be held early in the new year.

It was déjà vu all over again, because the Westjet agent paged you know who, asking if he needed a wheelchair, meaning of course that he had pre-booked one on both legs of his flight. After declining yet again, I suggested that if he kept this shit up, I may take steps to ensure that he actually did require boarding assistance, and at the risk of being repetitive:

What a dick.

Wheels up were right on time, and Yvonne, the Plummer’s agent, along with Darrel the shuttle guy were waiting to greet us at the YK airport. Our luggage was whisked away to the Summit Air terminal, and Darrel dropped us off at the Nova Hotel, but not before kindly taking Kenny over to the liquor store so he could pick up a bottle of 40 Creek Rye which, should the need arise, be consumed for medicinal purposes only.

While we had stayed at the Explorer the past few years, we opted for the Nova this time around, because if I recall correctly, there was about a $100 per night price difference between the two. The room was fine, and we had a decent meal in the hotel restaurant, although the braised Bison short ribs would have benefited from a bit more time in the oven.

Part way through dinner there was a power outage, which is not an uncommon occurrence in YK, and we were all herded out into the lobby to await the resumption of service. It was out for 20 minutes or so, and when we were allowed back into the restaurant, our server advised us that our bill would be discounted by 30% for the inconvenience. Too bad we hadn’t ordered the surf and turf…

June 28

Hail, Hail the Gang Was Definitely All Here

All of this being on time nonsense had thankfully come to an end, and we could now relax, knowing that the trip had truly begun, because we were now on Arctic Time.

Forget about the various time zones most people are familiar with, Arctic Time is a unique time zone reserved exclusively for those who travel using air charter services in the NWT, or for that matter Nunavut. It’s not something you can get in sync with simply by adjusting your watch or phone, but rather is almost twilight zone like, or to put it another way:

“You will get there when you get there, so don’t get your shorts in a knot, and just chill.”

Being on Arctic Time is the sole reason we always overnight in YK upon our return from the lodge, rather than rolling the dice and booking a flight out to points East, West and/or South that same day.

Thankfully no one at Summit Air paged you know who, and because the flight was over an hour late getting off, gave me plenty of time to catch up with Shane Jonker and his daughters, Cam Baty, and Pike Mike. Not only was it great to reconnect with them, there were plenty of familiar faces waiting to greet us upon arrival at the lodge, including Aunty Mo, Chuk, Chummy, OD, Al, Brad, Reid, Terry, John C. and Steve, the “Fly’n Hawaiian” Gardner, to name just a few.

The 1 hour and 10 minute flight to the lodge went smoothly, and after grabbing a bite to eat, found our digs, and hooked up with veteran GBL guide Chris Ireland, who would be stuck with us for the rest of this week.

While it took longer than expected, we managed to collect all of the gear that we leave behind at the lodge year after year. The first load that Chris brought over did not have any of our rods, but full credit to Kenny who went on something of a scavenger hunt, and located them in of all places, the storage room back of the tackle shop. Why they weren’t stored with the rest of our stuff I can’t say, although Chris did mention that “everyone” knew that anything kept in the back of the tackle shop was not to be touched. Perhaps, but that was not very comforting, considering all the rest of our gear was warehoused elsewhere.

By the time we got ourselves sorted, it was late afternoon, and because we were going to be here for 2 weeks, figured there was no sense in rushing things, and didn’t bother going out. Instead, we had a cracking good natter with Chris, who mentioned that he had guided at Arctic Circle Lodge in the 80’s, and where, as luck would have it, we just happened to be going in week #2. He showed us all manner of places we had not tried previously tried, many of which turned out to be very productive.

With any luck we would be off to Tree River in the morning.

June 29

With Any Luck

We were told that our flight to Tree River would be leaving right after breakfast, so we didn’t dawdle over our bacon and eggs, and were down at the dock, ready to rock by 8:30.

Fact is, instead of hanging around the dock, we could have kicked back in the lodge and enjoyed a second cup of coffee, together with one of Aunty Mo’s otherworldly cinnamon buns, because our flight was over 2 hours late getting off. Why you may ask? You are indeed welcome to ask, but don’t expect a straight answer.

Together with our other Char aficionados, we would be flying in with a new fridge. Seems a local Grizzly had decided to undertake some remodelling during the off season, which included doing a number on the fridge, together with several other physical renovations.

We had a pleasant ride up, and were greeted by none other than Dave Jackson, who would be managing the camp this season.


Before moving on, I would like to introduce you to our fellow “Treeites”. You have already met Dave, who btw lives in Chile for most of the year, so please allow me to present Cam from Alberta, Barb and Tom from Ontario, Buck – place of origin unknown, Peter from Norway, Steve, the “Fly’n Hawaiian” from – you figure it out, Shane the “barefoot” pilot, who was either from Australia or New Zeeland (I never did manage to pin that down), Dawn and Simon from Kugluktuk, Chef Miguel from Spain, and Kenny and I from the planet Krypton.

In my humble opinion, a finer international assemblage could not be found anywhere south of the north pole.

Things were a bit hectic at first, with groceries having to be stowed away, and the new fridge run up to camp and installed in the cook house, but once we were settled in, Chef Miguel pan fried some fresh Char for lunch, with the result being we didn’t get out on the river until 2pm.

Opting to fish below the first set, we struck out for Dinosaur Rock*, but our boat was taking on so much water, we spent more time bailing, and running around at full throttle with the plug out, than we did fishing.

To add to the fun, on one of our “draining” runs, the motor damn near conked out. Chris somehow managed, rather skillfully I might add, to navigate back to camp, despite the fact we had to travel upstream against a very strong current using a wonky motor.

 

Once we beached our submersible, a close inspection revealed a rather large gash on the underside of the hull, just below the bow. We set up another boat, and by the time we got that all sorted, it was just after 4pm. Needless to say, our Char excursion was not off to an auspicious start.

While our new conveyance was relatively dry, it did have a rather small motor, so we opted to stick fairly close to camp and work Chummy Bay*. Once we finally got to it, the fishing was pretty good. We hooked 10 and landed 6, all on either a white with red dots, or CHT with red dots #5500 Devel Dog. Last year the #6 Blue Fox spinner was the hot lure for us, but so far, neither of us could buy a hit when using it. 

Having a fresh, sea run Char slam your offering is a thrill you have to experience to appreciate. Once the hook is set, anything can happen, because these fish are, to put it in simple terms –outrageous. And two of them we did somehow manage to land, fit that description to a “t”.

Kenny got a bone jarring hit, and when he hauled back and set the hook, his reel came flying off the rod, landing on the floor of the boat with a noticeable thud. He tried to reattach the reel, but found it impossible, because the fish, who was not prepared to wait around until he got everything back together, continued peeling line, and for all intents and purposes appeared to be making a run for Arctic Ocean. It had all the makings of a real shit show, and clearly drastic action was required, so I grabbed the rod with both hands, and told him to operate the reel while I tried to control the fish.

It was a well-choreographed effort by all from start to finish, and when Chris finally got a net under it, we were confident that while this particular fish may not turn out to be the biggest of the day, it would nevertheless make for some interesting dinner conversation.

The second one, while not as exciting as the first, did give us one heart stopping moment. I was playing the fish some distance from the boat, when it started running hell bent for leather, directly at us. I was reeling furiously trying to keep the line tight, and when it was right beside the boat, jumped completely out of the water, and for what seemed like forever, hovered in mid-air directly over the bow, before flicking its tail, and landing back into the water.

Talk about your “oh shit” moment.

Miguel had finally managed to put his kitchen together, and served us a very good dinner, that featured a mixed green salad topped with an outstanding Char Ceviche, that he had concocted while we were out fishing.

After dinner we headed over to Dinosaur Rock, and Amsterdam*, and while striking out in both of those places, caught one more in Chummy Bay, bringing our total to 7 for the day, the biggest being 15 pounds.

Cam and his group hiked upriver earlier in the day and fished 3rd Falls*, Presidential* and Nieland Bay*. They landed quite a few, including one which may have gone 20 pounds. Barb and Tom also had a good day, having caught some primarily around Amsterdam. Tom went above the first set that evening, and corralled several more, including a male that was starting to show some colour.

All in all, a few glitches along the way notwithstanding, it was a very good day of fishing for all concerned.

While the day was warm and sunny, the evenings can get rather cool, even though the sun does not set at this time of the year. It was very chilly in our cabin, so Kenny and I decided to spark up the small oil stove. Despite following the lighting instructions to the letter, and going through most of a box of matches, we couldn’t get it going. Fortunately we found Dave, who after a few tries, realized that he had yet to turn on the main oil supply, but once he did, we got it going and stayed warm and toasty throughout the night.

Note: You won’t find the place names marked with an * on any map, because all of them are idiomatic names given to locations along the river where people often fish.

June 30

Devel Dog Afternoon

Or to be more precise – Devel Dog Morning.

Some cloud had moved in overnight, but it remained warm. What also remained were the clouds of bugs that tormented us yesterday, and from the numbers that were buzzing around camp, it appeared they decided to invite several thousand of their friends to join them.

As a result, Kenny’s bug zapper got a very good work our during breakfast.

With the exception of Kenny and I, everyone fished above the first set. They all caught fish, somewhere between 10 and 15 if memory serves, and Barb bested a beauty that was well over 20 pounds.

I hooked 5 and landed 3, all but one of them in Chummy Bay. They were all in the teens, and caught on a white, with red dots Devel Dog. Two of them hit right at the boat, and while you have to be lucky to get a hook set when that happens, I did manage to land one. I also lost one at Amsterdam who, when it hit, streaked towards the boat at about 100 mph, thereby making it impossible for me to set the hook.

To be clear, no one should NEVER - EVER liken a Char to a Pike, but in reality, they do have one trick up their fins in common. Anyone who has fished for Pike will know that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, or in other words, don’t relax until your bait is completely out of the water. Same deal with Char, because not unlike Esox, they have this nasty habit of waiting until the last possible moment to make their presence known, and when they do, well, hang on and pray.

While I was doing ok, Kenny could not buy a hit regardless of what he threw at them. Normally I would go out of my way to make a number of disparaging comments about his prowess as an angler, or more particularly, his lack thereof, but having had days like this myself, decided to remain silent, and let the mornings events speak for themselves.

There was a bit of rain first thing, but the sky cleared around 11, just in time for our flight back to the lodge. Usually we would stop for fuel in Kug, but because Shane had topped up the tanks when picking up Dawn and Simon yesterday, we flew directly back to the lodge.

Our flight was just short of 2 hours in duration, and Aunty Mo had a very nice lunch waiting for us. Customarily, we would have had lunch at Tree River, but perhaps because we were not stopping at Kug, and would be arriving at the lodge early in the afternoon, they decided to feed us there.

Anyway, although there was some fishing time left in the day, we took the opportunity to chill, and discuss our hopes, dreams, options and plans for the remainder of the week with Chris.

Options included fishing locally, or flying out to Clearwater Bay, Shipwreck, the Cove, or perhaps Hornby Bay, where weather permitting, we could make a run to Appleby Point. I raised the possibility of giving McGill Bay a shot, but Kenny was not all that interested, in that he thought the water would be too warm, meaning we would likely have to fish outside of the bay. He did have a point (remember, you heard it here first!) because the ice had gone out about 3 weeks earlier than usual, and was impacting the fishing accordingly.

While we had numerous options to choose from, before making any final decisions we would see what kind of intel Chris could dig up, although in terms of fly out intel it would be slim pickings, because the only fly out so far this week had been to Shipwreck.

Cam and his group headed off right after lunch, with plans to fish 1st , 2nd, and 3rd bays, and have shore lunch rather than come back in for dinner. It was a good move on their part, because if for no other reason, Cam caught a 30.

We discussed the possibility of doing a fly out with our dinner companions, and managed to sign up Barb, Tom, Al and Larry, although we left it open in terms of where, and what day it would be, subject to the intel yet to be gathered.

With no fly outs on the immediate horizon, we would be fishing locally tomorrow.

BTW – I saw a Robin at the lodge today. Talk about taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque!

July 1

Steve – Please Pass the Poi - or for that Matter the Furikake

A rather brisk north wind greeted us this morning, which would to some degree restrict out travel options.

Following in the footsteps of Cam and his posse, the plan was to fish 1st , 2nd and 3rd Bays throughout the day. While not generally known to produce large quantities of fish, there are certainly some to be had, and is worth visiting if for no other reason, than the area features classic Great Bear Lake structure and scenery.

When the sun is shining, the crystal clear water reveals a seemingly endless number of shoals and reefs, with colours ranging from dark blue, to teal and aqua marine. The underwater structure is interspersed by scores of relatively small islands, which are also home to various species of birds, including raptors, such as Perrigin Falcons. Arctic Terns are also fond of nesting in this GBL archipelago, and will let you know in no uncertain terms, if you happen to venture too close to a nest.

While we had opted to do the sandwich thing for lunch (Chris made killer sandwiches), we spotted Cam, Buck, Pete, and the Gordon Ramsey of shore lunch chefs Steve, the “Fly’n Hawaiian” Gardner, making preparations for shore lunch, and decided to pay them a visit.

They were kind enough to let us sample some of the dishes Steve was preparing, including their version of “Chummy Trout*”, and a rather amazing Lake Trout backstrap, that he had rubbed with Furikake** the previous evening, which was then pan seared, and served medium rare with a wasabi/soya dipping sauce.

In retrospect, the decision to go with sandwiches didn’t seem like that great of an idea.

Water temperatures throughout all 3 bays averaged between 47 and 55 degrees, but oddly you could be fishing in 47, and only had to move a few yards before hitting 55. Move another few yards and it was back to 47. Yes – odd.

It was not exactly a red letter day fishing wise, because we only managed to coral 10, with the biggest being an estimated 15 pounds. Top lures were the Malibu Barbie and Fire Tiger Husky Devel’s, and a red, white and silver Giant Half Wave. Kenny also got one on a shiny blue/green Hog Nose Flatfish.

Al and Larry had bounced their way over to Cabin Bay, and while they didn’t record any trophy’s, caught 40. The Mercer’s, who hail from Texas, and whose family patriarch has been coming up to Bear pretty much as long as I have, flew out to Action Alley, and while they managed to dodge all of the big ones, did well from a numbers perspective.

The Mercer’s were our breakfast/dinner companions for most of the week, and it was very interesting indeed, to discover how our collective experiences fishing the big lake over the years interconnected with one another’s.

Chris and OD dropped by after dinner, and we had a fantastic time reminiscing and swapping stories, including the one Paul Reynolds told them about his experience landing, and weighing the 70 pounder our friend Kevin had caught just east of Tripod.

If all goes according to plan, we will be “Ottering” it to Hornby Bay tomorrow.

Notes:

*In a previous journal I set out the recipe for “Chummy Trout,” which purportedly was trout boiled in water that might contain salt, and from time to time, onion soup mix. Apparently my source had it wrong, because at shore lunch today, Cam and Steve made up a batch of what they swore was the real thing, and which they called “Chummy Lobster.” This consisted of trout boiled in water that had been flavoured with onion skins, and once removed from the water, seasoned with copious amounts of lemon pepper. Although it’s a well-kept secret – or was until now I suppose – the reason why the dish is actually known as “Chummy Lobster,” is that he – he being Chummy - would serve it with garlic butter.

**Furikake is a Japanese seasoning typically made with toasted sesame seeds, nori, salt and sugar. It varies from region to region in Japan, and can also include anything from bonito flakes to chili flakes, to miso powder, to shitake powder and even poppy seeds.

July 2

Seven Swans a Swimming

6 anglers fishing – 5 Graaayling… ok, I’ll stop now.

This was not only going to be our chance to fish some new water in Hornby*, but would give us the opportunity to punch in a few waypoints, that just might come in handy while we are at Arctic Circle next week.

The weather was absolutely spectacular, with clear blue skies, and not a ripple on the water. I mentioned earlier that if weather permitted we were going to make a run to Appleby Point, and it certainly permitted. So along with Kenny, Chris and I, Barb, Tom and OD, and Al, Larry and Reid, off we went.

Shortly after arriving at Appleby, we spotted 2 boats heading our way. At first we thought they must be from our group, but as it turned out they had come over from Circle, and I’m willing to bet they were just as surprised to see us, as we were them.

OD hit a spot not far from Appleby called the Cage (Chris mentioned that it was known as a good early season locale), and while there Tom caught a 35, and Barb a 25. Larry also got a very nice 33, just off the small island adjacent to Appleby.

We fished both Appleby, and an area just south of that known as Prospect Point. Because the sun was shining, and water was so flat and clear, we could see trout swimming around seemingly everywhere we looked. They were feeding on both floating bugs, and at Prospect in particular, schools of Cisco’s that were dimpling the surface of the water as far as the eye could see. Rather than trying to compete with all of the natural, organic forage, we stopped fishing for a while, and had a fabulous time simply watching nature take its course.

Chris was somewhat surprised we didn’t catch more big fish (20+), but attributed it to the fact that the Grayling did not appear to be in residence as yet. Hopefully they will show up sooner rather than later, which may auger well for us next week, should we manage to get back there.

As for the earlier reference to swans, it’s not uncommon to see pairs of Swans on Bear. What is unusual though, is to see 7 of them swimming together, which in ornithological terms, is often referred to as a bevy, bank or even a herd of Swans – although I prefer flotilla.

All boats reported good numbers at the end of the day, with our total being 25. We didn’t crack the 20 pound mark, coming up 1 pound short, although it fought like something twice that size.

As for our fellow lodge inhabitants, the Mercer’s flew to the Inlet, and did pretty well with the biggest being a 31. Cam and his trio caught a few in the low 20’s, although I don’t recall where, and everyone in the group that went to Tree River caught at least one, all of them above the 1st set. Someone also hooked into a gargantuan Char, that unfortunately spit the hook, before it could be netted.

Chris and Steve came over this evening, and Steve not only shared some absolutely hilarious anecdotes about his experiences while guiding, together with Chris, they gave us a bit of a history lesson in regards to Arctic Circle Lodge, including the fact that Circle once had a Char camp on the Coppermine.

* http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hornby_john_15E.html

July 3

Right, Right, Your Bloody Well Right…

Not really mate.

Do you recall hearing those stories about the rich and allegedly famous, who would think nothing of grabbing a seat on the Concord, and winging off to London or Paris, for no other reason than to have a spot of lunch, and then jet back home that same day, just in time for cocktails and dinner?

Well, while we didn’t “wing off” to any exotic locale, the rich and famous didn’t have anything on us, because we did travel a total of 96 km’s to basically have lunch, and to top it off, made it home that evening in time for cocktails and dinner.

It was to be another day of fishing in the general vicinity of the lodge, or what we refer to as fishing locally, therefore in consultation with Chris, and for all manner of reasons that seemed cogent at the time, concluded that the place to be was Bloody River.

Conditions could not have appeared to be more perfect. It was relatively calm, with just a light wind blowing into shore, and water temperatures were in the mid-40’s to low 50’s range.

I want to say at the outset, that Chris worked his butt off trying to put us on fish. Not only did he constantly vary our trolling speed, we fished deep, shallow and all points in between, and in the process, used up pretty much every lure we had in our collective arsenals.

When the time came to pull in for lunch – no sandwiches today – we had only caught 5 very small trout, with the largest barely being big enough to feed the 3 of us. Chris prepared a first rate lunch consisting of pan fried trout, that had been coated in a mixture of cornflake crumbs and herbs, crispy fried potatoes and onions, beans, and of course canned corn. He also brought along a sweet/spicy Thai Chili sauce that complimented the fish very nicely.

Before lunch we had run into Al, Larry and Reid, who must have consulted the same astrologer as us, having come to the same wrong conclusion that Bloody was the place to be. They did fare somewhat better than we did though, at least in terms of size, having landed one that cracked the 20 pound mark, but unfortunately lost another at the boat, they estimated to be in the 30’s.

We stuck around the area and washed lures for an hour or so after lunch, but rather than continue to engage in this act of self-flagellation, headed back in the direction of the lodge, stopping for 10 minutes at Morgan’s Flats, where we were rewarded with one snag.


Just Stop All of that Whining and Pass the Damn Cheese!

Thursday night “Wine & Cheese” was scheduled to make its triumphant return, being somewhat auspicious by its absence last year, and at the very least, should help to take our minds off of the day we just had.

Chef went above and beyond, serving up all manner of delicious hors d'oeuvre’s, which were paired with a selection of red and white wines, and Bloody Cesare’s. Kenny got right into the spirit of things by wiping out most of the homemade sausage rolls, which according to him, were the best thing since sliced bread. He also tried a Bloody Cesare for the very first time.

This is always an enjoyable event, because pretty much everyone joins in on the revelries, and it gives both staff and guests the opportunity to spend some time together in a very relaxed setting. In addition to the food, the highlights of the evening were Brien Morgan playing his guitar and singing various tunes, including one of his own composition, The Great Bear Lake Song, that, and a rather rowdy pool tournament, that was organized by Brad Kingston, Plummer’s resident guide/movie actor.

The Great Bear Lake Song 

Brad, who is in his second year at Plummer’s, before transitioning into guiding was a professional actor, playing a role in: American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. No kidding.

In terms of how everyone else faired today, those who headed south to Cabin Bay and Caribou Point did well, although I don’t recall there being anything of size caught. That said, I was told someone did catch a 40 at Caribou a few days back. There were also flyouts to Shipwreck and the Cove, but other than a couple in the low 20’s, including John Cleveland’s 23, which he bested on a fly at Shipwreck, there was not much going on.

Inexplicably, we agreed to fly to McGill tomorrow with Cam & Co., which for lack of a better reason, and despite our earlier reservations, I’m going to blame the decision on the sausage rolls and Bloody Cesare’s we were clearly forced to consume.

July 4

I Really Hate to Say This – But I Told You So…

Because we were flying out, rather than wait in line at the breakfast buffet, the kitchen had prepared some very tasty breakfast sandwiches for us, which together with one of Aunty Mo’s fresh from the oven scones, was all anyone should really need, or want for breakfast.

For a change, floats up were pretty much right on time, and we had a smooth flight over to McGill. We pulled up onto the same sandy point where I had camped numerous times while fishing out of Branson’s Lodge, and to underscore this nostalgic interlude, there was even an old Branson’s “Silver Submarine,” parked there, that someone would be fishing out of today.

As Kenny predicted, water temperatures in the bay where we would normally spend most of our time fishing, went as high as 62 degrees. Not surprisingly, other than a few small fish who were probably in there hiding from the bigger ones, it was very slim pickings indeed.

The best fishing was at the mouth of, and even outside the bay itself, where water temperatures were in the mid to high 50’s. Even this was rather warm, considering it was July 4. At this time of year, those were the temperatures you would normally expect to find right off the sandy point, and even further back into the bay.

Between the 3 boats we caught just over 50, although by McGill standards that was nothing to write home about. The biggest was a 38, that someone in Cam’s crew caught while fishing a reef out on the main lake. The one thing that did adhere to McGill standards though, was that the average size of the fish we did catch, were pretty much all in the 14 to 15 pound range.

It had been a busy week, and after another full day out on the water, in the wind and bright sun, a couple members of Cam’s crew had clearly hit the wall!

The Mercer’s had flown out to Hornby, and not only caught a ton of fish at a place called the Aquarium, which was one of the go to spots when Arctic Circle was operating as an independent lodge, but also caught a 33 and 23 at the Cage.

Barb and Tom changed things up a bit today, and rather than just fish, took some time out to do a bit of hiking in the Narakay Islands. This cluster of islands is just a short boat ride from the lodge, and features good fishing, stunning vistas, and some of the most beautiful shore lunch locations that the lake has to offer, including one aptly named, Paradise Cove.

It seems everyone caught fish regardless of where they went, with the 38 from McGill being the biggest. Today was also a red letter day of sorts for Larry, because he caught his first Grayling!

Because Chris would be flying out with us after week #2, we planned to get together for dinner in YK. During the discussion I happened to mention that I was looking forward to burying my face in a large plate of Nacho’s, so wherever we decided to go, they damn well better have them on the menu. Why Nacho’s? Who knows? But a craving of this magnitude is not to be trifled with.

Clearly a certain someone had been paying really close attention, because tonight, just after we had finished packing, guess who showed up at our cabin door with a large plate of loaded Nacho’s? Go on, guess?

He even brought along a couple of cold beers. Now seriously, does it get any better than that?

Well, That’s All Folks!

For this week anyway.

While the fishing, with the exception of Tree River, was no screaming hell, I have no doubt that it all came down to the early ice out. By and large we were fishing in late summer like conditions, which made it challenging to get on fish, because they were simply not where they were supposed to be in early July.

There certainly were some decent numbers caught in a few places, but the vast majority were on the small side. Unfortunately, the big boys and girls were likely in the process of transitioning to their late summer, early fall haunts, making them rather harder to track down.

But as I’ve said many, many times before – that’s fishing.

You may recall that the title of this article was “Net Zero,” and it was an apt description indeed. Because other than at Tree River, where in order to have even a remote shot at landing a Char, you have no choice but to use a net, we had no reason to deploy our net throughout the entire week while fishing on the big lake.

We met a number of fantastic new people, and were able to spend some quality time with old friends, including a few we hadn’t seen in a while, most notably Cam and Shane.

Chris, thanks for putting up with us for the entire week. Both Kenny and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition, having had the opportunity to spend time reminiscing, and swapping tales with you, OD and Steve, were truly moments to treasure.

Chuk, muchas gracias for ordering Chris to guide us, because I’m sure he never would have volunteered if given a choice, and for setting up our various fly outs.

Aunty Mo, what can I say other than you are simply the best!

And finally, to all the rest of the staff at the lodge and Tree River, thank you for the outstanding service, and for making our stay such a pleasant one.

Concluding Fun Fact

Or for most, more than likely a “useless” fact, but for those who do care, you may have noticed the picture introducing this journal entry, which sets out the distance in miles, from Great Bear Lake to various places throughout North America.

There is no mention of Toronto on the chart, which I suppose could mean that it was made up before Toronto was accorded city status, and was still going by the name of Muddy York.

Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to correct this obvious oversight, and am pleased to inform all and sundry, that the approximate distance from Bear to Toronto, as the crow flies, is 3520 km, or 2187 miles.

The chart also lists something call the “True Bearing”, which is defined as: The angle to the target relative to True North.

Having no idea whatsoever how to go about calculating that, how’s about we just leave it for another day.

Last modified onWednesday, 08 November 2023 18:22
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