Often eclipsed by Great Bear Lake, the N.W.T.’s Great Slave uses sensational landscapes, affordable accessibility as well as unlimited lake trout
You understand a fishing expedition is about to get fascinating when your normally laid-back 19-year-old overview takes a look at the bend in your fishing pole, absorbs his breath and says, “Uh-oh, this is gon na be a sh * tstorm!” At that moment, the heaviest fishing pole I have was actually increased over, thanks to a 20-pound-plus lake trout 100 feet below the watercraft, extremely peeling off line off my reel.
In his six seasons of guiding on Great Slave Lake’s East Arm, Marshall Forster (above left) has actually managed lots of powerful N.W.T. trout, so this need to have been routine. So why concern a sh * tstorm warning? Since my good friend Lynn Henning (over right), sitting next to me, also had a huge fish on the line. With a hundred means the circumstance could go laterally, trouble seemed imminent-and it would be all my mistake.
All of it started when Lynn connected very first straight below the boat, just moments after his hefty jig hit base. Instantly, we can inform he had the biggest fish of the journey until now on his line. Instead of allowing Lynn have his moment, I stealthily dropped my very own bait to the bottom, hoping to pick up a follower. A few cranks of the reel later, I did, offering us a double-header for the ages.
Luckily, the anticipated sh * tstorm really did not emerge, and after a pair of heart-pounding battles, Marshall stood and netted Lynn’s fish, then pivoted to the opposite of the boat and deftly scooped up mine. For a few wonderful seconds, the three of us marvelled at the view of 40-odd pounds of lake trout in one net (below), shimmering in the noontime north sun. We still had several days of angling to go, this felt like the orgasm of our journey. Little did we know, the best was yet to come.
It’s tough to visualize that the world’s 10th-largest lake-a body of water 470 kilometres long and also 200 kilometres wide-could ever before be an afterthought. Wonderful Slave Lake is usually neglected by fishermens who are, instead, seduced by Great Bear Lake, farther to the north.
Bear is the prestige fishing destination. It’s bigger and more remote, bordering right into the Arctic tundra, and it’s residence to the world-record lake trout. Bear is where you most likely to attempt to capture a 50-pound laker. Great Slave is a lot more affordable as well as much easier to reach, as well as where you go to catch lots of 15- to 20-pounders, and also commonly a few larger ones. As well as among the best areas to do that is literally 500 metres from the front door of Great Slave Lake Lodge.
Operated by Plummer’s Arctic Lodges, the camp (above)lies at Taltheilei Narrows, regarding halfway up Slave’s large East Arm. In 1938, Chummy Plummer and also his boy, Warren, were checking out the lake by canoe, trying to find a legendary angling place.
After moistening a line at the tightens, they recognized they would certainly found it. Twenty years later, Warren’s son, also called Chummy, developed a lodge at the tightens. Ever since, generations of guests and also guides have experienced the area’s exceptional fishing opportunities, and throughout the years, the perennial hot spots have gained labels ranging from the apparent to the bafflingly rare. Last August, Lynn and I signed up with the listing of visitors to fish those fabled spots.
The Narrows East of the lodge, Slave’s McLeod Bay extends for another 130 kilometres, accumulating water from a tremendous water drainage area. All of it funnels via Taltheilei Narrows, past the lodge en route to the Mackenzie River as well as ultimately the Beaufort Sea. The narrows aren’t exactly a rapids, yet there’s a lot of water moving with, swirling around little islands, producing riffles and also eddies, and also streaming over burrow to 40 feet deep. This concentrates a significant amount of forage that brings in predators varying from Arctic grayling to lake trout to birds of prey.
Because of this, Taltheilei Narrows is probably the most effective area on the entire lake-and perhaps the world-to continually land sizable lake trout (top, and also note lodge in history!) When we captured both the last and very first fish of our journey, Lynn and also I were within shouting range of the lodge. However as efficient as that spot was, we picked to venture further afield and see more of the East Arm’s sensational landscape, with its imposing high cliffs as well as stands of evergreens, in between recently burned-over patches.
The Aquarium as well as the Pigpen A 40-minute watercraft trip from the lodge lies Christie Bay, where Great Slave plunges to an astonishing 2,014 feet-the inmost water in North America. The Aquarium and also the Pigpen are shallow, semi-enclosed containers simply inside the bay, and that’s where we invested much of our initial complete day, trolling five-and-a-half-inch Huskie Devle spoons. We nabbed a lot of middling fish in the 10-pound range (top) and quickly learned simply how solid these lakers are.
When addicted, they just drew and drew as well as never gave up. It really did not take long for us, however, to move right into the absurd, however unavoidable, lodge mindset, where a trout that would certainly be the fish of the year in the house ends up being entirely widespread, leaving you hungering for bigger game.
The Snake Pit as well as the Goldmine
On Slave, the majority of anglers focus on trout, however Lynn and I intended to sample even more of the menu. One calmness, sunny day, we took a trip 90 mins east to the Snake Pit which is, by much, the best name I’ve ever heard for a north pike opening. It was late in the period for pike, yet as we drifted around a broad, gently weeded bay, I managed to land an energetic 34-inch northern on my 8-weight fly rod, while Lynn hauled in 37- and 38-inch fish on a Johnson Silver Minnow (leading).
After some good, slimy enjoyable, we proceeded to the close-by Goldmine. It was a typical, boulder-strewn shoreline, apparently similar to thousands of other such areas. Somehow, nevertheless, it was residence to all the Arctic grayling on the planet. Or two it seemed. They were likewise big-most longer than 20 inches-and starving, striking our little rewriters and also flies with the passionate abandon of a children’ hockey team at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Since I first saw pictures of grayling as a young boy, I’ve longed to catch one on a light fly rod as well as admire its sailfish-like fin and also sparkling grey, blue and mauve body. At the Goldmine, I ultimately reached, sometimes over (over).
By the navel of our journey, Lynn and also I had landed 50 or 60 lake trout, possibly averaging much better than 10 pounds, plus a few in the teens. Yet thanks to that lodge mentality-and I understand just how unreasonable, also obnoxious this sounds-we felt a little unfulfilled, specifically after seeing various other guests dual or three-way our catches, consisting of a 34-pound leviathan for Winnipeg’s Buzz Grant (listed below). Two things occurred: we went to Horseshoe Bay, as well as we learned how to jig appropriately for Slave’s lakers.
Our general angling method was to troll recognized fish-holding areas, after that quit to jig when Marshall actually found focus of fish on his sonar. The jigging, nevertheless, had actually been aggravating. As it turned out, we were doing it incorrect. We were fishing the camp’s most popular jigs-two-ounce, six-inch-long tubes-but with mild, walleye-style lifts as well as drops. And also, in 100-plus feet of water, even a two-ounce tube takes a patience-trying length of time to spiral down to all-time low.
When we cruised right into the fjord-like Horseshoe Bay as well as saw fish piled up from leading to base, I drew out my now-we-mean-business baits. Lynn took a four-ounce bucktail jig clothed with a five-inch Mr. Twister grub, and also I connected on a five-and-a-half-ounce, eight-inch Savage Gear Sandeel swimbait in tasteless chartreuse (below). These baits dropped to the bottom in secs, touchdown with a pleasing thud.
We likewise changed our tactics to cause the hostile, predacious lakers by just reeling our jigs back up at a brisk rate, with just occasional, quick stops. And also kid, did that fire up the trout. At times they would hit after simply a number of cranks, and others midway up the water column. I also saw one 15-pounder touch up from the inky depths to T-bone my jig just listed below the surface. We quickly had a dozen great fish, covered off by that sh * tstorm double-header generating a 19-pound fish for Lynn and a 23-pounder for me (top of page). It was the second-most fascinating experience we had in Horseshoe Bay.
Normally, being paired with a teenaged fishing guide may be a cause for some worry, but not on this trip. Marshall, from Spruce Grove, Alberta, had actually been involving the lodge every summertime because he was a little kid, many thanks to his late grandpa, who was the camp manager for decades. That’s additionally why Marshall recognizes a few angling places neglected by the less-seasoned overviews, consisting of Busse Bay. There, against the background of a kilometres-long, 20-storey cliff, our jigging streak continued. In your home in Ontario, I have a tendency to nod off while tip-tapping a quarter-ounce jig along the bottom, but dropping as well as recovering these quarter-pound attractions was edge-of-the-seat things.
We invested the mid-day in Busse after leaving Horseshoe Bay, and also never ever went greater than 15 mins without landing a wonderful fish, including some remarkable examples of the different trout strains located in the lake. The most amazing were the supposed butterfly lakers (top). Typically small, these fish are clearly coloured, with cartoonishly large red-orange pectoral, tail and also pelvic fins.
I was also fascinated by a number of trout with large, fearful heads tapering to long, skinny bodies that I nicknamed “anacondas” (above).
Horseshoe Bay, Part II
After telling tales about our double-header at Horseshoe Bay, we probably shouldn’t have actually been amazed to find three other Plummer’s watercrafts there when we returned the following morning at about 9:30 a.m. Still, in a 27,000-square-kilometre lake, I was a little startled. I saw two points: the various other anglers were jigging just on the base and, in spite of the genuine trout convention noticeable on the sonar, they weren’t hooking anything. So Lynn showed them just how it was done.
Going down and also cranking our jigs, we instantly landed as well as released a couple of fish while the other anglers drifted by, frowning and also furtively attempting to see what we were doing. Halfway through one retrieve, Lynn’s rod bowed and also his drag started shouting. Already, I would certainly discovered that Marshall was pretty good at judging the dimension of fish long before we saw them. He ‘d put on a trailing glove to aid order and also rapidly launch the fish Whenever he believed a medium-sized trout was on the line. This moment, however, he right away grabbed his huge hoop net.
Eventually, Lynn had actually landed and also released a thick, powerful 22-pound trout. Not 15 minutes later on, his bucktail obtained struck with a shoulder-separating impact. After one more tough fight, Marshall and Lynn presented for a fast image with a 23-pound laker (top). It was a true monster, with a protruding gut and also open, ferociously kyped jaw-likely the last sight ever seen by numerous horrified ciscoes.
As we left Horseshoe Bay to the other watercrafts, all our wish for the trip had been wildly surpassed, so it was time to delight in a last, extra mystical obstacle. As well as I understood where we needed to go.
The Narrows, Part II
As life goals go, this isn’t precisely healing cancer cells or even running a marathon, however I really wished to land a laker on my fly rod. As well as Taltheilei Narrows, which simply may be the most effective lake trout opening on the planet, appeared like the location to do it. Utilizing my challenging 10-weight TFO Mangrove rod, a big-game reel spooled with full-sinking line as well as a nine-inch-long fly, I began casting from the watercraft as well as letting the line swing in the current. It was a pretty troublesome procedure, particularly with 2 other individuals aboard, trembling and ducking every time I waved the nine-foot pole. So, I did what everybody else carries out in the narrows: I trolled.
I’ve gotten a couple of techniques for trolling flies, however honestly, I really did not expect much. Yet after just 15 minutes, as we turned across the existing behind a small island, my line swept downstream and also went tight to a fish. What adhered to was one of the most intense and also thrilling fish battles of my life-a crash course in taking care of a powerful trout from a watercraft in relocating water (below).
There were strained minutes, however with a teamwork, we got the fish in the net. I after that lifted the dynamic, red-finned laker for a quick photo (top of web page), which completely recorded that indelible moment of festivity as well as relief, together with a little disbelief.
You know that feeling of leisure you obtain when you’ve done whatever you wanted to, yet still have another 24 hrs in paradise? That’s just how I felt on our final day of fishing. We rested, mostly trolling near a long, narrow granite factor adorned with a small lighthouse. I used my fly rod exclusively and, with a strengthening feeling of fulfillment, found out that the fish I would certainly captured at the tightens had not been a fluke. In water varying from 20 to 100 feet deep, I trolled my fly right beside Lynn’s spoon as well as we virtually matched each other fish for fish, consisting of a couple of double-headers.
I made use of the same fly throughout the day, a nameless pattern of my own style (above) based on the traditional saltwater Seaducer fly, yet supersized with a three-part articulated body, a stinger hook as well as a cumbersome head of plastic, wool and artificial hair. With flash, vibration and a snaky activity, it was just dangerous. For the capper, I hooked an effective trout in fairly superficial water, however as we drifted right into the major channel, the fish appeared, vanishing right into the depths with my whole 90-foot fly line, as well as at the very least one more 100 feet of Dacron backing. You have to take care not to worry them by pulling them up also quickly when lakers are deep. With this fish, that wasn’t mosting likely to be an issue. After much lifting as well as cranking, gaining line as well as shedding it once more, I finally landed the fish-a picture-perfect, silvery-grey 15-pounder (above).
The checklist for a dream fishing expedition consists of numerous products: clear climate, great firm, unforgettable or plentiful fish, comfortable accommodations, magnificent scenery, outstanding food and also beverage, as well as the chance to challenge on your own and learn brand-new techniques. I’ve had a wonderful trip if I can tick just a few of those boxes. Every as soon as in a while, you obtain unbelievably fortunate, as Lynn as well as I did on Great Slave Lake, and also tick every solitary box. I ‘d state it would be difficult to top, yet we’re fishermen, so you understand we’re mosting likely to attempt.