“Huge fish in great numbers. And indiscriminate feeders. They’ll eat anything. You can catch 30 a day. It’s unlike anywhere else in their native territory. The fishing was amazing. We were fishing in waters that no one had ever fished before.” — Brian Irwin, New England Field Editor, Fly Fisherman Magazine
Many Churchill Wild guests have asked us about fly-fishing at our polar bear lodges. We’re now pleased to announce that we do offer an extremely limited walk-and-wade catch-and-release fly-fishing trip for trophy native and sea-run brook trout.
This elite trip takes place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for one week in September, when the tides are highest and the brook trout are big and hungry, in pristine rivers that wander their way through an untouched wilderness before emptying into Hudson Bay. And of course, the trip includes polar bears!
There are only two spots left on this trip for 2018 and we are now booking for 2019. For more information on dates, rates and itinerary, click any of the images in this post, or Click Here.
We don’t know if the early explorers to this area 300 years ago fished these rivers while discovering Canada, but they should have! The former owners of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge had historical information on the area dating back 18 years, and a few of our native guides and their fathers before them had worked in the area for more than three decades, but no one knew of anyone ever fishing the surrounding rivers and streams.
There’s a very good chance you’ll be wading into virgin waters in places where no one has ever set foot before, ever. Imagine casting your fly into a pool of water that has never seen a human and having it attacked by a voracious 20-inch brook trout of the same bent. The winner is the trout that gets there first. And you.
Brian Irwin, the New England Field Editor for Fly-Fisherman Magazine, was the first to test the waters for us in 2016, and in 2017 we had four fishermen on the trip including Lori Ginn and Tammy Lengyel.
“It was incredible,” said Irwin. “The fishing was superb. We would enter small pools and all three of us would have a fish on at the same time. The fish were so aggressive. And these were five to six-pound trout. When you would bring one in, other 24-inch trout would attack it. They would attack your fish. They would attack each other. They were that hungry.”
Irwin was guided by some of the best in the outdoor business including fly-fisherman-guide Ryan Suffron, wilderness and polar bear guides Andy MacPherson and Stewart Webber, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge manager Nolan Booth, who also made sure Ginn and Lengyel saw polar bears on their 2017 trip.
“So, we have this fabulous guide Nolan,” said Lengyel in a Travel Manitoba video later made about their trip. “He’s been leading us through this whole adventure. And off in the distance he spotted some polar bears. It turned out to be a Mom and a cub. And he said, ’Hey, you guys want to see a polar bear?’ And of course, we do.
“We drove up a way and then we got off the quads and did a little hike. I was enthralled by it. It was incredible. I’d never seen a polar bear. And then we got to watch the baby playing around with Mom. It was just really cool.”
“I guess that was the intrigue of it,” added Ginn.” Was that it’s not just a fishing trip. There’s a lot more to it. The polar bears I think, are key, for this part of Canada. That’s one of the big reasons that we wanted to come along. For the fishing, the polar bears, the adventure of it all rolled into one trip. It’s been a very, very, unique experience, and I’d do it again.”
A lot of exploring was done during that first fly-fishing trip in 2016, with the fishermen and guides venturing off on the quads, winching their way through willows and water and mud and sand and up over beaver dams, finding more fish as they went. They had to time their adventures just right however, to get out before high tide, as being stranded in the heart of polar bear country at night was not an option.
“We spent our downtime walking within 60 feet of polar bears,” said Irwin. “Guide Andy MacPherson took us out to see them. They were all over the place. That’s stunning and amazing and that’s what a lot of people go up there to do. We didn’t see polar bears while we were fishing, but we could have. We saw moose, wolf and bear tracks while we were fishing. There’s nothing other than pure wilderness and the imprints in the mud tell the story of this wild place. It’s really pretty phenomenal. This is raw, unspoiled wilderness.”
Brook trout have a native range from the Carolinas north to Manitoba and west as far as Nanuk, but their habitat and population has generally been destroyed everywhere. They’re being stalked back into southern rivers, but only six to eight-inch fish. The first group in 2016 didn’t really know if they could get to some of the rivers, and even if they got there, they weren’t sure if there would be any fish.
“Huge fish in great numbers,” said Irwin. “And indiscriminate feeders. They’ll eat anything. You can catch 30 a day. It’s unlike anywhere else in their native territory. The fishing was amazing. We were fishing in waters that no one had ever fished before.”
“These are 18 to 24-inch fish,” said Irwin. “They’re huge, native, trophy fish. They’ve never seen a fly. They’ve never seen a person. And when they see something that looks like food they eat it. The Manitoba Master Angler Program offers a Brook Trout Specialist Award for catching five brook trout over 20 inches in your lifetime. We probably caught five of those on the first day, not to mention smaller fish.”
There are very few places in the world where you can catch wild eastern brook trout, let alone trophy-sized fish that have never seen a fly or a person, in uncharted, never-before-fished waters. The biggest squaretails came at high tide, but the native brook trout kept the group busy.
“We’d spend the low-tide time looking at wildlife and polar bears,” said Irwin. “At high tide it was world-class fishing. There were two strains of brook trout. The native freshwater eastern brook trout and the sea-run brook trout. The sea-run brook trout go out to sea for three to four months and come back really big to spawn. The best time to fish for them would be during the full moon, which has an effect on the tides, but there are so many native fish it doesn’t matter.
“We had incredible food and the accommodations were divine. The comfort was fantastic. It was almost surreal to go out on the quads, get all muddied up, fish a river that nobody had ever fished before, and return to caribou-stuffed green peppers and a glass of wine. It was really something special.
“You’re staying in an established lodge with a proven track record of excellence. But this is a boots-on-the-ground walk-and-wade fishing trip. This is not riding in a Cadillac. You have to be prepared to ride quads and get dirty. The local guides are invaluable. They know the land, and that’s a must-have. But this is real fishing.”
“You know it’s crazy,” said Lengyel. “Because when I look at the map, it’s like, whoa its way up there. But than when you get here you understand how far away from everything else it is, and how unspoiled it is. And that was absolutely one of my favourite things about coming here.
“In the middle of nowhere is this little jewel of a lodge that has amazing staff and accommodations and food and… I honestly can’t talk enough about what a great time we’ve had with our guides.
“It’s been awesome.”