As I stepped down onto the dock I could see Mike’s eyes roll up over the rims of his sunglasses and although he kind of smiled and said “hey” I could tell just what he was thinking, “Another one of those golfer guys that knows nothing about fishing, not prepared and with nothing but his camera in tow.”
At least that is what I suspect that he was thinking and that was before I even found out that just the week before Bob Panasik and Dave Barr (two legends of Canadian Golf) were out with Mike for some excellent fishing on Yellowknife’s Great Slave Lake. They of course were up for the annual Midnight Sun Golf Tournament played at the Yellowknife Golf Club.
With eyes still over the rims of the glasses, Mike was tinkering with one of the rods that we would be using. “Have you ever fished before?” Mike asked. “As a matter of fact I used to stream fish a lot growing up, primarily utralight…and I was on your website before leaving and was excited to see that you have Arctic Grayling in these parts.” That seemed to bring a grin to Mikes face, “Would you like to do some light action Grayling fishing tonight instead of just Pike fishing?” “Absolutely!!!” was my reply.
“Have you ever fly-fished?” Was Mike’s next question. “A bit, again primarily light stream.” Was my reply. “OK then we are going to have some fun tonight.” He said.
So, off we went on the majestic Great Slave Lake, the fifth largest lake in North America. With Captain Mike Jennings at the helm we navigated our way through a number of islands, rocky shoreline as far as the eye could see and of course at this time of the year the sun would be circling overhead all night long! You could tell that Mike knew the Lake like the back of his hand as he would crank the motor up to get us to where we were going and at certain times ease right off, slow it right down to point out things that us easterners marvel at like eagles nests and yes we did see some eagles along the way.
Mike is one of the most experience guides that Greg Robertson and his Bluefish Services has on staff, located only a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Yellowknife. And even though I did not get caught up in the “new Royals” visit when they were in Yellowknife, the float plane that they used was parked next to where Greg’s boats were docked. That was kind of cool even for me!
It wasn’t long before we arrived at our first rocky shore line, rigged up our ultralight gear and within a few casts I have my first ever Arctic Grayling. What a thrill! Grayling only get up to about 3 lbs max, but any small fish on ultralight equipment are always fun to catch. Most of the ones we caught were in the 1 to 2 pound rage. A few more casts and a few Grayling and then all of a sudden one of those almighty tugs and I figure that I have just hooked the mother of all Graylings. The rod is doubled over and the fish at the other end is pretty much leading me to wherever it wanted. Mike did not say anything but he knew what was going on, not his first rodeo! I had hooked onto a 4 to 5 lb Northern Pike. It seems that these Pike have found the same Grayling fishing spots as we have. This was the first of many exciting battles with Northern Pike in the 4 -5lb range. Mike could tell that I had a fishing glow on from all this.
“OK, Claudio it is time to move on. First we are going to cook up some shore lunch and then, well if you think this fishing was fun, you will love what is next!”
We found ourselves a nice little cove, with some gently sloped rock to pull our boat up onto and let the feast begin. This was great, Mike did pretty much everything, I was just the gofer and helped out whenever he needed anything. Is there anything better than fresh fish eaten within a few hours of being caught? It was a pretty awesome experience and the weather was perfect, no wind and no bugs.
“So are you ready for some really big fish?” asked Mike. “We are going to catch some really big Northern’s on the fly.”
I had never fly-fished with this type of equipment, but it did not take too long to catch on with a little help from Mike of course. Big fly’s for big fish! One after the other and often times we would both have fish on at the same time which made it very interesting handling nets and the fish, getting the fish unhooked and most importantly getting them back into the water safely and without harming them.
My biggest fish was our last for the trip. Believe me I was ready to pack it in or at least my right arm was after fighting about a dozen of these monsters. It was in the 15lb range and Mike told me it was our big fish of the trip. Well it was certainly one of the bigger fish but I think one of the ones that he caught was bigger but since I was the guest he was being polite. It did not really matter to me who caught the biggest fish. This was an experience of a lifetime and something that everyone that has ever dipped a line should do. As a kid I must have read hundreds of articles on fishing Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, both in the Northwest Territories. Great Slave is certainly the easier to get to with the services provided by Westjet and Air Canada along with northern partners Canadian North and First Air.
If you are an outdoor adventurer at all, winter or summer, Yellowknife is someplace that you will want to check out. You will be surprised by some of the fantastic restaurants that this little city has and some of the most unique local shopping that one could imagine.
Fishing and Yellowknife…can’t wait to do it again and you know that my first call will be to Greg and his gang at Bluefish. You will not be disappointed.
By: Claudio DeMarchi