Tikchik Narrows Lodge, Day Three: Home Waters

Written by: Phil Monahan

Fat lake trout put a serious bend in a fly rod.
Photos by Charles Hildick-Smith

A thick blanket of fog greeted us when we awoke on Day Three at Tikchik Narrows Lodge, but it didn’t dampen our spirits a bit, as we were scheduled to fish on the lake. Some of the guests flying out to other rivers would have to wait for the fog to lift, but we hopped into a boat with our guide, Will Paul, and headed off for a spot on the far side of Nuyakuk Lake, where a river enters from another lake higher up the chain.

Will mans the net, as yet another laker comes to the boat.

It didn’t take long for us to recognize that things just weren’t happening at that spot, so Will fired up the motor, and we drove back to the narrows that give the lodge its name. A pinch point between Nuyakuk and Tikchik Lakes, the narrows features a pretty strong current and a series of shelves and drop-offs that hold some big fish. We rigged my 9-foot, 8-weight Helios with a sinking tip, and a 9-foot, 9-weight Clearwater with a full-sinking line, and started to work the drop-offs.

When the sun was out, we could see fish holding on the bottom and drift a streamer right past their noses, but the weather kept changing on us. During those times when it was too cloudy to see into the water, we swung flies along the edge of each drop-off. We experimented with different presentations before I felt the fly stop halfway through the swing, and I set the hook hard on a fat lake trout, which fought well before Will got it in the net. It was great to get on the board, but we were really after trout and char, so we redoubled our efforts to get the fly deep and swinging in the right place.

The nicest char of our trip so far came within sight of the lodge.

The second fish to grab the streamer was a pretty, fat arctic char. It used the current to its advantage, bending the Helios almost to the butt section and diving under the boat, requiring a little in-boat dance between Will and me in order to get the char in the net. It was certainly the biggest we’d caught so far, and it was yet another data point to help us dial in the best way to tempt these fish to eat.

The fish of the day was a sturdy, 27-inch rainbow trout that struck a pink-and-flesh-colored Dolly Lama streamer. It was certainly the hardest-fishing fish of the bunch, alternating between long runs and bull-dogging dives for the bottom. When we finally brought it to hand, we were amazed by its girth and muscular body. These fish that hold in the narrows are clearly built to sustain the constant, heavy current.

Will shows off the day’s only rainbow trout, but it was a doozy.

After catching a few more lakers, we headed in just in time to beat a brief downpour. We’d worked hard for the fish we’d landed, but they were the biggest of the trip so far. It was also a cool experience to work through which presentation was going to give us the best chances of success.

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