Archive | July, 2017

The End of a Great Adventure at Inukshuk Lodge

It was a cold night but it didn’t snow.  We woke up to the same drizzle we went to bed with.  It didn’t look like a fun day to go fishing in northern Canada but the wind had settled at least enough we could fish from the boats.

 

High tide was at 2 PM.  This meant we could put the boats in around noon as long as we made it back by 4.  Not a long day but sufficient time to make it at least to Duck and Bird Island where we had most our luck earlier this week.  I went with Burt along with Paul and his daughter Marisa.

 

Once we got on the water it turned out to be rougher than we thought.  We were exposed and there was enough wind to make the boat ride uncomfortable and big enough swells we had to keep our heads on tight.  Remember, two minutes in the frigid waters of Ungava Bay and you’re dead.

 

It took us about 40 minutes to get to Bird and Duck Islands.  There were diving birds everywhere and we saw a bait crushing blitz of birds and seals a mile out to sea.  It’s a shame it was too rough to investigate because no doubt there was a school of big Arctic char pushing the sand lances to the surface.

 

It was too windy to control the boats for fly fishing so we made a call to park the boats on the lee side of Bird Island and fish hard for a couple hours from shore.  There are bird nests everywhere mixed of terns, sea pigeons, gulls, scoter ducks and eiders.  You had to be careful where you stepped in order not to cause any damage.

 

Although the calmer side of the island was inviting, no doubt the rougher water attracts the most fish whether on a lake at home or here on Ungava Bay.  After we walked to the windy side we sort of laughed then got down near the water and started blind casting into the wind.

 

We fished for about an hour and a half.  Right when we got there Paul hooked and fought a fish right to the edge of the rocks.  He said it wasn’t big and looked like a sea run brook trout.  His bent rod was enough to have six people fishing their butts off.  But the closest we came to hooking another was when I had a sea run brook trout of my own nearly beach himself chasing my flies on the hang.  Unfortunately, I did not close the deal.

 

A thick fog moved in.  The wind steadily increased.  Soon we had to pull the plug.  Back to back fishless days were in the books for everyone.  It wasn’t for the lack of effort.  The weather simply didn’t cooperate.  We headed back to Inukshuk Lodge.

 

 

 

Despite challenging weather that in turn hurt our fishing, this visit to Inukshuk Lodge in Nunavik Quebec has been incredible.  If more experiences in life make you richer, than I’m likely to become the financially poorest billionaire on the planet!  I’m proud of this and continually have to ask myself –  Is this really happening?  Thank god it is.

 

Tomorrow begins the long trip home.  I’ll travel from Inukshuk to Kuujjuaq then to Montreal.  I’ll overnight there then Monday fly to Atlanta then Salt Lake City then into Idaho around midnight and home at 1 AM Tuesday.  It will be good to get home but it’s only brief.  Wednesday night I’ll be delivering “Tricks and Tactics to Catch More and Larger Trout on Streamers” for High Country Fly Fishers in Park City, Utah.  No rest for the wicked and I’m glad about this too!

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge in Nunavik for bringing me along on this incredible adventure.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Tides, Motors & Huge Waves Hinder Fly Fishing at Inukshuk Lodge

Boat fishing wasn’t meant to be today.  First of all, high tide wasn’t until midafternoon meaning we couldn’t launch the boats until 11 AM.  And we’d need to be back by 3 PM before the tide got too low to beach the boats.  Then we had a problem with Burts boat.  The bilge pump was left on and it killed our battery.  Last, the swells were huge.  Simon and the Wildcats Fly Fishing boys went out for a mere 10 minutes and came back rattled because they took a wave over the bow.

 

We suspected a day of fishing from the rocks before bed last night so no big deal.  At 9 AM we grabbed our rods, a 308 rifle (polar bear precaution) and hopped on the four wheelers.  We didn’t go far.  Only to the place where the Inuit’s shot the polar bear the day we got here.

 

The tide was low and beginning its inch a minute rise.  Not only do you watch for incoming swimming polar bears that want to eat you but this incoming tide can sweep you away or trap you from shore so fast your head will spin.  We had to be extremely on our game.

 

Simon and I separated from Burt and the Wildcats boys.  Not on purpose.  We simply were willing to put ourselves in a more dangerous location than the others.  Dangerous in that we’d literally only be able to make ten casts before we’d have to run from the tide for high ground.  Then we’d do it again and again.  We fished this way for the next three hours right up till high tide had us pushed back on the mainland.

 

This kind of fishing is exhausting. Concentrating on how not to stupidly die from getting swept out into the North Atlantic and the constant watch for a starving polar bear will do it.  What’s really grueling is when you cast relentlessly and don’t touch a single fish.  While the rest of the guys quit a couple hours in, Simon and I fished six hours – not an Arctic char, sea run brookie or even a shorthorn sculpin to save the day.

 

I had fun despite my first skunk of the trip.  It was an exhilarating experience surviving the incoming tide and feeling to the heart the realistic danger that polar bear could pop up on me at any time.  It was nice to rest and hang around camp with the guys tonight.  Ludo prepared a pork tenderloin that was amazing.

 

It’s a cold 33°.  Its drizzling again and borderline sleet.  But we just put down Ludo’s fantastic meal.  Crank the gas stove, I’m gonna sleep well tonight.  Tomorrow is our last day.

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge Nunavik.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Flyfishing Nunavik from Inukshuk Lodge

It cooled down overnight.  Then at around 4 AM the rain started.  I’ve been getting up before 7 each day but the rain kept me zipped up in my mummy bag on my top bunk dreaming of Arctic char.

 

The other reason to stay in bed was that the first high tide of the day wasn’t until noon which means we couldn’t launch the boats until 10 AM at the earliest.  We took a leisurely morning around camp.  During that time the rain stopped but was replaced by wind.  We had to break out the map and find a place to fish that was close and somewhat sheltered.  We also had to fish near camp because staying out all day wasn’t an option because the next high tide isn’t until 1 AM.  Within two hours of high tide is the only time we can launch or pull out the boats.  So today was only a short four-hour excursion.

 

It turns out there’s an unnamed river that pours into Ungava Bay a mere couple miles away from Inukshuk Lodge.  We took the whitecap smacking boat ride there and it was a beautiful spot.  We all got out and fished.

 

Simon and the Wildcats Fly Fishing boys made a few quick casts at the lake then went for a hike upstream which began with some rough bouldering and bushwhacking.  I opted to skip the hike and fish the stream mouth.  I landed several of these gorgeous brookies.

 

We went back out on the main ocean and it was rougher than when we left camp at 10.  It was so windy that fly fishing from the boat wasn’t feasible.  Burt suggested trolling but I wasn’t up for that so after we scanned for polar bears I hopped off on shore and started casting from a high rock on a point.  Both other boats did troll around in sight of me mainly to help keep watch.

 

The water was crystal clear but it was still hard to see into it with the smashing waves.  All I could see was a fast drop so I let my flies sink for at least ten seconds each cast.  Then I’d sort of strip and jig it out of the depths and up the edge of the rocks on the drop.  I thought I saw a flash from the deep where I estimated my flies to be but didn’t feel a bite.  I sped up my retrieve and there he was.  A big Arctic char and right near the surface he surged and devoured my purple egg sucking bugger.

 

This was a fight!  I was balancing in a precarious position to begin with.  The char took off like a bat out of heck.  This was the first fish of the trip to take me right to the edge of my backing.  I’m sure this fish was strong from all the splashing waves and heaps of oxygen.

 

By now Burt saw me hooked up and he carefully maneuvered the boat close enough to communicate.  He wanted to know if he somehow had to find a way to park the boat and help but I already saw place to slide the big char in for a landing and told him I was ok and asked him to shoot some pics.

 

I had a lot of confidence in my plan to land this char by myself but things got hectic.  The char was hooked on my dropper and my point fly was trailing behind.  As I lifted the fish to slide him up my point fly got stuck in a rock.  The fish had his chance to escape but when he took off back out to sea he unsnagged my point fly giving me full control again.

 

The next time I brought the Arctic char close I made my move swiftly and was soon holding him proudly by the tail.  This is a nice one of about 8 lbs.  This fish was less silvery then the char we’ve been catching and more colorful.  This is likely due to being near the river mouth where perhaps this char has recently been in freshwater.

 

By the time I released this beauty it was time to return to camp before the tide dropped so much we couldn’t beach the boats.  It was a bummer to call it a day at 2 PM but dealing with these giant tide fluctuations calls for it.

 

We made an effort to fish from shore around Inukshuk.  So far no one has managed to land a fish from shore at camp.  I was feeling very confident I’d get it done tonight but a ton of seaweed drifted in and it was hard to strip a fly without getting hung up on it.  We all cashed it in late afternoon and enjoyed a night of relaxing around the fire.

 

The weather looks bad for tomorrow at the moment.  If we can’t take the boats out we are determined to land our first char from shore out the door of the Lodge.  Until tomorrow. . . .

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge in Nunavik.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing for Arctic Char in Ungava Bay

The first high tide of the day wasn’t until 11 AM which meant we couldn’t get the boats in the water until 9 AM.  Then there was a debate as to whether or not we could stay out all day until the next high tide.  Days are getting shorter in the evening by about ten minutes a day (characteristic of the far north in late July) so we figured we’d need to be in by 10 PM.  That was exactly two hours before the next high tide so it was feasible and we went for it.

 

Our day started gorgeous.  Yesterday was mostly sunny but cold.  Today was sunny and warm.  This of course meant masses of black flies and mosquitoes.  The tundra is famous for torturous bug problems and the threat was there the minute I got out of bed starting with the ones that somehow made their way into the cabin.

 

As always, my day started early.  Paul and Ludo are on the same schedule and while Ludo made us breakfast Paul and I made a short hike up behind camp to take a photo.  We spotted my first two Beluga whales right out in front of camp.  If they weren’t moving and blowing they’d have passed for icebergs they’re so white.  Turns out we weren’t the only ones to spot them.  Johnny May and his family were in their boats hunting them within minutes of our sighting.  The Inuit people are serious about their way of life.  Luckily the Belugas escaped.

 

It was a casual morning around camp waiting for tide to rise enough to launch the boats.  After my first full day of Arctic char fishing I have a better idea of how to attack them than I did 24 hours ago.  I gave my gear a once over to improve my chances.

 

Yesterday I fished my Winston 7-weight all day.  It was great with my SA Sonar Sink 25 Cold 250 gr line that got me down a few feet to where the char seem to hang out.  Today’s key was using the right flies from the get go.  I explored with different patterns yesterday but learned that by far the number one color was purple and the second-best fly was the one with lots of flash.  I kept my two fly rig in action with each of these flies.

 

While Burt was my guide again my fishing partner today was Ludo.  I first met Ludovic Vrac at the Somerset, NJ Fly Fishing Show this past January.  I was stoked to actually get a full day fishing together.  Ludo is one of Paul’s main staff guys not only here this week at Inukshuk Lodge but Ludo also helps Paul at his McKenzie River Lodge up on Labrador with the giant brook trout.

 

It was a spectacular boat ride.  Ungava Bay was glass like a small New Hampshire lake.  Tropical ocean doesn’t get this way often let alone the cold ocean.  Burt went full throttle across the bay while Simon and the Wildcats boys rode side by side to us.

 

Ludovic Vrac photo

Our first stop was to Ely Island.  Indeed, we wanted to fish here because this is where I landed the double last night.  But first thing at task was to see if the polar bear was still there.  He wasn’t.  That meant all eyes on alert.  It’s not fun when an apex predator is hiding on you nearby.

 

 

Ludovic Vrac photo

Ludo and I cast like machines around Ely for an hour with no luck.  The tide levels were so much different that we couldn’t even recognize where we caught the char last night.  I can’t explain how drastic the difference between high tide and low tide is in Ungava Bay.  Again, learning and dealing with tides as to where to be for the best fishing will be the ultimate challenge here for Paul and his guides.

 

Ludovic Vrac photo

Weather conditions were so good we decided to make a long run.  Burt chatted to Johnny May a few days ago about a place to catch rock cod – a nice addition to the Inukshuk Lodge menu if we could get some. Ludo and I were all about it so off we went to a far-out island.

 

The tide was now dropping and all kinds of rock island came in to play.  We had to keep our eyes wide open not to hit rock.

 

Ludovic Vrac photo

We weren’t exactly sure we found the correct spot when we got there.  It was 60 feet deep and dropped fast according to the fish finder.  I’m not a cod expert but deep water and rocks made sense so off to work we went.  Even Burt fished by dropping a jig all the way to bottom.  I landed a nice char that was suspended down 10 or so feet to kick things off.

 

We didn’t expect the char out in the deep but they were there.  Ludo followed my char by landing one of his own.  This was a dandy and our biggest so far of the trip.

 

When I fish I stand on one of the seats in the boat so I can see well into the water.  I like to see if anything is following my fly when I bring it in.  I also watch Burt’s lure come in and he had a weird fish follow.  Burt mumbled, “Get out of here you damn sculpin”.  I figured if Burt doesn’t want him I’ll try for him – new species for my list, right?  I dropped my fly down.  The fish was gone so I let it sink deep hoping to find him.  I did.

 

It felt like I had a small trailer tire on for a fight.  I simply lifted and reeled and soon the sculpin came to the surface.  Despite Burt’s dislike for this fish, I requested he net it for me so I could photograph him and for sure identify the fish when I get home.  Burt gave me one heck of a shocked look but he netted it and I photographed the heck out of him.

 

During the photo shoot the fish began to regurgitate his lunch.  He’d been scarfing down sand lances and at least a dozen puked up on the floor of the boat.  I released him in order not to stress him anymore.  The nifty looking fish is either a longhorn sculpin or a shorthorn sculpin.  After some research, I’m going with the shorthorn (Myoxocephalis Scorpius).  This new species is getting me mighty close to the “400 species on fly” mark.

 

Ludovic Vrac photo

My purple egg sucking bugger continued to be deadly throughout the afternoon.  I picked up a total of four more Arctic char and two of these were on one cast again.  If you add up the “two at a time” char of today the net weight was even heavier than yesterday.  The big fish was this one here that is easily more than 8lbs.  All I can say is Ungava Bay is incredible!

 

The weather deteriorated in the early evening with cold mist and strong winds.  We would’ve loved to of gone in around 7 PM but with the low tide we were stuck at sea.  We fished, shivered but had a great time and were able to beach the boats right at dark at 10 PM.  Man were we exhausted.

 

Simon and the Wildcats boys stayed around Duck and Bird Island all day and also had a good run at the Arctic char.  Here are a few pictures of their excellent day.

 

 

Wildcats Fly Fishing photo

Simon and Jerome with a double Arctic char!

Wildcats Fly Fishing photo

Here’s the first slightly colored up char we’ve seen.  He’s long but thin.  Perhaps he just arrived in Ungava Bay from freshwater after a long winter and in two weeks he’ll be full fat and healthy with a stomach full of sand lances.

Until tomorrow. . . . . . .

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge in Nunavik.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

News While I’m in Canada

If you read my post from July 22 than you know I am in the boonies of northern Canada fly fishing for Arctic char around Ungava Bay at Inukshuk Lodge.  I have no internet until July 31 so the day by day accounts will not start posting until then.

 

I can however post a blog days in advance to run so I figured while I’m gone I should have something of value up here for you to check out.

 

First of all, most of you are familiar with my fish art coffee mugs and frosted beer steins.  I now have friend Jeff Ditsworth helping me build up a selection of my fish art on decals.  At the moment we have brown trout, brook trout, pumpkinseed sunfish, largemouth bass and permit and by the end of the month we’ll have at least ten more.

 

The decals are oval shape and 6″ x 3.5″.  They are made of vinyl and are waterproof so you can stick them on your car, rod tubes, coolers and the list goes on.  The retail on them is $7.50 (subject to change as we learn the market).  I will be selling them at the fly fishing shows and wherever I speak from here on out but you can also order them immediately from Amazon.

 

Also, most of you already know because I’ve had numerous emails about it, but for those who don’t, Fly Fisherman Magazine presently has a feature article about Granny and I and our fishing life story.  The article was beautifully written by Sarah Grigg and Granny and I think it’s very cool that they chose to write about us.  You can find a copy on most newsstands, fly shops or order the issue on line.

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

A Full Day Fly Fishing at Ungava Bay

Paul Ostiguy and his staffs most difficult hurdle at Inukshuk Lodge is dealing with tides.  Ungava Bay is the Atlantic Ocean and in this particular location the variation from low tide to high tide is one of the largest in the world.  Its two days after the new moon (spring tide) and todays difference between low tide and high tide was a remarkable 42 feet.

 

Due to the rocks and a quarter mile of dry land at low tide, we can only leave and return in our fishing boats within two hours of the high tide – either before or after.  This makes for either a very short four-hour fishing day or a long one of going out and staying out for twelve hours until the next high tide returns.  Today, where high tide was at 10 AM and 11 PM, and the weather was good, we were able to take the long-day route leaving at 8:30 AM and returning at 9 PM.

 

Paul can’t count on being able to do full days safely forever.  If the weather were to turn (and up here I suspect it can in a heartbeat) we could be trapped at sea unable to beach at the lodge.  In the next week Paul and the guides will learn the art to mooring the boats from Jonny May and his Inuit neighbors on Black Rock Point.  It may sound easy if you’ve moored a boat on a freshwater lake, but remember, today had a 42-foot water depth swing with the tides.  In Ungava Bay, mooring a boat is taming the ocean.  You better know what you’re doing.

 

To make today more interesting, the waters here are completely new to Paul and his guides Burt and Simon.  Yes, we snuck out last night.  And yes, Paul came here on a short trip last summer when purchasing this lodge, but all in all, the next few days is a 100% exploration mission (we do have GPS).

 

Furthermore, Burt is the only one of all of us that’s run a boat on cold water oceans before.  Simon, Paul and I know boats but the nature of the Arctic seas is dangerous.  Start with the water temperatures that range from 38° – 44°F.  If you fall in you have two minutes to live.  And with the huge tides, areas that are safe to navigate at high tide could expose deadly rocks at low tide.  Last, these enormous tides create roaring current seams like you can find whitewater rafting.  The word “Exploratory trip” gets tossed around a lot these days.  I think this one qualifies.

 

So off we went this morning.  Paul and I rode with Burt and led the way while Simon drove the other boat with the Wildcats Fly Fishing guys, Jerome and David (they are filming a TV show this week).  As you can imagine we took it slow and headed to a place Johnny pointed out on the map called Ely Island.  We were cautiously excited.

 

Wildcats Fly Fishing photo

Ely Island is only about three miles from camp and with the calm seas took less than ten minutes.  When we arrived none of us could believe our eyes.  A polar bear was sleeping on the highest rock!

 

Wildcats Fly Fishing photo

At first the bear opened his eyes.  I could see them open black as coal.  Then he lifted his head.  Once he knew for sure something was up he stood and came right down to the water’s edge.  I thought he was going to make a swim our way but luckily he didn’t.  Instead he grabbed a seat like a giant Labrador retriever and stared and smelled trying to catch our scent.

 

Wild Cats Fly Fishing photo

This polar bear experience was much more pleasurable than yesterdays.  After we enjoyed the white bear for about ten minutes it was evident he wasn’t ready to get his paws wet.  We were in what looked like pretty good fishing water so I went to work.  It’s not often you get to cast in front of a polar bear!

 

The water looked excellent.  There were rocks surrounded by deep water and current lines against shore.  I don’t know much about fly fishing for Arctic char but in my mind this was a good place.  But after fishing around Ely Island for more than an hour at every good-looking spot without a tug we began to scratch our heads.  What is the ideal char water?

 

The question “What is the ideal char water?” gets much more confusing when you think about it.  When you have 40 feet plus tide changes means the fish move constantly.  And what about baitfish?  What flies should we use?  All we could do is keep trying and our next move was to move.  The weather was great so we boated to the next set of islands called Bird Island and Duck Island.

 

It was another 20 minutes or so to these islands and they’re rightfully named after birds.  We saw hundreds of Arctic terns, sea pigeons and eider and scoter ducks.  There’s and amazing amount of seabird life.  And we couldn’t help but notice that nearly every tern and sea pigeon had a sand lance in its mouth (looks like a baby American eel but they aren’t).  The char had to be here.

 

 

Wildcats Fly Fishing photo

Burt held the boat like a champ while Paul and I cast streamers to the rocks and down current seams.  Paul actually fished sand lance fly patterns.  Our GPS also has fish finding sonar and Burt saw huge bait balls of sand lances but we couldn’t touch a fish.  It was so slow that the other guys decided to troll flies.  Lo and behold, Jerome locked into this small Atlantic salmon.

 

Four hours of fishing without a bite then Jerome trolls up a salmon and the confidence level sky rockets.  I cranked my chucking and ducking up a notch but another couple hours went by with nothing and soon it was low tide.  We’d been in the boat all day so Burt pulled us up on Bird Island for a break.

 

We didn’t park on Bird Island until we circumnavigated it carefully scanning for polar bears.  Meeting a starved polar bear on foot would really suck.  Once on foot Paul and Burt went collecting mussels for dinner while I headed to a distant point.  I was weary on my walk hoping not to wake up a polar bear we didn’t see.

 

The point looked good.  I had my Winston 7-weight with my SA Sonar Sink 25 Cold 250 gr and my usual two fly rig for streamer fishing.  There was good current from the tide starting to rise.  I had a feeling and sure enough I caught my first Arctic char of the trip.

 

Once I wipe the skunk off I usually start catching fish.  It wasn’t five more casts and I got another fish.  I knew right away this was a smaller one but it put up a great fight.  Turns out it was my first ever sea run brook trout.  It was the silveriest brookie I’ve ever seen but you could tell he was a brookie by his fins and upon very close observation you could see a few tiny tiny red dots.  Fantastic!

 

The fish gates opened right then.  Burt and Paul came over for a piece of the action and we radioed the other guys to park the boat and join us.  But despite all the lines in the water along this point I was the only one hooking up.  Most of my luck was on this purple egg sucking bugger.  I landed three more char including a handsome fish of about 7lbs.

 

When tides change you have what is referred to as the slack.  The water and currents don’t move much.  Then they gradually start to move and during the first hour it’s hard to notice.  Here it’s the same but after that first hour the change becomes drastic.  Three hours into the rising tide, the water comes up over an inch a minute.  Think about that. . . . 15 minutes after I landed my last char from this point the point was gone underwater and we had to retreat to our boats and move.

 

We moved in the way of back to camp with a return to Ely Island.  Indeed, we checked on our polar bear and he was there.  Once again he woke from a nap and waddled down to the water’s edge and sat down to watch and smell the air. The water was much lower than when we were here this morning and there were new spots to try.  I released a small char while in a quick drift so we headed back up to try the drift again.

 

As most of you know, when it comes to tossing streamers I rarely fish less than two and I already mentioned today was no exception.  I had on my purple egg sucking bugger as my dropper and a flashy weird thing on my point.  Paul moved a nice fish on a Pixee lure but he wouldn’t eat it.  As the fish gave up on Paul’s spoon I laid my fly the direction of the fish and hooked him quick.  He was a big dog and took off.

 

The fight of this Arctic char was impressive.  I was fishing the same 7-weight I landed the permit on a few weeks ago and this fish had my green rod bent deep.  Three minutes into battle I had full control and hoisted the fish towards the boat.  But not so fast.  Suddenly the fight increased again only it felt unexplainably weird.  I suspected two fish and I was right!

 

When I said I had two char Burt and Paul gave me that look – if looks could kill.  Paul knows me pretty well and perhaps he thought I was joking.  Burt took no chances and pulled out his camera and started the video.  Soon I was explaining to Paul how to net two fish.  Normally netting two fish is a difficult chore.  Paul nailed them both on the first try.

 

These two Arctic char were nice ones.  One was about 8lbs and the other around 6lbs.  They compiled the best double I’ve ever landed.  Fun stuff!  What a day!

 

At an inch a minute, after two more hours of fishing the tide was so high we knew we could return to Inukshuk Lodge for the day.  We were haggard.  We fished hard for 12 straight hours mostly from a rocking boat in cold conditions.  We all cherished every minute of it but it was dinner time.

 

We returned with an amazing Arctic sunset to the northwest of us around 9 PM.  Fred and Ludo were there with the tractor to pull the boats up high for the night.  We told them of the second polar bear and they were glad to hear there are more out there and that this one is in a safer place.  Hopefully he has a long life and makes his way back north this winter.

 

Tomorrow we’ll do our best to squeeze in another long day.  This place is insane!  Stay tuned. . . .

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge in Nunavik.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

I Thought I’d Seen It All – Inukshuk Lodge

Today’s blog tells it like it is and my blog always will.  If you don’t like the sight of a dead animal don’t read or look any further.  Skip today and tune in tomorrow.

 

Kuujjuaq is a nice little village up the top of Quebec in Nunavik however one night there and I’d seen what I needed to see.  If we were stranded again today instead of catching our Twin Otter flight to Inukshuk Lodge it would’ve been a bummer.  At 8 AM sharp we were back at the tiny Kuujjuaq Airport with high hopes of flying out before 9.

 

The airport manager met us with a smile.  We carried our gear to the plane and loaded then he sent us inside and said we’d be on our way at 9.  Then departure changed to 9:30. Then 10.  Then 11.  Soon me and my new French Canadian friends became worried.  The delay came from reports of high winds, thick fog and drizzle at the location of Inukshuk Lodge.

 

It was hard to believe the report.  Kuujjuaq was sunny and Inukshuk Lodge is only 100 miles away.  But that’s the weather on the northern ocean and we’re are on Ungava Bay – further north than Hudson Bay.  Luckily, as fast as things can turn bad, they can turn good.  At 12:25 PM the airport manager fetched us for an immediate departure from Kuujjuaq to the boon dogs of Inukshuk Lodge.

 

Our flight left in style.  Our Havilland Twin Otter pilot and copilot were informative, professional and polite.  They jokingly asked us if we knew how to use a seatbelt and then pointed to a cooler full of cokes.  The plane was full of supplies for the lodge including one new 40 HP motor and barrels of fuel for the boats.  We couldn’t believe we were finally taking off.

 

Kuujjuaq is the last town in Quebec before you leave the tree line for the tundra.  It’s also on a river only a few miles from the ocean and more specifically, Ungava Bay.  Only minutes in the air we waved goodbye to Kuujjuaq and began to take in the incredible moonscape of the north.

 

The flight was smooth to start but I couldn’t help but notice the increasing clouds along with turbulence.  Mother nature can toss as much turbulence as she wants at a Havilland plane and I feel secure but when my pilots can’t see where they’re headed that’s another story.  It was a 35-minute flight from Kuujjuaq to Inukshuk but 20 minutes in things got a little hairy.  Visibility disintegrated so much that our pilot lowered our flying altitude to a mere 50 feet.  As we swerved from rocky islands I swear our wingtips touched the water like often do the wingtips of cruising seabirds!

 

At last the ocean gave way to a desolate landscape.  In this landscape was a pitiful dirt and rock airstrip and on the far end a group of twenty or so people anxiously awaiting our arrival.  These were my friends Paul Ostiguy (owner of Inukshuk) and his guides and staff along with an Inuit family that spends summer on Black Rock Peninsula near the lodge.

 

An Otter doesn’t need much space to land and it’s a good thing.  The wheels hit the dirt hard and we skidded to a stop.  It’s business as usual to a bush pilot and me too these days.  Seems I’m on crazy flights all the time with my fishing.  Seconds after we stopped the door opened with a gush of ice cold damp air.  I didn’t wait for the ladder and jumped down to the ground to a firm handshake and howdy for Paul and his guides Simon Sylvestre and Burt Gillis who are also friends.  Along with them were Burt’s dad Fred and camps all round man, Ludovic Vrac.

 

There were a crew of Inuit folks also including famous Beaver pilot Johnny May (Johnny has more hours flying the Havilland Beaver than any other human).  Johnny and his family have a summer set up near Inukshuk Lodge and in fact Johnny was part owner of the lodge before Paul bought it last year.  The ten or so Inuit folks were his kids and grandkids.  What’s cool about this is Johnny and his family live the true Inuit life of collecting their food through fishing and hunting for a month every summer.  They were friendly as can be and were quick to introduce themselves.

 

Our gear was unloaded to a trailer on the back of a tractor.  Paul and his daughter Marisa and I walked the short ¼ mile to the lodge.  Paul made a point to mention two days ago they woke up to polar bear tracks in front of the lodge.  Walking now without a gun was ok because it was midday and there was lots of commotion with the plane and all but once we settle in – no one goes anywhere without a rifle.

 

In case you don’t know, humans are on the menu of polar bears.  Furthermore, polar bears in this area are usually starved because they have swum here unintentionally because the ice they floated around on further north melted.  And when I say swum, I mean they may have swam 100’s of miles.  It’s what they do.  And when they hit the ground they’re grumpy and exhausted.  An already exhausted predator needs and easy meal – that’s a human.

 

Inukshuk Lodge is more of a camp.  The remote place consists of four tin buildings and is worn down and needs care.  Paul knew this when he purchased it last year and he has a few of his best men here to help him restore it.  Most important however is that Inukshuk Lodge is located on one of the finest Arctic char fishing spots on the planet and a year from now Paul expects to have this place comfortable and the fishing figured out enough to offer it to clients.

 

No doubt the weather was a bit shaky when we arrived.  The clouds were low and turned to a cold fog.  It’s the coldest July day I can recall in my life.  We moved into our cabins and started the oil burning stove in our room.  I’m sharing with the Wildcats guys, Jerome and David.  I got this corner with a bunkbed.  I sleep on top in my mummy bag and lay all my gear on the mattress below.  It will do just fine.

 

As always when you arrive at a lodge at midday you have a coffee and a lunch.  Ludo provided us with plenty of calories that were well needed.  After my coffee I headed to my cabin and me, Jerome and David excitedly put together our rods in hopes of a late afternoon fishing session.  That’s about when I heard a four-wheeler roll into camp.  Its engine went silent and I heard Johnny May’s voice.

 

Johnny was frantic and I heard the word polar bear several times.  It was enough for me to put down everything and open the cabin door.  Johnny looked at me and said, “If you want to see a polar bear come now.  But then we’re going to shoot it.  My grandkids were collecting mussels and spotted the bear watching them.  He’s huge.  He must have just swum to shore.”

 

Honestly, I thought I was hearing things incorrectly.  I grew up like most people.  The only polar bear I’ve seen was on TV or in photos.  I never thought about seeing one in the wild.  And they’re endangered, right?  Shoot one?  It was all too much to comprehend after three days of travel and my brain numbed from the cold.  “Yes – I’m coming”, I responded.

 

Jerome, David and myself climbed on another four-wheeler with Simon and we sped along for two minutes to Black Rock Peninsula where Johnny and his family live every summer.  All his family were standing and looking to a rocky point 500yds. away.  I saw the giant white bear immediately.  The color is more cream colored and he stood out like a neon sign on the wet rocks.  He was lying down but looking right at us.

 

Already here was Burt and his dad Fred.  Both grew up in Labrador hunting all their lives.  Johnny asked them to be there as backups.  Backups because only his daughter and her eleven and thirteen-year-old sons were going to kill the bear.  If you’re wondering about Johnny, he’s 72 and wasn’t comfortable with this whole encounter either.  I was in my Simms waders half dressed for fishing and still couldn’t believe this was going down.

 

The hunters were well on their way navigating over the wet rocks for a vantage point to shoot.  Johnny knew damn well that I and Jerome, David and Simon were questioning this hunt.  He was quick to explain the bear was deadly.  Once they spot easy food such as his grandkids searching for mussels he’s here to stay till he gets one.  According to Johnny there was no alternative.

 

Holy crap!  I was about to see a polar bear go down.  From what I’ve heard they don’t go down easy and often charge the shooters and sometimes get them.  Jerome, David, Simon and I ran to catch up to be as close as possible to watch the rare event unfold.  For the tenth time I asked myself, “Is this really happening?”

 

It was real.  We watched Johnny’s daughter and her two boys take position behind a rock exactly 200yds from the bear.  Mom and one son had 308’s but the 13-year-old was holding a 230 BritishBurt and Fred were there too but again, only as backup.  Only Inuit people can shoot a polar bear.  Its highly illegal for a Whiteman to shoot.  As we settled to watch with curiousness and awe the shots fired.  The Inuit’s, despite being a mom and two young boys, were deadly shots.  This wasn’t their first polar bear scare.

 

I won’t lie.  What happened over the next 15 seconds after the first shot was gut wrenching for a wildlife lover, person that doesn’t hunt game and just wasn’t ready for this.  The Inuit’s hit the bear hard on their first round.  The bear made a horrible sound that I’ll never forget and he did lift to charge.  But my guess is a second later he was dead.  And they made sure with yet another round then approached the bear with unreal caution then sunk one more shot to the head from 20 feet away.

 

While I felt as though I needed to turn and leave, my body did the opposite.  Once I saw that the bear was dead me and my new friends walked slowly towards the scene.  I can’t explain how strange it was.  Five minutes earlier I saw my first polar bear.  Now the incredible animal laid before me dead.

 

I had to touch him.  He was still warm from life.  This was a moment I’ll take to the grave.  I was scared like he would wake up and eat us all.  I was shocked.  I was sad.  And a million other emotions pulled.  But most of all I was in wonder.  I just watched an Inuit family kill a polar bear because they were 100% sure eventually it would kill one of them.

 

There’s not much more to say about the polar bear.  I’m a long way from home but I do know that at home when bear comes in to Victor, he eventually gets removed or killed.  When any animal endangers human life, they’re gone.  This was the same only much more swift action was taken.  Wow.

 

I didn’t exactly feel like running out fishing after that.  Not only was my brain spinning but I was wondering when the next hungry polar bear was going to swim ashore.  Nonetheless, we finished rigging our gear and the tide was soon right for the first ever boat launch under the new ownership of Paul Ostiguy.

 

It stays light in the north very late this time of year.  We were all exhausted but here we have huge tide fluctuations – today was 42 feet (I’ll explain more of these tides tomorrow).  So, despite being 9:30 PM we headed out for a couple hours fishing for Arctic char.

 

I’m exhausted for a lot of reasons now so I’ll make this short.  We didn’t find any fish even though we fished two hours’ worth of what looked to be great places for Arctic char and perhaps the odd Atlantic salmon.  But the night was calm and the northern ocean of Ungava Bay was as peaceful as it probably gets.  The sun set at around 10 PM but its light continues to linger here at midnight.  I have an idea why, but I can’t sleep tonight.  What a freaking day.  Hopefully tomorrow brings big Arctic char. . . . .

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge here in Nunavik for bringing me along on this incredible adventure.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Welcome to Kuujjuaq, Quebec

Let’s just say that travel to the coolest fishing places on earth can cause a headache or two at times.  Me and my new friends, all on our way to Inukshuk Lodge, were officially stranded overnight in Kuujjuaq, Quebec because the weather wasn’t safe to fly our Twin Otter charter to the lodges landing strip.  We sat at the airport waiting for 5 hours before the official cancelation was declared.

 

As if not being able to fly wasn’t enough.  We were given access to a van to haul our stuff into town to a place to sleep.  The van had its keys locked in simply sitting on the dash where we could see them.  Torture!  It took us a good half hour to finagle our way in.  Sometimes you need to kick back and laugh and that’s what we did.

 

A room at the one hotel here in Kuujjuaq runs nearly $250.  The helpful Kuujjuac airport manager most generously organized us to borrow a friend’s house for the night for absolutely nothing.  It wasn’t much of a house but it was more than perfect and goes to show there are still a lot of wonderful people out here in the world.

 

Once settled in the house we drove to the one and only restaurant which happened to be at the hotel.  It’s called the Auberge Kuujjuaq Inn.  The food was excellent and attached was a closed bar that I strolled through.  There were many old black and white photos and a few stuffed animals and skulls.  This walrus skull stood out to me.  I would love to see one while fishing this week.

 

After dinner we drove around Kuujjuaq.  The tundra town doesn’t look like much but its full of happy folks made up mostly of Inuit people.  They are friendly but curious as we cruised through their streets.

 

Our plans changed today thanks to Mother Nature.  Sometimes you must simply shake it off and embrace it.  Yea, we lost a day of fishing, but I am likely one of very few Idahoans to spend a night enjoying the sights of Kuujjuaq, Quebec.

 

We’re presently scheduled to return to the airport at 8AM sharp with high hopes that the weather will be good enough to fly.  Right now, at 9:30 PM, things look good.  The clouds are gone and the northern sun is finally threatening to set.  But I think I remember a night like this last Tuesday on the Nunya. . . . .

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge here in Nunavik for making this cool trip happen!

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

“Monsoon Currier” Strikes – Stuck in Kuujjuaq

It didn’t matter that I was on Idaho time.  I slept lightly in my Montreal Airport hotel and got out of bed at 5:40 AM well before my wakeup call.  I took one last look at email and set my Fantasy Baseball team for the week then broke down shop.  I was as excited for this trip to Inukshuk Lodge.  Perhaps more excited than normal because Nunavik is such a unique area on earth.

 

Lots of warm clothes are required for this adventure so I have two large Simms bags with not just one, but two pairs of waders.  At this point in my life I do not like to be cold so if I fall in this week I’ll have a dry back up set.  I checked in at the First Air counter then after a god-awful Burger King breakfast (who knows when my next meal will be) I meandered through security and found gate 19 to Kuujjuaq.

 

The flight from Montreal to Kuujjuaq takes 2 hours 20 minutes.  The plane was a comfortable 737-400C with an Eskimo jumping on the ice painted on the tail.  We entered from the tarmac through the back of the plane.  I took a window seat in the emergency row hoping for some good views.

 

There were a few views but it was mostly clouds all the way.  From what I saw, you don’t have to go too far north of Montreal before hitting beautiful wilderness.  As we got close to Kuujjuaq I noticed the forest slowly giving way to tundra.

 

It was a bumpy landing into Kuujjuaq.  The clouds were thick.  The wind was howling and when we touched down the temperature was 45°.  It was cold but not cold enough for me to start digging for my jacket.

 

 

 

Getting our luggage was the usual foreign country chaos.  The locals were excited to be home and there are a few adventure tourists anxious to get their bags and run.  My two honker bags came out towards the end and it was a relief to see them.  Bag shouldn’t get lost in one flight with no stops but travel can be cruel sometimes.

 

There’s three others on my flight this morning that are going to Inukshuk Lodge; Paul Ostiguy’s daughter, Marissa and Jerome Charest and David Tremblay of Wildcats Fly Fishing.  Marissa is only 19 and simply going up to have fun fishing with dad and help organize things at the lodge.  The Wildcats Fly Fishing boys are filming a TV show for Wildcats Fly Fishing and promotional video for the lodge.

 

Little did my new friends know – but they just joined a journey with “Monsoon Currier”.  Once to Kuujjuaq we were supposed to immediately board a Twin Otter for a 1-hour flight to the Lodge.  But wouldn’t you know, there is a storm between Kuujjuaq and the lodge and we can’t fly right now.  So far, we’ve been sitting here about four hours waiting.  Long enough that I wrote this July 23 AM blog and able to post it with barely enough internet!

 

That’s the update.  Hopefully there won’t be another blog until after the trip.  which will mean the weather cleared and we flew to Inukshuk Lodge and the day by day accounts will come starting on the 31st.  CROSSING MY FINGERS!  Or in about 20 hours you’ll have a full tour of the Inuit village of Kuujjuaq.

 

Once again, travel can be a challenge but when you go “off the grid” you take a deep breath, relax and deal.  The rewards following great patience are usually worth it all!

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy, the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge, here in Nunavik, for making this trip possible!

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Mission Giant Char at Ungava Bay Nunavik

I’m on my way to Montreal today.  Tomorrow I’ll fly up to Kuujjuac, QC Canada.  Just in case you don’t know where this is (ha!) this is a town in Nunavik on Ungava Bay.  If you still need help, look at a map of Quebec and go all the way to the top.  Here is the home of Inukshuk Lodge and hopefully many huge and hungry Arctic char and not too many polar bears.

 

You may remember a few years ago when Granny and I were guests of my friend Paul Ostiguy at his Labrador Lodge, McKenzie River Lodge.  We hoisted in unfathomably beautiful brook trout and numerous landlock salmon.  Good news, Paul recently purchased Inukshuk Lodge and I’m headed to meet Paul there tomorrow to help him and his guides explore the areas fishing for the next seven days.  (Granny will not be on this trip)

 

The term “off the grid” is overused these days and I therefore try to use it as little as possible.  But Inukshuk Lodge is “off the grid” and I will not be able to post blogs until I return to civilization on July 31st.  As always, I will separately post each and every day of what should be an amazing and truly out of the ordinary adventure.

 

A special thanks to my friend Paul Ostiguy the proud owner of McKenzie River Lodge in Labrador and Inukshuk Lodge for bringing me along on this incredible adventure.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

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