We Finally Made it to Courage Lake!

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Ganglers North Seal River Lodge

northern-lightsWe suspected before it was even a real day that today would be the day we finally made it to Courage Lake.  At 1:15 am I woke up and looked outside.  It was clear and the greenish beams of the Northern Lights were jumping.  I woke Granny and we sped down to the Gangler’s Lodge dock and caught about ten minutes worth of an excellent show.  The lights faded then we turned in for a few more hours of zzzz’s.

 

sunriseBeing able to see the Northern Lights meant the weather was looking good to fly at our scheduled 8 am time.  Sure enough, when I woke at 6 am to a crisp 37°, the weather still looked good.  To assure myself I wandered to the lake with my coffee for a larger sky view.  A wander I will never regret as I witnessed one of the most sensational sunrises of my life and I’ve seen a few.

 

Simms-Yeti-CurrierShortly after my colorful coffee and a hearty breakfast, we heard the roar of the Havilland Beaver making its way to the dock to fetch us.  Next some Gangler’s staff collected our bags and headed for the dock.  It was official, Granny and I were flying to the Gangler’s Outpost, Courage Lake in the tundra once and for all after four days of consecutive postponements.

 

Havilland-BeaverOur friend Ken Gangler first told us about his tundra outpost addition to the standard lodge fishing trip while at the Denver Fly Fishing Show back in February.  While Ken offers many outpost options, Courage Lake is new and plans to open in 2024.  Courage is in the most northern region of Manitoba nearly touching the Nunavut Territory.  It neighbors the Baralzon Ecological Preserve and is officially “subarctic tundra” and is like no other region in the world.

 

flyfishingThe Beaver was loaded with gear beyond our own.  Being this outpost won’t open until next year, its not ready for average guests.  Along with us were two of Gangler’s most knowledgeable backcountry staff.  These two guys can tweak and fix about anything.  While we really only needed a dry place to sleep and a boat with a working motor, these guys set us up with running water, generated electricity, a rifle and believe it or not, internet so we could reach Ken in an emergency.  Bottom line, I think they were worried about leaving us up here alone!

 

robertson-eskerThe flight was no less than spectacular, our first flight that is.  As we lifted from the bay in front of the lodge, skies were clear.  The view is amazing and you can’t believe how much water lies below.  But as we headed north fog was rising from below.  It was first noticeable as we crossed the famous Robertson Esker.

 

remote-flyfishingUnfortunately the fog got worse as we proceeded.  Fog turned to low lying clouds.  And 30 minutes in our northerly flight, our pilot turned us around.  Landing these low flying sea planes is done by sight and when you can’t see the ground you can’t land.  We had to return to the lodge.

 

bush-plane-flightsGranny and I felt sick.  Not from the flight but from the bad luck of not making the flight AGAIN.  But when we landed and hit the dock and took off the noise blocking headphones, our pilot assured us the clouds and fog we just saw would dissipate in a couple hours.  All we had to do was chill a bit and we’d try again.  Time for another cup of coffee.

 

Courage-LakeOur pilot was correct and at 10:45 am we were airborne again.  This time was different.  I could see at least a 100 miles to the north and there was hardly a cloud in sight.

 

Havilland-BeaverCourage is about 100 miles from the lodge and in the Beaver about a 45 minute flight.  During the last ten minutes, as the plane shadowed the wider open space of the subarctic tundra, we spooked caribou below.  Seeing the caribou isn’t always a guarantee but we were lucky and saw lots of the huge animals.

 

Ganglers-Tundra-OutpostWe got our first glimpse of the outpost from the air.  The sun was out and things looked good.  Our landing was smooth and soon we were unloading.  We finally made it!

 

Courage-LakeOnce unpacked, Granny moved our clothes and set up our sleeping bags in our cabin.  The guys went to work hooking us up.  I got right on setting up rods.  We were chomping at the bit to wet a line being yesterday was a total loss.

 

Courage-LakeThe last chore before the guys left us was to organize our boat.  All Ken’s outposts are outfitted with at least a couple boats.  Believe it or not, the boats were flown in at one time along with 20 horse 4-stroke motors and gas.

 

boat-repairOur boat had been laying upright and my first job was to bail out over a foot of water.  While I used every muscle in my body eliminating water, the guys worked on our motor.  The motor had not been started in at least a year.

 

fly-fishingLet’s just say, getting it running was not an easy task.  But these guys are clever and even smart enough to bring a few extra brand new spark plugs.  I could never had done what they did but within 30 minutes our motor was running.

 

GanglersI took a quick spin in the boat to be sure it was ready.  It was.  Then the guys said good luck and took off.  Granny and I were alone in paradise for the next three days!

 

Canada-outpostWhile I would have jumped in the boat and took off, Granny recommended eating first.  The lodge packed our food and she was like the “Iron Chef”.  She had to take a look at what was there and make a plan.  Plan one was grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches.

 

Granny-CurrierBy the time we finally got to go fishing it was 4:30.  Luckily, in the far north it still isn’t dark until 8:30 pm so we had a good four hours.  All we had was a crappy little map without depths.  We were so excited to begin exploring that Granny could hardly control herself!

 

flyfishing-pikeBeing new to the boat and seeing what it took to get the outboard started earlier, we weren’t venturing far.  It was time to feel things out.  I literally took Granny five minutes from the lodge where I spotted a weed bed growing in a back corner.  I had Granny tossing my 9-weight with the SA Amplitude Smooth Titan Long.  This is my favorite line for casting oversized flies for northern pike.

 

 

Granny-Currier

I kid you not, within five minutes Granny went tight.  We didn’t see the fish and honestly, I was expecting your average 28-30 incher to start thrashing.  But Granny had trouble hoisting this one.  This pike was beyond average and when I got my first glimpse I nearly fell over piecing the net together.  After a crazy battle where the fish nearly wrapped Granny up on the motor, I scooped him up.

 

It was a huge pike.  The length was actually deceiving because this was one of the fattest northern’s imaginable.  I would have guessed him at 42” but when I put him on the tape it was 39”.  Nonetheless and incredible catch!

 

huge-pikeGranny didn’t have on her waders for the evening fishing.  This fish was so heavy and hard to handle she put them on in order to handle the huge fish safely.  Boats can be hard on fish especially if dropped.  It was a smart decision as it turned out it was even difficult for her to hold while in shallow water.

 

big-pikeAfter some finagling, Granny finally got a grip.  I ripped off a bunch of pictures.  No doubt, I was the happy family fishing guide and due to the excitement my pics are fair at best.  Nonetheless it does show the immense size of this beautiful animal.

 

After admiring the Courage Lake resident it was time to say goodbye.  These are tough fish and just as Granny began to do the revive, the fish said, “No thanks!”.  The pike took off leaving a rooster tail that doused us both with water.

 

pike-fishingWhat a way to start.  Granny and I looked at each other and first thing we said was, “That was worth the wait!”

 

There’s not a ton more to say about fishing tonight.  We caught five more pike but nothing matched Granny’s first.  I took an hour and fished some lake trout looking spots but caught only pike.  We’ll investigate more tomorrow.

 

Canadian-OutpostWe’re now settled in the cabin.  The lodge set us up with a couple of fillets and Granny didn’t wait around to cook them.  We just finished the amazing home cooking and now it’s time to hit it.  Tomorrows target, Arctic grayling.

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

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Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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