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ARCTIC HAVEN FISHING: OLIVER RAMPLEY CASTS A FLY

After visiting Arctic Haven in 2017, angler and guide Oliver Rampley returned to Arctic Haven. Oliver shares their impressive catch report stories from their visit to the Arctic Barren Lands.

Migratory caribou near Arctic Haven
Migratory caribou near Arctic Haven

Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge is known for caribou. Situated along the Kazan River system, thousands of barren ground caribou migrate past the lodge as they travel between tree line and their calving grounds at Baker Lake. In the spring, networks of lakes, which account for much of mainland Nunavut, are used by the caribou as corridors to travel over the frozen landscape. As they return to tree line in the autumn, they can be seen swimming between islands as they navigate the lake along ancient caribou trails.

Carefully releasing a gorgeous lake trout near Arctic Haven
Carefully releasing a gorgeous lake trout near Arctic Haven

For some, the seemingly endless lakes, streams and rivers provide another reason to visit. In the heart of an untouched wilderness, anglers come to Arctic Haven with the hopes of landing world class Arctic grayling or lake trout on the end of their lines. Thousands of kilometres from our metropolitan cities, a cavernous wilderness exists where the cycles of nature have flourished under minimal human impact.

After visiting Arctic Haven in 2017, fishing guide Oliver Rampley returned to the Arctic. “The trip was timed to coincide with three elements: the arrival of large trout in shallow waters before spawning, the start of the Aurora Borealis season, and the caribou migration and flux of wildlife activity. It delivered on all fronts.”

During the 6-day Arctic fishing trip, the adventure caught and released over 100 fish with the largest lake trout weighing 22 pounds. Of the fish caught, 61 were grayling, a popular freshwater fish that is most notable for its acrobatics and large dorsal fin.

Reflecting on the grayling fishing Oliver writes: “The Upper River stretches offer a magnificent density of specimen Arctic Grayling and world-class fishing from the first cast. It is possible to catch upwards of 10 grayling per hour in the correct position. Investing one or two days targeting these fish would give one a good chance of landing a world record grayling in one or more line classes.”

Releasing a young Arctic grayling
Releasing a young Arctic grayling

Despite being tenacious fighters, grayling are relatively small weighing at most 2-4 pounds. In contrast, prized lake trout weigh in at 50 pounds or more. “The nature of the trout fishing is thrilling.” A short walk from the lodge, a gravel spit produces excellent trout fishing by casting into the deep water which is often sheltered in the lee of prevailing winds. Rising early to make pre-breakfast casts, the three fishermen caught the greatest number of trout just a kilometre from the lodge. “After sunrise, generally between 0600 and 0830, blind casts produced fish every morning. These windows of activity were brief but intensely productive, with the final morning producing six trout to 16lb within 45 minutes.”

Tessum, Oliver and Nansen on an early morning cast.
Tessum, Oliver and Nansen on an early morning cast.

In addition to being an avid angler, Oliver is an attentive birder and has led wildlife watching excursions around the world. While out on the tundra, the group photographed over 40 birds including hooded merganser ducks and a tundra swan. “The opportunities for photography are exceptional. The bull caribou are shedding the velvet from their antlers in preparation for the rut, and can be seen bluff fighting with each other.” While fishing on the open tundra, Barren Ground Caribou can be seen through the day casually foraging on the land. “Caribou can be observed every day, either grazing the tundra for berries or swimming in groups across waterways.”

For those considering packing fishing rod to Arctic Haven, it is important to consider what fish you hope to target. For grayling, a 4 weight rod would offer greatest enjoyment. Whereas a much heavier rod is needed for lake trout, especially if your aim is record sized fish.“Although a 9wt was an appropriate all-round rod for most days of the trip, a 10wt would be useful around the roughest water. Huge trout are present and the demands of turning such a fish in white water would test most fly tackle. Correspondingly, the standard 22lb fluorocarbon tippet was increased to 30lb.”

Fly fishing at Arctic Haven
Casting a line on the Kazan River system near Arctic Haven

To cap it all off, the the third goal of the trip was to observe the northern lights. “We had spectacular ‘dancing’ Northern Light displays above the lodge on two consecutive nights, on both occasions for around four hours.”

We thoroughly enjoyed hosting Oliver and look forward to yet another trip in 2019. For more information about Oliver, visit his website Altana Europe. And for more details about fishing adventures at Arctic Haven, check out our adventure page. Oliver visited with the goal of fishing during our Autumn Arctic - Caribou, Wolves & Northern Lights adventure.

Northern Lights glowing on the edge of Ennadai Lake
Northern Lights glowing on the shores of Ennadai Lake
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