Hans describes his trip to Iconnu Lodge, Yukon, Canada.
When we left from Whitehorse airport to Inconnu lodge deep inside the Yukon wilderness we had no idea in what kind of paradise we finally would end up in. The flight took us about one hour and 15 minutes. The view was awesome and for Ina and me it was an unbelievable experience to fly so closely over the snow covered mountains. We never had experienced a flight between the tips of the mountains before and thatís why we shoot at least five rolls of film. †It happened more then once that the scenery took our breath away. The exciting (first ever) landing on a none-paved landing strip made an end at what we believed was just a dream. A few guides waiting for our arrival to pick up our luggage and bring us to our cabin. †When the old guests had left our hosts Warren and Anita called everybody to the main lodge for a complete briefing and introduction to the guides and staff. †The information was very serious but still had some good humour inside. We got an excellent idea about all the different programs for the coming days. At the end of his speech Warren explained us all about safety and wilderness rules and it gave us a very secured and safe feeling. There wasnít any doubt and I quickly realised that everything at Inconnu was planned and organized with military precision.
Warren and Anita LeFave own Inconnu Lodge. Anita does a lot of work behind the scene and you can see very well that at Inconnu Lodge a womanís hand have been involved in many things. Roy Clark is their partner and manages a lot of the marketing work. Kenny is the master fly fisher who takes care about all fly fishers wishes and dreams. The main lodge is amazing. Itís huge and built entirely of cedar wood what give us a real Scandinavian feeling. The lodge building started in 1987 and the business became in full swing in 1995. †Warren, who also managed lodges at Tin Cup and Wellesly Lake, has been in the outdoor business for many years and you can see clearly that the location for the lodge has been chosen very carefully and with a lot of experience. The Yukon Territory is home to the world's purest and clearest lakes, streams and rivers and Inconnu Lodge lies exactly in the centre of these. Itís a big base camp from which all trips are organized and starting. To prevent too much fishing pressure they choose for a strictly catch and release policy.
During one of our meals Warren told us everything about the lodge and how much effort it took to create this magnificent place at such a brilliant location. He told me that he had to make over 1000 flights with the Beaver before the building finally was completed. †Inconnu lodge can be the best described as a 5star accommodation deep inside the wilderness and for most people it is just a fishermenís dream or paradise. Inside the main lodge you can find a large dining room, a tackle and souvenir shop, a quiet conference and video room, a real fly tying corner and an enjoyable lounge and bar. There is a large kitchen and even some laundry facility. The lounge is very beautiful and for those people who like to enjoy themselves in the evening there are game tables, a pool table and a shuffleboard table. The staff and guests are completely separated so every guest enjoying comfort and privacy in their own way or share it with others. A large sauna and hot tub are built by the lake and offers some excellent relaxing after a long day in Yukonís wilderness. Inconnu Lodge can accommodate up to eighteen people in very nice twin and triple rooms. †Thatís quite a lot of guests for such a beautiful place but Anita told me that they have plans to decrease the number to be sure to give even more service to their guests in the future. †All the guest cabins are constructed of finished cedar as well. The floor is carpeted and each cabin has private washroom and some excellent powerful shower facilities. The lodge generates it's own electricity (110 volt) and is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The generator has been recently removed far away from the lodge so that the engine noises are reduced until a limit. All meals are absolutely 5 stars and are prepared by a cook who specially has been flown over from France.
After an unforgettable meal we move outside and while we gaze out on the lake from the veranda one of the mountains gets our attention. With a little imagination we could see a huge moose head fading out the rocks across the lake. Meanwhile Anita shows us the fishing plans. We were putting together in a group of four persons. Roy and Joey became our personal guides for the coming days. Tammy and Steve would join us and the plan was that we would stay together for the trips coming. †It was a perfect combination and in no time we discover that Steveís wonderful sense of humour would give a special atmosphere to our group. Our first trip was a boat trip to get a good impression about McEvoy Lake. I think itís a marvellous idea to start close to the lodge to get everybody in the spell of fishing in no time. McEvoy Lake is just seven miles long and about a mile wide so all corners are easily accessible from the main Lodge. Our first hot spot was a bigger outlet at the south end of the lake. Itís a perfect feeding place for grayling fishing and whitefish and the fish are plentiful. The river connects McEvoy with another smaller 5-mile lake. Both lakes offer some outstanding fishing for Lake Trout, Whitefish and Arctic Grayling. Some good size pike can be found in a few weedy bays as well. Lake trout fishing slows down a little later in the season but during evening and night the catches usual improving again when they start to feed close to the shore. This actually happens to all the lakes in the Yukon. Most of the McEvoy hotspots are found where small brooks feeding the lakes and those places are plentiful. Steep drop offs can offer some excellent fishing at times as well. †At the north side of McEvoy there is a very nice bay that usual is free from wind and even during daytime we discover some larger lake trout feeding after whitefish that shoals up in the shallows.
Fishing at Inconnu Lodge is superb and every trip is well organised and excellently planned indeed. †There are twelve major rivers and streams and seventeen incredible lakes all within a half hour flight from the Lodge by floatplane or chopper. At least seven species of fish (Doly Varden, Arctic Grayling, Lake trout, Broad whitefish, Shee fish. Pike and Burbot) have found their perfect biotopes in the waters around the Lodge. The lodge can supply rods, reels, flies and other equipment at no extra charge but I recommending everybody to bring your own equipment. At the Lodge Store you can pick up your Yukon fishing license. There are 38 motorboats, 2 jet boats, 4 drift racks, several kayaks and canoís spread out over all fishing locations. At 4 locations there are outpost cabins just in case the weather went mad.
Our first fishing day was superb. We didnít fish that long but it gave us a very good impression about the excellent fishing and nature around us. I did quite well by catching some whitefish what wasnít really that easy at first. Very small and realistic looking snail imitations finally did the damage. Tammy, who never used a fly rod before, caught some wonderful grayling with a large Klinkhåmer. Steve became addicted to the Klinkhåmer in no time while he fished the main river with Ina.
After lunch, Steve, Ina, Joey and I tried a few feeders across the main lodge. A caribou that was crossing the lake took all our attention for quite a while but finally we returned into the fishing again. Time went quickly and when the wind subsides and the sun fades away in a tangle of colours the fish suddenly became very active. It was so nice to see how Ina and Steve standing in the water with a beautiful scarlet sky flaming in the back ground. On that particular moment the surface started to boil when a large shoal of whitefish started to feed on midges and hatching mosquitoes just a few yards in front of us. A few big lakers where rolling in surface in between and there is nothing more exciting then a huge fish that shows up in a beautiful head and tail rise. Itís so nice to see how their great sickle tail scything the sur face leaving barely a trace of its presence. This is an electrifying sight, certain to quicken the nerves of any fly fisher. Head and tailing fish will not only keep your adrenalin level up to the mark but will be testing your attention all the time. Ina caught a big laker after it almost invisible came up for a Klinkhåmer. Steve did well for grayling and I was more fixed on making some pictures to record these beautiful scenery and actions forever. Then something happens that always will stay in our memories forever. Suddenly Steve began to tell a wonderful story. It was the story about Sam McGee. It was the perfect time at the right place to get in touch with the fantastic poems of Robert Service and they way Steve present it was simply unique. What could be nicer then fishing, catching fish, a small campfire behind you, this splendid performance from Steve and a beautiful sunset all over the place? We stopped fishing and with our mouths wide open we listen to Steveís next show about ďThe shooting of Dan McGrewĒ.†While the fire slowly faded out, and the mystical call of the loon faded away, an exciting day came to an end.
The next day we flew in the Beaver to Whitefish Lake. The flight took us about 30 minutes, and during this trip we saw several moose. The plan was to land at Whitefish Lake, from which we would travel by canoe to the main river that feeds this lake. In beautiful weather, we paddled through the channels, and the wildlife around us impressed us all. We saw bald eagles, several moose, a fox and many species of ducks. It only took us 20 minutes to reach the place that we wanted to fish. We tried the river mouth for a couple of hours, and the fishing for grayling was just superb. Then Tammy surprised us all by catching an enormous lake trout. I never had seen such a big lake trout before. It was the perfect timing for a little break. We took some lunch, and then travelled further upstream to try some very nice rapids surrounded by some deeper pools. Now it was Ina who amazed us all by getting into a great fight with a large fish.
He moved downstream and took off more then a hundred meters of backing. She played it well and kept control of the fish. Joe helped her to land the fish, and it turned out to be a wonderful Dolly Varden. Time passed quickly, and we had to get back to the lake where the Beaver was just arriving to pick us up. I was able to make a wonderful shot when the Beaver was landing with a big moose just in front of my lens.
The following day, Tammy, Joe and Ina were dropped by helicopter on the mountaintops for a nice alpine hike, while Steve, Roy and I tried some secret spots that have been rarely fished. We planned to meet again at the main lodge at the end of the day. We had the chopper with us all day, and for Steve and me it was one of the most exciting experiences we ever had. We had to search really hard to find some fish, and maybe that was what made this trip so interesting for us.
We landed at several places, but we didnít have any luck at first, so we enjoyed the flights and nature. Finally on our last try, and after a good search, I hooked my largest artic grayling ever, and it really made my day. I called Steve, who fished the other side of the lake and when he joined me, I was very happy that he could land some nice fish as well. I was sure all places we fished were excellent fishing spots, but the warm weather from the last few weeks put the fish down to deeper water.
When Tammy and Ina returned, their story was amazing! It definitely was a once in a lifetime trip. It was a beautiful day, in spite of the rather cloudy weather. Ina and Tammy hiked from one mountaintop to the next, which was sometimes rather strenuous. Their effort was well rewarded, because once they reached the tops, the scenery was just spectacular! One of the highlights was a mountaintop gourmet lunch, complete with red and white wine!
The fourth day of our trip became a day that we never will forget. It was a day in which many things turned out much differently than expected. We got up at 6am because this time we were the first group that would fly out that day. It was my big dream and wish to try for Inconnu (Sheefish) for a few hours in the Pelly Lakes, and that was exactly on the program. Unfortunately, we landed inadvertently at Lee Lake! The pilot was new to the area, and I didnít blame him at all. I read the map well, and knew we were dropped off at the wrong place, but Ina and I just saw it all as a part of the adventure. To fish an extra lake with jumping fish all over the place isnít too bad either. Instead of waiting for the chopper to pick us up again, I prepared my rod and walked straight to the place I had seen all those fish rising when we flew in. My memory is pretty good in things like that. A small nameless creek was running into the lake, and the fish were feeding like crazy in the current that broke the surface. I got some good size grayling and lake trout, and really enjoyed this wonderful spot. Then the chopper came back, made a few circles and flew away again! We just smiled, shook our heads and I continue fishing. A moose and calf seemed to be disturbed by the noise and ran away, but at least we had enjoyed their company for a while. Ina heard a strange noise behind us but we didnít pay it any attention. A short moment later, the moose and calf started running fast and both jumped straight into the water. It was nice to see how they swam, but by paying it no attention, we overlooked this†clear sign of danger. Ina decided to join me and just when she was half way there, she saw a big grizzly behind me! He was still about a 150 yards away from me, but he didnít look friendly. She shouted at me, but the noises of the current were much too loud for me to hear what she was saying. I just waved at her and continued fishing. She cried louder and louder, and when Joe also started to shout at me, I suddenly felt there must be something wrong. When they both pointed behind me, I finally saw what worried them. Ina and Joe ran to the dock and jumped into one of the boats. Miraculously the engine started immediately. I knew that you never should run away from a grizzly, because they can see you as bait, and so I started to reel in my line slowly, and carefully walked backwards while keep my eyes fixed on the grizzly. I have always been gentle to animals, and I have my own thoughts about dangerous animals as well. I had fished between black bears in BC several times and tried to be one with nature. I talked with them and they never bothered me. I also had a very close encounter with a grizzly and cub before, and nothing happened. I believed that when you donít harm them and donít show any fear, that they just would ignore you too. It worked well for me many times. While I gazed at this impressive grizzly, I knew directly that this wouldnít be a friendly meeting. The hairs on his back were all up, and he was shaking his head and even showing some teeth. Then when I just had reeled in my line halfway, he started to run and ďmy goshĒ he ran like a racing horse†straight towards me! I didnít like that and didnít know what to do, so instinctively I began to run to the boat, which could be my only rescue. I ran fast, and I donít think I never ran that fast either! I still had the rod in my hand, and the line was following straight in the air! The bear knew this area well and seemed to be a clever one too, because he took a short cut! We didnít see him for a moment, but as soon as I jumped in the boat, he was on the shore too, standing on his hind feet in all his glory! Joe moved the boat backwards, and Ina was so cool that she even took a picture of him. Of course it was a dangerous situation,†and nobody knows what would have happened if there had been no boat available, but I didnít really feel scared, and I just canít explain it. While we were sitting in the boat, a lot of things became clear to us. The noise that Ina had heard and the moose and calf that were fleeing by jumping into the lake were all warning signs, which we had disregarded. It was also the first time ever that Joe forgot his gun! The funny thing about this all is that the nameless creek now has a name (Grizzly Creek), and I suddenly realised how all those fancy names all over North America originated.
Shortly after this amazing experience, the chopper arrived and brought us to the most eastern of the Pelly Lakes where Steve, Tammy and Roy were all ears for our big story. We had coffee and a snack, and while we were waiting for Roy to prepare the boats, we passed the time as we always do, walking around the area and observing the tracks of moose and wolf. As soon the boats were ready, we split up again. While Ina and I tried the river that connects the Pelly Lakes, Steve and Tammy were slowly moving further east where the Ptarmigan River runs into the Pelly Lakes. That was the place we would meet later to try for Inconnu together. Meanwhile I found an excellent way of†catching very large white fish by using a dark green caseless caddis nymph. I really loved this place. I was sure that this river could bring up some huge grayling to my dry flies, and it did. Time went quickly, and if we wanted to try for Inconnu, we had to leave.
It took us about 30 minutes to join the others, and the boat trip was fantastic. We saw many moose feeding while they were standing deep in the water. Together with Roy, Steve and Tammy, we tried really hard for Inconnu. I hooked one and lost it, but most important for me was that I knew we could catch them by flies. We only needed the right flies. Tammy and Steve both did well with spoons for Lake trout, but I guess we needed more time to learn about this spot. We fished for a few hours and then we returned to the outpost cabin, where Roy prepared a wonderful lunch for us. After lunch we returned to the first†spot again, where we tried to catch some pike. Ina caught a very nice one and I had three, but at that moment, I preferred to fish the river again. I was dropped on shore, and I fished my way down stream for a while. I did extremely well for those larger whitefish, and really enjoyed it. I wished it was possible to explore this river longer but we heard the chopper coming, and we had to return to the main lodge again.
One of the most exclusive trips was saved for our last day at Inconnu Lodge. We flew to Fortin Lake, where we started a wonderful jet boat trip all the way to the Pelly Lakes. For all of us it was a great opportunity to see the origin of the majestic Pelly River. For me personally, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to discover what species of fish inhabit this area. I had already seen the river from the air, and it looked to me like a perfect grayling area. Fly fishing for pike was on the schedule first. The weather looked very nice, there was hardly any wind, and with a little luck we would be able to see the fish and cast to them. To be a perfect predator, a pike needs ideal hiding places from which he can attack quickly and unexpectedly. The pike†is a master of camouflage, and his body shape makes it possible to hide almost anywhere. Pike love warm shallow water, especially when weeds provide cover. I think a jet or belly boat is the best method of transport when you are going after pike. To find pike at Fortin Lake wasnít very difficult when you are in the company of such experienced guides as Roy and Joe. Fortin Lake has some very nice, weedy shallow bays, and it was Ina who found the first pike. She hooked and landed some very good size fish. It was thrilling to see how she expertly dropped the fly among the weeds and seduce the ravenous pike out their hiding places to aggressively attack the would be prey. We had hit upon a marvelous spot, but then our luck changed for the worse. As they say in the Yukon, ďIf you donít like the†weather, just wait a minute.Ē A nasty mountain wind whipped up and soon obscured our vision. White caps came up quickly, forcing us to take to the river to find some shelter. Roy knew of a secret spot full of weeds, and brimming with pike. It was just an awesome place! In less then 2 hours we caught 23 pike with several measuring well over one meter! The wind brought with it some heavy rain as well, and when most of us were soaking wet, the weather became really unpleasant. This most beautiful trip to the†headwaters of the Pelly River was still a spectacular adventure, but what I really regret is that the heavy rain prevented me from capturing it all on film. Always looking out for the comfort and safety of his guests, Roy decided to bring us to an outpost camp to warm up, since ahead of us, we still had a very long trip to the helicopter pickup point. This thoughtfulness and consideration was much appreciated by the entire group. The cold didnít bother†me personally, because I am used to fishing in this kind of weather. While everybody was warming up, Joe and I returned to the river, where I taught him how to catch those nice big whitefish. This, for me, was the perfect ending to our unforgettable Inconnu adventure.