by Mary L. Peachin
The vast wilderness straddling the Continental Divide in Yukon Territory’s makes Inconnu Lodge as remote as it gets. This stunning landscape is swathed by black and glacial green switch backing rivers, isolated alpine lakes, jagged peaks with some flat ridged mountains, and tundra covered by a rainbow of summer flowers. Considered high eastern plateau, with the exception of the Mackenzie range, many of the region’s mountains, lakes, and rivers are nameless. Offering both experienced and novice anglers a taste of Canada’s North best fishing, the Lodge, accessible only by plane, is located 185 miles east of the capital city of Whitehorse.
Overlooking Lake McEvoy, a seven mile headwater leading to a series of lakes interconnected by streams, the watershed offers superb fishing for lake trout and Arctic grayling. Seldom fished, it is bypassed for more remote, adventurous fly out fishing in places where it is possible to wade or drift rivers for grayling and lake trout or fly or spin cast in alpine lakes for Northern pike, Dolly Varden, or the rare Inconnu or shee-fish, for which the Lodge was named.
Next to its trophy size fish, Inconnu’s isolation and nameless fly-in destinations are one of the attractions to the Lodge. A five to forty five minutes flight drops the angler at one of approximately twenty lakes where eighteen foot boats are cached or one of a dozen rivers fished by canoe, jet boats, or inflatable rafts. Inconnu practices conservation by resting their fisheries for several days, weeks, sometimes even a season. They want to keep these fish wild and hungry. Having such great fishing resources to themselves, with no population within a hundred miles, they prefer to maintain the anonymity of their favorite destinations.
In the shallow river rapids, four moose busily grazed on river weeds. Warren LaFave, owner of Inconnu Lodge, crabbed the Hughes 500 helicopter into a hover before landing on a riverside bog. Dropping us near a cached canoe, we earnestly paddled down current for a close up moose encounter. Unfortunately all four had wandered into the willows. Casting five weight rods tied with wooly bugger and leech patterns, we waded in 52 degree water enjoying the action of releasing dozens of Arctic grayling and lake trout. After a shoreline picnic, guide Ken Richardson suggested we paddle to an area better known for its trophy-size lake trout. Climbing into the canoe, I spotted a bull moose, one with sizable antlers. Ken and my husband David quietly paddle us toward the bull until we got within a hundred yards. The moose stopped feeding and we stopped paddling. After a brief stare down, he splashed out of the water and into the brush.
Fishing another lake for trophy-size (40 inch) Northern pike, we cast eight weight rods loaded with 20 pound monofilament and steel leaders tied with whistler patterns. After releasing half a dozen pike in the 35 to 38 inch range, Ken told us he was taking us to the “River of our Dreams.” Narrow and lined with a boggy bank, the sandy bottom river produces trophy-size (18 inches) grayling and lake trout. And it produces them on almost every cast. Several times Ken used a tape to measure a 20 inch release. This was definitely a day that ended all too soon.
The next day we fished another lake for Northerns. As a teaser to attract the predatory fish within fly casting range, Ken would spin cast and quickly retrieve a hookless spoon across patches of weeds. After taking a break for lunch, releasing several dozen fish, we were ready to call it a day.
Inflatable Maravia drift rafts, with Ken manning the oars, steered us down another Yukon river. Two captain chairs with standing casting bars allowed us to cast three weight rods for grayling. Exploring miles of virgin water, whenever we reached a prime fishing pool, Ken would drop anchor to enable us to throw a fly into a nearby pocket or riffle structure. At the end of our drift, the helicopter sighted us waiting along the river bank, and after hauling the raft back to the put-in with a sling, Warren picked us up for the short flight back to the lodge. After a unique and adventurous, fun-filled Yukon day, a cold dip in the lake with a nearby hot tub and steamy sauna awaits tired muscles.
Inconnu’s 6,500 square foot main cedar lodge includes a large dining room, a vaulted ceiling bar lounge with game tables, a gift shop, and even a conference room with, believe it or not, satellite television and wireless internet service.
The Lodge’s Dehavilland Beaver float plane, a true workhorse of the North, is used along with the helicopter for daily fly out spin or fly fishing as well as heli-hiking, river drift trips, or flight seeing to the natural wonders of Northwest Territories’ Cirque of the Unclimbables and bigger than Niagara, Virginia Falls.
Waders, boots, and a small day pack (for rain gear) are the only essentials required for guests. The lodge supplies all fishing tackle including spinning, level wind, or fly rods along with lures or flies for each guided day. They also do daily complimentary laundry to minimize the amount of clothing required for a five day visit.
Owners and operators Warren and Anita LaFave built Inconnu Lodge log by log by log. It took them five years of hard work, grit, and determination. Logging more than 1500 freight flights, Warren hauled every single piece of building material in his DeHaviland Beaver into this remote wilderness
Gracious hosts, both Warren and Anita are “Jack and Jill of all trades.” Each day, Warren flies anglers to and from their fishing destination. When he is not flying, he is transporting miners or climbers, boats and fuel with a helicopter sling or repairing equipment. There’s not much that he can’t fix or a problem he can’t solve. The one exception is weather and the size of the fish. Anita, the “Martha Stewart” of the Territory warmly meets and greets clients. She plans gourmet four-course dinners, has the weekly provision list down to a science, packs atypical scrumptious picnic lunches, oversees the chef and kitchen staff’s food preparation and service, plus other administrative services.
Nine cedar cabins, cozy with wood-burning stoves, overlook McEvoy’s lakefront. The Beaver float plane and fishing boats are tied to a wooden dock lined with Adirondack chairs. A hot tub and sauna is steps away.
Not lacking in amenities, each of the cabins has two or three beds, a desk, wood-burning stove, bath and mirrored dressing counter and sink. While Inconnu has the capacity for twenty four guests, it limits the amount of guests each week to a maximum of twelve.
Breakfast is cooked to order with fresh muffins and pastries baked every day. A picnic lunch includes an oversized sandwich from your personal preference list, Greek salad, shrimp skewers, homemade cookies and baked goods and, if request, wine and beer.
The one exception to Inconnu’s strict catch and release policy is one day of enjoying a shore lunch of freshly caught grayling. Ken, using a propane burner, battered the freshly caught filets with corn meal then grilled them in a cast iron pan with butter and a splash of wine. Ribs, fingerling potatoes (also heated), Greek salad with arugula, and garlic toast were also served on plates garnished with fresh strawberries. We toasted our “chef” with a glass of wine.
Inconnu Lodge maintains outpost cabins on two nearby lakes. Rustic getaways, day adventurers can use them as rain shelter, a place for a lunch, or maybe even a nap.
The cabins, equipped with cooking and dining utensils, food, six bunks and a fire-burning stove, can also be used for overnight stays. Staying self-contained in the wilderness affords a chance to be even closer to the wildness of Yukon nature. Imagine falling asleep to the distinctive call of the loon or the howling of a wolf.
The Yukon Territory is a great place to view wildlife. Moose outnumber the Territory’s entire population by 20,000. Mountain goat and sheep climb steep rocky mountain slopes. Grizzlies and black bears munch on wild berries, and more than 200,000 caribou migrate seasonally through the territory. Other wildlife includes wolf, wolverines, coyotes, foxes, beavers, and marmots.
A birder’s paradise, the region boasts more than 200 species of migratory, raptors, and birds of prey. Some of these include loons, trumpeter swans and geese fishing on lakes. Bald and golden eagles, falcons and marsh hawks hunt from tree tops. Rarer species include the belted kingfisher, black-backed three-toed woodpecker, black-billed magpie, Bohemian waxwing, boreal chickadee, Clark’s nutcracker, fox sparrow, great horned owl, hairy woodpecker, hermit thrush, Lapland longspur, Northern shoveler, red-winged blackbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, ruffed grouse, snow bunting, and willow ptarmigan.
Canoeing, kayaking, or panning for gold in stream beds is available for those who choose to take a break from the fishing action. Heli-hiking mountain ridges and tundra, where no one has ever treaded, allows hikers to bushwhack paths of discovery atop peaks overlooking a landscape of glacial lakes and winding streams.
Kluane Airways, owned by the LaFaves, flies climbers to bordering Northwest Territories’ Cirque of the Unclimbables. Located near Nahanni National Park, the cluster of peaks and walls is in a remote region of the MacKenzie Mountains. The almost 2000 foot Lotus Flower Tower is considered one of the world’s top ten technical climbs at Grade V (5.10). Adjacent to the Tower is Mount Proboscis, a fifteen pitch 5.12 granite wall.
During our visit, teams from France and Germany had base camps in Fairy Meadow. The French team had summitted after climbing twenty three non-stop hours. The team from Germany, who planned to overnight on a small ledge, was preparing their ascent for the next day.
Our one hour helicopter flight to the Cirque took us over winding rivers and creeks, all tributaries of the MacKenzie River which flows north to the Arctic Ocean. Glaciers, some spanning more than a dozen miles, melted to become muddy creeks before draining into emerald colored alpine lakes. The scenery was beyond description. Nahanni River’s Virginia Falls is an additional half hour flight. Twice the height of Niagara Falls, the River flows through the Yukon Mountains into the Northwest Territories
It’s hard to imagine having easier access to twelve remote rivers and streams and seventeen lakes with the choice of fishing seven species of trophy-size fish. Fly fishing, spin casting or trolling can land beginner or professional anglers non-stop activity in the five to thirty pound class. Fishing gear offered includes Cortland graphite spin or trolling rods, and STH fly reels with proven Yukon flies and lures. When you are releasing different species of fish on light tackle on almost every cast, well, does it get any better than that?
If You Want to Bring Fishing Gear
General Fishing Gear
- Chest Waders
- Wading shoes
- Forceps, clippers, scissors, and needle nose pliers
- Nine foot/ three weight fly rod for Grayling
- Nine foot/ six weight fly rod for Dolly Varden and Lake Trout
- Nine foot/ six to eight weight fly rod for Pike
- Reels and extra spools
- Fly lines – floating, sink tip, super fast sink
- Leaders – 0x, 1x, 2x, 3x
- Tippet materials in above sizes
- Leader sink, strike indicators, thermometer, floatant, all purpose tool
- Ultra light spinning rod with six to eight pound test line
- Medium weight spinning rod with twelve to fourteen pound test line
- Level line trolling reels with eight to fifteen pound test
- Bait casting rod with twelve to fourteen pound test line
- Sinkers, bottom bouncers, swivels, and small snaps
- pike steel leaders (four to six inches)
Lures for Trout, Dolly Varden, Northern Pike and Inconnu
- Husky daredevils, #4 Len Thompson’s Jigs – 20 ounce, 3/25 ounce in Marabou (yellow, chartreuse, white, black),Flat fish – T-50 and T-55, U-20 and L-9 250 (frog, chrome, yellow/black and Chubb), #2 Rooster tails ( black/ red), #1, #2 Blue Fox Vibrax (gold/silver), #2 Panther martins, #1-3 Mepps spinners (red and white, silver, copper), #2 Len Thompson’s or medium sized daredevils (orange/black, red/white), surface lures (pike), Zera spooks
Lures for Grayling
- #0-1 Mepps spinners, #0-2 Panther martins, #1 Blue fox (gold, silver)
Flies for Grayling, Sizes #20, #18, #16
- Dry—black gnat, royal trued, royal Wulff, parachute Adams, blue winged olives, and mahogany duns.
- Nymphs—hare’s ears, pheasant tails, any bead head, prince nymphs, and stoneflies.
Flies for Northern Pike, Sizes 1x, 2x
- Dry—mice, frogs, deer hair poppers.
- Nymphs—Deceivers (red/white, orange, black/white—anything with color and flash).
Flies for Lake Trout and Dolly Varden, Sizes #12, #14, #16, #18
- Nymphs in sizes 1x, 2x or 3x—wooly buggers, bullheads, olive sculpins, Clouser’s deep minnows, and black stone flies.
If you go:
Anglers are flown by Cessna Caravan charter from Whitehorse into the Lodge’s 2,800 foot dirt runway. An overnight stay in Whitehorse is required the night before, and recommended for the return (in the event of a weather delay.) Five day packages begin at $ 5,995.00 per person double occupancy. Helicopter fishing days are not included in the weekly package. For further information go to www.inconnulodge.com.
Anglers who prefer to bring their own gear are advised to pack a medium weight rod with ten to twelve pound test for the lake fishing, as well as ultra light and fly tackle for the streams and rivers. Chest waders and boots are essential.
Typical summer temperatures vary between a low of forty and a high of ninety degrees, with the daily averages between fifty to seventy degrees. A warm day can become cold, windy and rainy in a heartbeat so bring long underwear, lots of layers and raingear.