The Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada is a true wonderland for fly fishermen. Arctic grayling, pike, brown trout, rainbow trout, salmon and white fish thrives in the Yukon, the river that gives its name to the Territory, but also in its countless tributaries and lakes. Fly-fishing for pike or, more specifically, the Yukon-based sight-fishing for pike have fascinated me the most.
The Yukon plays a very special role in my passion for fly fishing. It was here in summer 2010, when I held a fly rod in my hand for the first time and surprisingly was even successful. Yes, I grew up only 5 minutes away from the German Traun. But had little time to fish in my youth due to my cross-country skiing career and fly fishing had never happened.
Me and a friend used to fish in the Yukon with small spinners at a lake stream after grayling. After his father watched us for some time, he began to fish with his fly rod. To my astonishment, he caught one grayling after the other. When his father noticed my amazement, he pulled another fly rod out of his luggage, showed me briefly how to throw and sent me off with a freshly attached dry fly. After only a few throws I caught my first fish with the fly rod. I was sold and the rest is history.
But now back to the present and to the pike. So I left the north of British Columbia and its steelheads and arrived in mid-May in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon's. The city of Whitehorse is located on the Yukon and was built during the Klondike gold rush in the late 19th century as a transit station to Dawson City. Whitehorse has an international airport and can even be reached from Frankfurt by direct flight from late May to mid-September. Right in Whitehorse on the Yukon River you can catch grayling everywhere. But if you want to catch pike you have to leave the city and visit the bigger lakes.
Almost all large lakes are home to pike. Google Maps also is a great tool to find out which of these lakes have shallow water areas where pike like to spend the spring after spawning. The special thing is that many of these shallow water areas have sandy soil and thus cancel the camouflage of the pikes. Some of the lakes that are particularly suitable for this fishery are Fox Lake, Braeburn Lake, Twin Lakes, Squanga Lake, Little Atlin Lake and Snafu Lake. Most of these lakes are free from the end of May and within reach from Whitehorse in less than 2 hours. In North American conditions this is considered "not far away".
All you need now is sunshine, as little wind as possible, and a boat, canoe or, in my case, an inflatable stand up paddleboard (SUP). Since Whitehorse is the tourist center of the Yukon, canoes and paddle boards are also available here for rent. The weather can be very varied in the Yukon, and the pikes also take flies if sight fishing is not possible.
One of my first discovery tours was to the Braeburn and the Twin Lakes, because I heard of good visibility here. Arriving at the lake I quickly pumped up my stand up paddleboard and equip it with the necessary equipment. This includes a waterproof bag, life jacket, drift bag, anchor, wind / rain jacket and a box full of catchy pike streamers.
The water of Braeburn Lake is crystal clear and I am paddling through the shoreside waters looking for pike. But the first bay, which is a part of the open lake, seems pike-empty. Through a small channel I reach a few bays separated from the open lake, which are flatter and somewhat protected from the wind. Maybe a few pikes will stay here. Slowly I paddle towards a sunken tree and see a small pike lurking in the shallow water not far away.
I deliberately throw over the pike, so that I can pass my streamer about two meters in front of the pike. After two strips, however, suddenly shoots a slightly larger pike out of its camouflage in the deeper water and attacks the streamer with full force. I set the hook and the pike shakes his head aggressively. But the white-gray Pike Collector, which has been fished with a barbless hook, will stay in the pike's mouth without any problems. The medium-sized pike fatigues quickly and after a short fight he is allowed to return to freedom.
The small pike I leave for now so it can find some peace and I paddle on in search of larger specimens. I come to a section where the water drops quickly from the shore and some trees overhang the shore. This is for an ideal shelter for a pike. I make a blind throw into the hot zone from far away. The first cast does not produce a result, but on the second cast I see a big shadow rising from the depths following the streamer. My adrenaline is rising and my concentration is dwindling. A broad-shouldered, over 1-meter pike follows the streamer up to the paddleboard. But it does not take the fly and disappears lightning fast into the deep water again. I'm speechless. In the Bavarian homeland a one meter pike is considered a real big one and you very rarely get face to face with them. But what could I have done differently? Unfortunately, these thoughts often come only after the event. I could have changed the tempo, just let the streamer sink slowly, or jerk aggressively. These thoughts does not help anymore, but maybe next time.
I still catch countless smaller pike, and a few larger ones up to 75 cm. The fishing is absolutely awesome! The sight-fishing is like in the Caribbean and I have never caught so many pike in such a short time. But the one meter is still not out of my head. In the evening I drive to the Twin Lakes Campground where I want to try my luck tomorrow, and maybe the day after tomorrow I'll head back to Braeburn Lake to pick up the one meter pike.
Rod: Line class 8 to 10 e.g. SAGE Pike, SAGE X, or Redington Predator
Reel: e.g. SAGE Spectrum or Redington BEHEMOTH
Line: RIO InTouch Pike / Musky Floating
Leader: Traun River Pike Trace or RIO Wire Tippet for self-knotting
Streamer: Traun River Pike Collector, Predator Candy, Baitfish, Flash Streamer, or Premium Self Hooking Hook.
Watercraft: boat, canoe, belly boat or stand up paddleboard
Text and photos: Michael Schallinger