July 05, 2022
By David A. Brown
You step aboard with dreams and expectations. Maybe you’ve made a fly-in trip before; perhaps it’s your first time. Whatever the case, those dreams and expectations are typically exceeded when your destination is a Saskatchewan fishing lodge.
Flying over some of the most amazing verdant wonderlands you’ll ever lay eyes upon, it’s hard to deny the pulsing sense of anticipation and mental imagery—thoughts of giant fish, spectacularly unspoiled habitat and utter relaxation in the comforting charms of a lodge whose existence is defined by those dreams and expectations that led you there in the first place.
Here’s a sampling of where you’ll find your natural nirvana.
Tazin Lake, an impoundment constructed in the 1930s, steeps in a rich history from mining operations of years past. Today, the lake boasts what many consider the continent’s finest trophy lake trout fishery.
“A lot of people come here to catch 30-pound lake trout, but we’ve had 40- to 50-pounders and one estimated over 70 pounds,” said Brett Amundson, host of the locally-produced Tazin TV Youtube channel. “We have a lot of mid-40-inch fish, and we’ve also had pike over 50 inches.
“The lake is a really deep, cold, clear body of water with a huge forage base, no commercial fishing and low fishing pressure. It’s a perfect storm of opportunity.”
He said most anglers prefer trolling shorelines with big crankbaits and swimbaits, or casting at points with crankbaits and jigs. In addition to Tazin Lake’s abundant habitat, the lodge also offers daily fly-outs to remote lakes.
Tazin’s strict management helps ensure its productivity and he said their conservation effort is something guests appreciate. Giant fish are too valuable to catch only once, so guests know they’re contributing to what attracted them in the first place.
“We keep some eater sizes for shore lunches, but all the trophy fish go back,” Amundsun resolutely stated. “We handle fish very carefully and try to make sure that they survive to (perpetuate) this fishery.”
With boats running one guide per two guests, Tazin Lodge provides all the tackle and gear needed to engage whatever the lake may offer. Amundson’s advice: “Go to the gym so you can lift our fish.”
After a day of rod bending, Tazin Lake guests enjoy meals prepared by a 5-star chef. To reach the lodge, guests are responsible for their flight into Fort McMurray. Once you reach Fort McMurray Aviation, lodge staff will handle the rest.
Learn more about Tazin Lake
Tazin Lake Lodge
C/O Trevor Montgomery
Prince Albert, SK S6V 5R5
Phone: (306) 291-3151
Cree River Lodge
Located on the Cree River’s Wapata Lake, Pat Babcock’s lodge offers an ideal place to unplug from “civilization” and immerse yourself in Northern Saskatchewan’s unspoiled natural beauty. Fairly regarded as one of Canada’s top destinations for giant pike, these bountiful waters welcome a variety of baits including traditional spoons, swimbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters plugs and even frogs.
Having personally visited Cree River Lodge a few years ago, I can attest to the tremendous quality of fish available in this river system. Put it this way, in my first northern pike adventure, I was advised that 36 inches qualifies as a trophy. I started with a 37, added several more in the high 30s to low 40s and topped out with a measured 45-incher.
Our trip saw two more mid-40s brought to the boat and one of my fellow anglers had a brief tussle with an estimated 50. I live in Florida — these fish are soft-bodied alligators. Just amazing.
Walleye are also abundant, with traditional jigging and lure trolling techniques producing lots of quality fish. While photographing one of our boats jigging ‘eyes in the river, I noticed that a young black bear had literally sat down on a flat rock to watch us.
One of the gems of my visit was a morning of fishing a section of swift water where arctic grayling exemplified their “snot rocket” nickname—hard to hold these super slimy rascals, but their big-air leaps were a sight to behold. We caught grayling on spinners and flies and marveled at the beauty of those tall, speckled dorsal fins.
The mouth of the Cree River forms a Delta with multiple channels, so anglers have plenty of opportunities for finding quiet little bays, current seams, bottom breaks and lots of the aquatic vegetation where giant pike feed. Complementing the amazing angling opportunities, you can request a visit to the giant sand dune, view the northern lights and fall asleep every night to the sound of wolves howling across the lake.
Guide trips include the appropriate gear, but if you’re bringing your own, Babcock recommends medium to medium-heavy spin or baitcasting tackle for pike and walleye and light outfits for grayling. Fly anglers should bring 9- or 10-weight outfits for pike and walleye, while a 4- to 6-weight will handle the grayling.
Cree River Lodge is a mostly catch-and-release destination. Shore lunches on island clearings allow guests to enjoy walleye, whitefish and smaller pike, but all of those giant fish are carefully handled for bragging rights photos, they gently released to fight again.
Describing the fly-in plan, Babcock said: “We have a direct charter flight from Edmonton. There are other travel options using scheduled flights from Saskatoon, primarily to allow for some flexibility and unplanned/emergency travel plan changes.”
On a past trip, my group flew into Saskatoon, hopped a commuter flight to Stony Rapids (with a stop in Fond-du-Lac), then made a reasonable drive south to a small ramp where lodge staff took us for a brief ride to the lodge’s main dock.
Learn more about Cree Lake Lodge
Cree Lake Lodge
C/O Pat Babcock
PO Box 385
Pierceland, Sask S0M 2K0
Phone: (780) 812-9202
Like they say in the real estate world, it’s all about location, location, location; and Arctic Lodges is well positioned for convenient access to one of Canada’s most prolific fisheries. With nearly 2 million fishable acres, Reindeer Lake is Saskatchewan’s second-largest freshwater body (behind Athabasca).
Vast amounts of aquatic vegetation and underwater habitat create optimal feeding opportunities for the grand slam: northern pike, lake trout, walleye and arctic grayling. Boasting 2,000 trophy fish caught and released annually, Arctic Lodges offers guests their best chance of catching a trophy—possibly in all four species.
Arctic Lodges finds that guests typically will have a shot at a “master angler” northern pike, and many others will catch pike over 45 inches. Each year a fortunate few will catch a 50. A variety of baits will tempt big pike but fly fishing for these beasts offers a thrill worth the challenge and lodge boats are equipped with large, raised casting decks to accommodate the effort.
Reindeer Lake also holds great numbers of huge lake trout, with the potential for a new world record never out of the conversation. Walleyes take on stunning coloration in this fishery, while dry flies and 4-weight fly rods often produce chunky arctic grayling.
Strategically situated in the middle of Reindeer Lake, Arctic Lodges affords guests relatively quick and easy access to all areas of the lake. Whichever direction you run, stunning scenery is ever-present.
Located in Saskatchewan’s northeastern section, the lake sits on the northern edge of the Canadian Boreal forest and the Arctic circle. Once an integral part of the fur traders’ route, Reindeer Lake’s 5000-plus islands provide sheltering wind breaks, so regardless of the weather, you can always find a leeward area to fish.
Guests can expect exceptional hospitality, while a team of globally awarded chefs prepare exquisite cuisine. Maintaining over 60 years of wilderness lodge tradition, Arctic Lodges has kept the original log cabins for guest accommodations, while modernizing them with full private washrooms and wood-burning stoves.
Learn more about Arctic Lodges
62 Trickle Ridge Place
Kimberley, BC V1A 2H8
Phone: (888) 353-2432