Discovering a Fantastic Brook Trout Fishery
He was sitting in a red pickup truck, window cracked with light plumes of cigarette smoke slowly rising outside from the gap. I walked up, and he rolled the window all the way down, letting the rest of his exhale escape the cab. His orange-stained moustache rose as he smiled and asked how I was.
“Good morning! I’m great!” I responded. “Is this where I pick up the train to Lochalsh?”
“You betcha, he’ll be here at 6:30. Just throw your bags over the fence and he’ll get you loaded up.”
“Thanks,” I said, and I asked if I could buy him a double-double as I was heading into town. He politely declined.
The train came to rest in front of the White River Via Rail Station, it was in fact 6:30 am. A young man, seemingly no older than 24 years old, announced himself as the conductor and carefully placed a bright yellow step stool in the lava slag below. He invited us to step onto the train embarking on our last leg to our final destination. We were happy to go “all aboard” as a cold front had moved in and t-shirts with flip-flops were not weather-appropriate. It was COLD! We were FROZEN!
Taking a train into a fishing lodge is an experience to behold and is a genuinely unique way to travel. Liberal luggage limits, heaps of space, and windows rivalling the largest big-screen TVs manufactured today, provide luxurious travel and comfort. When we stepped onto the triple-car train, I glanced about. It was hard to believe we were the only passengers heading east. Stretching out, it was the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy landscapes rarely seen by human eyes as the train chugged toward angling ecstasy. It was now 6:37 am on a Thursday morning; I was looking for a moose.
The train-in to Lochalsh is a short hour-and-a-half trip. When the cars come to a stop, you literally step down on that same yellow step stool to disembark and find yourself standing on the tracks, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. There isn’t a station, a building, or even a port-o-let. Lochalsh is the Via-Rail train stop to an active rebuild of Camp Lochalsh, the grandfather lodge to Loch Island Lodge—our final destination. Lochalsh is a functioning housekeeping lodge that is steeped in character, being reclaimed each day by ongoing renovations. We walked to the docks, loaded our gear into one of Ontario’s iconic Giesler cedar strip boats, and headed out to Loch Island Lodge, north in Wabatongushi Lake.
The weather was a disaster! The previous three weeks of 90°-degree F weather (30 degrees C) were sent sailing by a rare early June cold snap. We awoke to 28°-degree F temps (-2° C), and I quickly realized how useless those damn flip-flops were going to be for days to come. Welcome to the North, just a small part of what makes Ontario so inviting to adventure seekers across the board. Notwithstanding, fishing was going to be tough, seriously tough! That’s part and parcel of adventures in wild places! Alas, the best attitude is to simply “fish it as you find it” because there isn’t anything you can do about it anyway. We are here and planning to have as much fun as we can, stay as warm as we can, and experience all that Mother Nature is offering us.
We were to begin our adventure targeting brook trout, Ontario’s Jewels of the North. Fish who are rarely pressured and probably have never seen a fly! The alarm went off at 6:30 am, however, I was already awake and dressed, inching closer to a freshly lit wood stove fire. The pine log snapped as the fire got larger and the cool edge was taken off the cabin. We strung our fly rods together and headed up to the main lodge for breakfast. Piping hot coffee served with a genuine smile, crepe suzette with sausage, and fresh fruit really didn’t stand a chance as we tucked into our morning fuel.
Fishing brook trout at Loch Island Lodge is as adventurous as you want to make it. This fishery is brand new to the lodge, to the area really. It seems that some put-and-take lakes have taken hold and may hold naturally reproducing wild fish, while some streams in the area are pure adventure access and home to wild specimens. This is all part of the adventure, as Loch Island is even still discovering the extent of the fishery they have in the area. Can you imagine, accessing a brand-new brook trout fishery on the fly? Sounds idyllic.
We overturned the tin boat at the first lake, put the trolling motor on, and began fishing. The lake is quite small and can be explored easily in a couple of days. Long casts to shoreline undercut banks were the ticket in locating these eagle-weary brook trout. They would aggressively charge out from their underpinned lair to ravenously attack our streamers. Fish in the 18- to 19-inch range are possible with many brookies in the 14- to 17-inch range. Regardless, with a 6-weight rod (or less) and a light tippet, it doesn’t really matter the size of these fish, they are fantastic regardless of their measurements.
We played in the area for the remainder of our time at Loch Island Lodge, seemingly discovering a fantastic brook trout fishery. The creeks, though technical, looked incredibly trouty, although we weren’t able to bring a fish to hand during our short river trip. All in all, we released a great number of brookies from 12 to 19 inches, on the fly in a lake we had all to ourselves.
Loch Island Lodge, known for its northern pike, walleye, and even whitefish, is now exploring brook trout opportunities in the area. It’s adventurous, wild, and extremely accessible.
Though you can drive to Lochalsh via logging roads, or you can charter a bush plane to access the lodge, the true adventure is via rail. It’s worry-free, easy, and actually a little nostalgic travelling through Northern Ontario replaying exactly how it was done generations ago.