LAKE TROUT CHOWDER

 

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Our fishing lodge is in the spectacular Northwest Territories where the lake trout is king. This is on the very northern end of its range, and what, ecologically speaking, could be called the Barrenlands , with its vast lake trout lakes, and rivers this is where I draw my inspiration from here.
This chowder has bacon, corn, lots of herbs and a homemade lake trout stock. None of this would fly in mum’s clam chowder.
But here’s the thing: People come north to escape tradition, to be free to be whomever they wish to be. Why can’t their chowder follow suit?

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Lake Trout Chowder
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 50 mins

As I mentioned we use lake trout. What makes this chowder great is the broth you make from the heads and bones, and while you are perfectly OK making this with store-bought stock, it will not be as good. Serve with crusty sourdough bread and a beer or sharp white wine. Oh, and this chowder is actually better the next day; just heat it up very slowly on the stovetop. Don’t let it boil.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8 people
Author: Kevin McNeil

Ingredients
LAKE TROUT BROTH
• 3 to 4 pounds lake trout heads, fins and bones , gills removed
• Salt
• 2 tablespoons safflower or grapeseed oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 handful of dried mushrooms, preferably matsutake
• 2 bay leaves
CHOWDER
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1/4 pound thick bacon, chopped
• 1 cup chopped yellow or white onion
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
• 5 t0 6 cups lake trout broth, or 4 cups chicken broth plus 1 to 2 cups water
• 1 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless lake trout meat, cut into chunks
• 1 cup corn, fresh or thawed
• 2/3 cup heavy cream
• Black pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or chives, for garnish
Instructions
1) To make the broth, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Add the lake trout bones, heads, etc. When the water returns to a boil, let this cook 1 minute. Remove the lake trout bits (save them!) and discard the water. Blanching this way removes the scum from the stock and will give you a cleaner-tasting broth when you are done.
2) Wipe out the pot, add the oil, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, saute the onion, carrot and celery, stirring often, until the onion is soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, bay leaves and the dried mushrooms and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Let the wine boil for a minute or two, then add the blanched lake trout bones and enough cool water to cover everything by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a very gentle simmer (barely bubbling) and cook like this for 45 minutes.
3) Get a large bowl for the broth and set a strainer over it. Line the strainer with a plain paper towel or cheesecloth. Turn off the heat on the broth and ladle it through the strainer and into the bowl. Don’t bother trying to get the last little bit of broth out of the pot, as it will be full of debris. Discard the contents of the pot and reserve the broth.
4) To make the chowder, melt the butter in a Dutch over or other soup pot set over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry, stirring and turning often, until crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onion and celery and saute until soft, about another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and the lake trout broth and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5) When the potatoes are tender, add the corn and the chunks of lake trout. Cook gently until the lake trout is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the dill, heavy cream and black pepper.

Planes of The Tundra

We spent over two months in the Northwest Territories flying staff, clients and supplies to Aylmer Lake Lodge with the best bush planes and companies: Cessna Baby Caravan, DeHavilland Twin Otter and the 185 Cessna aircraft all on floats.

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Bush flying refers to flying that is done in remote and rugged areas of the Northwest Territories Canada.  Oftentimes planes that fly in the bush are equipped with floats to take off and land on water.

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Our bush flying originates in the remote areas of the Canadian north Barrenlands where the lack of roads makes the transportation of necessities (such as clients, staff, fuel for generators and boats, food, medicine and building materials)only possible by float planes.

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Perhaps more than other types of flying, bush flying invokes romantic notions of people flying off to Aylmer Lake Lodge in the  north eastern regions of the Northwest Territories. The image of Caravan, Twin Otter or 185 taking off or landing on a remote pristine lake with the oldest rock in the world called the barrenlands as a backdrop has become the iconic picture portraying the float plane fly in fishing lifestyle of Aylmer Lake Lodge.

Flat Water Day

 

August 2, 2017
After a hearty breakfast we headed out to the Thanakoie River. What a boat ride water like glass, and the scenery magnificent. As my group said, Ah inspiring scenery.” We arrived dropped our lines and let the games begin. We were off to a great start got one line in and the bite was on. Perfect day! Flat water day and the bite is on. Fish after fish, biggest landed was 28 lbs but we lost many at the boat that were bigger. “Me, you have a bite, him, no I think I am snagged on a rock. Hello, your right it’s a fish and it’s a big one. The fight is on, gets it to the boat and then the fish hammers the line and cruises right on by. They do this weird thing of hammer hard past, stop, slack and spit the hook out. My guy says, what the hell, he had to be over 40, I am yup and they are willy, fighters.”

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Again a day of boating high teens to high twenties, biggest of the day a 28 pounder. A bonus of this day was a sighting of an Arctic Grizzly Bear. He was in the rapids and he was fishing! He saw us when we saw him, we both looked at each other and he decided to move on out. We got some long distance photos. Our client had fished 11 times in the Arctic and that was his first sighting of a Grizzly Bear. The very best fishing action happening and you get the added bonus of wildlife, that makes it memorable.

As we sat around the dinner table eating a great meal, we began to look back at our day on the water. The consensus was, most fish boated ever, day after day, opportunity provided for some really big guys, enough action to keep everyone hoping all day long. Great shore lunches and a real treat to arrive back at your cabin and have fresh baked chip chip cookies sitting on your table for a light snack before supper.

The daylight cannot get over the daylight, “ I was standing outside my cabin at midnight and it is daylight, up at 5:00 AM bright daylight.” We said, it’s getting darker now as we head into August it will get dark at night and you will be seeing the Northern Lights. Up here you look South to see the Northern Lights. We get spectacular Northern Lights because we have zero light pollution.

If you are wanting to experience the fishing and the Northern Lights, you need to book mid August to Mid Sept. it will be cooler days, no bugs, and it will be dark at night. If you want yo experience the 24 hour daylight then you need to book July 1 to mid August.

Lake Trout on the Fly

Lake Trout

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Lake Trout and caribou, oh my what a day! There are several claims of other Lakes in Northwest Territories being home to the legendary Gigantic Trout and though it may be true, to only a degree, this is the place where they were perfected. It was another perfect day on the water slamming fish in the high teens to high twenties. The boats each caught and released 30+ fish with the largest being in the high twenties at 27 lbs.

The action on steady, you were catching or watching a fellow boater catching. We travelled out as a group and there was some heavy betting, some teasing, and a lot of laughs. Shore lunch had everyone talking about the excitement of hammering fish. One fellow said, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Aylmer Lake Trout

Few places on earth have Lake Trout this pretty. Thick green side with brown serpentine markings pour out of huge gill plates accenting their broad shouldered heavy bellied deep green bodies that are covered with brown lines that ooze into one another. But don’t let these good looks fool you. One look at the grocery hole of a mouth on these critters will clue you in to the fact that they love eating smaller Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling, rodent-eating, duck stealing, lake serpents. They are far removed from their wimpy midge sipping kin in the lower forty-eight.

We are very proud of our Lake Trout, as our native resident species. Out of this respect we have adopted a strict, catch and release policy in order to ensure the long-lasting protection of one of our greatest and most unique fishery resources.

We use a wide variety of techniques when targeting our Lake Trout, and we fish in a whole bunch of different types of water. Flesh flies, egg imitations, sculpin patterns and leeches all work well at certain times on the Lockhart river, Thonokie river and the Thanakoie river. Mousing for Lake Trout is one of our favorite ways of fishing for Lake Trout. We fish big-water, ledges and drop-offs, spawning beds in August and little tiny side channels.

Lots of our fishing for Lake Trout happens on foot for the rivers and in boats for the lakes. We sometimes fish from our boats in ‘drift boat’ mode.

Fly Tackle for Lake Trout

Rods

We recommend 8-10 weight high quality, fast action rods capable of casting mouse patterns and split shot, and dealing with the occasional rogue Grayling that will strike your trout fly. Drift fishing can be snag intensive so be prepared to use a little heavier leader for trout than most people are accustomed to. Lake Trout on the Thanakoie river can range from 7 lbs up to 48 lbs our biggest landed in the river!

Reels

To match rod with medium to strong drag.

Lines

Sinking tip lines with 120 yards of backing are most common.

Leaders

12 to 20 pound monofilament.

 

Fish Stories – That Fish

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We’re blessed here at Aylmer Lake Lodge to fish for what we think are some of the most beautiful lake trout in the world. Although, to set a goal to catch a fish more beautiful than most, on light tackle, with out down riggers may have been a little overambitious when looked back upon.. But we went for it anyway.

The day started off as any other. The plan was to fish lake trout in the morning, and then catch the early afternoon baby arctic perigean bird watching. But the lake trout was the goal. I had a few places in mind to fish and only half a day to hit them. So, needless to say, we needed to make the best of our time.

The morning progressed amazingly. When anglers make the decision to fish a surface light flutter spoon, you know you’re in for a good time!

And then I felt it… While trolling over a shallow rocky reef, my angler made a cast in front of the boat into the shallow water. Immediately, a lake trout came at full force to destroy the spoon, but all I saw was the unmistakeable large tail of a lake trout only a few feet behind, can’t believe this lake trout left this his home for such a offering.

The lake trout just seemed too shy to come entirely into view and leave the comfort of his dark crack in this 3.8 billion year old rock. “Ok, well he’s not going to get away that easily,” I said, “ we’re going to cast a T-60 to him out, and see if he will take it on the surface.” But, still nothing.

So finally, a little disheartened, I decided to keep trolling. “But first, let’s take that T-60 off and put the flutter spoon back on.”

As we stood there in the boat switching lures, it was like it was meant to be.. Lake Trout started surfacing out of the dark crack in the oldest rock in the world – A nose, then dorsal fin, and then the huge tail fin, I knew I had seen her earlier.. Then, with a quick double check of the business of the hook, it was time for flutter spoon to go in for one more swim.

The next few moments was perfect! The perfect cast, a few feet ahead of the fish, just past a dark hole in the rock, and she CRUSH it! With what seemed like an instantaneous explosion, the lake trout was peeling line out well into the backing, crushed the flutters spoon, she made some awesome strong runs, and settled into the net!

Fishing Lake Trout In the Arctic.

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It’s July 27 and morning arrives bright and cheerful and the group and Aylmer Lake guides are looking forward to another Trout slamming day on the water. Breakfast is done we are heading down to the boats with a nice breeze rippling across the water. We head out single file from the dock to secure our first spot to drop our lines and begin another great day on the water.  We are marking lots of fish and we are managing to bring a few up for a look and release.

Lunch time arrives and we come together for shore lunch and the banter begins what did you catch. The numbers start to roll in at least a dozen fish per boat all in the high teens and early twenties. Sitting on that great rock jut out we pause just before heading back into the boats for that group photo. Memories are greater than anything money can buy.  Business relationships strengthened, family memories, and bonding moments with like minded friends…”Remember when?”

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Back into the boats and out we go into the cloud bank that proceeded to turn on the water facet and let us know that Mother Nature was in a fine rainy afternoon mood. Great thing is the fish love water so back to more strong action for the afternoon. We again are marking lots of fish and the action picks up for the stories around the supper table.

The afternoon saw us again hitting high teens and low twenties, with a few ones hitting twenty five pounds. As we arrived back at camp cold, wet, tired the lights in the lodge were on and the smells from the kitchen were egging us into the dining room for a hot bowl of soup to warm us up and tide us over till supper.

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Great Fishing & Bird Viewing

5 GREAT REASONS it’s been a Unforgettable Summer!
Reason 1
Big fish and no sign of slowing down as we approach the Lake Trout spawn “Hogfest”.

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Reason 2
Fishing at the top of the world on the oldest rocks in the world.
The Barrenlands is Nirvana of Canada’s north. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Reason 3
Land of the never ending sun
Is a natural phenomenon that occurs where the summer sun can have 22 plus hours of daylight.

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Reason 4
Arctic peregrine falcon babies
Come see the arctic peregrine falcon babies, bring your camera as they are very cute. These falcon have reached speeds of over 200 miles an hour on their dives.

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Reason 5
Fantastic food
Guests just cant get enough of the cuisine, from home cooked meals and desserts to homemade bread and buns.

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Aylmer Lake Lodge Fishing Report July 23, 2017

 

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Photo courteous of guide Nathan Dahl.

 
The weather conditions have been extremely variable-fishing is getting better as the weather does.
The wind was a challenge this last week, that wind stacked the bait up against shoreline, and the lake trout have been biting. The bay that we fished in had a Long Tail Jaegers following our T-60 plugs.

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Photo courteous of Francis Lessard.

PREPARING FOR A Trip to AYLMER LAKE LODGE

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Sundown on Rocknest Bay, Aylmer Lake. Photo: Kevin McNeil

When it comes to certain daily activities – such as fishing – we provide each guest with high quality protective equipment such as personal flotation devices, padded cushion seats in the boats. We recommend bringing a small dry day pack that has a waterproof cover and a waterproof bag or protection for your camera. You may also wish to bring some optional gear depending on your interest level in different activities. Each day – depending on expected weather conditions and interests of guests – we will present a couple of experiences that we wish to offer you. You can choose the experience that resonates most with you. Activities may include fishing for huge lake trout, hiking, photography safaris, boating, and canoeing. You may wish to bring along more personal gear such as extra camera batteries, extra memory cards, binoculars, fishing waders and boots, fishing rod or flies/lures, and a waterproof camera or GoPro camera (with float). We welcome you to share with us your expectations and interests for your time at Aylmer Lake Lodge. We are committed to exceeding your expectations making your experience as unforgettable as possible!

Clothing you should pack for your arctic trip. When considering the layering system that works for you, it’s important to consider a few things:

the temperature ranges from -2°C (28°F) to +30°C (88°F) during the summer
the weather can vary including wind and rain. Snow usually does not return until October.
there is little to no shelter out on the tundra.
The good news is, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing!”

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Our boats return home after a long day of exploring on Aylmer Lake . Photo: Kevin McNeil

We all have unique experiences when it comes to cold weather. Some of us are furnaces, while others are chilly pretty much all of the time. The key is knowing yourself and how you react to the cold. Do you find enduring cold weather a challenge? When looking at merino base layers and insulating down or synthetic mid-layers, choose a heavier fabric or higher loft or fill power. In contrast, if you are a person who gets warm or hot quickly while moving, consider lighter, wicking fabrics. Ultimately, having three or more layers is the key, because you can take off layers gradually as you get warmer, regulating your temperature.

It is imperative that you bring with you waterproof outer layers, as rain doesn’t discourage us from getting outside! The boats that we use to cross Aylmer Lake are open boats so you will have spray on windy days, but even when boating, we will spend time on the land hiking to beautiful panoramic lookouts or to get closer to the migrating caribou, muskox. Along with waterproof outer layers, we recommend comfortable rubber boots. We all wear and love the neoprene/rubber Muck Boots – http://www.muckbootcompany.com. They are great for getting in and out of the boats. You should also bring hiking boots/shoes as you may find them less cumbersome for longer hikes where we are not expecting to encounter much water.

Other important items you should bring include:
lip balm
sunscreen
sunglasses
hat
waterproof jacket
Floater jackets are great for the boats
waterproof pants
comfortable/casual clothes for meals and relaxing around the lodge
base layers (we recommend merino wool)
mid layers (fleece or wool)
insulating layers (down/synthetic down jacket or vest)
waterproof gloves (or mitts)
toque (warm hat)
hiking pants
warm socks and socks for hiking
Muck boots
hiking boots
comfortable slippers for around the lodge
personal items and toiletries
*Important: Please refer to the pre-expedition documents you have received for a more detailed packing list.

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Big Fish

A must have while traveling to wild and far-flung places, is a journal. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish – just a place to jot down thoughts, feelings and observations, to record plant and animal names and to describe our incredible surroundings.

For further assistance in preparing for Aylmer Lake Lodge, we invite you to check out the Adventure page of our website, where a gear list and frequently asked questions can help you with your trip preparation.

Fishing Friends in The Arctic

One of the coolest things about lake trout fishing on the barren-lands of wild Northwest Territories? It is the seclusion of being the only boat on a lake or river all by your self with only your thoughts to pass by the time, but don’t forget that tug of the rod it brings you back to reality. Many fisherman it is about the journey and the friends that are there with them on this fishing journey.
For most it is about conversation that you have, the stories that are re-lived again, the smiles and expression on your friends faces when they know you are telling a fishing story, these build lasting memories of a great friendships through fishing for lake trout in the wilds of the Northwest Territories
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