Arctic Obsessions

Perhaps the best part about fly fishing is the variety found within the sport. As an angler, you can chase small trout in a high mountain stream casting dry flies to rising fish or throw massive poppers to angry GT’s in the salt. For me, the aspect that drives me is using fly fishing as a vehicle to search out remote areas of the world, and that’s what inspired a two-part trip spending 20 days exploring the Arctic.

There is really nowhere else like it or anywhere more remote and wild. It is one of the most least densely populated places on the planet, home to bears and wolves and has the largest temperature change in the world. For years I dreamed of going to the Arctic to catch arctic char but could never make it happen. It seemed always just out of reach, and with each failed trip my arctic obsession grew.

After that first initial visit to the Arctic, it became somewhere that needed to be visited as much as possible. Time holds no real value there, no schedules or places to be just wilderness in every direction. Places that haven’t been visited in years and might not be seen again for decades.

Fishing in a place like this is incredible. Not because you catch hundreds upon hundreds of fish, although in some bodies of water that might be the case… Fishing where few others have fished has some sort of romantic feel to it. Angling in part is just an excuse to seek solitude, and there is no better place to find it.

The challenge for us was locating our target species. On my various trips to the Arctic, we have chased sea-run Dolly Varden and Arctic Char, each exponentially larger than their non-anadromous counterparts. Along the way we found plenty of willing grayling and lake trout, however, that’s not why we came to the Arctic.

Filming a movie for the International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4) is a lot more difficult when you aren’t catching the fish you came to pursue. There are only so many shots of casting, hiking, camping and by-catch fish that you can have before you lose the audience. In the end, it also seemed to pan out for us. The harder the fish we to find the more ground we covered daily to ensure ultimate success. Nothing is more gratifying than digging deep when you seem to be fighting for a lost cause only to achieve the goal at hand.

This seems to be our story, one of challenge, effort, and reward. I have always considered myself an average angler by most standards, there is, however, something to be said about hiking that one extra mile or heading out in rain that’s blowing sideways. Those are the days that always produce the results we are after.

In the end it would appear that all fly fishermen are the same, we signed up for this sport to take on a new challenge, learn more about fish behavior and likely to find some time to decompress from the stresses of life. As previously stated, what makes this sport so unique is the varied approaches to what we call fly fishing. The methods seem almost endless, be that euro nymphing, throwing a streamer, swinging a fly, sight fishing on the flats or presenting a drag-less drift to a surface feeding trout. That challenge for me, the addiction, comes from finding and sight fishing to those rare species of char or hard to catch trout in remote locations. Nothing in fishing excites me more than watching a colored up char, be that dolly or arctic turn and eat in crystal clear water. To each his own, find that method, fish or location that makes you tick and then let fly fishing envelope your thoughts as you try to master something that can never really be mastered.

Be sure to read our previous post about Western Waters Media and their quest for Giant Dolly Varden, here.

Derek Olthuis is a creator and fly fisherman with Western Waters Media. Make sure to check him out on Instagram @derekolthuis


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