Fishing the Leaf River Estuary with the Inuit’s of Tasiujaq
At Johnny and Billy Cain Outfitters
Back from our trip in Nunavik, a journey that allowed us to live incredible moments and to share the culture and lifestyle of the Inuit for a few days.
Locked in Tasiujaq by high winds upon our arrival, we took the opportunity to explore the village with Billy Cain: mayor of the town and co-owner at Johnny and Billy Cain Outfitters, where we’d fish for the week. The people of the community welcomed us like old friends; kids played with us in the streets, women laughed at our long hair, and everyone greeted us with a smile.
On the next day, the sea was still rough but not enough to prevent us from crossing. The barren landscape of the Ungava Bay made us forget the sea’s swells and heavy winds until we had landed upon the banks of the Leaf River Estuary at Johnny and Billy Cain Outfitters.
Leaf River takes it’s source in Minto Lake and crosses the tundra and marshes of Nunavik on over 480 kilometres before emptying into the Ungava Bay. The brackish waters of the estuary are influenced by some of the world’s highest tides. With them, come thick schools of char, sea-run brook trout, and Atlantic salmon.
Supported by the Tasiujaq guide team, Johnny and Billy Cain made us fish according to tides and changing weather that reigns on this part of the world. On our first morning, we waited for low tide and walked to the edge of the river’s canal. The wind was still too strong to take the boats out, but Johnny and Billy advised us to try casting from the shore. The sea-run brook trout were waiting for us, and started smashing our flies on our first casts.
Billy had advised us that the char fishing was going to be tough, as it had slowed in the previous weeks. He wasn’t sure that his favourite spots would produce as they had in the past. Our only option was to put in the hours necessary to move a fish. After fishing from the bank, we spent the next days coasting alongside the banks of the estuary. Casting our flies to the bank and letting them drift. It wasn’t long before we noticed fish waking behind our flies just under the surface. As the wake broke and the surface of the water exploded our lines tightened and heavy pulls ensued deep into the cork of our fly rods. The char were still here: both in size, and number.
Leaf River Estuary Lodge had already appeared as one of the most epic fishing spots around but, more than any fish, the connection we shared with the Inuit culture is what made the biggest impression on us. Johnny Cain, Billy’s father and founder of the lodge, was very generous with his knowledge, showing us how to prepare pitsik, the traditional dried fish the people of the north eat during the winter. At the village, Billy brought us to feed his sled dogs, which are an important part of the Inuit culture and history. On his son’s birthday, we went seal hunting. This experience made our trip a one of a kind.
Nunavik had some good moments in bank for us, offering a view on the most majestic Northern Lights of our lives, stunning sunsets, as well as offering us a couple Tasiujaq Grand Slams; an atlantic salmon, a sea-run brook trout and an arctic char all on the fly.