Reeling in the readers
First comprehensive book on Northern fly fishing hits market

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 07/97) - The first comprehensive book about fly fishing in the North hit the market last week.

Written by long-time Northern anthropologist Chris Hanks and published by Frank Amato Publications, Fly Fishing in the Northwest Territories offers a first-hand look at the dozens of spots anglers can go to fly fish.

"Deciding to fly fish in the Northwest Territories is a decision to try something new," Hanks writes. "For those brought up on browns, rainbow, brookies and cutthroats, you must get your mind around some different species."

While there are the odd stocked rainbows in lakes near Yellowknife and Hay River, fly fishing in the NWT is built around arctic char, arctic grayling, lake trout, Dolly Varden, bull trout, northern pike, walleye pike and lake whitefish.

Considering that fly fishing is easier on the fish population in general -- a small fly does a lot less damage to a fish than big lure -- Hanks also hopes the book helps foreign fisherman learn to better respect the areas they are travelling to.

He discusses in great length, for example, the Great Bear Lake area, which Hanks says has been hurt by sport fishing.

"When one thinks of fly fishing in the Far North, it is hard not to assume an ideal situation where world's records lurk in the offing. The fish stocks, however, are very fragile ... the same cold water that makes great fly rod action on lake trout also make for extremely slow growth rate," Hanks writes.

"Great Bear Lake, for instance, is not ice free until the middle of July and is usually refrozen by November."

Hanks says that as sports fishing becomes more and more prominent, he wants people to have a better understanding not only of what effect their catches will have on the ecosystem but also on aboriginal people in the area.

"After reading lots of magazine articles about people's fishing tales from the North, it was obvious they didn't have an understanding of the fishing, or the aboriginal people. After spending years travelling to many parts of the North where I got a chance to get to know the aboriginal people, you learn to respect their areas."

Hank's book also offers insight into how much time one needs to get a decent trip on the Kazan, Thelon and Coppermine rivers. And it offers pages of information about what lodges are operating in the areas.

With his own personal favorite fly fishing spot being the Mackenzie Mountains, he offers a detailed history of the fish migration patterns there, ranging from comments by naturalist Robert Kennicott in the 1860s to his own memories of a fishing trip on the South Nahanni River.

"I remember watching a bald headed eagle grab a fish from a creek near the Keele River. It caught a thermal and soared away over the peaks with a grayling in its talons. Remember a small pair of binoculars."

Hanks, for many years an anthropologist at the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre, travelled extensively for many years, leading expeditions to remote areas across the North.

"I always keep a diary whenever I travel. There's no doubt, without it this book wouldn't be what it is.

Judging by his official book launch in Yellowknife -- more than 60 anxious fishermen and women attended -- it won't take Hanks long to sell the 3,200 copies now in print.

This is the third book written by Hanks. He co-penned Kazan Journey Into an Emerging Land and wrote Foxe Otter Site.