Lyall’s Camp Ekaluk
The Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) is found in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters across the northern hemisphere. It grows to an exceptionally large size and is especially abundant in northern Canada in the clear and unpolluted waters of the Arctic. Nowhere is the abundance of this much sought-after game and food fish greater, and nowhere does it grow to a larger size, than in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region of the Canadian Central Arctic. Superb fishing for Arctic char can be found throughout this vast region, but truly special among hundreds and hundreds of rivers and lakes is the little known Ekaluk River in the Cambridge Bay area of Victoria Island.
The Ekaluk River & the Camp Ekaluk Story
The Ekaluktuuk, or “Ekaluk,” River originates from Ferguson Lake and empties into the Arctic Ocean in Wellington Bay. It is the principal migration route for Arctic char returning from the ocean to inland spawning grounds in and around the lake.
A medium-sized river with many rapids, runs and pools, the Ekaluk is fishable along its entire length and is ideally suited for flyfishing. Prior to the year 2000, the river was virtually unknown to the global flyfishing community.
The Ekaluk’s anonymity changed overnight in August of 2001 when B & J Flyfishing Adventures initiated an “invitation only” experimental sport fishery on river for a small group of intrepid flyfishers. The resounding success of the 2001 season led to the present-day sport fishery and the opening of Camp Ekaluk.
Thirty minutes by float plane from Cambridge Bay and located on a bluff overlooking the river estuary, Camp Ekaluk is a true wilderness outpost consisting of four 12’ x 12’ guest sleeping cabins plus staff quarters, a separate mess hall/kitchen, hot shower and outhouse/pit toilet. The camp location offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape and beyond to the fabled Northwest Passage. From camp, guests are within walking distance of all right bank fishing beats in the few miles between Lake Ferguson and the estuary.
The camp generates electricity and cabins are wired with an overhead light and 110V outlet. For warmth, cabins are equipped with propane heaters. (Propane supply limits use to evening prior to sleeping and morning after waking.) Each cabin accommodates three guests and features three sleeping platforms with pads. Water for drinking and washing comes from the river and each cabin includes a water jug and washing dish. The mess hall/kitchen accommodates all guests and staff/guides in one sitting and serves as a social gathering place in between meals. A satellite telephone provides reliable communication to the outside world, if needed.
To minimize environmental impact, to safeguard the well-being of the fish stock on the river and to provide for a pleasant and uncrowded fishing experience, the number of anglers per week on the Ekaluk River is limited to a maximum of twelve.
The 2022 Memorial Season
Between 2002 and 2017, for a number of repeat-guests from all over the world, fishing the Ekaluk was a yearly event and a closely guarded secret. In 2018, health issues forced the Lyall family to close the camp. After a partial recovery in 2020, Bill began steps to reopen. Unfortunately, in late 2021, our dear and much respected friend passed away.
It was Bill’s intention to open Camp Ekaluk in 2022. Hi wife Jessie has taken on the challenge to honor his wishes and his legacy — in doing so, providing guests with another opportunity to visit what is surely one of the planet’s most amazing fisheries, and to pay respects to her late husband.
Catch & Release Fishing
The Arctic can be harsh and unforgiving for all living things; the environment exists in a fragile balance. Camp Ekaluk is committed to protecting this environment and to minimizing the impact their operation has on it. By practicing catch-and-release fishing, the well being of the river’s fish population can be safeguarded and conserved for future generations. Guests are encouraged to take photos, carefully handle and release their fish and leave footprints only. Please do not litter.
The Ekaluk river area with its abundance of fish and game has for centuries played an important role in the life of the region’s Inuit people. There are numerous signs of early habitations along the river and artifacts such as knife blades, spear points and arrow heads can occasionally be found. The area surrounding camp is rich in wildlife, including Arctic fox, muskox, caribou and numerous bird species, and is suitable for hiking, exploration and nature walks. Guests should also be bear-aware; both grizzly and polar bears roam the region, though sightings have been infrequent at Camp Ekaluk.
In the late Arctic summer, daytime temperatures normally range from the mid-30’s F in the morning to 50–55 F in the early afternoon. Nighttime temperatures seldom drop below freezing, but Arctic weather can be unpredictable, and guests are encouraged to be prepared for inclement weather — bring a zero-degree sleeping bag and a versatile system of clothing layers. As the saying goes, “there is no bad fishing weather, only bad clothing!” To monitor local conditions, check weather for Cambridge Bay.
Travel & Itinerary
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut is in the Kitikmeot Region of the Canadian Central Arctic, approximately 1,100 air miles north of Edmonton, Alberta and is from Edmonton by Canadian North Airlines. Edmonton is easily reached from locations in the US and Europe and will serve as the rendezvous point for groups heading to Camp Ekaluk.
Guests are responsible for arranging airfare to/from Edmonton. In 2022, for Week 1 guests, arrival in Edmonton should be Friday, August 19 and departure Sunday, August 28. For Week 2 guests, arrival should be Friday, August 26 and departure Sunday, September 4.
From Edmonton, the Week 1 group will fly to Cambridge Bay via Canadian North Airlines on the morning of Saturday, August 20 and return to Edmonton Satureday, August 27. The Week 2 group will fly to Cambridge Bay on the morning of Saturday, August 27 and return to Edmonton Saturday, September 3.
Round trip tickets will be reserved for each guest. Once reserved, each guest will need to contact Canadian North to complete the purchase of their ticket. More information will be provided once the tickets are reserved. Please be sure you have provided your full name and birth date as it appears on the passport you will use to enter Canada, as well as your mailing address, email address and phone number(s).
Transport from Cambridge Bay to Camp Ekaluk is by float plane. Expect a late afternoon arrival and a late morning departure to/from camp.
An overnight stay in Edmonton will likely be necessary on both ends of your trip. Friday, August 19 and Saturday, August 27 for Week 1 guests and Friday, August 26 and Saturday, September 3 for Week 2 guests. The Royal Hotel Edmonton Airport is recommended. It is near the airport, provides regular shuttle service and features two restaurants and a bar — perfect for recapping your trip. (In the past, the camp has arranged a discounted rate. Status of this discount will be confirmed for the 2022 season.)
Royal Hotel Edmonton Airport
8450 Sparrow Drive, Leduc, Alberta T9E 7G4
Toll Free: 1-888-202-3770
Other Enquiries: (780) 986-1840 Fax: (780) 986-1864
A sample itinerary would be as follows:
Friday, Aug 19 — Arrive Edmonton; overnight at airport hotel
Saturday, Aug 20 — Arrive Cambridge Bay via Canadian North Air; arrive Camp Ekaluk
Sunday–Friday, Aug 21–Sep 26 — Camp Ekaluk; 6 days fishing
Saturday, Aug 27 — Depart Camp Ekaluk; arrive Edmonton; overnight at airport hotel
Sunday, Aug 28 — Depart Edmonton
Friday, Aug 26 — Arrive Edmonton; overnight at airport hotel
Saturday, Aug 27 — Arrive Cambridge Bay via Canadian North Air; arrive Camp Ekaluk;
Sunday–Friday, Aug 28–Sep 2 — Camp Ekaluk; 6 days fishing
Saturday, Sep 3 — Depart Camp Ekaluk; arrive Edmonton; overnight at airport hotel
Sunday, Sep 4 — Depart Edmonton
Camp Ekaluk will require guests to be fully vaccinated* plus have at least one booster shot. Guests should also check with their chosen airlines for vaccine requirements. Policies for Canadian North Airlines can be found online here:
*Fully vaccinated means 14 days after the final dose of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccination regimen.
Please thoroughly review the baggage policies of all airlines used on your trip. Policies for Canadian North Airlines can be found online here:
Do not attempt to bring the following in your carry-on luggage: flies, hooks, or any line or leader material not on a reel. Reels and fly lines on reels are accepted. For the latest updates, visit the following web sites:
http://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca for Canadian restrictions
http://www.tsa.gov for US restrictions.
To better accommodate baggage packing in the float plane, please use soft-sided luggage, if possible.
TRAVEL INSURANCE/MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE
In order to protect your trip payments and be best prepared in case of medical emergency, it is recommended that guests purchase cancellation insurance and medical evacuation service. Most travel agents sell some form of trip cancellation insurance. For medical evacuation insurance, Global Rescue is recommended. For more information, visit www.globalrescue.com. For trip cancellation insurance, a common supplier is Travelex. For more information, visit www.travelexinsurance.com.
GUEST PROFILE FORM
Once your travel arrangements have been secured, to help provide you with the best trip possible, it is strongly recommended that you complete a guest profile form. This form will be provided after receipt of your balance payment.
DEPOSIT AND RESERVATION POLICY
To simplify coordination and avoid overbooking, the following deposit and reservation policy will be observed:
Verbal commitments will be honored for seven business days. After seven business days, spots not secured by deposit will be released.
Balance payments are due 60 days prior to arrival date.
If written notice of cancellation is received 60 days (2 months) prior to the scheduled trip, your deposit will be refunded less a minimum 10% cancellation fee, depending on the Lyall family approval. No fee will be assessed if you have an immediate replacement at the time of cancellation.
If written notice of cancellation is received less than 60 days (2 months) prior to arrival, your deposit will not be refunded.
Balance payments are non-refundable.
All deposits and balance payments are only valid for the calendar year in which the trip was booked, after which, all deposits and final payments are forfeited.
In order to protect your trip payments, it is highly recommended that cancellation insurance be purchased. Cancellation insurance is available at most travel agencies.
FORCE MAJEURE CANCELLATIONS
In the event of a travel closure due to pandemic-related restrictions, or similar, all payments will be refunded in full. However, payments will not be refunded for cancellations related to illness, including Covid, when travel is permitted.
Angling and adventure travel may require transportation in motor vehicles and in various aircraft and watercraft, as well as hiking in wilderness settings. Purchasers of such travel packages from B&J Flyfishing, Salmon Junkies, or Steelhead Flyfisher agree to accept the risks associated with these forms of conveyance and these activities, and agree to release B&J Flyfishing, Salmon Junkies, or Steelhead Flyfisher from liability for injury or financial loss.
After arriving in Cambridge Bay, guests will be shuttled by vehicle to the float plane dock. It may take several trips to get everyone and all bags to camp, however, all should arrive in camp early enough to unpack and enjoy a few hours fishing, if desired. Dinner will likely be served around 7:00 pm.
On full fishing days guests are free to fish as early, late and long as they like and on their own schedule. Daylight hours are roughly 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. Fishing is essentially unguided, though the camp managers will be available for guided sessions or consultation on the river.
Guests are free to fish the morning of departure day, provided they are fully packed and ready to leave at the announced departure time, which is typically between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm.
Hot meals are served informally in the dining tent. Typically, breakfast is available around 7:00 am, lunch between noon and 1:00 pm and dinner around 7:00 pm. Guests wishing to maximize fishing time can make a sandwich in the morning and take it to the river. Bringing a supply of energy bars, or similar, may be another way to stay on the river. Water and juices are provided. Alcoholic beverages are not.
To honor the wishes of the Lyall family, we ask that guests kindly refrain from bringing alcoholic beverages into the dining tent. Guests wishing to enjoy alcoholic beverages in camp will need to bring their own and are asked to consume those beverages inside their sleeping cabins. If you do choose to bring alcoholic beverages, please be discreet.
Generally, the most effective flyfishing technique for Ekaluk River char is the classic downstream, wet fly swing. Jigging, pumping or working the fly as it swings across river can, at times, increase the number fish hooked.
Depending on river height, which can vary from year to year as levels fluctuate in Lake Ferguson, fish can at times and in specific situations be taken with floating lines. However, most often, you will need to sink the fly to near the fish’s level. This can be accomplished with the use of sink tips, line mending and with weighted flies.
Beats on the Ekaluk are not formally assigned. Guests are free to fish whichever run/beat they wish. However, since the downstream swing has been established as the standard angling technique on the Ekaluk, guests are asked to, in a general sense, observe rotational angling etiquette. That is, to equitably share the water, please do not step in “immediately” below an angler already working down a beat or run, and once fishing, move at a steady pace down the run, taking a few steps between each cast and swing. Do not “lock up” a reach of water. Unlike most other rotational angling situations, however, because of the nature of the fishery (moving fish, high numbers of fish), it is somewhat more acceptable on the Ekaluk to step in below another angler — as long as you do not crowd anglers above or below you and do not block the steady progress of upstream anglers. 50- to 75-yard spacing is a good rule of thumb to start with. Though there are a few beats that always receive the most attention, keep in mind the rest of the river — from the lake outlet to the estuary — can be fished with success. There is plenty of water to fish and, if history repeats, there will be plenty of fish for all. Use common sense, be reasonable and apply the Golden Rule.
Guests will be issued a Nunavut fishing license on arrival day and asked to pay in cash at that time. Cost is 40 CAD.
While Camp Ekaluk is not a traditional fishing lodge with an employed hospitality and guide staff, gratuities are welcome and accepted to reward those whose effort goes into making the camp function and providing you with the best fishing experience possible. Use your best judgement, as this is a purely personal choice.
The following books may give you a perspective on the Arctic land, the people who live there, and on the Ekaluk fishery:
An Arctic Man: Sixty-five Years in Canada’s North
by Ernie Lyall (late camp owner Bill Lyall’s father)
Lords of the North: Impressions of the Arctic & Its Reigning Fish
by Jeff Bright
RECOMMENDED VIEWING & ONLINE RESOURCES
For a visual sense of Camp Ekaluk, the river, the landscape and fish, see Columbus Leth’s film, Lords of the North, from his 2016 visit: