Wellesley Lake,
Yukon Territory »

Fly Fishing Paradise

Things were looking good and we had not even gotten out of the plane.

Sometimes big surprises come in small packages. That’s the case with Wellesley Lake; one of only a handful of remote, quality managed lake trout fisheries found in the northern Yukon Territory. This is a small water body as far as typical northern lake trout fisheries are concerned as it is only 10 miles long and 4 miles wide with a maximum depth of 150 feet. What it lacks in surface area is more than made up with the size and abundance of lake trout, northern pike and Lake Whitefish.

Yukon Sunset on Wellesley Lake Kluane Wilderness Lodge Northern Waters Fly Box Lake Trout Hand Release The Perfect Pike Quarry Effective For Going Deep Land of the Midnight Sun

The Resource

Wellesley is an extremely nutrient rich body of water which provides the basic building blocks for developing and maintaining healthy and well-conditioned fish stocks. The lake is situated approximately 200 miles north of the city of Whitehorse. The lake forms part of the headwaters of the Yukon River drainage that eventually enters the Beaufort Sea. Wellesley lies in a very flat plateau region at an elevation of 1950 feet. The inlet and outlet streams of the lake are very small, almost seasonal in nature. The fishery begins in early June, dependant on the timing of ice off and continues to early September. Summer weather patterns in this part of the Yukon typically include long stretches of sunny days with minimal wind which adds even more to the attraction of this fishery.

Several unique features of this fishery have drawn me back several times over the past 10 years. There is no question that the size and numbers of the fish caught provides enough memories to continue planning future trips. Each year, lodge guest catch and release numerous lake trout in excess of 45 pounds and there are many caught in the 10 to 30 pound range. The pike population is very healthy as well, with fish in excess of 40 inches caught on a regular basis. Lake Whitefish, which offer superb sport on light tackle, grow to enormous sizes while at the same time providing the forage base for growing the big lake trout and pike. Add crystal clear water, abundant shallow shoal areas and superb aquatic insect hatches and you have the near perfect fly fishing paradise.

A relatively short open water growing season is offset by the extensive shallow water bays and flats that are often blanketed with extensive mats of potamogeton or cabbage weed mixed in with acre upon acre of chara or stonewort. This is ideal habitat for insects as well as cisco, round whitefish and lake Whitefish, the major food sources for larger lake trout and pike. During the warmer summer months the really big lake trout seek out the colder, deeper water where they feast on the large schools of cisco which are also members of the whitefish family. The largest lake trout also prefer to hunt down the larger lake whitefish they can find. Each season numerous lakers are caught with anywhere up to 5 pound whitefish stuck in their throats!

The Lodge

Kluane Wilderness Lodge is the only commercial operation situated on this remote lake. They offer 3, 4 and 7 day all inclusive packages and can host up to 16 anglers. Accommodations include individual cabins equipped with bathrooms, showers and airtight wood stoves. Meals are served family style in the main lodge. On your arrival, the staff provides a detailed orientation on how to fish the lake as this is an unguided fishing experience. The lodge has a fleet of 14 ft. open aluminum boats with 15 hp, 4 stroke outboards. Each boat is equipped with a fish finder, VHS radio, contour map of the lake and safety equipment. More information on the lodge can be found at www.kluanelodge.com

The Fishery

For the fly fisher, the season on Wellesley starts off with profuse chironomid emergences that begin in early June, shortly after ice off. The sheer number of chironomid pupae in the water column draws large numbers of lake trout and lake whitefish onto the shoal areas. Much of the feeding is done in water between 8 and 15 feet in depth. These fish gorge on the pupa as well as the adult stages of the chironomid. Lake trout that are feeding on insects are typically between 5 and 10 pounds, which means a lot of fun on a 5 or 6 weight fly rod.

The whitefish also feast on the chironomid pupa and these extremely hard fighting fish attain weights in excess of 6 pounds. The char and whitefish will stay on the shoals until the water temperatures get too warm. Up until then they await the mayfly and caddis fly hatches that always follow the chironomid feast. Shallow water fishing provides some exceptional sight fishing opportunities so it is easy to pass the day searching the almost endless shoals for schools of insect feeding fish.

Ice off and warming water temperatures are directly related to increased pike activity levels. Wherever found, in the spring period, pike quickly seek out the warmer, shallow water in lakes and slower moving rivers. Wellesley has many shallow water bays and backwaters that provide ideal pike habitat. One of the best early season pike holes is the slightly tannic stained inlet bay which can be best described as a 2 football field sized pike factory. As an added bonus these fish are hungry and extremely aggressive, making them a perfect fly fishing quarry. Many fish are caught on surface poppers and sub-surface baitfish imitations in water less than 5 feet in depth. Wellesley’s clear water means one can sight fish, targeting specific fish and watching them follow and take the fly. A day of casting to pike, fighting and landing them will make you weary, a testament to the health of the pike population in the lake.

The reputation of the Wellesley Lake fishery is based on the very large lake trout that are caught each season. Many anglers from around the world come to Kluane Wilderness Lodge in anticipation of catching a truly trophy-sized lake trout. Those big fish, ones over 40 pounds are well conditioned but old fish which is why the lodge has a strict catch and release policy on them. A trophy fish could be more than 50 years old and a valuable member of the spawning population.

Fishing the lake

The relatively small size of this water body means one can cover a lot of water in a day. Even a trip to the far end of the lake is only a 30 minute boat ride. Lodge boats are equipped with depth sounders/fish finders, which are definitely an asset when fishing any lake as it not only tells you the depth, bottom structure but also marks fish. Many days on Wellesley see calm water or very light winds which allow you to drift and cast flies continually over new water.

Wellesley Lake offers a quality fishing experience for both first time or experienced anglers. The populations of lake trout, pike and whitefish are healthy and abundant. The lake offers a diversity of fishing structure from numerous bays with extensive shallow water zones to rocky shoals, sunken islands and back channels. This is one fishery where even the most die-hard angler will get their fishing fix!