Skip to content Skip to footer

Tree River

One world record at a time…

Tree River in the western corner of Canada’s Nunavut province is a fabled arctic char fishery with a reputation that is blown completely out of proportions. At least so it seems – until finally, one day, you get to experience for yourself the truly incredible fishing the river has to offer.

Tree River

TREE RIVER (Kogluktualuk) is a glacial river in the Northwestern corner of the Canadian state, Nunavut. The river pours into Coronation Gulf, which is a part of the frigid Arctic Ocean to the high North. The lower stretches of the river are fairly chaotic with gushing white water, whirling pools, waterfalls and long riffles.

10 kilometres from the ocean there is a natural barrier for the arctic char’s spawning run, which occurs over the course of the summer – from the middle of June through September. The barrier is a plummeting and several meter-high waterfall that is impossible for the fish to climb. Downstream, the river gets packed to the bursting point with fully-grown arctic char, which become increasingly coloured up as the season progresses.

Tree River Lodge provides access to the upper four kilometres of the lower river stretches. From the lodge itself you hike upstream from one pool to the next, or you fish from a boat or spey cast in some of the bigger and more slow-flowing pools close to- and below the lodge. The fishery is administered by Plummers’s Arctic Lodges in cooperation with the local Indian tribe. The season is short and hectic – just like the arctic summer, and it runs from the beginning of July through August. However, because of the midnight sun, you can fish 24 hours a day. 

The Arctic Char

Tree River’s arctic char are the world’s largest, and the majority of all existing world records stem from this river. This, for instance, is the case with three line records, the fly fishing record, and – last but not least – the biggest arctic char ever landed on a rod and reel: a giant of 14.77kilos.

Presumably, there are several good explanations as to why the Tree River arctic char grow to such incredible sizes. They have amble amounts of prey fish to feed on in the Arctic Ocean and in the estuary of the river, plus there’s an extreme form of natural selection in play when it comes to the spawning. In effect, only the biggest and most powerful fish are capable of climbing the many waterfalls and torrential currents. A more weighty argument, however, is probably that the Tree River arctic char are of mixed blood. There are lake char in the river too, and throughout the ages hybridization must have occurred.

New investigations have proven that the Tree River arctic char have traces of lake char DNA in their genetic codes, and genes from lake char – a species that grows to 35-40 kilos, might explain how the Tree River arctic char get to be so enormous compared to other strains.

The Gear

Your gear should be up for a great deal of abuse. Some of the lower pools can be fished with double-handed rods, but the upper stretches call for single-handed 9’ 10-weight fly rods and matching reels with powerful brake systems. Bring along a shooting head system that allows you to switch between floating, intermediate and sinking heads. Also consider bringing along some poly-leaders in different densities. Presentation is key, and it pays off to experiment with different presentational styles.

The fish in Tree River aren’t too leader shy – but either way, you won’t get away with using less than 0.38-0.40mm fluorocarbon. Otherwise, the fish will simply break you off. For flies, you’ll want to bring along a variety of streamers in varying colours and sizes. Tie them on sturdy #6-1/0 hooks and do a mixture between actual prey imitations (shrimp, fry, gobius) for the chromers, and flies in provoking colours such as chartreuse, purple, yellow, red, and orange for the pre-spawn fish. Also, don’t forget to tie some heavily weighted flies that can used for upstream mending in some of the deep and slow-flowing pockets and pools. Oftentimes, this is the key to success.

Want to travel?*


    *Disclaimer: In the Loop Magazine is in no way liable for the execution of trips booked via our contact form. In the
    Loop Magazine merely liaises and forwards information requests. 
    All bookings and related services are handled by the actual lodges and guide agencies.