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Labrador trip to McKenzie River Lodge

Rusty Spinner

Active member
I hate the term bucket list, but this was one of those trips. A group of 7 good buddies that are part of my Trout Louts crew booked nearly two years ago for what was supposed to be the 4th week the camp is open and the best dry fly week of the short season way up in Labrador at McKenzie River Lodge http://mckenzieriverlodge.com/en/

The trip was epic in every way and greatly exceeded everyone's expectations although it was the coldest winter on record and we were only the 2nd group in with the lodge having to cancel their first two groups due to ice on the lake and snow on the ground into July. We rented a 15 passenger Ford van and left Warwick, NY on a Friday morning and drove about 14 hours and stayed in Baie Comeau (aka - Bay Comode because it was a sh*t hole of a town). The next day we drove the last 8 or so hours, six of which are on unpaved roads with the clowns in back drinking fairly heavily (I was proud of them, actually). I did most of the driving and had fun drifting a passenger van around dirt road bends with oncoming tractor trailers supporting the iron ore and hydro power industries throughout the area. We stayed in Labrador City the 2nd night and were awoken two hours early by the airline owner telling us bad weather was moving in and we had to be at the docks in 20 minutes for a turbo Otter flight to camp.


We arrived to snow on the ground, but all the ice on the lake had finally melted.


The camp consists of a boat shed where fuel and motors are stored, two cabins for guests, one cabin for the male guides, and the main lodge for meals and where the one female guide and the camp cook stayed (both females). The staff was incredible and they worked their arses off for us all week. We even got the chef to help us make pike ceviche one night as an appetizer which was a huge hit.


The fishing was all fly fishing, barbless, single hook (per fly) and most of us used a 6-7-8 weight all week. I used my 5 weight T&T only one afternoon and my 7 weight for everything else. We arrived too early this year for consistent dry fly fishing, but the fish were ravenous and ate streamers and nymphs and some deer hair poppers just fine. This system has wild and native brook trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon they call Ouananiche, northern pike(s), lake trout, and whitefish. The one exception was a morning of pikes fishing when each of the four boats was allowed to kill one pikes and the anglers could use spin or casting gear. I stuck with my 7 weight that day as well. The pikes were in all of the slow water and lake areas, and one of our crew using a casting rod landed 66 in about 3 hours of fishing. But that was the only time we targeted that species other than a few times in the back cove behind the lodges after regular fishing ended. We had an amazing shore lunch of fresh fried pikes. :fish::beer:


Enough of the trip, now for some fish porn:




This whitefish gave me my 5 species lodge Grand Slam, their first of the year. One of my buddies landed the 2nd of the year two days later. We had one night we could have pursued whitefish on dries on the lake with some of them going 4 lbs, but it was cocktail hour and they were whitefish, so nobody cared. :)



My biggest of the trip was a 22 1/2" female.


JP was one of our French Canadian guides. He was at Edison last January and may be again this year. He also owns the camp's bear dog to keep camp free of black bears.

This young lady has a bright future in the fly fishing world. She was a great guide at only 24 years old. This was one of my Ouananiche that had been roughed up by either a pike or lake trout. It was also very old and on the downturn from what it appeared. But it still jumped 6 times. :)



It is true that you go for the big brook trout, but you go back for the Ouananiche. They are amazing leapers!


Hatches, believe it or not, were mostly Hendricksons. That's Hendricksons in July on 3X. Just a bit different from the Upper D's Hendo hatch.....


And stoneflies unlike anywhere I have ever seen. No sediment in these rivers and no impacts from man whatsoever means stones everywhere.




We fished sections 1-4 of the McKenzie River, the Come Back River and the Quartzite River, accessing all via motorized canoes (both 18' and 20').


Some of you know or remember Rick Axt (RickA, I think here back in the day and he's still lurking BTW). This hookup happened when it had just begun to rain lightly which it did most days, but this epic battle continued for a long time as a nasty squall line came right down the lake into the upper McKenzie River where Rick was battling a solid 15 lb lake trout on an 8 weight rod he built using a baby brookie streamer that really did well up there. You have to realize that lightening was happening at times and by the end, not only was the wind fierce, but it was hailing and the ice hitting you hurt. My only lament was not switching over to video instead of the stills, but we had no idea what we were witnessing until the storm was nearly over.

GST - 45.jpg

GST - 46.jpg

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In the end, the guide just couldn't see the fish to stick his net under it and it finally made one big surge and popped him off on 10 lb. Maxima which is what he used all week. I saw the fish's tale, and it was huge. Sure would have loved to have a grip-n-grin of Rick holding this fish.....:crap:
That's a helluva trip.Great pictures, nice fish, the whole gamut.
That's a helluva trip.Great pictures, nice fish, the whole gamut.

I couldn't recommend this lodge more. They have a second lodge further north in polar bear country for Arctic char in the salt that would be a great trip as well. For me, the remoteness of it all was highly refreshing. It's not cheap and you need to get to and from Labrador City on your own to be picked up or dropped back off by the float plane, but it was worth every penny.