Trophies at the Timberline
A magic area in northern Quebec delivers the biggest brook trout in North America.
I’ve been chasing trophy-size brook trout in northern Quebec for more than 30 years, but I have never seen fishing better than it was last August in the tributaries leading to Lac Mollett. For a solid week, brookies as long as my arm pounced on nearly every fly or spinning lure I threw at them. And I only fished a handful of spots in an area that has uncountable fishy-looking places where no sportsman has ever cast a line.
I was a guest at Nunami Lodge, a newly established native-owned fishing and hunting camp, which boasts 4,577 square miles of exclusive, unexploited territory on the Quebec side of Hudson Bay. Nunami’s huge domain is smack in the middle of a magic band of territory, straddling the northern limit of trees, which produces the biggest brook trout in North America.
Summer is short in sub-Arctic regions, so the trout have only a brief window of opportunity to gorge themselves and attain their annual growth. During July and August, eating is their top priority.
The fish line up wherever currents funnel food to them. There they gobble down smaller trout and gorge on minnows, sticklebacks, and sculpins. The brookies lay on extra weight by eating mice, moles, and lemmings that fall in the water. Stoneflies, caddisflies, leeches, and various aquatic insects are simply tasty little extras.
“No need to be subtle with these fish,” Nunami Lodge director Peter Palmer told me. “Once you find where the trout gather, all you have to do is throw ’em something to eat.”
Big brookies eat smaller trout; we found few pan-size fish at the places where the big trout gather. At Nunami, a 17-incher (2 pounds easy) is a runt, and 20-inchers (up to 31/2 pounds) common. Hard to believe, but we caught so many 4-pounders that we actually got tired of catching them. They took every fly we tried-Muddlers, Woolly Buggers, brightly colored Clouser bucktails, Hornbergs, big Wulff dries, and generic stoneflies.
But the most fun were the mice.
We’d plunk a deer-hair mouse fly out on the flow, let it drift until the line tightened, and then swim the mouse back toward shore. It rarely made it. Nearly every time the mouse began to swim, a huge brookie jumped on it.
In the five days I was there, each guest at Nunami caught more than 100 big, trophy-size brookies. Biggest of all was a 251/2-inch beauty that measured 20 inches around the middle. We figured it had to weigh close to 8 pounds. Jim Snyder of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, landed and released the fish after carefully photographing it for a reproduction mount.
On our last day, we took a break from brook trout fishing and went trolling in Lac Mollett for lake trout. After the frenzy of rushing to brookie hotspots, it was pleasant to slow down and simply sit in a big freighter canoe and troll spoons and tell stories. Every now and then, a fish would strike, a rod would dip to its fullest curve, and one of us would haul in a lake trout. We caught 16 lakers, the largest of which weighed almost 20 pounds.
That’s how it was the day we were relaxing at Nunami.
Nunami Lodge offers exploratory fishing at its very best. Because of its enormous exclusive territory, guests at Nunami will be finding new, unfished hotspots for many years to come.
In order to preserve the quality of its pristine brook trout fishing, clients are limited to killing only one trophy brook trout during their stay. Only single barbless hooks are permitted, whether on flies or spinning lures.
Nunami is serviced by chartered air carrier direct from Montreal.