For more than 30 years, Hardy Ruf has welcomed guests to his remote lodge on the shores of Dezadeash Lake. A Swiss ex-pat, Ruf spent years looking for the perfect place to launch his fishing and adventure lodge, and when he came to the Yukon, there was no doubt — this was it. The lodge complex is homey and comfortable with a touch of rustic, and guests can fish literally right out the back door, either on the lake or on a couple of streams on the property that are home to wonderfully accommodating Arctic grayling. But the adventure in the Yukon is almost as big as the largely unsettled Canadian territory. Each day, you’ll have the option to pursue trophy lake trout, toothy northern pike, rainbow trout and grayling in remote settings that often require a boat ride and a short hike or even a canoe trip down a fish-choked river. And at the end of the day, you can belly up to the best lodge bar in the Yukon and compare stories with your buddies.
From an angling perspective, the lodge offers a surprising array of diverse opportunities. Anglers who prefer moving water will love the dry-fly fishing in the nearby Kathleen River for grayling and rainbows. Surprisingly big grayling gather in the short river channels that connect the dozens of lakes within driving range of the lodge, and there are several small creeks, also within a short drive, where anglers can spend hours casting dry flies for these enthusiastic fish with outsized appetites. For anglers who want to tangle with trophy pike, a short drive will put them on timber-lined lakes teeming with one of the most underappreciated fly-rod-friendly fish in the world. But the lodge’s real trophy is the lake trout of the southern Yukon. These massive char, usually found in deep water elsewhere on the continent, are dependably caught in the shallows of the Yukon’s lakes, where they gather at river inlets to feast on grayling and whitefish all summer long and into fall. For fly rodders, this is an experience that’s not to be missed.
Each day, you and your guide will decide what you’d like to pursue, and off you’ll go into the wild. Often, a trip to chase lake trout or pike will include a few hours spent casting fluffy attractor dries over eager grayling or rainbows in the rivers between lakes, making it possible to catch multiple trophy fish over the course of a single day. For anglers who don’t mind a drive and can keep their passports handy, it’s totally doable to drive south on the Haines Highway through a small sliver of British Columbia, and over the mountains into Alaska, where pink and coho salmon run from July into September, and big Dolly Varden are available all summer long.
If you have a partner who’s not an angler, don’t fret – the lodge offers scenic day trips, sight-seeing flights and wildlife watching tours where nature lovers can take in one of the most dramatic landscapes anywhere on earth — nearby Kluane National Park.
LODGING: The lodge at Dalton Trail offers two double-occupancy rooms and eight single rooms in the main lodge building, and four well-appointed, double-occupancy rooms in a cabin complex right on the shores of the lake just a short walk from the main lodge. Rooms are warm and welcoming with full bathrooms, comfortable beds and some feature great outdoor gathering places where guests can enjoy the seemingly endless Yukon summer sun. Later in the season, when the sun finally does set, guests can take in the Northern Lights right from the lodge.
FOOD/DRINK: Robust, made-to-order breakfasts include traditional fare, fruit, muffins and the like, as well as bottomless coffee to help you get fired up for the day in the field. Sack lunches are prepared each morning according to your tastes, and dinner, as it is in most Canadian lodges, is an event, featuring everything from steak and fish to pasta and poultry expertly prepared and presented.
CONNECTIVITY: The lodge offers a strong internet signal in the main lodge buildings, but not in the cabin complex, which is a short walk from the lodge. There’s no cell service at the lodge, so catch up with family while you enjoy a beer at the bar after a day on the water or while you relax after dinner.
It’s arrival day, and, depending on your chosen package, you can either rent a car at the Whitehorse airport or meet a shuttle driver who’ll take you on a scenic drive on the Alaska Highway to the lodge. Upon arrival, you’ll get checked in and settled. You can either start the adventure with a drink at the bar, or, if you just can’t wait to get fishing, you can take a short hike to Beaver Creek on the lodge grounds and immediately start catching Arctic grayling. Just make sure you’re back at the lodge for dinner – it starts at 6 p.m. sharp, and you don’t want to miss it!
After breakfast, you and your guide will climb into the truck and drive into Kluane National Park en route to Mush Lake. It’s a short drive, but it’s on a dirt road, so it’ll take 45 minutes or so. Once you’re at the lake, you’ll board a small skiff and head to a nearby creek inlet, where you’ll hop out of the boat and wade on firm sand in thigh-deep water. Perched near a drop-off, you’ll cast into the deeper water. Don’t be surprised when the first fish you catch is a two-foot-long lake trout that grabbed your streamer just a few feet from you as you retrieve it from the depths and into the shallows. If things slow down, you’ll hop back into the boat and head to the lake outlet, where you’ll portage down a short river channel that’s absolutely loaded with Arctic grayling. After your arms tire from catching grayling that literally leap from the water to grab your dry fly, you’ll climb aboard a canoe and float down to Bates Lake, where another wadeable shoal holds more giant lake trout ready to take your fly.
It’s pike day, which means you're in for a treat, both in terms of the drive that will take you right by the scenic Otter Falls and the fishing on Giltana Lake. This modest, oval-shaped lake lies in a bowl in the mountains, so it’s largely sheltered from the summer wind. And, in the weed beds along the edges, giant northern pike over 40 inches long lie in wait, ready to ambush your streamer or popper. If you’ve never fly fished for pike before, this day will be life-changing.
The Kathleen River is a 10-minute drive from the lodge, and this is a walk-and-wade day for more grayling and lake trout, but also for rainbows that were introduced to the Yukon in the 1950s and have made themselves quite at home. Over the course of the day, and after catching more grayling than you can count, you’ll walk downstream to the river mouth. There, where river drops off into Lower Kathleen Lake, you swing streamers for more oversized lake trout and opportunistic rainbows.
Today, you’re headed out on Dezadeash (pronounded Dez-eh-dee-ash) Lake to chase lake trout in the creek inlets and pike over the weedbeds. It's a big, shallow lake and, for the Yukon, anyway, it gets warm. That’s why the lake trout gather at the cooler creek inlets. This fishery is open through June, but, to protect the lakers seeking thermal refuge, it closes to fishing in July and into August. When things cool off again in mid-August, the lake trout fishery reopens and stays open through the rest of the season.
It’s your last day at the lodge, and the choices are endless. More shallow-water lake trout punctuated by a couple of hours spent chasing grayling in the connecting rivers? Maybe a trip up to Kathleen Lake in the national park to go after rainbows? It’s your adventure. Make the most of it.
- Airport transfer Airport shuttle from Whitehorse to Dalton Trail Lodge
- Lodging Your room or cabin at Dalton Trail Lodge
- Guided Fishing 1 day guided fishing included; $400 each additional day
- Meals Three delicious meals per day, plus snacks
- Beverages Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages (house beer, wines, liquors) are included
- Boat rental Rental of a boat (with motor) and fuel is included
- Fishing equipment Use of fishing rods, reels, and tackle included
- Fishing license Required licenses are included
The lodge is located about an hour or so by car from the territory’s largest community – Whitehorse. Daily air service from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and other Canadian hubs makes the trip surprisingly easy from all points in North America and beyond.