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Anglers bow down to new champion
Flyfishing fanatics descend on Trout Rock Lodge

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Tuesday, July 7, 2015

After two days of casting hand-sized flies at giant Northern pike, a group of rubbery-armed anglers assembled on the deck at Trout Rock Lodge paid homage to the new champ.

NNSL photo/graphic

Triumphant guide Coady Lee, left, and derby champion Lyle Froelich pose with their trophy at Trout Rock Lodge on Sunday. - Evan Kiyoshi French/NNSL photo

Enticing a 47-inch fish to take an enormous streamer fly and fighting it out of the water made Lyle Froelich the winner of the 22nd Annual Northern Pike Fly Fishing Derby. Froelich said he travelled from south of Calgary to win back the title he and only one other fisher has won twice. Reserved after his triumph - and tired from two days on the water - Froelich said he wasn't rubbing in his victory yet.

"But that will begin soon," he said, grinning.

Lodge owner Ragnar Wesstrom said the champ won a choice between a free ticket to next year's derby or an ornate hand-crafted fly rod built by the second-place winner, Ivo Mitev, the general manager for one of the derby sponsor's, Midnight Sun Energy. Mitev, nicknamed Dr. Ivo, is originally from Bulgaria and has fished around the world. He is the only other person to have won the derby more than once, said Wesstrom.

Third place went to Joe Baxter, who has competed in every derby since its inception.

Froelich was put onto his trophy-winning prey by Coady Lee, a rookie guide who said he is originally from Halifax and working his first season at the lodge. Lee said the guides working for the competing fishers were doing anything they could do to keep him from winning his first derby on his first season up here.

The six boats left early Saturday morning murmuring trash talk about stealing each others' fish and other forms of sabotage. Thirteen-year competitor and one-time champion Martin Verschuren said those seeking the coveted derby have known each other for years and are the best of friends, but they fish to win.

"I fish hard," he said. "I want to win this thing. It feels great to be the champ and everyone has to bow to you."

The sun beat down on the boats on the first day, as they probed around the bays surrounding the lodge on the North Arm of Great Slave.

Verschuren's guide, Tim Brito of Kitchener, Ont., said he has been working "his dream job" introducing guests to the monsters that lurk in the weedy and rocky waters around the lodge for two seasons. The derby started out a bit slowly, he said, since last year many more trophy fish were landed and measured before it was time for shore lunch at Trout Rock. But when it was time for the boats to head back to the lodge on the first night, several anglers had caught fish measuring more than 40 inches. Some relaxed by the lodge and shared stories of the day while some cast flies to fish hanging off the end of the dock.

On day two, the fishing area switched from the waters around the lodge to the slightly deeper waters of Japanese narrows. The numbers began adding up toward lunchtime, when the rain began to fall. Clothed in rain-gear after a plate of shoreline pike, the fisherman sped back into the narrows where Froelich found his monster fish.

Swedish bushman Wesstrom arrived at the lodge before midday on the first day riding his aluminum boat, the Reefeater, with a brand new 300-horse power engine strapped to the transom. He said his goal is to beat the Twin Otter carrying his passengers to the lodge, so he can be waiting there to greet them when they arrive. Wesstrom said he moved to Yellowknife and met his wife, Doreen, after a period of traveling the world and "partying, fishing, and (more)."

He said the waters around his lodge hold fish 50 inches and more, which is why he decided to launch the derby he says is the oldest derby of its kind in the world.

"I would go to the Guinness Book and tell them about it but I haven't got the time," he said.

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