Crooks Lake Lodge, Labrador

Crooks Lake Lodge, Labrador

Big brookies, veteran guides and wilderness

  • By: Lou Dagneau
  • and Marcel Dagneau
Editor's Note: Although I find it hard to believe, it's been 10 years since I visited Labrador's Crooks Lake Lodge and then wrote about the experience in the January/February 1997 issue. A decade and dozens of fishing trips later, my week at Crooks Lake still ranks among my top five fly-fishing memories. Not only did I catch plenty of brook trout of up to six pounds, but I loved the comfortable, unpretentious lodge and its North Woods wilderness setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the companionship of guides Mark Caines and Lee Peddle, the finest pair of brook trout guides I've ever fished with.

Incredibly, Crooks Lake has changed very little since my visit; Mark and Lee are still there, and outfitter Bill Murphy still owns and operates the place. So, last year, when I was asked to help choose a retirement trip for a brook-trout-loving friend and his wife, Crooks Lake was my first and only recommendation.

Below, you'll find Lou and Marcel Dagneau's report on their July trip. They tell me they enjoyed it so much they're already planning to go back--and I'm sure it won't take them 10 years to get around to it. --Paul Guernsey

We had tried to time our mid-July trip for the annual Hexagenia hatch, that magical time each summer when giant mayflies cover the surface of the lake and huge brook trout rise to gorge on them. Due to unusually warm weather, however, the Hexes had come off earlier, and we saw very few of them during our week at Crooks Lake.

But this one small disappointment was more than offset by the fact that brookies of up to a little over six pounds--four pounds is about average for this remote fishery--proved extremely eager to hit Mickey Finn streamers as well as a local dry fly called a Shaving Brush, which looks and fishes a bit like a bass popper. The trout were voracious, and if they missed the fly on the first pass, they would rush it over and over until they tackled it. One huge brookie nearly rammed our boat head on…

We spent about half our time trolling and casting out of aluminum boats on five-mile-long Crooks Lake, and the other half wading and fishing three big pools on the Upper Eagle River just below the lake. Often, as one of us would be reeling in a trout, it would be attacked by the plentiful and always-hungry pike. In fact, many of the trout we caught bore great, raw gashes on their sides that they had sustained during tangles with pike and narrow escapes from eagles. Others that we brought aboard were covered with healed scars.

Life is tough for a Labrador trout, and a fish's most effective defense from predators is to grow as big as it can as fast as it can. Our largest brookie of the week was a 61/4-pound fish caught by Marcel. We weighed this fish, took a few photos of it, and then released it.

Crooks Lake Lodge itself offers comfortable simplicity: Hot and cold running water, generator-powered electricity and no roads within 100 miles. Not one; not even a cow path. No noise or light pollution, no phone and no TV. The only human influence anywhere on this beautifully pristine lake was the little group of buildings we were staying in.

The lodge also boasted three polite young guides and a most able chef in the Spartan but adequate kitchen. Our guide, Mark Caines, was the best guide north of anywhere. From arrival to departure, the Crooks Lake staff took care of us every step of the way. In fact, they even entertained us at night; after the supper dishes were cleared away, Shawn, the guitar playing chef/troubadour, would sing and strum a few tunes in the lodge's main room.

The locale offered the pure beauty only found in true wilderness settings. Lots of sky, postcard clouds, a medium-size, rocky and tannin-stained lake surrounded by black spruce, and the Meally Mountain range looming in the distance.

The wildlife we encountered included ospreys; a resident eagle, whose nest was on the far end of the lake; one exciting black bear who was not impressed in the least by three boatloads of sports passing by on the lake; a tame muskrat with a taste for apples and oranges; yellowlegs, sandpipers; a pair of robins; slate juncos and an arctic tern rookery. After Mark Caines left a few treats for the muskrat, he used a Newfie expression we loved, telling us that the little feller wouldn't want his usual fare of weeds and grasses and would be "ruint to pieces." The Arctic tern rookery was a special treat for us, and the delicate little gulls were flying overhead all the time we were there.

Although it hadn't been easy getting to Crooks Lake in the first place--we drove from Maine to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to pick up the first of our three flights, the last of which was in an Otter float plane--once we'd been there a few days, not only did all that traveling seem worthwhile, but we both felt "ruint to pieces" as the Newfies like to say. We know we'll be back.

For further information on fishing at Crooks Lake Lodge, contact Bill Murphy

at Adventure North; 902-835-8033