Monday, October 8, 2012

Northern Pike on a Cold October Morning

 Erin and I chose a path to the water through the thick cattails before light. We had rigged our rods and even tied one big pike fly apiece the night before...and rose early. We donned waders for the drive and blasted the heat in the truck. There would be ice on our rods and guides this morning. It was 24 degrees. I led the way through the cattails, but not without turning to Erin and having a silent, moon-lit "go team!" high five. Once I reached the edge of open water I stripped off several feet of the seven-weight fly line, unhooked my five-inch pike fly and heaved a cast down the right bank. Tight to the weed line. Strip. Strip.That was it. Two strips and BOOM. A three-footer blew up on my fly like a car bomb buried in the cattails. The fish came completely out of the water with my fly in its mouth. I pulled back on the rod like a school girl backing away from a fresh booger. Meekly...and startled. And the pike came unbuttoned. I was in no way ready for that. So I stood there in the waist-deep water...the black silhouette image of the fish, upside down, tail in the air, burned onto my retinas.

Two more times that morning I would have similar experiences. All in tight to the cattails. All completely unexpected. All explosive and viscous. And, for whatever reasons, I could not hook or hang onto the fish. I would stop only to break ice from my guides that were impairing my ability to retrieve line, and to try to warm my hands. My back was aching from being hunched over, shivering...and I had burned two nasty, bleeding grooves into my right middle finger from gripping the line too tight as I stripped in line, cast after cast. My hand being too numb to feel the damage I was causing myself. Eventually I haul an errant cast deep into the cattails and break off my entire leader in the temper tantrum that ensues. But not before I hit Erin's fly rod with a sloppy back cast and break    two inches off the end of her 7-weight. Oh, bad! 

I tuck back into a sunny spot in the cattails and do my best to re-rig a new leader and fly. Relinquishing the lead to Erin, who has been following me down the weed line. Can you manage to still cast that without the tip?  She nods and bombs a cast past me and dunks her fly right where I was hoping she would...and a pike attacks immediately! We are both too cold to properly celebrate  so we take a quick photo of the pikes head peering out of the inky, smooth water and shiver and smile at each other.  But I learn my place and let Erin take point. And I follow her...hand on the camera and pride hanging back on some random cattail stalk. And once the sun comes up we warm our hands and get some better photos. So, yeah...go team!

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