by Daniel Kiazyk
Anyone who's been relegated to the house in Canada on a Saturday a.m. in January, when it's at least -40, has seen the shows. Bob Izumi is at the front of a lodge boat site fishing for pike. The storyline isn't too far from what is a common event in Canada's North country: Big pike in these areas are often shallow and they like to bite.
This story starts with one of our regular northern trips being rerouted by a fire that prohibited us from frequenting our intended destination. Like my fishing partner Mike, I was gung ho but what I reminded him that spending at least a week on a wind blown point with a thick veil of acrid smoke blowing in our face was not all we wanted from our northern adventure. Basically both our thoughts were jarred back to practicality and the common suggestion was made that we go to a close by smaller, darker water lake. We'll normally fish this lake earlier on in the season. This year however spring had been extended into early summer and lakes had only had their ice off for three maybe four weeks. Our decision to stop in at this smaller lake was not to be a disappointment.
Mike's whole outlook on the stop was as usual very optimistic. He had fished this lake on a number of locations and had a number of ideas on how to tackle this lake's fish population.
Another indication of what kind of trip we were in for was experienced on our first troll. Mike had challenged me to tackle this lake's big pike using only my eight weight fly rod. The challenge seemed reasonable and I willingly accepted. Mike's fly hit the water and took a little while to sink. It would only take the first 150 yards before he would feel a first significant first strike. My first impression given the area and the strength of the bite was that he had caught a smaller pike. However as the fish approach the boat we would be pleasantly surprised at the size of the walleye that had taken his offering. The first fish of this excursion was a 5 pound plus walleye a fish that was to foretell of good things to come.
Interestingly enough our fly of choice was a large unassuming streamer (red and white) its size wasn't as important in my opinion as was its color. This was stained water and as result any neutrally coloured fly had never been productive. Mike's experience on this lake had been that vivid colors in "contrast" were the most effective. It was a matter of choice for either chartreuse and white or red and white. Either color produced a variety of fish at different times of the day.
Our strategy for this trip was to find hunkered down big pike. Mike's strategies for hunting pike were rather effective, especially earlier on in the season. Flats in front of an inflowing creek [especially if they were weedy]. Neck down areas with proximity to deeper water as well as having the presence of walleye always proved to be very consistent pike producing areas. In addition to the prior those areas which had a mixed bottom structure associated boulders was even a better. Finally larger bays with sandy/muddy areas, weeds, boulders could be very prolific. Having fished this particular lake many times over the years gave Mike an advantage of having a milk run of stops to try. If all that we would frequent in a day were the areas already mentioned we would barely have enough time to fish them all.
Initially our impression was that given the time of year, pike would be off their springtime haunts, only to be in slightly deeper associated water. It soon became apparent, partly because of accident when we would drift shallow and partly because of reports of a spring-like bite that we began exploring the shallow as well as deeper water. It was here that we would start to actually look for pike that might be up sunning themselves for whatever reason.
In some areas seeing pike was nearly impossible given the stained water or the wave action that would break up any clear view of the bottom. There were however those areas protected by wind and areas that had a lighter coloured bottom which made site fishing possible.
After having frequented many points, flats, rock gardens, neck down and dark water bays, we finally came into a larger bay which had elements of all of the above and one thing more... Pike. Our entry into the larger bay was slow and deliberate. With the motor off we made a wind assisted drift in over the rocks and sand based portion of the bay... No fish. Not to give up on what has traditionally been a superb bay we re-drifted and this time as we began the drift I noticed a large log like object in front of me. I was able to see the object because of my polarized glasses. Mike, however had left his polarized glasses at camp and had brought another non polarized pair of glasses. Needless to say I would cast a large streamer past the large log-like object only to have it take the streamer in aggressive fashion.
The fight that ensued was more than memorable. The fish would make several runs back into the backing. The runs were hard and fast. At the end of each run I'd recommence the retrieve until the fish finally succumbed.
The experience was special for couple of reasons. Firstly we had sought this large predator in various locales, only to find them in shallower bays within sight. Secondly the other fascinating component of this hunt was that I was able to present a large streamer in the pike's path and to have the pike take it with considerable aggressiveness.
This whole story is another example of the necessity to be open to a new set of variables in any situation. Whether you know it or not there's always something to learn about any kind of fishing. This being able to decipher the code is at once a skill to develop a hypothesis about a set of circumstances that you have to be lucky enough to fall into…. as we did on this particular Pike hunt. That's where I've been fortunate over the years... Sometimes I've been lucky enough to stumble on and decipher the code but doing so is more than just being able to sight fish for pike..