Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – not to make light of grief but I went through all the stages June 9.
Bargaining – if only I hadn’t been so stupid!
Depression – that’s a pretty strong word but you know, that was a really dope rod and reel I just dropped into the river.
Acceptance – Well, I did bring a spare rod with us and the fishing was amazing. And there’s always next Christmas, right hon?
The trouble began not long after Gord Greening and I arrived at our favourite pike fishing destination deep in the heart of Tlicho country north of Great Slave Lake.
With us was Donny Boake, a top-ranked international fly-fishing competitor, one-time NWT youth athlete of the year and potential future Olympian in cross-country skiing.
I've known Donny most of his life so it was nice to see him again and share a day on the water. He was hoping to beat his personal best pike of 42 inches – a not difficult feat in this place.
Our location – a medium-sized set of rapids plunging into a cauldron of forbidding looking water – reminded me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Sylvester the Cat attempts to walk across a moat on stilts filled with hungry, snapping crocodiles so he could get the bird.
He never makes it more than halfway across and neither does your fly when dragged through the swirling, blackened pool.
And that was how our day began. We took turns making cast to avoid the case of having multiple hookups of giant pike on a small boat, I'm pretty sure Donny broke his PB by the second fish. None of them were under 40 inches.
Donny's first fish about a 42. He caught it on a fly he tied himself. Sorry for the blurry photo. Unfortunately I didn't realize there was a smear on the lens until near the end of the day.
Fighting a 44-inch pike on a hand-tied fly.
Gord gets a monster on the fly. I think this one was 45.5.
Donny broke his PB on his very next fish. I think this one was a 44-incher.
I don't remember much about this one. Not too big. Around 41 or 42.I'm just going to show all the big fish. There were lots. We eventually stopped taking pictures if they looked low 40s and a few big ones bounced before we could shoot them. This one was a 43 I think but thick.
We had all taken turns pitching flies when I decided it was time to break out the big stuff, a Shimano Calcutta 400B baitcasting reel seated on St. Croix Premier musky rod. I didn't buy any of it new but it's some of the priciest gear I own. On the terminal end was one hell of a giant swimbait – about a foot in length and five ounces. The lure alone cost me 25 bucks.
Anyway, I cast the thing out and get bit within five seconds. After a short but heavy battle I lift a 45-inch or so pike out of the water.
“Actually I think a bear might've done that,” I said, pointing to a pair of deep, incisor-shaped wounds across the fish's back.
I was offering more eloquent observations when the furtive movement of my rod sliding off Gordie's boat caught my eye.
“My rod!” I shrieked as I dove back in desperation, still holding the fish.
But it was gone. The butt of the rod bobbed for a second before plunging into darkness.
The loss of the rod cast a pall over the rest of the day. I made a half-hearted attempt to fish the rod back out by tying on some heavy jig heads and plumbing the bottom with them but we all concluded, with the heavy current, the rod was likely carried a 100 yards or more downstream. (See video of me losing the rod on Roughfish's Facebook page).
We caught more big pike, we limited out on walleye. It was a great day but the loss of my prized musky rod rankled more by the hour.
Some more biggies post-rod overboard
Gord's biggest of the trip -- 47.5 inchesIt got hot out thereFunny thing about this fish. Donny caught it without asking for a picture. Then I caught it literally three or four minutes later. A big one too -- 46,5 inches.
We saw this thing floating in the water and feared it was a body. Turns out it was but not a human -- a dead moose. We suspect it had tried to walk across thin ice near the rapids and drowned some weeks before.
Just before leaving, we took one more crack at the pike hole. We caught a couple more monster-sized fish, including a beauty 46.5 incher, but as expected, the bite dropped off quickly.
I decided to plumb the bottom one more time. I cast at least a dozen times – each more hopeless than the last when by and by I felt resistance from under the water not far from where I dropped the rod.
Suddenly, there it was, skimming across the water toward me. It was in my hand!
“AARRGH!!” I shrieked, thrusting the rod towards the heavens.
Gordie, who had been dozing a couple feet away, bolted awake, instantly delighted by my rising euphoria but a tad annoyed by the incessant screaming.
“You OK?” he asked.
“Yes, amazing,” I exclaimed.
The giant swimbait was still attached so I gave it a cast. Boom! Something heaving and heavy grabbed the lure. After an exhilarating fight an old alligator of a pike chomped its way to the surface and then into my grasp. It was huge! Forty-eight inches. My biggest pike in two years. An absolute kraken of a fish.
Briefly holding the fish before sliding it back in the water, triumph washed over me.
David killed the giant. Sailboats recued Dunkirk. This felt almost the same. I’ll take it. Yahoo!