Our Man In Canada
December 11th, 2006

Esox lucius on the Fly
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada

In Canada, very few freshwater game fish actually strike fear in the hearts of anglers like the Northern Pike, unlike some of the more exotic places I've visited (like in Costa Rica, when the boat was taking us upriver, the lad up front was dipping his hand in the water and the Guide told him NOT to do that,...while miming the motions of an animal with BIG TEETH!)

I guess I'm just spoiled, because not far from here (and VERY close to where I lived five years ago), there is a little stretch of rarely named river that produced the Quebec record to date for a Northern. It just took me a while to get used to the idea of fly fishing for a "coarse fish." Having grown up in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, the very idea of fly fishing for anything other than Rainbows was just unheard of.

So what is the allure of this species that makes it the subject of legends?

In my humble opinion, it would be its willingness to take surface lures (flies) with a ferociousness that rivals some saltwater species. Then there is also the prospect of connecting to an animal as long as your rod! (well,...almost,...8 ft rods...longest I've ever caught was +50 inches).

So why don't we fish more often for this magnificent fish? In my case I suppose it's because, deep down inside me...I'm afraid of the darn things!

I'm looking at some of Clive's and Mike's articles here on FAOL and they're in Belly Boats! With Pike in the water! I can't help hearing in my head those famous few musical notes from the movie JAWS.

Those few times I've gone out on purpose to fish for Pike, we have had a blast though.

There is a provincial game reserve north of here. A " little one", about 1.1 million acres of multiple resource managed land. La Réserve faunique Ashuapmushuan, with over 1,200 lakes, offers sport fishing for brook trout, lake trout, perch, walleye and pike. For more information, one can pop over to the Government's site at: http://www.sepaq.com/rf/ash/en/presentation.php

There's also an outfitter not far from here who has some excellent fishing for pike. Back a few years ago, the neighbour calls over the fence and asks if I wanted to go Pike fishing that evening. He says he's going to an outfitter. In my mind I'm thinking..."How am I going to afford that?" He sees the indecision in my eyes and calls over..."Hey, you do know that the outfitter charges 10 bucks per day?"

15 minutes later we're in the truck heading up stream. 45 minutes after that we're unloading the 24 foot "freighter" canoe.

It's pretty windy, a front is moving in from the northwest and the fifteen knot breeze is funnelling down the lake right into our face. It's late July, not prime time for lunkers, but we'll take our chances. If all else fails, we'll hit the beach at dusk for walleyes.

Too windy to cast, we do a sea anchor setup with two buckets bow and stern, lob 30 ft of line out and drift with the wind back towards the bay.

Five minutes into the drift, my neighbour cusses and says he's hung up on a deadhead. I look at him with utter despair. "How can you get hung up with a floating line and an 8 ft 20 lb level leader?"

The shear stupidities of our words sink in at the same time as the "deadhead" starts drifting left to right behind us. "Set the hook!" He does and the Pike realises something is amiss.

In my (limited) experience with Pike, they don't jump, but they do pull. And he did! We had just drifted over a shoal and I think the Pike had ideas to go back to his lair amongst the sunken rocks. We were still drifting down wind so the battle was on!

Looking back on it, the pike wasn't really running. He made it back to his hiding hole and my buddy's line reel was unspooling as we drifted down range. Luckily he was using a salmon reel and had a quite a bit of backing. Not wanting to get spooled, he palms the reel hard. We'll either break off or drag the Pike out of its lair.

Four-hundred feet behind us, we finally see our opponent. A boil turns into some major head thrashing and we start gaining line. We start gaining lots of line. I'm thinking, "He's coming to attack us!"

The Pike is cruising left to right, then right to left behind us, setting up a zig zag pattern as my buddy recovers line. I keep having images of a periscope perspective shot in Das Boot...the U-Boat setting range and angle to a target. I have this feeling the Pike has done this before.

A few moments later and the Pike only fifteen feet out. We both see him! This is the biggest Pike I've ever seen up close. No idea as to his length, but he's longer than most garden variety Pike. He 'appears' to be tiring.

Just as we're starting to wonder how to boat him, the Pike does the famous "last run." When he does, the handle of the reel catches a finger; startled, my partner drops the rod but catches it between his knees. Of course, in the process, he blocks the reel between his legs and the rest is history.

As he's reeling up to put on a new leader, I sheepishly look over and say, "Well, I'm really not sure I wanted that Pike in the boat anyway."

My neighbour replies back, "Huh?...You too?"

With that we spool up and head to the beach, deciding we're better off fishing for quarry that we aren't afraid of. ~ Christopher Chin - Bay Comeau, Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me in October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/.

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