Reader's Casts
July 13th, 1998
Travels With Grizz

by Jeff Fields (aka Grizzly Hackle)

Once again I was getting on a plane heading off to fish a new destination. I am lucky in three ways. First, with the frequent flyer miles I have accumulated my fishing trips do not cost me a lot. Second, I have met some great people on FAOL that have opened up their homes and have given me places to stay. And third, because of these folks, I have my own personal guiding service.

For this trip I was off to Alberta, Canada to fish for pike. Now I have fished for pike before, but that was years ago and long before my flyfishing days. One night while I was online, I had mentioned to Clive, my host for this trip, that I would love to catch some of those toothy critters on a fly rod. So we made plans for Memorial Weekend.

After a long flight and then a couple of hours drive I arrived at Clive's home in Brooks, Alberta. Our plan was for me to get unpacked and then head down to the lake for the first afternoons fishing. I was ready to fish.

Clive had borrowed an extra pontoon boat for me.We loaded up the two pontoon boats into the back of his pickup truck and off we went. The small lake was only a short drive away. It was not long before we were stringing up our rods. After getting everything ready, I loaded up my boat and off I went kicking toward the area Clive had told me to start. Clive had given me a rather long streamer to use. It was an Orange and Brown thing. Nothing like I have ever used before but I was sure it had to catch fish.

I started the slow casting process to get it out. My 9wt rod felt heavy since I had been used to casting a 4wt. It was not long before I was into my first fish. I had been a little worried that my 9wt was going to be too much rod for these fish but Clive assured me that it would work just fine. Well, I have been used to catching trout and I could tell that a trout was not what was on the end of my line.

The pike took off. Not a screaming run but a strong dogged one. I loved the feel of this fish. Soon I had him up to the edge of the boat. Then looking down at the fish, I suddenly remembered that there was one more thing I had to do. Get that Slough Shark off my line. This thing had teeth and lots of them. I could hardly get my hand around it. Not to mention that it was rather slippery. I was not sure what to do.

So I did what any smart southern angler would do, I called Clive over to help. Once the fish was off, I was back at it. Not long, bang, another fish. This continued for the rest of the afternoon. I probably caught 10 fish that afternoon. My trip was already made and it was just the first night.

I got up early Friday morning ready for another great day. The night before had been so much fun I just knew that it was going to be another great day. Well. The fish gods got back at me. We fished, and fished and not much happened. I had caught a couple of small fish and then wind had started to blow. Clive kept trying to tell me that is was not much of a wind. Compared to what he is used to, I am sure it was not. I was just waiting for that big fly to embed itself into the back of my head. I was now into the mindless time of fishing where you are just casting and retrieving.

Not concentrating on what you are doing, just doing.

As usual that is when it happens. This strike was not like any of the ones I had before. My 9 weight rod bowed and line went screaming out. I think I was screaming too. The fish slowed and I thought that I was starting to get control. Wrong again.

The pike took off making sure that my knuckles got rapped a number of times by my fly reel. This was the first of several knuckle knocking runs. Finally I got the fish up to the boat. It looked huge to me. Now once again I was looking down at a fish that I swore was looking at me and planning his way to inflict as much damage to the person who had interrupted his afternoon. So I decided to once again use the best tactic to get him off. I called Clive over again. By the time Clive got him off I was glad I asked him to help. Clive's fingers looked like shredded cabbage. We measured him and he was about 37" long. This was definetly the fish that made my trip. I could not believe that there was still 2 days of fishing left.

A Big Canadian Pike
Saturday we were up again. Today Ken Zorn(Sagebrush) was going to join us. The three of us had decided to try a distant lake that had not been fished for a while. There had been rumors of big fish there so off we went. This lake was beautiful. It spread out in the middle of the prairie with nothing much around. It was just us, the country side and a few antelope. We got into the water, and boy it sure looked like there were going to be a lot of fish.

Before Clive and I even got in the water we heard Ken shout "Got one". He missed it and I hate to say that was the last fish we saw all morning. Now I know that is the way fishing can be but I want to catch more. After a couple of hours of fruitless casting we decided to head over to the Gun Club pond which is very close to Ken and Clive's homes.

As picturesque as the first lake was this morning, that was how different this one was. Clive called it industrial fishing. We parked next to some commercial buildings, have to carry the boats across a bunch of concrete rip-rap with rebar sticking up. Then there was the great view. Across the pond was located one of the largest slaughtering plants in Canada. I was glad that the wind that was blowing was not coming from that direction. Well the sights may not have been pretty but by the end of the day I probably had caught somewhere near 30 fish. I think it was industrial catching also. Still another day to go.

Sunday was going to be my last day of fishing. Clive had to leave Sunday morning on a trip. So Ken had taken me in Saturday night. We were discussing where to fish the next morning. A friend of Clive's and Ken had told us about the fish he had caught on the Johnson Pond Saturday afternoon. This was the pond we had fished the first night. KK had gotten many fish, two that were quite large. One was over 41" and the other over 38". I wanted to try and get one over 40". So we decided to go to Johnson's.

The big one did not come that day. Don't feel sorry for me though because by the time I was done I had caught another 30 some fish in the four to five pound range. What a trip. By the end of this day, my arm was tired of casting and my wrist was sore from bringing fish in. I had even gotten pretty good at taking my own fish off the hook.

I don't know how it is for you, but many times when I go on a fishing trip the anticipation is better than the trip itself. I have to tell you this trip was just the opposite. Not only had I had a great time but I met some great folks and hopefully some long time friends. I want to thank Clive and Ken and their wives, Willie and Gail, for all of their overwhelming hospitality. If you ever want to have a change of pace in fishing, try some Slough Sharks up north. It makes for some great fishing. Eh!

~ JF

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