Hammering Pike on the Fly in Saskatchewan

Over 50 northern pike, four over 40 inches long, all in three days. All on the fly. And we're not done yet.

As many of you know, the late, great Charlie Meyers of the Denver Post was a mentor of mine. We fished together, wrote together, and told many stories along the way. Charlie had seemingly been everywhere in the fly fishing world, long before fly fishing travel was even a niche industry. And believe me, Charlie cut his own path. He walked away from a bush plane crash and once ventured up a jungle river to encounter a witch doctor (who cured a travel companion of shingles) on the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua. He caught big tiger fish in Africa and of course, he did all the bonefish, permit, salmon, steelhead, etc., angles that most writers are recycling now.

Not long before Charlie died, the place he told me I had to go someday was Lake Athabasca in Northern Saskatchewan.

Well, now I'm finally here, and I completely understand what Ol' Charlie was talking about. Imagine one of the Great Lakes (scaled down just a touch), as it was 150 years ago, with the native lake trout, walleye, pike, and whitefish. Few boats, few people, clean water, eagles soaring overhead.

And as for those pike, they are big, nasty, and aggressive. And they pull hard. Anyone who discounts the pull-power of a northern pike hasn't caught a 42-incher on a 7-weight.

I'm staying at Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodges, on a getaway with Chris Hunt, national communications director of Trout Unlimited (you can read his stuff at www.eatmorebrooktrout.com). It's perhaps a bit ironic that two of us "trout" guys are becoming pike junkies, but I'm telling you, it's all about the take. Sometimes you see that big dark shadow, you make the cast, it tracks your fly and it's all you can do to keep your knees from knocking as you strip that fly toward you. Sometimes, you're lazily skating a fly over a weed mat, and up from the depths comes a toothy ballistic missile that explodes on the surface.

And one fly-take by a big pike will change a man forever. Charlie knew that--thank goodness.