The Yukon Territory Part II - Pike
Posted on 11 March 2020
Continuing with The Yukon Territory Part II - Pike
…with sinking lines and weighted flies in hand, we plied the dark waters. The flies were chosen because they looked like small defenseless grayling and after only a few retrieves with the large streamers we were onto fish. In the next few hours we caught and released many hard earned Lake Trout. The trout’s steel-gray and black spots were bright from being in the river all summer and the fish fought strong and hard. More importantly we had read all the signs, realized our abilities and put ourselves in the right place to catch Lake Trout on a fly. After climbing the steep incline, I looked back upon the now calm waters and felt a sense of triumph, an impression that we had connected with nature on a higher level that night.
After a long day that started on the lake and ended almost thirty miles away on the river we drank beer and spoke of our successes. Hard work had paid off with beautiful fish and a strong sense of accomplishment. Having truly achieved something grand we went to sleep that night confident that we would succeed for Pike in the upcoming days.
In the days leading up to our one pike fishing opportunity we had considered the successes and failures of our Lake Trout trial. At this point it was my thought that the conditions would be tragically similar on the lake and from the looks of my cohort’s faces that morning they were thinking the same. None of us were far off. The wind again howled and the lake showed that it would not be a willing participant in our plans.
So after many days of successfully catching grayling we are on the boat again in heavy winds and chop looking for some protected kelp beds. These are the areas that hold large Northern Pike, some of which can grow to over forty pounds. With large teeth and an aggressive mentality these fish cruise the shallows looking for naive baitfish. These grass beds are the only place that the pike can be reached with a fly in September. There aren’t a lot of these weed lines, and the lake is forty miles long. After mapping a route to the most protected area from the weather, our boat faces a two-hour downwind trip to the kelp beds. The sky threatened a storm, which could have forced us to camp in an old Yukon cabin to wait for the wind to lie down. Almost all of the fisherman I know would have gone despite the adversity and we were no exception.
There is no presentation or careful wading required here, this is combat style fishing for some of the most aggressive fish in the world. It is important in cases like this not to underestimate your quarry and with our nine weights in hand we were not taking any chances. After a long boat journey, we finally arrive on a small beach. Small dimples and small bits of grass streaked the waters surface revealing the weed bed swaying calmly beneath. The water in this area is almost ten feet in depth and the Pike sit buried in the weeds near the surface ready to ambush bait. We stood about 100 feet away from the weed bed picturing what is going on below the surface. We wait patiently for our eyes to adjust to show us the darkened part of the water where the grass begins and ends. A fly cast would have to carry the six inch long Rabbit Hair Streamer directly into a head wind to be effective.
Most of our crew at this point writes this off as impossible and begins to cook lunch and warm their hands. For the few of us who still feel invincible we wade deep to minimize our casting distance. I could see by the third cast that I was actually hitting the weed bed about half the time. After only a few dozen casts the familiar feeling of the fly grabbing at the grass is replaced by a sharp strike and move to the left. The Labrador with us knows that we are on to a fish before the rest of the group. Sensing a struggle, the dog barks to inform the rest of the group. After a few tense minutes we have landed a beautifully clean Northern Pike. Many photographs of the fish are taken before it is given back to the icy depths to hunt another day. This gift from the lake has warmed our cold hands and motivated us all over again. It’s incredible how a fish like this even on the roughest harshest days can warm the spirits of any angler and makes the struggle all seem worthwhile.
Feeling rejuvenated we quickly eat lunch and take the boat out to cruise the weed line and catch a few more Pike. It appears my crewmates feel as I do, the first fish made the day, everything else was just extra. We load up the boat for our up-wind three hour trip back in the biggest swells the lake has seen in months. All the wind and waves have lost their edge to us; the ride home is one of victory and triumph.
After many hard days of fishing the mammoth Yukon lakes, we are off on another challenge. Despite the local’s claims that they do not exist, we are off hunting for big rainbow trout. People in town have told me that it is too cold in the winter, that the elevation is too high to support reproduction. Well, we were off to prove them wrong, little did we know that we would find some of the largest and hardest fighting trout we had ever seen …