Esox lucius on the Fly
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
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada
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:
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
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
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
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,
Our Man In Canada Archives