Welcome to Panfish

Part Twenty


Panfish

" A Personal Vendetta"
By Randy Fratzke


Earlier this spring I watched as a mother duck and her seven ducklings paddled along the far shore of the river I live on. Suddenly there was a huge ruckus, lots of water splashing, the mother quacking loudly and trying to get the young ones up on the steep shore line. In the end, she wound up with five of the original seven. I'd seen dark colored fins and tail, so I knew it wasn't one of the local turtles feasting on the little ones. The water was a little too shallow for walleye, not unheard of, but a little unlikely. That only left one serious fish in contention for this river.... a Big Northern Pike!

Now, Northern Pike are a common fish on this river, and large ones are not unheard of. The local record here is 21 lbs 4oz. That's uncommon! But, the fish was supposedly caught, kept alive, weighed on a certified scale, tagged and released back into the river. I have caught numerous Northern in the 10 to 15 pound range, so it's not that far out of the realm of reality. Normally, though, the most common are the smaller "snakes" - 1 to 5 pounds which are definitely not large enough to cause the commotion I'd seen. Nope, it definitely had to be something bigger!

All during the summer months I watched the far shore, about 80 feet away, and almost every morning and evening I was rewarded with huge splashes and this denizen took out another unlucky fish, duckling, or mink swimming in the area. I've tried everything I can think of to get it to take my line without even a small tug on the line.

Lately, it's been reeking havoc on my side of the river, over in the shallows of a sand bar, just at dusk. Last week I actually got a good look at it! The were a group of Mallards, full sized mind you, feeding in the shallows. Suddenly, I saw a small "V" coming out of the channel and heading for the ducks. As it got closer, the "V" got bigger. I thought of the movie "JAWS!" as it streaked towards the unsuspecting ducks. All of a sudden it grabbed one leg and fight was on. It was a hen, the others at first scattered, then several drakes headed back to try to help. The Northern was literally flaying the duck back and forth in the air, then turned and headed for deep water. I saw the duck surface once more, squawk, then go down. It was at once one of the most exciting and terrifying things I've ever witnessed.

The next night I headed over to the shallows early, and sat along the sand bar waiting. Fighting mosquitoes and black flies and excitement. Just as the sunset, I saw the "V" coming in for its evening meal of chubs, minnows and whatever else it could grab.

I'd rigged my 8wt with a heavy 20 pound leader, no tippet, and tied on a large # 6 Clouser minnow in a bass pattern. As it came within range I cast, landing the fly about 8 feet in front of the "V". Suddenly, almost before I expected anything, the Clouser took a hit. Then, almost as fast, the "V" changed directions and the line went limp. I hadn't even had time to strip the line or move the fly. There wasn't even any tension to set the hook with. I reeled in the line to take a look.

Cut clean, like a shears had been used on it. Say What? No way, that was "Gorilla Braid"! And the darned thing sliced it like it was a 1x tippet!

I tried 2 more times, one resulted in a huge 30-second battle before it busted the hook. By then it was growing dark and I couldn't see my casts or the "V". I headed for the shore and as I climbed up the bank I heard a huge splash behind me.... another unlucky fish had just been taken.

It has now become a battle. A personal vendetta, if you want to call it that. I want that fish, and I want it bad, and I want it on a fly rod! I've already started making plans for a "heavy duty" leader made from 30 wt. Monofilament, I have 40 and 60 if I need it, but they're a little hard to get through the eye of the fly. I feel like the mad captain hunting Moby Dick or something. I know it's there, I know it's feeding pattern, I know what it likes to hit on, I know everything I need to know to bring it in. Now it's just a matter of time! Wish me luck, fellow anglers, the hunt is on and "thar's blood in the air!"

~ Randy Fratzke

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