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
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
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