Friday, April 1, 2011

Earning Your Fish

all photos courtesy of Kirk Webb

Fly fishing for pike is something that rarely comes to mind when you think of fishing in Western Colorado.  My friends and I, all dyed in the wool trout bums, anxiously await for pike season to begin every February.  This is when the local low-land reservoirs begin to thaw.  Day 1 starts off with DMX blaring on the stereo and us driving around looking for hints of open water.   It's early and the pickens are slim.  The only open water we do find on the two lakes we are fishing is at a large inlet.  It's cold, windy and overcast.  Bad conditions for sighting pike in the frigid shallows.  The pike will come in to spawn in the coming weeks.  We know it's too early but then again, that one big, dumb pike might wander in and want to eat my fly.  We cast in the cold for another few hours.  The hope of finding an early pike is fading fast.

Now it's the end of March.  Carp fishing has begun to wear on us with the cooler weather.  Bad for the carp, great for the pike.  We pack up our Cross Currents and head back out, again into the cold.  This time we jam to the late Nate Dogg and rig up our freshly tied pike flies.  It's floating lines and 25lb Seaguar tippets.  We see a fish.  Finally!  A fish!  Then we see another.  And another.  They're on.  And they're in the right structure just like they should be, but rarely are.  Our hurried and excited casts bring us rejection after rejection.  We collaborate on fly patterns, switch flies and resume walking the banks and looking for pike.  We see a few more fish over the hours and fail miserably at every shot. 

Day two.  More of the same.  Cold, bored and fishless.  I bet the floating on the Colorado was killer today.  First day of good clarity in the past few weeks.  Good baetis and midge day I bet.  Pike fishing sucks.

Day three.  It all begins to happen.  We finally catch a fish.  They're back in a spot that we've dubbed the The Pike Bend Pool.  It's the perfect spot.  A shallow, dark bottomed bay with a deep cut down the center of it with vegetation and close adjacent cover.  The pike are here now.  We just need to sit back, watch the water, brave the cold and pray that we get more shots.  We do.  We've finally found a pattern and it's working.  We found the style, color and sink rate of "the" fly. We stick a few, miss a lot and the day is done.  The faith in pike remains.

The next day.  Slight to moderate breeze.  Fished all day hard.  Our pattern is still working.  Every evening, when the light gets low, we see numbers of fish and begin to consistently get half a dozen to a dozen shots at fish in an hour long period.  Prior to that though we struggle pretty hard.  We walk the lakes, even to the far back bays and glance at the waters edge for hours on end and if lucky, we'll get a shot or two each.  I did for a brief moment see a massive specimen of a pike, about 40-42" inches long for all of five seconds.  I was so stunned that I didn't even make a cast.  Holy crap (or something like that) was all I muttered to myself.  Only I saw it, and it was freakin' cool.  Renewing the faith.

Day four.  We start the day carp fishing.  It's hot and sunny with moderate winds.  We find them in the usual spots on the river.  We both blow multiple shots and neither of us hook up.  We move on to two adjoining ponds and again, immediately begin spotting tailing and mudding carp.  Josh has a freshly tied-at-8am-this-morning carp fly that he's dubbed the Carpin' Toad.  He puts it on, makes it work and sticks a nice carp.  We exchange high fives, celebrate and praise the Carpin Toad.  We call it good and move back on to pike fishing now that we've wasted the middle of the day.

The pike are in the Bend Pool.  And they're in all the pike bays.  We both get good shots.  Lot's of them.  We literally almost step on top of fish and get this, I see my first "Pike Ball".  It was literally a bait ball of about ten pike.  I can only hope that I'm so lucky to see an event like this again.  We both stick multiple pike and get shots at fish for a solid few hours.  This is what it's all about. I love this pike fishing game.
Day five.  Thought I was going to go trout fishing today simply because I felt like I've been missing out and needed some easy fishing.  We end up going to the Colorado River and while sitting at the boat ramp, we change our minds and go pike fishing.  The urge of these hard-to-catch freshwater barracuda's was too strong of a temptation.  We just had to go back out.  Upon arriving at the lake, I talk a big game about how we've started to dial in their habits and have this game on lock down.  We go to "the spots" and only see two small fish over the course of half of a very long day. 

That's pike fishing.  You pay your dues and occasionally hit it right.  When it all comes together I feel like I've just finished climbing Mt. Everest.  Euphoria mixed with exhaustion.  It's a lot like a relationship.  When it's good, it's really good.  And when it's bad, it's really bad.  Those good times keep me pike fishing for several weeks every year.  Give it a try, or two, or three, or for fours days as was my case. 

Written by Kirk Webb and Taylor Creek Fly Shops.