The Fish That Smiles Back

Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to catch a pike.  I remember watching fishing shows on television and seeing the incredibly vicious takes that Northern Pike are known for.  I remember seeing the massive fish and the size of their razor sharp teeth.  Since the beginning of February, Brent and I had been in correspondence Targhee Boss, the guy behind Utah Stillwaters, discussing when we could come down and try our hand at some pike on the fly.  After getting all of our schedules lined up, the chosen dates were April 1st and 2nd.  I thought about the trip every day leading up to it.  I had pike on my mind and I couldn’t get them off.  Brent and I took off from Idaho Falls early Monday morning and made the drive down to Utah to meet Targhee.  After some quick introductions, we all packed in to Targhee’s pickup and headed for the lake.  It rained a lot of the way down and eventually reached torrential downpour status once we made it out on the water.  High winds forced us to park the boat for the first hour or so in a cove, but soon enough the storm passed and it was time to catch some fish.


Rough Waters

Throwing the heavy flies was something that I was not used to at all.  A large portion of my fishing is spent throwing articulated streamers on the 8 wt, but my trout steamers don’t even compare to the large, heavy, and wind resistant pike flies.  Eventually I got into a rhythm and the flies became a little easier to cast.  Brent was the first to hook into a fish.  It was a frisky female that couldn’t have been holding in more than a couple feet of water.  The skunk was off and my confidence was immediately boosted.  Twenty minutes later, I hooked in to my first fish of the trip and my first pike ever.  He was just a little guy, but that didn’t lessen my excitement at all.  The next few hours consisted of a handful of small males, another crazy thunder storm, and even one bite off.  Targhee said he had another spot in mind and we motored over to try our luck at the next cove.


Brent with the First Pike of the Trip

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My First Pike

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Incoming Storm

As we approached the cove I immediately felt good about it.  The water was calmer than most of the other places we had fished that day, and the water clarity was significantly better.  Brent was the first to get some action.  The fish chased his fly down hard, but in all the commotion it somehow missed the hook.  I realized that seems to happen a lot with pike fishing.  They will often push so much water on your fly when chasing it down, that they end up missing it all together.  Nonetheless, it makes for an exciting time and always keeps you on your toes.  We couldn’t get the fish to come back, so we continued trolling a few feet off of the weed and tree line.  I noticed we had come up to a small ledge and decided to let my fly sink deep to the bottom this time before beginning my retrieve.  When I was nearly finished with my retrieve, I felt one of the subtlest takes I have ever had and set the hook hard.  As I lifted the rod, I immediately felt the weight of the fish and knew I had latched into something a little bigger.  The fish slowly made it’s way to the surface and I let out a holler of excitement.  I was face to face with one of the biggest fish I had ever seen on the end of my line!  The fish made a short run but never went out of sight.  The first attempt to scoop it in the net failed and the fish ran again.  Net attempt number two came quick enough and the fish was landed.  I can’t remember the last time my heart was beating so fast over the thought of potentially losing a fish.  The big gal taped out at 41.5″ and weighed in at 20.6 pounds, just shy of the Utah Catch and Release State Record.  We snapped a few photos and sent her on her way.  Many thanks to Targhee and Brent for all your help.  We decided to call it quits and headed back to Targhee’s place for dinner and to get some sleep before hitting it hard again the next day.

Shane Pike 1

41.5 Inches of Northern Pike

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Smiling for the Camera

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Back She Goes

It didn’t take long at all to figure out day two was going to be much faster fishing.  It took exactly three or four casts to hook into the first fish of the day.  The boat couldn’t have been parked more than five minutes.  It was another cookie cutter male that couldn’t resist the 7-inch long pile of feathers.  The next few hours went by with what seemed like non stop action.  We ended day two with 19 fish to hand, and lost or missed at least that many, if not more fish.  Brent landed his best fish of the trip, a beautiful and healthy female.  Many of the takes were visual, and we even saw quite a few pike sunning themselves in the shallow coves.  What more could you ask for?

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Northern Pike


Underwater shot by Brent

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Brent’s Best of the Trip, A Beautiful Female

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Another Beautiful Female

Looking back at the trip and the photos we took, I picked up on something that almost every fish had in common.  Most of the fish look like they are smiling for the camera, as if they are saying, “I’m glad I could make your day, now let me go!”  One of my favorite things about fishing is the rush that I get from the take and the hook set.  Whether big or small, every pike gives you that rush.  What some of them lack in fight is completely made up for in their vicious takes.  Pike are one of the most incredible fish I have had the opportunity to fish for, and I am chopping at the bit to get back down to Utah and try my hand at it again.  Thanks again to Targhee for being such a great host and for putting Brent and I on so many fish.  Some trips leave you with a permanent grin, and I still smile every time I think about this one.  Both Brent and Targhee have full trip reports on their blogs.  Head on over to Uprising and Utah Stillwaters and take a look!

4 thoughts on “The Fish That Smiles Back

  1. Gregg Martin

    41 inches is speaking Manitoba type stuff-congrats! I have caught them in Alaska but not of any real size and not on a fly rod. Then they were a pest as we searched for other things. What I did not know! Good write up and thanks!


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