Day was just breaking, revealing to our eyes a dripping world of rain and swirling mist. Dark clouds, thick, heavy and gray hung just above the somber hills, pressing downward on the ridges and valleys, exerting a seemingly physical force upon all of nature. Perhaps the drooping tree branches, sagging, water laden ferns and tall grass bent dispiritedly under their load of rain drops helped create this image of an all-encompassing, dreary weight, but the phenomenon was so real your shoulders seemed to feel its steady pressure.
The bay stretched before us smooth and dimpled by countless raindrops; each tiny splash leaping skyward for a split second, its outspreading ripple instantly beaten down by countless other drops. The rain patters on your rain jacket hood incessantly, making it hard to hear, but it’s a comforting sound; soon you will cease to even notice it.
We begin fishing, I watched where my wife cast, firing mine to another spot, hoping to see a likely fish holding location she hadn’t and cast there first. It doesn’t happen often.
Indeed, the day is dripping and dreary, some may call it miserable, but once on the water and casting its unimportant, it seems so natural that catching fish is your only thought.
A large bass rushed the boat and makes a pass at Jane’s lure just as she lifts it from the water. She jerks with surprise and frustration. Why couldn’t the fish have been a little faster?
Minutes later she hooks and lands a nice bass about 17-inches long, then another just a little smaller; both nice fish. I catch a legal pike and then a second! The fish are on the prowl and there is not another fisherman in sight on Sugar Bay. We have the water to ourselves. Yes, the day is brightening up; funny how a little success brings out a type of sunshine only you can sense!
Several other fish swirl at our lures, but don’t take. A sunken pine tree appears, its twisted roots protruding like broken fingers above the surface. Jane fires the first cast against those roots, after all she is in the bow. The spinner bat splashes down in the perfect position and she begins her retrieve. The lure abruptly stops and she sets the hook 3 times, hard! Nothing moves, her rod is bent right over and I ask her if she’s hung up?
“No!” she answers somewhat impatiently.
I’m staring at the point her line enters the water, it’s motionless for several long seconds, then suddenly the water swirls and her line begins to move. Good grief, it is a fish!
Now is the time to move the canoe away from those tangled roots into clearer water. The fish rushes at us and shoots under the canoe like a torpedo. Jane instantly sticks her rod deep in the water and manages to sweep it forward and around the bow. I thought sure the fish was going to break her rod against the gunnel, but her quick reactions saved the day.
The still unseen fish heads for deep water keeping Jane’s rod bent steeply over and ripping line out in short bursts. She maintains the pressure and soon the line begins to rise. A broad back breaks the surface, and then the tail thrashes wildly, ripping more line from the reel; but not before we saw the fish was a big pike.
Jane works the pike back to the boat several times, but the big fish splashes wildly before darting quickly away. Finally, the fish begins to tire and I try to scoop it into our net, the net designed for walleyes and bass, not long, heavy pike.
I drive the pike’s head into the net, but the fish is too long to fit! I try to lift him into the boat and the fish goes berserk, flopping crazily. The net handle twists in my hands, I can’t control it and the pike thrashes free of the meshes!
Oh, no! Had I lost her fish? A terrible hollow, sick feeling gripped my stomach.
The water boiled, Jane’s drag sizzled again and to our amazement, the pike was still on!
“What are you doing?” Jane gasped angrily.
“The net is too small!” I answer frustrated, wilting under her glare. “I’ll get him next time.”
Jane’s fiery glance made it perfectly clear I’d better get the fish in the boat next attempt or else!
This time, patience would be the rule, waiting until the pike was totally exhausted and very close to the boat. Finally the fish tired, rolled on its side and gripping the net handle as hard as possible I drove the net the full length of the fish quickly lifting, struggling to control the flopping fish and keep the net rim level at the same time. The pike flopped madly before finally collapsing in a big U as I swung him into the boat. The pikes head was touching the rim on one side, his tail the other. The net was bulging!
Jane let out a huge sigh of relief and then starting laughing; telling me the pike’s powerful thrashing had made my head wobble back and forth comically!
I believe it!
Her pike was thick and long, a real beauty; Jane, her hands still shaking, was all smiles now that her trophy fish was safely in the boat. My hands were trembling also; my impatience had almost lost her fish!
By now both of us were damp, clammy and cold, the rain still persistently falling. It was time to head home, dry off and warm up, but we could have sworn the sun was shining brightly as we admired again that sleek, gleaming pike.
It truly was a beautiful day!