I've caught several small Northern Pike over the years while fishing at any of the reservoirs around here but it's always been on spinning gear. I have always wanted to catch a bigger one on a fly. Yesterday I decided to go to Spinney Reservoir and fish big streamers with my 8 weight rod. During this time of year, the bigger Pike like to come into the shallows and sun themselves. They also like to hang out near structure like weeds and grass and wait to ambush their prey. They are a nasty fish for sure. I had scouted some coves when I still had the canoe so I knew where I wanted to be. I waded out as far as I could and started casting. After about 30 minutes, I caught a typical Rainbow that was about 18" but that's not what I wanted. I continued to work the back of one cove. As I stripped in a big Clouser Minnow, the line suddenly went tight but it really didn't appear like a strike but more like the hook just got hung up on something. Thinking I was snagged, I raised the rod up and felt resistance but no movement. Snagged. Then I used both hands and really leaned back and I could feel that I was lifting whatever I was hooked on up. I just figured it was a rock or a stick and it was budging. Then I felt the head shake and it started peeling off line. Sticks and rocks don't do that.
I freaked out. The reel I was using has a horrible drag and I didn't want the line to break so I let off the drag and pointed the rod tip straight in the direction of the run. It finally stopped and I made some headway but this happened several more times. Finally I could see the end of my fly line so I knew I was close. Then I saw the shadow and finally, the head. I know I was talking during the whole time. It was then that I realized that I had not put any wire leader on and was only using bigger monofilament. Out of instinct, I grabbed my net and went to scoop the fish up but then laughed when I realized that the head would barely fit in let alone the entire body. I had been stepping back towards shore while fighting the fish and was now in shin deep water and decided to just try to drag it out. I got in several inches of water and pounced on it. It was like a wild bull and I was covered in mud.
Eventually I got the hook out of it's boney mouth and tried to get a few pics and measured it against my rod. This would have been a perfect fish to keep but I never do that so I didn't have a cooler or a fillet knife and it was a decent hike back to the car. The DOW does not want these fish in the reservoir but I didn't feel right just leavinging it on the bank so I revived it and watched it slowly glide away as I tried to stop shaking and catch my breath. These Pike do hurt the trout population but man are they impressive. They are so aggressive. I can see why many people target these fish specifically. This was probably the best shot I could get of the fish. Super disappointed that nobody was there to get a decent shot of me holding the fish.
I caught another, smaller one right after this but it broke the line right as I was grabbing it. This is the fly I was using for the bigger Pike. It was destroyed. Now it hangs near my tying bench.
I drove below the dam to fish the moving water and had an incredible day. The fishing has been tough lately on this stretch of river because Denver Water keeps jacking with the flows but in the 2 hours that I fished the river I probably had 15 fish to the net. Here's one of the Brown's.
A small Rainbow who was eager to take a San Juan Worm I had tied the day before.
The day wouldn't be complete if I didn't bring about 6 of these to the net. The Division of Wildlife is doing a survey along the river right now and probably for most of the summer. They have divided the river into 3 beats. The upper most beat has had significant work done to it (with boulders and structure being added). They are trying to get an idea of how that beat fishes in comparison to the other 2 to see if putting similar structure in place along the entire river is worthwhile. They're running around asking anglers to keep track of their time on the water as well as how many fish they have landed and their size and species. I got to talking with one of the guys after my survey about the Sucker fish. He said that during the last electrical shock study, that 50% of the fish in this stretch of the river were Suckers. I was stunned. Prior to this year, I had never caught one here. I admitted to him that there have been a few times where I have thrown them on the bank for the birds but he said that the Biologists want them in the water. He was just as miffed as I was but apparently, the Biologists feel that the smaller Suckers benefit the trout because the Brown's will eat them. We both agreed that the bigger 18-20" Suckers should probably be killed but until they actually device a plan, I will now continue to release them. I worry though about what will happen to one of the best Gold Medal stretches in the state if anglers begin to catch as many Suckers as they do trout.