Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – not to make light of grief but I went through all the stages Saturday.

All was lost but then it was found and he caught this honking nice pike to boot. An ecstatic Fishin’ Technician Mike W. Bryant displays a 48-inch pike – his biggest of the day – he caught using the musky rod he had dropped into the river earlier in the day and then found just before heading out.
Mike W. Bryant/NNSL file photos

Denial because I couldn’t believe how stupid I was dropping my $600 musky rod combo into the water.
Anger, because dang, that was stupid.

Bargaining – if only I hadn’t been so stupid!

Depression – that’s a pretty strong word but you know, that was a really dope rod and reel I just dropped into the river.

Acceptance – well, I did bring a spare rod with us and the fishing was amazing. And there’s always next Christmas, right hon?

The trouble began not long after Gord Greening and I arrived at our favourite pike fishing destination deep in the heart of Tlicho country.

With us was Donny Boake, a top-ranked international fly-fishing competitor, one-time NWT youth athlete of the year and potential future Olympian in cross-country skiing.

I’ve known Donny most of his life so it was nice to see him again and share a day on the water. He was hoping to beat his personal best pike of 42 inches – a not difficult feat in this place.

Our location – a medium-sized set of rapids plunging into a dark cauldron of forbidding looking water – reminded me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Sylvester the Cat attempts to walk across a moat on stilts filled with hungry, snapping crocodiles so he could get the bird. He never makes it more than halfway across and neither does your fly when dragged through the swirling, blackened pool.

And that was how our day began. I’m pretty sure Donny broke his PB by the second fish. None of them were under 40 inches.

Breaking out the big stuff

We had all taken turns pitching flies when I decided it was time to break out the big stuff. My Shimano Calcutta 400B baitcasting reel is spooled with top grade 100 lbs test braided line. The rod on which it is seated, a St. Croix Premier musky rod, is rated as medium-heavy but is light as a feather.

On the terminal end was one hell of a giant swimbait – about a foot in length and five ounces. The lure alone cost me 25 bucks.

I cast the thing out and get bit within five seconds. After a short but heavy battle I lift a 45-inch or so pike out of the water.

“This actually looks like an attack of some kind, possibly a bear,” I said, pointing to a pair of deep, incisor-shaped wounds across the fish’s back.

I was still opining when the furtive movement of my rod sliding off Gordie’s boat caught my eye.

“My rod!” I shrieked as I dove back in desperation, still holding the fish.

But it was gone. The butt of the rod bobbed for a second before plunging into darkness.

The loss of the rod cast a pall over the rest of the day. I made a half-hearted attempt to fish the rod back out by tying on some heavy jig heads and plumbing the bottom with them but we all concluded, with the heavy current, the rod was likely carried a 100 yards or more downstream.

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Donny Boake, a world-class fly-fisherman, shows off his pecs and a nice pike he caught during a day trip to a prime fish haunt in the North Slave.

Just before leaving, we took one more crack at the pike hole.

We caught a couple more monster-sized fish, including a beauty 46.5 incher, but as expected, the bite dropped off quickly.

I decided to plumb the bottom one more time. I cast at least a dozen times – each more hopeless than the last when by and by I felt resistance from under the water not far from where I dropped the rod.

Suddenly, there it was, skimming across the water toward me. It was in my hand!

“AARRGH!!” I shrieked, thrusting the rod towards the heavens.

Gordie, who had been dozing a couple feet away, bolted awake, instantly delighted by my rising euphoria but a tad annoyed by the incessant screaming.

“You OK?” he asked.

“Yes, amazing,” I exclaimed.

The giant swimbait was still attached to the line so I gave it a cast. Boom! Suddenly, a heavy and heaving presence was pulling hard against me. After a spirited fight an enormous crocodile of a fish came chomping to the surface toward me. I reached for the pike, gave it a quick measure and held it aloft before releasing it. Forty-eight inches! My largest pike in two years.

David killed the giant. Sailboats salvaged Dunkirk. My triumph might not compare to these but I’ll take it. Yahoo!

Mike Bryant

Mike W. Bryant is the managing editor for NNSL Media. He started working for Northern News Services as a general news reporter in 1999. He is the recipient of numerous national and provincial journalism...

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