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5-08-05 - Fish ON! Look at the bend in that rod!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
It's headshaking as I bring it in.
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
There it is, a Como Northern Pike on the fly.
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Phew - FINALLY!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
This one's goin' in the Trophy Gallery!
WHOO HOO! Look at the power this fish has!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Come on, time to pose for a picture!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
While not a steelhead, this is pretty darn nice!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Yup, another shot for the "Trophy Gallery"....I can measure the fish later this way.
FISH ON!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
It's lookin' at the sky!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Aw crap...he's stuck in the pier!!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Another feisty northern comes to shore!
(Copyright © 2005 Renee)
Dinner ala Matt.
One more Pike at dusk!

5-08-05 - Lake Como Water Wolfs on the Fly Rod!

Waters Fished: Lake Como
Fish Caught: 5/12 or so
Outing Date: 5-08-05
Weather: Sunny, wind from the south to west
Air Temp: 85F for the daytime high
Water Temp: 60F
Water Level: normal
Water Color: less than 6" and GREEN
Fish Species: Northern Pike
Pattern Fished: Flying Bunny, Billed Minnow
Pattern Color: Bunnies in Tan/White, Tan, Olive/White, Red/White and Chartreuse/White. Billed Minnow in Black
Fishing Quality: Amazing

I dare to say that I've CRACKED Lake Como on the fly rod WIDE OPEN...finally. I've been frustrated with my literal home waters for a LONG time...we're talking 18 YEARS!

The main problem with Como is that water clarity is BEYOND poor. Sure, I've had good days with conventional tackle...the most productive lures including a Johnson's Silver Minnow or a Beetle Spin in Yellow & Black (a local favorite handed down by a superb lifelong resident who up until recently lived down the street).

Pike on Como have been a more recent occurrence. Granted they used to be plentiful...my uncles told me about a point across they lake that they affectionately referred to as "Pickerel Point"...granted it no longer exists. All through my youth the main fishery was largemouth bass (my personal best was around 3-4lb from this lake...I know folks who've gotten them as large as 5lb, and rumors of beasts at 9lbs. circulate). Panfish are somewhat plentiful during the summer...bluegills, pumpkinseeds and green sunfish are regular catches on the fly rod. Only around 5-10 years ago did we start encountering Northern Pike, and even then it was a rarity here and there.

I'd say another problem facing me on Como has been that my main fishing season historically rain from Memorial Day to Labor Day...not necessarily the best times period. Well, with the recent change in the living arrangements (read "new house") year round fishing has been an option. Granted, for the last couple years I've been much more interested in learning the SE WI Tributaries and for the most part, have ignored the unproductive water out the back door.

So getting back to the lake...Como is relatively small and shallow. Roughly 1 mile wide and 5 miles long, MOST of the lake is under 6' in depth. There is only one "deep" spot, a depression about 9' deep towards the western edge of the lake. Easily defined structure is limited; there aren't really any sunken trees or humps. Most of the lake is choked with weeds...sure you can fish "weed edges" but pretty much every square foot of water could be considered weed edges.

When it comes right down to it, we've all known for a while that the main structures on this lake is the shoreline itself and docks. There are stretches of gravel or sand along the shore, one of which happens to be out my back door. The piers...well by Memorial Day most of them are in place. So let me sum it up like this...for years on end I've encountered MANY anglers, passing by in their boats, who've told me that the little stretch of shoreline our home sits on is the best fishing spot in the lake. Thus, you can see my relative lack of enthusiasm for Como!

Well, everything clicked today. In the past couple years I've taken time here and there to cast likely offerings...everything from poppers to large bunny leach patterns and such with relatively NO success. I've usually only been able to get out on the water at LESS than ideal times...i.e. high noon in midsummer on a bright, sunny and hot day.

So what changed? Well, for starters, I changed the TIME OF YEAR. It's early MAY, the water is only 60F. The other big change was in my fly offerings. I've known that buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and the aforementioned Beetle Spin are consistent top producers for bass and northerns. One thing these all have in common is they are NOISY baits that move a lot of water, have great action AND are weighted.

Enter the FLYING BUNNY. I'm sure you all remember the pattern by now...basically Dave Dyer's modifications of adding a propeller and some weight to a bunny leech. Dave explained his modifications in detail to me some time back, and it's stuck ever since...this is a GREAT dirty water pattern. I can hardly think of "dirtier water" than the pea soup sitting out my back door.

Having stood in the water only a day earlier, I knew that by the end of the pier we're looking at about 4' of depth. My Flying Bunnies are tied without weight so I can adjust...in this case a 15' sink tip was added. I initially rigged up with 14lb. Mono, a Black "Billed Minnow" in the lead and a Red/White Flying Bunny trailing behind. Around 9:30 AM I walked out on the pier and started casting. Long straight strips were employed and for the most part I could feel my flies hanging up on the bottom, rocks, and weeds.

It only took about 15 minutes for the first hit, which came as I was lifting up to cast. I'd say it felt like a solid "whack" but more realistically, it simply felt like I had pulled my line into a sunken log. Thankfully, there are no sunken logs in the area that I'm covering ;)

The action was brisk and fast for most of the morning. I paid close attention to the water, doing my fishing by feel while scanning the surface for ANY indication of movement. My 2nd strike again came on the retrieve as I lifted my flies from the water...the lead fly was out, the bunny just an inch below the surface when out of nowhere a lightning fast Pike simply SLAMMED my fly and headed back towards the bottom. Unfortunately, it came off.

Remember what I've heard about Pike, they'll often hit the same offering repeatedly. I recast to the same spot where I had disconnected with the Pike. My flies started to sink, and again my line went tight. Another battle ensued and in moments, he was off again.

I checked my leader (important to do with the toothy pike) and ended up retying the bunny. I started covering water again and in short order was rewarded with another "heavy stop" at the end of my line. I reared back on the rod and the fight was on again....this time it came to shore..pike #2.

As the morning moved on I continued to keep my attention to the water's surface...behind me I heard a splash and turned to see ripples expanding on the surface. Within 2 casts I was on target and my flies were sinking. I started to strip. Strip. Strip. Strip. Strip. Strip. Strip. Strip.

I was back to the dock with my offerings and was about to recast when I noticed that my LINE was still coming in, and now moving by me and off in the other direction. I set the hook and the battle was on. I held the line tight while taking up the slack and put this guy on the reel...he was gonna cross the lake if I let him. Finally, after a couple vicious runs and a few jumps I though I had him in. That's when he made another run straight under the dock. I pulled with all my might and could feel him tugging underneath me. I tried to pull line back out but couldn't move it....I was on the dock.

I set the rod down and looked below me...there, less than a foot under the surface, was the northern...a massive beast who was still clearly pissed off. He had done a 360 around the post and was hung up pretty good. What to do?

While I consider this fish landed, the truth is he never got out of the water. I reached in to grab him and he went nuts again, so I TRIED to pull the line back around the post hoping for the best. All of a sudden the line throbbing stopped..the pike was gone.

And it's still only something like 11:00 AM? Renee was intent to watch and take pictures while reading...meanwhile I was determined to keep at it until the bite slowed. I resumed my casting and stripping, all the while paying even closer attention to the surface.

That's when I saw it...a fair sized northern broke the surface in much the same way as steelhead do. I gathered up my line and cast to where he had been. As the flies sank, the fish broke the surface again...50% closer to me than the first time. I gathered up the line again and cast. I retrieved but saw nothing. As I set up to cast again, I looked down and there, just a foot off shore, was a northern sitting, looking at me. My movements spooked him out right in front of me in the deeper water....I dropped my flies.

WHAM...I pulled up and the fish came off. I dropped them back down again. WHACK...fish on again, and a flash of silver in the depths confirmed I had him. The line went limp. I was cut off.

I changed up, now out of Red and White flying bunnies and having NO action on the Black Minnow pattern. I lead with a crazy concoction of yarn and a propeller, more or less trying to convey the "firetiger" color pattern. Behind trailed a Olive and White Bunny.

I landed another Pike on the Fire Tiger mess and lost a few more, eventually losing the entire rig again. Meanwhile my neighbors had started putting in their pier and docking stations, so I took a break for the afternoon. Boats were out, people were swimming, I just figured with all the commotion it was better to rest for the afternoon.

I returned to the water around 4:30 PM and fished for an hour...3 more hits, 3 more northerns, and all came off. This time around I had rerigged with 30lb mono and STILL I got sliced off. By far the most memorable one was a pike that I thought I had subdued. As he glided in front of me he made one desperate last attempt to get free, shooting straight into the air, mouth gaping and head shaking. Instantly all line tension was lost, the fly simply flew from his mouth and landed at my feet. Screw this, time for dinner!

That's right, we ate well and lounged for a bit. Around 7:30 PM Renee thought she'd like to give it a shot. I had rerigged both our rods at this point with WIRE leaders...if a northern can slice 30lb. mono I'm not about to go with any less than WIRE. Renee threw a flatfish that I was SURE would get their attention, but nothing took. A flutter spoon didn't produce either, and by then it was time for Desperate Housewives.

While Renee enjoyed watching Desperate Housewives, I was the Desperate Angler convinced that the pike were still in and biting. Around 8:15, barely able to see ANYTHING around me, I connected one last time for the day and landed one more Pike to round out a nonstop day of Northern Pike action.

To sum it up, this dirty water REQUIRES movement in the form of spinners or blades in order to grab the attention of the fish. Most all of these hits from the Pike were on or close to the bottom, USUALLY as the fly was leaving the bottom and coming towards surface. The Pike fight? Well, folks have told me that when they're smaller, they're not much fun, and that may be true. These guys, well, they averaged 24-26". Most of the time the fight started with a solid hit or stop, followed by simple swimming...as if they weren't even sure they were hooked. After that it was usually followed by a few quick, blistering runs. Once that was done, the fish would bulldog and headshake...perhaps making another run or going AIRBORNE before giving up. Once at the surface, they were pretty calm. Handling posed few problems..once out of the water all but one pretty much just sat there. The revivals? Oh, EASY...put 'em in the water and they SHOT from your hands.

  MP 

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