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
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
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
Enter the FLYING BUNNY. I'm sure you all remember the pattern by
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
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.