This big pike put up a great fight and brightened what had been otherwise a slow morning.
All photos by Sandy Hays

After two days of fantastic smallmouth fishing at Hawk Lake Lodge, we decided to head for a smaller lake known for its great pike population. Sandy and I once again teamed up with guide Jeff Blum for a very short boat ride, followed by a hike to Shannon Lake. We were not accosted by a single grouse on the path, which I considered a good sign.

Overnight, a cold front had moved in, bringing cloud cover and wind. Any angler knows that such a change in atmospheric pressure can put the fishing off the boil, and sure enough, we started out slowly. A couple “hammer handles,” or small pike, smashed a streamer, but there were long periods of inactivity. Shannon is one of the smaller lakes that HLL fishes, but it’s got plenty of great cover from which a pike can ambush bait or perch.

The girth and shoulders on this Esox were impressive, a sign of a healthy forage base in the lake.

As we made our way along a rock wall that didn’t look so great, however, I briefly took my eye off my fly at the end of a presentation. I head Jeff say, “Hey!” and when I returned my attention to the flashy baitfish pattern, it was in the jaws of a huge pike. The fish was incredibly broad-shouldered and pulled hard, attempting to return to deeper water. Jeff did a bang-up job netting the beast, and there were fist bumps all around.

The fish was simply gorgeous, with beautiful markings, a fat belly, and broad snout. It taped out at 34 inches, but its girth was even more impressive than the length. After we snapped a few photos, we sent her back to the depths.

Guide Jeff Blume shows off one of many mouse-caught smallmouths.

Since Shannon Lake didn’t seem like a hotspot that day, we decided to return to Cliff Lake to continue the mousing experiment we’d begun the day before. It turned out to be a great idea. Sandy and I threw various mouse patterns for about three hours and caught perhaps a dozen fat smallmouths–and we missed about the same number. Some fish would attack the mouse pattern ferociously, but the bigger bronzebacks would simply inhale the deer-hair flies.

It was a wonderful way to end our stay at Hawk Lake Lodge. Our three days had taken us to just 5 of the 19 available lakes, so as I sit in Winnipeg Airport ready to return home, I have plenty of incentive to return.



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