There are pike. There are trophy pike. Then there are the monsters swimming in northern Saskatchewan's Cree River
Being less keen to fly fish than the rest of us, Lynn had earlier settled in at the stern to use his spinning rod all day, the sly fox. While fly fishing is an exceptionally fun way to tackle big northerns, it’s rarely as efficient as spinning gear. Moments after entering what looks like a pretty improbable pike hole, Lynn is on again, and it’s a serious fish.
We’re back in the river in what Pat calls Steve Quinn’s Bay, named for the long-time In-Fisherman writer who had some luck there on a previous visit. I would have called it Steve Quinn Slough, since it’s barely 40 feet wide and heavily weeded. And because it’s out of the wind, the bay is also heavily infested with mosquitoes. It feels more like a Florida alligator ditch, and from the way Lynn’s rod is bent and throbbing, maybe that’s what he has on (above). What finally emerges is the largest thing I’ve ever seen come out of freshwater—a great kraken of a pike, a fraction less than four feet long, with a head like a German shepherd (below).
As Pat frees the monster, he displays both courage and his devotion to these magnificent fish. Even using a long-handled hook remover, he still has to put most of his forearm down into the fish’s mouth to retrieve the small lure, risking a severe mangling if the beast escapes the jaw-spreaders and clamps down. The moment also reinforces the wisdom of the lodge’s strict barbless policy, which results in a pike mortality rate of near zero.
Using a four-inch swimbait, Dan hooks and lands a 40-inch pike about two boat lengths away from the last fish (above). This run of big northerns is so stunning that Dan, a garrulous and entertaining raconteur, is at a loss for words.
Just upstream from the Steve Quinn’s Bay mutant-fish factory, two river branches meet in a spot called the Confluence. Many parts of the Cree have been difficult for me to read, but this is a classically fishy-looking spot. And Jake, who grew up fishing the rivers of Vermont, can see it too. With the boat holding in a back eddy, he stands at the bow and lays one of his saltwater flies at the edge of the swift water. On his second cast, there’s a coppery-green flash in the tumbling water, and he’s into another big one. With the boulders, current and deadfall, it’s a difficult spot to manage a log-sized fish. But this time Jake plays it patiently and perfectly, and is rewarded with his first true trophy—a 40-inch, bull-shouldered northern.