Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Pike at the end of the rainbow

By Eric Booton

Confidence overwhelmed me as I rode in the bow of the canoe. My cousin and I, paddling in tandem, raced toward the “pike of gold” at the end of the rainbow that Alaska’s midnight sun had put on display for us.

The rainbow was particularly noteworthy, in fact. Powerful enough to captivate the attention of 10 grown men for the better part of an hour while ogling over it’s magnificent colors. What started as a small column with notes of the rainbow hues quickly exploded into a full arc, back lit by the blood red sky of the setting sun. I seem to recall having to retrieve my jaw from the dirt and pine needles when a second rainbow, bigger but slightly less vibrant, made an appearance.

My bachelor party was off to a perfect start, but a fellow fishing partner and dear friend was missing. With heavy hearts we knew immediately this rainbow was his masterpiece… commandeering the sky and stealing our attention to remind us of the beauty in this world and just say “Hey buddy, wish I was there. Now, go fish.”

And fish we did. We pinned it over to the weed bed directly beneath the beckoning rainbow. Was there a more obvious place to start? I have done exactly zero fishing for northern pike on the fly, but my experience fishing for them with spin gear in Wisconsin and the Boundary Waters told me this cove was fishy. I quickly started bombing streamers into the weeds and stripping them back to the boat.

My savage yell of joy could be heard across the lake when I felt that first pike sink it’s teeth into my streamer and watched the flash of it’s olive and tan sides as it thrashed in the shallows and began to run. I’ll admit, as far as northern pike go, it was small. Very small. But it was still a pike on the fly and I was pumped.

My cousin Casey, a recently discovered master on the paddle, gently guided me to a calm spot in the cove where only a few more casts quickly yielded a more respectable northern pike. With the midnight sun coming to an end and the rain picking up steam, we began the paddle back to the cabin to show off our quick bounty of invasive fish to the rest of the crew that was busy keeping the fire alive.

I couldn’t help but smile the next morning while walking down the trail back to our cars. I’d spent the past 24 hours surrounded by nine of the best friends a guy could ask for, eager to send me off into marriage with one final hoorah. It was a special day in my honor. Laughs were had and stories were born. I’d like to say that this trip will happen again, but realistically it probably won’t. It doesn’t get better… though two days later, I married the catch of my life, so maybe it does.

Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska Program.

By Chris Hunt.