The guy hikes across the same lake I occasionally panfish. I have my portable, he has a permanent. He always asks how I’m doing with all those gills and sunnies. We been waving back and forth for better than eight years now. On good days I do a bit of showing off. I asked why he never has any fish; he says one is plenty for him.
Say next week, why don’t you come with me he asked, I said okay. He’s after northern’s, and not just any northern’s, he wants the big ones. To be a big one, it has to weigh over fifteen pounds. He’s not a competitive sports kinda guy, he not going home with three seven pounder’s so he has something to brag about. He’s an instinctive sports guy, he thinks about what they eat, and when, where they dine and what the suns doing or the high or low pressure of any given weather day is up too. He hunts them, studies the lakes that produce big pike, and when he’s ready, then he hunkers down and connects. We go way back me and that guy.
He had a lot of patience with me, he even joked it made him a better fisherman, having me in some of his classes. Last week he made me watch many, many, many northern pike go under the ice at a dizzying rate. I saw thin ones and little ones we call hammer handles, fat chubby ones and one came through several times with a red gash just ahead of it dorsal fin. We nicknamed him scar face. After awhile, to me, it felt like friends of mine who pass up doe after doe during deer season, for a chance to take one big buck.
It was five hours per day, for three days. I watched all kinds of forced, closed the door daily darkness I can tell you. We were submarine attacked by a muskrat twice, not sure if it was the same piece of fur both times but I dang near speared it on the second visit it spent so much time scooting around the inside of the spear shack. I may never get the smell of cedar wood smoke out of my nose, I’m pretty sure every little ringing sound in my ears above a woodstove hiss I completely toned out after the first day and just like back in high school when he was teaching me things, I was supposed to be quiet, he wasn’t one for me talking then, and things hadn’t changed.
We sat side by side, he’d bump my arm with every, any, and each, bubble, shadow or fish that moved or cruised under us, I think I have a bruise from the constant nudging. I used to close my eyes after a day of bobber fishing in the summer to go asleep, and I could still see the bobber bobbing long after I was off the water for the day. That piece of lake bed eight feet below the ice, I have memorized. I stared at it silently for way to many hours.
The fourth day early in the morning, with his homemade decoy just darting and dancing about two and half feet below the ice something long and black backed, slide to his side of the hole. Without so much as a whisper he raised that big old iron frog fork and thrust it into what turned out to be sixteen plus pounds of one very large northern pike. One fish, for one winter, he had his season.
The trout whisperer