Photos of the Day: When Irish Pike Are Smilin’

Written by: Paul Moinester

The author with another “small” Irish pike from Lough Ramor, in County Cavan.
Photo by David Byrne

I was three hours into my first day of pike fishing in Ireland, when I heard the best words that have been spoken to me on the water in quite some time. As an 8-pound pike took a brief hiatus from peeling line off my reel to dance across the choppy water, David Byrne, Marketing/Angling Coordinator for Inland Fisheries Ireland, looked over at me and with his classic Irish accent nonchalantly muttered, “Oh, it’s a small one.”

Beware the teeth!
Photo by Paul Moinester

The Irish are famous for their wry wit and propensity to employ healthy doses of sarcasm, but David wasn’t being sarcastic or witty. He was being entirely earnest because apparently in Ireland, an 8-pound pike on the fly is a small fish. His statement left me more slack-jawed than the missile recklessly launching itself through the crisp November air.

David Byrne doesn’t look to impressed by this “hammer handle.”
Photo by Paul Moinester

Minutes later, as David guardedly reached down to corral the set of razor-sharp teeth, the valiant pike made one final thrash, shook the fly, and disappeared into the murky water below. Hoping to get a few photos of me with the sleek, toothy carnivore, David apologized profusely for not landing the fish. But I have never felt that indifferent about losing an 8-pound freshwater fish at the boat.

Flies with a lot of contrast and motion do the trick.
Photo by Paul Moinester

In any other circumstance, I would have been disappointed about losing the chance to momentarily experience the predator’s raw power in my hands, but I now reside in a different and surreal world. It’s a world where an 8-pound pike is a small fish. A world where catching a 20-pound native, wild pike on the fly is a legitimate possibility 365 days a year.

This toothy predator is giving the evil eye as it comes to the boat.
Photo by Paul Moinester

I checked my steel leader for damage, stripped out some line, and punched my panfish-sized fly into the howling wind. As I ripped my fly through the carnivore-infested water, I braced myself for another vicious strike and an incredible year on the fly in Ireland. We spent two days punching big flies through high winds and a muted gray sky to angry pike swimming below. Despite David’s warning that the fishing was going to be slow, we managed to catch eight pike in two days and had vicious swipes from many more.

Lough Ramor is just an hour northwest of Ireland’s capital city.
via Google Maps

Paul Moinester recently completed a six-month, 20,000-mile adventure exploring the upstream battle to protect wild fish and their habitat. (Check out his introductory post here.) He posted dispatches on the Fly Fishing blog throughout his journey. He’s now living and studying in Ireland.

2 thoughts on “Photos of the Day: When Irish Pike Are Smilin’

  1. Eric English

    My ancestors are from County Caven! They moved to Wisconsin where the pike are also always a’smillin’! Nice conservation work!

  2. Michael O'Neill

    I came from Co. Armagh in 1962. As a 15 to eighteeen year old I fished the Blackwater near the village of Middletown, halfway between Armagh and Monaghan. On any given day we caught at least five pike. We kept the big ones and threw the small ones back into the river. The pike were so big that when we tied them to the handle bars of our bicycles the tails would be wore off by the time we rode home. Great memories.


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