Written by: Paul Moinester
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.