Last spring Johan Klingberg had a most unusual fishing escapade. He succeeded in catching what was probably a world record-breaking pike.
Last Spring Johan Klingberg, had a most unusual fishing escapade. He succeeded in catching what was probably a world record-breaking pike. You can philosophise over the question of “what is a suitable fly?” for a large-jawed fish – big fish, big fly, as the saying goes.
I follow the movements of the leader expectantly as it wanders through the pool, the pool that always seems to be home to a couple of this river’s large trout. Usually the take would have come by now.
As usual, I try to explain the lack of a take to myself. The fly’s rubbish. I should’ve changed it ages ago. What if the trout can’t see the fly in this high brown water?
I’m just about to give up in this pool and try a couple of spots further downstream, because it’s now (this was last spring) or never that you’ve got a chance to get one of the really big ones, before they disperse and find places that are impossible to get at with a fly rod. The leader’s stretching – the fly’s caught on the bottom or I’ve got a fish. I take the strain on the rod and try to get the hook free. Imagine my surprise when a large pike head appears like a ghostly shadow under the rippling surface.
What the devil??!! – A pike in my trout pool. MY trout pool!! The surface is soon broken by two large fins, the first about 70 centimetres behind the leader, and the second a further half metre behind the first. Blasted spawning pike, having it off in my trout pool, I mutter to myself, while I pretend to be unmoved by the fact that a large fish has taken my fly. The mating behaviour of the fish on the hook, and the one that’s following it, soon turns into something quite different. The fins belong to the same fish – an incredibly large fish that’s taken my free-drifting hare’s ear nymph, tied on a 0,16 millimetre thin tippet!
Run for your life!
The pike strikes its huge tail fin on the surface, and the water splashes a long way into land. It turns and starts to swim with the current. Panic! What a fish! I’ve never seen one like this before. Sweet Jesus, if you help me ... I promise to... to… to...
How can this have happened, in my little river? The only pike I’ve taken before have been less than a kilo. The rattle of the line through the rings brings me back to the present. It’s true, you fool – a huge fish is trying its best to pull out all the backing. Run, idiot – run for your life! I thread the rod between the alders, firs and hazelnut bushes that are the barrier between me and the river. Cold water floods over my thighs and into my boots as I try to follow the fish downstream. I slip on a stone and get a deep cut in my knee. The blood flows and feels warm for a bit, but is soon washed away by new cold water.
The waterfall, less than 50 metres downstream, will save me, because it’s the only place where there’s a chance the pike will stop. Soon I’ve caught up. Ten, soon fifteen metres, of line back on the reel. I just might…
Pike on the run!
And then the pike does it! It gathers itself in the deep pool above the waterfall and leaps down the metre-high fall, landing with a splash just downstream. How could it do that? Everyone knows that pike can’t leap over waterfalls like other fish. But this giant pike did it! Okay, it was downstream and the fall wasn’t so high – but anyway!
My hope and optimism are fast disappearing. A class 4 rod feels as useful as a thin twig as the pike continues on its way. And then I remember the bird cherry bush! The one that blew down a few years ago, right across the river. She must stop there. The branches that stick down under the water are too dense. She’ll never get through. She’ll be trapped between the bush and the waterfall. Hope lives on!
But the counter-attack from the end of the line isn’t long coming. With undiminished speed, this Madam carries on to the bush, through the bush, and on a further 10 metres to the next deep pool. And there she stops. OK.
Keep cool, Johan. You’ll soon think of something. Just think positively and constructively. I’m cool. Aren’t I? I’ve got a free line, albeit through a 3 metre wide bush. But otherwise ... If I unscrew the spool and thread it through the branches? Aah, yes – the line goes through the rings on the rod... But if I put the rod down and try to scare her back the way she came? Might work? Or not.
The brake is full on. I coax the tip of the rod through the bush and follow the line through the branches as best I can. And with the rod on the other side of the bush, I go around and haul in the line so that the rod follows it through the bush. Game on! The tugs from the pike are less frequent. The rushes are down to less than a metre now. Time to solve the next problem – how do you land a pike, over a metre long, without the line breaking or without getting your arm bitten off?
In the end I manage to go around her and can put pressure on her from downstream. And then I remember the bird cherry bush. What if she goes back through it? I wind in faster and faster and the distance between us gets less and less. She’s at the river bank, resting. I creep up behind, quickly put a foot underneath her and shove her onto land.
It worked! What a bit of luck! Game over. I lift my arms in victory. But there aren’t any cheers. Who’s going to believe me? Not even my dog Bosse is impressed. And he normally barks loudly at all my catches. The world carries on as usual, completely oblivious to my achievement.
Should I kill her and weigh her, and hope for a possible new pike record? She’s not only very big, but I took her on an 8 foot class 4 rod. That should put me at the top of a table somewhere. But then I recall the promise I made to the Almighty when I was in a tight spot 15 minutes earlier. I take a few quick photos and measure her with my tape. One hundred and twenty-six centimetres – yes - 126. And then – back to freedom.
I have a major problem on the way home – no one is answering the phone. None of my fishing mates are there to listen to my tale. Granny, who isn’t interested in fishing at all, is the first target. I sit on the kitchen settle and describe dramatically every detail of how I caught a possibly record-breaking pike. Granny carries on calmly washing up.