By the end of day three on Pagato we had fished every river and creek mouth, every shallow bay, windward points, down deep, different flies, you name it, but the end result was a few pike just over thirty inches with hundreds under twenty-five inches. Where are the big pike?
Our outfitter claims they are here. Could it be like Flat Creek in Jackson, WY? A place that swarms with big Snake River Cutthroats yet somehow I’d send an angler there from the fly shop and they wouldn’t see a one. Then they would come back in and say I was crazy. No. This was different. Our four man team consists of good anglers all experienced with fly fishing for pike. We should be able to find them. Shouldn’t we?
Luckily, when struggling to succeed in one area you often succeed in another accidentally. One such highlighted event involved finding a rare opportunity to catch lake whitefish on a fly. For those Rocky Mountain anglers that think a whitefish is a whitefish, try again. There are several different species. The one found in Rocky Mountain streams is the mountain whitefish and is usually easy to catch. But lake whitefish are far more difficult. The main reason is because they spend much of their lives down deep in lakes. Because it is early season here in northern Saskatchewan, we found them in the Pagato River one mile downstream from the lake. To be exact, Bill and Steve where exploring the river for big pike and came around a corner and fish were rising everywhere. They were dumbfounded because the literature for fishing on this lake doesn’t even mention whitefish. Boy are they missing out!
Not expecting a small dry fly situation during this trip, Bill and Steve barely managed to scrape up two small dry flies between them. Then they took Bills 9-weight and a floating line and tied on eight feet of 2X tippet. It wasn’t easy to thread the small dry fly but once they did they were rigged the best they could be. During the next two hours they managed to scrape up three whitefish on the tiny dry while fishing it submerged. Then, because they are great guys, they came and found Chris and I and gave us the 9-weight set up and led us in to catch a few.
Chris and I couldn’t have missed the place. There were rises everywhere. I guarantee with a 4-weight, a nice long 4X leader and some good flies we could of raked in these fish. But with the 9-weight and no fly to choose from, attached to level 2X leader, it was a challenge. Luckily, Chris and I each landed one without too much difficulty. These whitefish fight incredibly well and best of all they are big. Each fish has the length and girth of a giant Henry’s Fork rainbow. The beauty of the event for me, a new species on the fly!
Although we could have stayed at the whitefish pool all week, it was back to the hunt for “a” big pike. Fortunately, being the smart guys that we are, we gradually drifted from our big pike dreams and capitalized on the walleye. Pagato Lake is the best walleye fishery any of us have ever fished. Today, our final day on Pagato, all we did was chase the walleye. To do this means smaller flies and keeping them on bottom. I took my 6-weight Ross Rod and dredged with my Rio Type 3 Full Sinking Line and a Clouser like concoction of a fly. Man did it work! We hit points where we caught random walleyes on pike flies earlier in the week and went up some of the creeks to where we found waterfalls and rapids. By using more walleye like flies we caught more walleyes then we could count. And of course, we had a shore lunch to remember!
At 6 pm tonight the Beaver float plane arrived to pick us up. It was an incredible four days of fishing. Although we didn’t catch our big pike on Pagato, we experienced the best walleye fishing of our lives, added the lake whitefish to our species list and enjoyed watching numerous bears while we fished. It was also the nicest weather you could imagine for fishing this far north. We had one cold windy day, the rest were fantastic. It was a fantastic stop on this adventure. The good news is we did not fly back to the truck to go home tonight, but rather to Reindeer Lake. The outfit we are using for this entire trip, Lawrence Bay Lodge, has a place on Reindeer Lake and the lake is renowned for giant pike. Upon our arrival, they let us take the boats out on our own to a nearby bay and we pummeled pike up to 35”s! Tomorrow we will be guided for the first time this trip. Judging by tonight, we may just find the beast we have been dreaming for.