King Montgomery, our long-time friend and repeat guest of Three Rivers Lodge, enjoys a stellar reputation as a professional photographer and writer. When up for a visit, King always takes advantage of the whole of his Labrador angling opportunities. Here is his story of an afternoon with his guide and a bushel of northern pike.
“Ciara’s Cove” (Story and Photographs by King Montgomery)
The waters of the Woods River System, comprised of many lakes and the rivers and rapids that connect them, were high from snowmelt and spring rains. The giant brook trout in this part of beautiful and wild Labrador, Canada were not biting well. Sure, there were enough of these magnificent brookies — the same species we have in the mountains from Maine to Georgia — to make our week at the Three Rivers Lodge a success, and I’d landed one about six-and-a-half pounds and other lesser ones.
But it would be another species of fish that provided a very special day of fishing. And it happened in a most unexpected place. It was early this past July, only about three or so weeks after the last significant snowfall.
My guide this day was Jordan Locke, an affable 25-year-old lad from Newfoundland who guided me here four years ago. I asked Jordan if there were any spots nearby where we could chase some Northern pike. “Yes,” he said. “Some clients caught a few a couple of weeks ago in a small embayment not far from here.”
My two fellow lodge guests opted to stay with their guide and flog some more water for brookies, so Jordan and I bid them adieu and motored upstream. We reached a sprawling lake and he headed the large, square-stern cargo canoe into a small bay lined with willow bushes and guarded at the entrance by a boulder the size of a pickup truck. The water was tannic-colored, sort of like weak tea, but we could see the rocky bottom down to about three feet. I readied a cast toward the shoreline, but Jordan spotted a pike hovering motionless one or two feet under the surface, and I sent a large red and white streamer fly to the front of the fish. The pike streaked from a dead stop to at least 60 miles an hour and smashed the fly in a huge boil of water. After a few good runs, Jordan netted the fish headfirst and grabbed its tail in one hand since the net was too small to envelop the entire fish.
Jordan posed with the beautifully-marked fish for a few photos then slipped it back into the dark water. While Jordan washed the pike slime from his hands and the net, I shot a cast to nowhere in particular, let the fly sink for a few seconds and stripped fast. Wham! A 40-plus inch pike inhaled the streamer and the fight was on. It would be two hours before my guide would have a chance to wash his hands or the net again.
This scenario continued unabated for the next two hours and, by Jordan’s conservative count, 31 large pike came to net. All but two were over three feet long, and eight were over 40-inches. Three would push almost to the 50-inch mark. I was too worn out to continue and it was getting on toward cocktail hour.
We kept two of the smaller fish for dinner and prepared to move out. I looked at my old fly rod — an early Temple Fork Outfitters six-piece for an 8-weight — and smiled. It had served me well all over the world and now seemed a part of my hand. (Perhaps it was because my hand was cramped around it after holding it so hard for two hours!)
But it was the 10-inch piece of TYGer Leader that earned my awe. This is a cool product: You can tie almost any fishing knot in this nylon-coated stainless steel wire and go fishing for toothy critters.
Jordan wiped his now clean hands on his waders, and I asked if this marvelous, special place had a name. He said no and I immodestly suggested we call it “King’s Cove.”
He nodded agreement, but a smile soon came over his youthful face. “Can we call it Ciara’s Cove?” he asked.
Ciara is his six-month-old daughter back in Newfoundland, and he had told me about her, her older sister Amber and Jordan’s wonderful wife Stacy.
“Sure,” I said, a twinkle in my own eye, “I can’t think of a better name.” ***