A Beautiful Beast

I’m going to continue this short travelogue from my recent fishing trip to the Boundary Waters.

I have to admit, I didn’t just want fish in general, but that fish.  I’m sure you can relate. You don’t want a job.  You want that one.  You don’t want a house, you want that one.

Well, I didn’t want a Northern Pike—I’d already caught a pee-wee version.  Instead, I wanted something more impressive.

There’s a mystique to larger Northerns. They’re vicious, aggressive fish.  Improperly handled, they can easily injure a fisherman with their teeth or thrash around in a boat, damaging equipment or destabilizing a canoe.

But mostly they’re beautiful.

The color pattern of a mature Northern is vivid to the point of mesmerizing.

I prayed, “Lord give me that one.”

Time was ticking away and so was our trip.  In fact, it was the last day.  “We gotta try another lake,” Keith, John, and Rob said.  “There’s a smaller one nearby.  It’s more shallow and has an excellent reputation for Northerns.  It gets almost no fishing pressure.  Only trouble is that the portage [transportation trail] is kind of murder.”

But we all agreed to go anyway.  That meant paddling across Crab Lake and dragging our canoes and equipment onto shore.  Then we’d need to get all of it over a hill steeper than a department store escalator, march through underbrush, and then slid down the opposite side.

Nuts.  But we did it.

The fishing started.

I tied on a thing-a-ma-jig (for people who care, it was a Mepps number 4 Comet Minnow) and we paddled into a bay of lily pads next to a fallen log.

I cast.

An incredible force suddenly struck my lure, bowing my rod tip.  At that moment I looked down and through the crystal clear water saw an incredible sight—the shape of a large Northern Pike.  For a crazy moment, I imagined the Creator God seated in front of this fish with paintbrush in one hand and a palette in the other, dabbing dots on the side of it one by one.  The whole thing felt like a private screening, a show meant to inspire.

The Northern tried to swim under the log, then under the canoe.  But amazingly, the line held, and the rod didn’t break.

Keith maneuvered the boat and got me into a better position.

With the fish played out, it came alongside, where I hoisted it partway up.  Neither of us knew how to handle a Northern and bring it in the boat.  It didn’t matter anyway, since we’d all agreed that to keep and cook one would be difficult.  Instead we found ourselves staring at it with stunned admiration.

And then that beautiful beast shook its head, popped the line, and slipped back into its glassy world of water weeds.

I had come face to face with a work of art. Grace.  An answered prayer.  Those three things together moved me almost to the point of tears.

Shouldn’t that be the way it is?


Photo credit:  Jen Berry

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