It wasn’t the hit that stuck with me. It was the wake. Four years ago in August, on the Cree River system in northern Saskatchewan, tucked into a reed-lined cove, I let a slider go in a 40-foot cast. There wasn’t a breath of wind. Not a ripple on the surface. The intense quiet made that fly’s smack-down sound like the crack of a rifle. Strip. Gurgle. Strip. Gurgle. It only took two pulls before a sparse clump of reeds 15 feet to the right of the bug stirred. A half-second later, that gentle rustle materialized into a bulging push of water that had so much mass behind it, it looked like a fire extinguisher being pulled just below the surface. When it happens, it may last for only the length of a single heartbeat, but that feeling of knowing it’s coming—knowing the fish is locked on and committed—is the greatest in the world. I stripped once more and the 42-inch pike exploded on the fly. It remains my biggest northern to date, and though I’d have been happy to catch it subsurface, there’s something about a topwater strike that makes any fish more special. That can be said of any species willing to rise to the occasion.