The sun was still visible through the trees as I came to the takeout above Meridean. Below the cutbank, where a dirt road ran to the highway, an old man in Oshkosh overalls was still-fishing. Slipping into the water to pull the canoe ashore, I felt aged myself. And sunburned and happy. My wife hadn't yet arrived with the pickup, so I took the pike out of the cooler to clean it. The still-fisherman nodded at a pail of piddling walleyes when I asked about his luck. Then I showed him the northern, posing with my arms outstretched. Undaunted, he called it a fair-sized snake, explaining that walleye was the only fish he kept for the table. Too many bones, he said of the pike.
Crouching over the water, I slit the pike's white belly open and washed it clean. I didn't care about the little Y-shaped bones. I would skin and fillet the northern when I got home, then put it in the freezer to eat on some snowbound day when the flesh would still be sweet, tasting of summer and the river.