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Pike on the Fly

Here in Canada we are blessed with a variety of species to target with a fly rod.  There are never a shortage of places to explore, and new fish to catch.  One fish that is becoming increasingly popular to angle for on the fly would be the northern pike (esox lucius).  Pike have traditionally been targeted by hardware anglers, but in the past few years, fly fishermen have realized just how much fun these fish are to catch using fly rods.  Northern Pike (aka Gators, Slew Sharks, Snot Rockets, Snakes, Perch Killers, etc.) inhabit many lakes and rivers throughout Canada.  With pike being located in so many places it was only a matter of time before the fly angler gave them a go. 

The Set-Up: 

Tim with a personal-best pike caught on the flyThe typical set-up for a fly fisherman when fishing for northern pike would be a 7-10 weight rod (depending on what size of pike are lurking in the water).  If the lake or river is full of 3-10 lb fish, then you will probably choose a 7 or 8 weight for your fishing.  If there are snot rockets being caught in the 10-30+ lb class, then that is when you want an 8-10 weight.  I would say the best all around rod for pike is an 8 weight. 

For backing, 100 yds should do the job since pike aren't known to take huge runs into the backing; but should they happen to do so, you will have enough leeway with 100 yds.  Moving to lines, a weight forward (WF) floating line is probably the most common line for pike since there is more weight near the head of the line for casting out those big flies.  I like the specialty "Pike Taper" lines, and almost every major line manufacturer designs a line for casting big pike flies nowadays.  Depending on the time of year, a sink-tip or full-sink fly line can be an asset especially if the pike are hanging low and you can't get to them with the dry line.  This is usually the case in summer months when pike are hanging low in the water column. 

Pike have very sharp teeth, handle with care!The last piece of the puzzle is the leader and tippet.  Leader manufacturers have been making “pike” leaders for the last few years.  I personally like to make my own.  To do this, I use 5-8 ft of 10-40 lb monofilament line, and attach 2-3 ft of wire tippet that can be anywhere from 10-40 lb wire as well.  The wire tippet is a must since the pike have razor sharp teeth.  I have even seen pike cut right through 30 lb wire, so keep your hands away from their mouths!

Seasons, Flies, and Locations:

In my opinion, the Spring season would have to be the very best time of year to fish for pike on the fly, with fall coming in a close second.  In spring, the fish have come into shallow water to feed after the spawn, and will aggressively take many offerings.  Evenings would be my personal favourite in the spring, since you can stay out late and catch the pike on top-water flies!  The later you go into the evening, the better chance you have of landing more walleye at the same time as well (if they are in the lake).  In the Fall season, the pike are preparing for the winter ahead, and are going on the feed by gorging themselves on minnows and other forage in the lake.  This makes for some exciting fishing, and some big pike being landed!

A #3/0 Purple & Black Double BunnyGood wet flies to use are #3/0 chartreuse (or red, black, yellow, and pink) Double Bunny flies with crystal flash in the tail (my favourite).  Also, size #1/0-4/0 minnow/baitfish imitations, and large sized woolly buggers have done the job.  Top-water offerings are a lot of fun on calm mornings and evenings, and good ones to use would be deer hair frog, or mouse imitations, and deer-hair poppers.  Bring plenty of these as they have a tendency to get chewed up after a few fish.

Shallow bays, reed lines, and underwater humps are excellent places to try these flies in the spring and fall.  If the conditions are right, you will be in for an excellent day on top water, or sub-surface.  Take a depth finder out and find some structure, and you should be in for a fine day of pike action.


Nick with his best pike on the fly to dateIf pike are in your area and you haven't tried fly fishing for them, then you are truly missing out.  The takes are explosive, the battles are tough, and the action is phenomenal!  Getting set up for a day of pike fishing on the fly does not cost an arm and a leg, and presentations don’t always have to be perfect.  Even beginning fly fishermen can have exceptional days trying for these fish.  Hopefully you will consider adding northern pike to your "To-catch" list on the fly rod.  It is indeed worthy of having a fly in its mouth.  If you already fly fish for these freshwater gators, you know what I am talking about.

Tim Tchir, WesternSportfishing.ca

Written by: Tim Tchir

Email: tim@westernsportfishing.ca