If you want to have a go at fly-fishing for these ferocious beasts, our complete guide should clue you up.
From when to fish for pike to the gear you’ll need to get started and the best techniques for thes, we’ll get you all set to head out there for some epic fly fishing!
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The Complete Pike Fly Fishing Guide
Fishing for pike is characterized by aggressive strikes as these huge fish fight back, roll around, jump, whip their tails around, and tug at your line. It’s definitely some of the most exciting freshwater fishing you can get!
Pike are a warm-water species that are found all over the USA, Canada, and Europe – you often don’t have to travel far to find northern pike water. They’re well known for growing to immense sizes and for their raw power and vicious behavior.
Flyfishing for pike is entirely different from fly fishing for trout, or, fly fishing for bass. The flies you’ll use and the techniques that will work best, to the sheer strength needed to haul these huge fish in! Related to muskies, pike are normally at the top of the food chain – and they act like it!
Having said that, getting started with fishing for northern pike is fairly easy. You don’t have to master any complicated techniques – average casting skills and the ability to fight and land big fish is all you’ll need.
This makes fishing for northern pike more easily accessible, even to beginners, so it’s great to try if you fancy branching out more in your fishing habits.
Check out the master, Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis, fly fishing for pike here:
Is Pike Good to Eat?
Pike get a bad rap when it comes to eating them. These slimy, toothy fish look pretty ugly, and certainly, they’re not for everyone. The large amount of bones is enough to put a lot of people off.
In fact, some anglers don’t even realize that you can eat them, having been brought up to discard any pike they caught – it seems to almost be a taboo subject.
However, if prepared and filleted correctly, it can make a delicious meal. We recommend roasting it in the oven with some lemon juice and onion for a hearty main meal. To fillet Pike we recommend one of the best electric fillet knife options here.
Give it a try – it’s all down to personal taste, after all. And if you don’t like it, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the adrenaline of fishing for these beasties!
Where To Find Pike In The Water?
When you’re trying to decide on the best spots to fish from, there are two things to keep in mind: the hydrographic conditions of the lake or river you’re fishing on, and the time of year.
A great tip is to get a hydrographic map of your chosen fishing location, so that you have a better understanding of the conditions and structures under the surface. This is key to knowing where the pike might be.
Keep an eye out for drop-offs and ledges, large boulders, weedy areas, and sunken trees – these all make for likely locations.
Fall & Winter
Pike behave differently depending on which season it is and the temperature. During the fall and winter before the ice melts, they are harder to find. They retreat deeper into the column, becoming sluggish and slow so they can conserve their energy.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to catch pike during this time, but you’ll want to be armed with a full sinking line and some flashy flies that you can get right down to the kill zone.
In colder waters, a pike just won’t stir itself to chase a fly or baitfish lure unless it’s twitching around right in front on its nose.
After the ice melts, a good place to look for pike is around shallow bays and large flats which warm up more quickly than deeper pools.
After spawning in the spring, a pike’s goal is to eat as much as it can, so the fish tend to be much more responsive compared to during the winter. This means that you’ll have better chances of catching pike during the spring!
As the temperatures continue to rise, they often head out to deeper waters. Look for covered or sheltered areas where these large fish can stay under the current and ambush their prey.
Keep your eye out for weed beds, bulrushes, lily pads, or other similar structures in the water. These are excellent areas to cast nearby – you can tempt the fish out with a natural, convincing presentation of your lure.
Equipment for Pike Fishing On The Fly
You’ll need specific gear to be fully prepared for a pike fishing trip. Here’s what to stock up on before you head out:
Experienced pike fly fishermen recommend taking a variety of fly lines out on the river with you for more versatility. It’s a good idea to take lines of different densities so that you can get your fly down to just the right depth, depending on the situation and what the fish are doing.
Ideally, you would have a floating line, a clear intermediate line, and a sink tip line. You could even take a full sinking line out with you. This way, you’ll be prepared to fish throughout the whole column and find where the pike are lurking. You can analyze what the pike are doing and then pick the best choice for the situation!
If you can only afford one line, go for an intermediate, weight-forward line because you’ll be able to use it in most situations. It’s the most versatile line and the best if you’re on a budget.
When choosing a fly rod for pike fly fishing, you want a good, sturdy, heavier rod. Anywhere from an 8-10 weight rod should serve you well and give you the power to fight those trophy-size pike.
However, some anglers do prefer a mid-range 7wt rod, which also gives you the option of fishing for bass at the same time.
You definitely need to have a good-quality, strong reel that can handle larger fish. You also want space for plenty of backing – occasionally, a pike will run you into the backing. It also means you’ll have less line memory to deal with.
Pike are well-known to be toothy and ferocious, so having wire leaders is a necessity. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing your monofilament tippet and plenty of flies, which soon adds up. We recommend using 6-12 inches of wire leader – look around for the type that you can tie a knot in.
Alternatively, you can use clips. Not every angler likes to use clips, but if you get strong ones, you’ll be able to change your flies much more quickly.
What Are The Best Pike Flies?
Flyfishing’s all about which flies you choose, but pike aren’t too picky when it comes to specific flies or patterns. As pike flies go, you ideally want something eye-catching, flashy, and large enough to catch their attention and whet their appetite.
Try to have a range of dry flies, streamers, and nymphs, so you can fish the whole water column. You can either have a go at fly tying using tying materials, and make your own flies, or buy ready made ones from your local flyfishing shop.
Any of our picks for the best fly tying kit can be used here.
Imitating natural forage with your flies isn’t essential. It’s more about the presentation and the retrieve when it comes to landing a pike. Attractors work well, especially in bright color combinations like black and orange or red and white.
You can use either synthetic or natural materials, like flies made from rabbit fur, deer hair or feathers. Synthetic flies do tend to have the advantage though, because they hold less water and are normally light, even in larger sizes.
Pike Fly Fishing Tips
So you’re ready to get out and hit the water with your pike gear! Here are some tips to ensure you have a lot of success when you’re pike fishing:
Don’t Match the Hatch… Match the Water
Matching the hatch is key when it comes to trout fishing, but you don’t need to worry about that here.
Instead, take a good look at the water conditions in your chosen spot, and select a pattern that naturally fits with the surroundings and will look convincing.
Presentation is Key
The way you present your patterns to the pike will have a big impact on whether you’ll get any bites or not!
One effective technique is to imitate a wounded baitfish, stripping and then pausing, again and again, using jerky, erratic movements. Not only will this be sure to catch the pike’s eye, but it will persuade them to get on the tail of your fly!
Be prepared with the right clothing
Whenever you’re fishing, you should be kitted out with appropriate clothing: Always take raingear, a hat to protect your head from stray hooks, and waterproof footwear. See our recoomendations for the best fishing hat here.
Polarized sunglasses are a must – not only will they improve the visibility and reduce glare from the sun, but they will protect your eyes when hooks are flying through the air.
Try out different pike fly fishing techniques
Pike behavior really varies from day to day, depending on things like the condition and temperature of the water. A good way to gauge what the pike are doing is by starting off with a fast retrieve and seeing if you get any interest.
If you’re having no luck with a fast, active retrieve, try to slow things down. Use a slower retrieve, adding in pauses, and see if you get any results that way. Despite what you might hear, it isn’t all about being quick and aggressive: you can have a lot of success with a slow but steady retrieve, too.
With this kind of angling, your retrieve is almost always more important than the pattern you use – so take your time to perfect your technique. And remember, what works one day might not work the next, so don’t get disheartened if you’re not getting any bites.
Smaller flies for shallow water
If you’re fishing shallower stretches of water, go for smaller surface flies. Pike go crazy for both mice and frog patterns, especially if you strip them along the surface. They will also eat snakes, muskrats, small ducks, and more.
Keep your eye on the weather
When it gets to the hottest summer days, the best time to head out is very early in the morning or at dusk. This is when you’ll find the fish are more interested in eating. When the sun heats up, they tend to retreat down to cooler depths.
Keep track of the weather forecast, too: You’ll have more success on rainy, overcast, or foggy days, than on warm days with beautiful clear skies.
Take good care of the fish
Pike may seem ferocious and strong, but they are actually fairly fragile creatures: You’ll need to follow good fishing etiquette if you’re going for these guys. Make sure you use barbless hooks or crush down the barb before use.
Take an unhooking mat with you, as well as proper unhooking tools and a large landing net with rubber-coated mesh.
If you handle the fish with care, don’t fight it for longer than necessary, and keep it in the water when you catch it, you’re less likely to damage the fish. When pike aren’t treated carefully, they are susceptible to becoming infected or even dying.
The Wrap Up
So there you have our complete guide to pike fly fishing. When you feel the tug of a pike on your line, you know you’re in for the thrill of a good old fight, with jumps and rolls galore.
Now that you’re up to date on what gear you need, and armed with our tips for success, you’re all set to get out there yourself! If you’re excited about the prospect of fishing for pike, here’s what you need to do:
- Stock up on a sturdy 7 wt – 10 wt rod, strong reel, a range of fly lines, and a wire leader
- Grab some bright, bulky patterns that are sure to get a reaction
- Find your nearest pike location and try to pick out some likely spots to fish from
- Get out on the water and see how many pike you can land!
If there’s anything you’re not sure about, just drop me a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I hope you’ve found this article helpful – and happy pike fishing!