Few thrills in fishing can come close to watching a northern pike's toothy mouth clamp down on a fly twitching across the surface of a shallow cove. With brooding, baleful eyes, a pike looks positively prehistoric when it smashes into a topwater bug.
|Any large fly patterns work well for pike.|
Because of the intensity of the strike when they nail a surface popper, I always carry a few cork or balsa poppers and deer hair bugs on northern expeditions, even though these lean green fish are more likely to hit subsurface offerings. When the mood strikes them, pike will literally rip poppers and deer hair bugs to shreds tearing into them.
In those situations you'll be glad you have these surface offerings. Stock a variety of poppers, mostly elongated in shape, and a few thickly-dressed hair bugs, in sizes 2/0-2 in red/white, chartreuse and natural deer hair. When the fish are in thin water, less than four feet deep, and the wind is calm or almost calm, pull these offerings out. Experiment with both subtle twitches and a faster, rhythmic retrieve. Pause briefly after the strike, then set up hard. Both large bass bugs and saltwater surface offerings work well.
Since smaller fish comprise the majority of a pike's diet, most of the time you'll want to cast a hefty streamer. Special pike streamers are made, but I've had excellent results just using flies designed for fishing in the brine. Any of the larger patterns designed for stripers, blues and other large saltwater gamefish work well. Tarpon flies are excellent, though they don't hold up for more than a few fish in most cases. The deep-water Whistler series with bead chain eyes is a good bet in both red and white and black and orange.
Use a 7- to 10-foot leader for topwater offerings; 5-to 6-foot for streamers. In both cases, add either light wire or a 40- t0 60-pound mono at the business end to avoid cutoffs with the pike's sharp teeth.
Cast close to weed edges, breaks in the vegetation, points and cover such as logjams or brush piles. Strip the flies back anywhere from a few inches to several feet deep. Make it lurch and undulate like a struggling baitfish.
Keep the rod tip low over the water or even in it so there's no slack in the line. Work the fly with sharp spurts of 6-18 inches with pauses in between. When a leg-long pike nails your fly in 2 feet of water, expect a raucous brawl, maybe even a drenching or two before you twist your hook free and watch him surge back into the depths.