Pike and especially Muskie can be some of the trickiest fish to figure out on the fly rod. Capable of creating utter carnage above and below the surface, these fish will get your heart going. While Pike and Pickerel are known for their blind aggression, Muskie has been known to be notoriously hard to convince to take a fly, but worth it because they get to sizes that dwarf their Pike cousins. So here are our essential pieces of gear for chasing big toothy fish on the fly this spring and summer!
10 Wt Rods & Reels
Because of the size of flies, you will be most likely throwing for these fish, heavier rods and reels will be needed. Our favorite set up is the Wade Rods Tide Chaser 1o wt and Pelican Reels LG. Not only will you appreciate the extra backbone when a big fish decides to T-bone your fly for dinner, but your shoulders will thank you after a full day hucking big flies at the banks!
Sinking Fly Line
Many Pike and Muskie flies are tied without additional weight. This is because many of the patterns that work best for these fish need to be buoyant to get the action the designers intend. This means that you’re going to need to utilize a sinking line to get your patterns under the surface and pushing water. Our favorite sinking line at the moment is the Scientific Anglers Titan Cold Sink 25, because of its ability to shoot line and aggressive 25 ft sinking head.
Lots of Flies
Pike and Muskie can tend to get keyed in on certain colors as water conditions change. Some days they want bright colors with lots of flash, and other days, neutral and natural colors. Size can also be a factor, there have been days when we have been throwing tradition large muskie and pike flies and not move a single fish, then after switching to smaller patterns have follow-after-follow. By utilizing a leader with a clip at the end you can quickly and easily switch patterns until you find the one your fish are hungry for.
When Pike and Muskie are on the menu, it’s a necessity to have leaders that can hold up against these fish’s razor-sharp teeth. Because these fish come at your fly with the intent to murder it, they are not typically very leader shy. We lay out our favorite Esox leader recipes in this blog post, “How to Set Up Pike and Muskie Leaders“, and give you step by step instructions on how to build your own!
Pliers and a Deep Net
Muskie and Pike are looooong fish and therefore require a deep net if you intend on landing them quickly without stressing the fish out too much, bonus points if you use a rubber net to prevent stripping these fish of their important protective slime coat. You’re also going to want Boga Grips or long nose pliers to get flies out of these fish’s toothy mouths without fileting your own hands.
These fish can be finicky and often only feed during oddly specific time windows during the day depending on everything from the Solar/Lunar cycles, air pressure, and water flows, so patience is key. Having a few good fishing buddies along on the water is a great way to break up the monotony and keep yourself engaged and focused on working every piece of water like a fish is waiting to crush your fly!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!