There are a few fish that anglers can casually chase and not get hooked. Sure, there's plenty of people that get totally obsessed with chasing those species, but they're the minority in that regard. Northern pike, or any esox for that matter, are not one of those fish. Try going after these dinosaurs, even once, and you're sure to be ruined.
We recently spent a day with Harry Desmond of Berkshire Rivers Fly Fishing
getting after these fish and reaffirmed our addition. We picked his brain on pike fishing on the fly so you can get started with your obsession immediately. The thing about fly fishing for esox is that you'll need as much time as possible.
Postfly Box: What kind of gear do you need to chase pike on the fly?
Go fly fishing with Harry Desmond of Berkshire Rivers Fly Fishing and you're going to move some big fish.
Depending on where you are fishing for them the gear changes a little. But a good starting place is a fast action 8wt rod, a larger arbor reel and depending on how you will fish for them a heavy full sink line and/or floating line. Plus, of course, some type of bite wire.
PFB: What do you look for in choosing the right fly?
I fish mostly sub surface for pike so I like to see the fly push water meaning it has a fairly large head. I like articulation and undulation. It's important for the fly to repel water to help with the undulation. The fly should have a lot of movement on it as well as some flash. I throw a whole range of colors at them.
PFB: How do the changing Fall conditions affect pike fishing?
Having the right gear is important if you want to catch big esox on the fly.
In the fall the pike are packing on weight for the winter. So they are willing to eat big meals. With the big temperature swings in the fall you have to be dialed in to what the water temps are doing.
PFB: What kind of water and structure are you looking for to find pike?
I love slack water with lots of structure. The most obvious structure is not where they usually are either. Its the very subtle non-obvious structure that usually produces more pike. So don't go for that huge tree in the water look for smaller structure that they can park themselves in.
PFB: What are your tips for fighting these fish?
Having the right flies is important if you want to stick a big dinosaur of a pike.
You should definitely use a strip set with these fish. Just keep stripping until you feel weight. Once you feel weight you want to get them onto your reel so you can have the drag engage and do its job. Don't over muscle them and don't let off the pressure. Let them tire themselves out.
PFB: Any tips for landing them?
Biggest thing is to get control of the adrenaline rush from the take. Like any fish it's easy to lose composure once you are hooked up. Once they are one keep that tip up and try to direct their head. Also, try keep them out of any current.
PFB: Anything else you think anglers need to know before they start fishing for pike?
Fly fishing from a drift boat will let you target fish anywhere in the river.
Be patient. They're a fish of a thousand casts. Once you get to witness your first pike take the addiction starts from there. Dont be afraid to change up stripping patterns and speeds. Remember, they aren't as deep as you think they are.
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