Over the last couple of years fly fishing for pike has become more and more popular. Pike is a great fish to catch on the fly and will fiercely strike flies both at the surface and further down in the water column. It is also a sturdy fish that is widely available in many waters throughout the world and North America. Just like bass, this makes it an ideal fish to target for fly fishermen who might not have a trout stream nearby.
In this post we give you a detailed summary of what you need to start fly fishing for pike.
Fly fishing for pike requires heavier rods compared to those used for trout in streams and lakes. Rods suitable for pike fly fishing generally range in weights from #7-10 with the most versatile rod being an 8- or a 9-weight. Both of these rods rod allows you to cast all except the largest pike flies and the 8-weight also have the added benefit of doubling as a rod suitable for bass fly fishing.
Fly fishing for pike requires heavier rods for several reasons and when choosing a rod you should consider factors such as the fly size, the wind, and weed conditions (cover) you are most likely to encounter on the lakes and rivers you fish the most. Each of these considerations is covered in more detail below.
The size of the fly is a major determinant of what rod to use. The larger, bulkier and wind resistant the fly is the harder it will be to cast and therefore necessitates more of your rod. Most pike flies will average 4-9 inches in length and are generally well suitable for an 8-weight rod. If you are planning to use larger flies than that you are better off going with a 9- or a 10-weight rod. Larger flies will also invariably also attract bigger fish which is some lakes and rivers can reach weights of 20 lb or more and a heavier rod will allow you to more efficiently fight these larger trophy fish.
Pike is also a weed-oriented fish and a heavier rod allows you to fight the fish out of cover that could cause you to loose the fish. If there is plenty of nasty weed cover around choose to go with a 9-weight to be able to better control the fish once it is hooked.
The last thing to consider is the wind. In heavier winds more is required of your rod to generate enough line speed to fire the fly to its designated target area. If you know that the waters you fish the most are prone to windy conditions I would certainly suggest to upsize to a 9-weight rod.
Although most pike do not require fighting them on the reel it is always best to choose a reel with a large arbor. This will allow you to pick up line faster and better control the fish when the situation arises. It is also good to choose a reel with a decent drag system for fights with those larger fish that might pull some line.
Finally, consider purchasing a reel with a cassette system. This will allow you to very quickly switch between different types of fly lines whether it being a floating line, intermediate or full sinking line and is far more economical than buying an individual reel for each line type. Fly lines for pike are discussed further below.
The first choice of a fly line for pike is very different from that you might be used to fishing for trout in streams and rivers. Compared to trout fishing, a floating line is probably one of the least used when fly fishing for pike. This type of line is only really required when fishing topwater flies such as poppers or when fishing a slightly weighted fly just beneath the surface.
Instead, the most versatile fly line is in my opinion a type 3 sinking line, which sinks with a rate of 3-5” per second. This line will allow you to efficiently fish both shallow (1-5 feet) and even intermediate depths (5-10 feet). Pike have their eyes on the top of their head and therefore tend to feed upwards in the water column and there is therefore no need to get your fly all the way down and bounce bottom which is more important when fishing for bass. An intermediate line with a sinking rate of 1-3" per second will also work well for shallow (1-5’) depths or when fishing the fly just above the top of the weeds.
During the warmer months of the year pike tend to strike flies that are stripped with a fast speed using techniques such as the “Rolly Polly”. However, stripping flies with a faster speed forces then higher in the water column and out of the striking zone. To counteract this, and maintain depth, consider using a heavier sinking line such as a type 6-7 sinking line which has a sinking rate of 6-8” per second.
Although, it is hard to efficiently target fish in depths of 15 feet or more while fly fishing, a type 6-7 sinking line combined with a heavily weighted fly would also be a good choice if you choose to do so. However, the only time you might need to target these depths is during the summer when larger pike head for the deeper parts of the main basin of the lake in search of cooler water temperatures. Smaller pike generally do stay shallow even during the height of summer, and the larger specimen do feed in the shallows as well if the conditions are right so opportunities for pike are still abound even without targeting the abyss.
Finally, consider using fly lines designed with heavier heads such as Scientific Anglers Mastery Titan fly line. These lines facilitate turning over large pike flies.
When it comes to leaders and tippets for pike fly fishing it is time to go big or go home. As mentioned above the majority of flies used for pike are large and on average between 4-9”in length which requires a powerful leader to turn over the flies properly. In addition, pike have very sharp teeth and are notorious for biting off even heavy mono tippets and a wire tippet is therefore required.
See our guide “how to set up a pike fly fishing leader with a wire tippet” for complete instructions on how to set up your own pike leader.
Most pike flies range from 4” to 9” inches in length and imitate baitfish of various types. The flies are generally tied with a combination between bucktail and synthetic materials such as flashabou. These materials not only give them great movement in the water but also have the added benefit of not soaking up water, which would make them heavier and harder to cast.
You can find a selection of flies on our pike flies page.
Adding flash and vibration to flies is a proven way of attracting predatory fish. A great way of doing so is to spruce up your flies with wiggle tails. The life-like action of wiggle tails are hard for the fish to resist.
In this article you find an instructional video on how to attach wiggle tails to your flies using snaps for hooks and snaps for tails.
Just like many other game fish, northern pike will display seasonal patterns. These patterns are fairly universal and once you are aware of them allow you to more efficiently target structure and cover that are most likely to hold pike, whether it being spring, summer, fall or winter.
This guide will give you an overview seasonal northern pike patterns.