You might recall our young friend Jacob from Calgary. He wrote an article “Fall Cutthroats on the Oldman River“. He’s back, having had a great spring, and wanted to share a short article on pike fishing.
Streamer Fishing For Spring Pike
It’s spring, the ice has come off, and pike are feeding aggressively after the frigid, harsh winter and the spring spawn.
Big, meaty streamers can be used to draw big trout from their wintering holes, In similar fashion large flies with varied retrieves can be the ticket for fooling spring pike. The fish are hungry and the water cold. Fish may lie low in the water column and be pickier than at other times. They will often follow your fly slowly, sometimes hitting your fly with little zeal in complete un-pike-like manner. With this in mind we need to adapt our techniques. I like to fish a type 1 sinking line, heavier sink tip, or full-sink line depending on the depth and action, with often slow retrieves. Varying your retrieve from slow and short, slow and long, adjusting sink times, etc will eventually determine the fish’s preferences.
As far as leaders go, you can get away with wire, thick mono, fluorocarbon, or a thick tip-up braid. Going to mono or fluorocarbon makes tying the fly to your tippet even easier and similar to trout fishing. I run a section of about 2 feet straight to the fly line, and another 2 foot section connected to that butt section with a loop-to-loop connection. This short leader allows the fly to get down deeper when fishing a sinking line.
Fly type and size are important too: large, water moving heads are often effective but slender flies often are needed. Smaller flies can be required due to the lethargic and picky attitude of the pike at this time of the year. Fishing can be deceiving at this time, the strikes often more subtle. Nevertheless, you can have great days earlier in spring as pike move into shallow coves and bays to spawn and will remain there for some time (unless we get a hot spring). After the spawn they linger on the edges of the shallows, feeding heavily. Late spring field snow melt tends to make the water murky and the pike are often far less shy, more aggressive in murky water. I like to fish a large streamer with bright colours. Doing so, you will break through the visual barrier of stained water, and provide an easy-to- see meal for hungry pike.
One pattern that I have success with is a barred yellow pike bunny. These are easy to tie, simple, effective, and you can whip up dozens of patterns and variations easily. I tie these on a #2 all the way up to a #4/0 hook, with a mid-sized #1/0 being a great producer. Pinching the barb is a step that will save hassle on the vice and on the water. Next, opt for a regular or magnum sized rabbit zonker strip. Tie it in at the bend of the hook, splitting the hair in the process. If preferred, you can tie in a mono weed guard and/or some flash at the tail first. Advance your thread to behind the eye, and palmer the single rabbit strip up to your thread. If you want, you can make a laser dub collar and add a fish mask. Whip finish the fly and coat the thread head with Super Glue to increase the fly’s durability. What you have now is a simple and durable fly, and the rabbit strip construction gives the entire fly constant undulating movement in the water.
As a setup, I fish an 8 weight rod, but you can get away with anything big enough to throw a small pike fly. Reels that have a large arbour provide the benefits of holding a lot of line and backing, and let you pick up line fast.
Pike fishing is extremely enjoyable. You can never get tired of the excitement it creates, and adapting your tactics allow you to successfully fish any water with great result.