Fly fishing for monster pike

Padding Experience on The French River

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Rebekka holds a stunning specimen of a big trophy pike from Ontario waters.

Tips on Preparing for your trip.



So, you’re planning a trip to Ontario for trophy Essox Lucius (pike) on the fly?  I assume you are since you’re reading this, and let’s face it, you know you want to!  It’s bound to happen!  

I must admit, northern pike have not always been a popular species to fish for, let alone to travel a long distance for!  

But as fly fishing has become more and more popular, so has fly fishing for the big rapacious pike!  This plentiful eating machine lives in some of the most gorgeous parts of the world – and that part of the world I’m referring to is Ontario, Canada. 

With its up-reaching flat top mountains, vast and precious boreal forest and lakes, and landscape that looks to be a cover of National Geographic magazine, many people are now planning trips from far and wide to enjoy what Ontario has to offer for the pike fly angler, novice to pro.

Canadian northern pike fishing almost always offers a good time, with high impact action, lines peeling, drags screaming, and adrenaline-pumping fun! It’s a much welcome change to the snobby, ego-crushing trout, which denies the dedicated fly angler of a simple take.

There are certain places in the world that pike are revered: those places are Europe, Canada and Alaska.

Pike of almost any size are a great time on the fly rod! They are full of zest and spunk, and demand to be free from the moment they engulf the fly. The water wolf may not be everyone’s center of admiration, but it 100% has mine. The pike's reputation has gone through a huge change, once determined a nuisance, now a treasured sport fish on the fly. The northern pike is very deserving of the angler's respect, not disdain. For it’s a fish that in every sense is big game. 

They are explosive and downright violent fighters on the fly, my all-time favorite way to fly fish for pike is to sight fish for them in shallow waters. Using top water poppers – it’s intensely fun seeing the take and when a pike attacks a popper, the water combusts with a big splash as the long, green “wolf” wreaks havoc on the fly! This is typically the moment most anglers forget to strip set and they trout set instead.

Author, Rebekka Redd hoists up a treasured trophy pike of ontario

Hunting the big one.  I write this article in the hopes of inspiring pike on the fly enthusiasts as well as first-timers! I have been fly fishing around the world for pike since I was a teen, and of course in Ontario. I openly admit and I have an obsession for big pike. I am smitten with the mean, green, fighting machine and I don’t mind giving tips and advice for fishing my home waters of Ontario.  I also strongly encourage catch and release. Big pike that are on most anglers' bucket lists and in my photos are old fish – some up to approximately 30 years. I adore this species of fish and I want to share it with my readers, but I also want to express the importance of protecting our fisheries. 

The #1 golden rule when fishing for any fish is what? Respect the fish!  Keep them wet till the camera is ready, de-barb those hooks, don’t fight them to exhaustion, and release asap. Catch and release! Please!   

I repeat: ultimately the goal is to strip, set, land, quick pic, and release! 

Location is key when hunting big pike, and there are literally thousands upon thousands of lakes to choose from. You can’t go wrong with almost all the destinations. You have to choose what you’re comfortable with. Drive to or fly in, it’s really a personal preference.  It’s all about the experience that goes along with fishing. Do you want to experience a fly-in-only lodge? I personally love them, and have taken hundreds of rides to fly-in lodges, truly an awesome experience!

If you want to do a drive to location – you will find equally as many lodges and excellent fishing to experience! 

Ok, here we go (finally)!

Steel leader is a must with these giants

Packing for your pike on the fly trip to Ontario:

Ontario has a wide variety of weather and even in the mid summer month of July, Ontario weather can be unpredictably extreme. Temps can plummet to 40°F and rise to extremely humid, hot 95°.  Although that’s worse case scenario, and generally the typical norm is lows of 60 in the summer to day time temps 70 to 80° F.  

Essentials for you:

Clothing: Pack for any kind of weather! Hoodies, warm socks, baseball hats, beanie / toque, warm gloves, long underwear, light jacket (I use a puff jacket from Patagonia), flannel shirts, jeans, and regular tee’s. SPF long sleeves sun shirts, hot weather shirts, swim suit, and shorts. 

Sun gloves – get the ones from Simms, they have striping pads built in for fly line.

Cargo shorts – extra pockets come in handy.

Rain gear:  Pack your gortex waders and fly fishing rain jacket. There will be days heading back to the lodge in a downpour – you’ll be thanking yourself for bringing along the right rain gear.  

Sunblock Stick - SPF 45-50. Using a stick - you do not want sunblock on your flies!

Sun “buff” or bandana – protect your face from long days on the water from the sun and wind.

Foot wear: trekking sandals, runners,  boots. Bring multiple pairs of footwear, with one pair of waterproof shoes.  

Bug repellent: We have black flies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums. I use a natural citronella balm; apply before leaving for the the lake and it works well.  Keep bug sprays away from fly line, flies, and sunglasses.

Eye wear: Polarized sunglasses are 100% essential! They’ll help you see “thru” the water, and of course offer up protection from catapulted flies.

Band-aids, for the possible cuts – watch those sharp essox teeth!    

Vet wrap – for your fingers. You can buy this at fleet farm. It’s a self-adherent veterinary medical fabric. I have horses, and grew up using it on the ranch. But it is an excellent material to protect your fingers from fly line burn! Try it, you’ll thank me after you hook and fight a big toothy fish that takes a lot of line!  

Now that we have you sorted…

Don't forget warm clothing! Even mid summer can bring chilly winds and rain!

Pike on the fly essentials:

Two to three fly rods  – in case you bust one, you will still have two for the trip! You need two rods – one for floating line and one with sinking line.  The third will be up to you .

Pack two nine-foot, eight  to 10-weight graphite fly rods. 

Remember, you’re not fishing for those little pike anymore – these are the big mommas and you need strong, powerful rods to handle a big fish, and the big, heavy flies you’ll use.

Reels: Matching reels with smooth drag and large arbor.  

Fly line:  Big fly taper line is a must.  Weight forward floating cold water fly line. I use lines from RIO – there are even species-specific fly lines, such as RIO pike line. 

Sinking line: you’ll need 200 to 300 grain sinking line for lake fishing – full sink line will get the fly down to the lurking fish!

Tapered leader  - If you feel like buying ready made pike leader – then I recommend RIO toothy critter with snap end. 

If you feel like making your own 5 to 7 foot leaders, then you’ll need 3-4 ft of  40 lb test mono, 1-2 ft of to 30 lb mono  to  1.5 ft section of 40 lb test wire bite tipper.  “40- 30 – 40”.  

You can also run straight 30 to 40 lb mono to 6-12 inch 30 lb coated wire.    

Rarely are pike leader shy.  There are numerous variations on leaders – these work well for Ontario pike.  With so many opinions, and ways of creating leaders, these are just suggestions and ones that I have used successfully.   

The walleye fly serves well in most Ontario waters .  This fly is 12 inches long.

Flies:

Flies are the key to success! There are endless companies and individuals who tie incredible pike flies available for sale.

Nearly everything is edible to a pike!  Flies that imitate food to a pike are: walleye, bass, whitefish, suckers, yellow perch, and small pike.

Also leech patterns, streamers, lefty deceiver, flash tail whistler, dahlberg diver, gurglers, mice, frog “poppers” are a must to add to the pike fly box.

Fly sizes: 4-12 inch in length, I typically use 6 to 8 inch flies tied on 2/0 – 3/0 hooks.  Streamer colors in any combination of black, yellow, red, white, and chartreuse.

Nets: I prefer a cradle net with rubber netting. A big rubber landing net will do – do not use cotton mesh nets.

Don’t forget: Pliers, nippers, jaw spreaders, long nose pliers/ with wire cutter.    

Early season pike on the fly is highlighted by the ability to sight fish for them. 

Post-spawn pike are often seen in large groups up in shallow water.

Around mid-June, the bigger post-spawn pike make their way to the thicker vegetation, and by mid July they move to ambush points such as large rocks, wood, and drop zones of depth, where they can usually be found for the remainder of the season. Creek mouths and back bays can be very productive locations for big summer time pike.

Releasing the pike is the best part for Rebekka.

Fall can be another prime season for getting big pike on the fly. The cooler temps have these fish actively working the shallows. I call their behaviour “putting on the feed bag.” It’s a time most fish are preparing for the long winter ahead by bulking up.

Ontario has endless rivers and lakes to target pike on – the possibilities of landing your fish of the lifetime, are highly probably!   Packing and preparing for the trip is key to success.

I wish you a wonderful trip to beautiful Ontario, no matter where you chose to stay; you’ll have a wonderful time! Tight lines & happy fishing!

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