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For Pike's Sake

Sam Thompson discovers a new-found love for pike • Credit: Alyssa Lloyd
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For Pike's Sake

Why This Freshwater Fish Ranks High on This Angler's List

Sam Thompson came all the way from Washington state to target pike in Ontario's fisheries

Pike may seem like a dime a dozen to us folks in Ontario, but to someone who's never caught one, pike are fabled small-dog-eaters and foot-chompers. 

My good friend Sam Thompson had heard tales of pike fishing long before he made his way to Ontario. We had spoken for months about our trip to the northwestern tip of the province, me obsessed with landing a muskie on the fly, him hoping to hook into a pike. 

I've always loved pike, so getting the chance to introduce Sam to this aggressive fish he's never had the pleasure of targetting was priceless. Determined to fish famous pike and muskie waters, we headed to Eagle Lake in Ontario's Sunset Country

We were hosted by Temple Bay Lodge, located conveniently off the highway but in a completely quiet setting. We had four days on the water with our guide, Matt Ciccone, and we couldn't wait to get started. 

With Eagle Lake being such a massive body of water, it became very clear to us we had made the right choice in hiring a guide. Water mass made obstacles like the wind when fly fishing a challenge. Thankfully, not only could Matt put us on fish, he could also find sheltered bays they resided in. Before long we were catching hammer handles left, right and centre—we just needed our flies to find the mouths of some larger pike. 

We spent the morning outrunning a storm front. Giving ourselves ten more minutes in one spot before we high-tailed to shelter, we continued to cast.

The Challenge Pike Bring to the Table

Checking your rod frequently is very important while fly fishing for pike. The large flies jostle rod joints around making them prone to wiggle apart. After Sam's rod came apart on the last cast, he decided he would check his rod's integrity before bringing the line back in. 

The thing is, pike are incredibly drawn to pauses in movement. Reacting as if they've been spotted, pike will curl into their S-shaped attack stance; once that bait starts to move again as if it's retreating, pike will not let it get away. 

As Sam began bringing his line back in, a pike immediately made an explosive strike right on the surface, setting its own hook as it sent Sam's line flying to the reel. 

"I knew coming into this that pike were tough fighters, but I was surprised how easy it made my 10-weight rod bent to its will," Sam said after the fish was to the boat. 

Sam's goal was accomplished, a beautiful 34" northern pike with shimmering purple cheeks was boated. After a few quick pictures, we let it go and made a mad dash for the lodge as the storm was right on our tails. 

Waiting out a storm when you know the fishing is good can be pretty brutal, but west to an east thunderstorm is not to be messed with. After the storm, the fishing went silent. We didn't boat another fish that day. 

Back At It 

Day two was a different story. It started as a calm cloudy day as we ventured out into bigger water. Before we stopped for shore lunch, I had boated a 35" pike we all thought was the muskie I was after. However, I wasn't disappointed with it being one of the few pike I had caught on the fly at the time. 

After lunch, we made our way to a quiet bay as the afternoon winds picked up and ruined our open water hopes. A few more hammer handles in the mix again, but at the very least we were catching target species and in beautiful settings. Muskie were following us in, sniffing flies then turning off with zero interest. Yeah, I was okay with catching pike all day. 

Good Old-Fashioned Competition 

In true Canada vs. America fashion, Sam and I had a bit of a competition going on for the biggest fish. I was ahead by an inch now, so he just had to go ahead and boat a 35" inch pike. Though we measured it and he was only a quarter of an inch shy of my pike. He almost beat me!

We didn't get into the 40-inch pike we had hoped for, but for both of our first times targetting them on the fly, we couldn't be happier. Sam may not have won our Canada vs. America competition but did beat his own personal best pike within 24 hours. And on the fly no less.

Our trip had come to an end but the pike of Eagle Lake left us grinning from ear to ear. With more experience under our belts, we'll be back for another friendly competition between our respective homelands.

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