For northern anglers, pike are one of those fish that will always put a smile on our face. They’re not the cleanest, best tasting or best looking, but they fight and always put us in situations that stretch our abilities. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of these fish, it’s hard to deny they’re one of the most fun freshwater fish to catch.
Pike are especially fun to target on the fly rod. Besides the rod, line and gear, anglers need to make sure they’re using the proper flies. Pike can be picky, so make sure you use one of the following 11 flies to help you in your efforts to find them.
Guide Recommended Tip: I’ve got to thank my friend Dustan Harley at Ripple Guide Service for some great pike pictures. I highly recommend Ripple Guide Service – you won’t be disappointed.
MoJo Minnow Perch Fly in Size 0/4
Perch are a favorite food of apex predators like Pike. If you’ve spent any time fishing in northern waters, odds are you’ve hooked into a perch. They’re easy to land and a favorite food for Pike. The MoJo Perch is not only realistic looking, but it moves well in the water. A longer leader will get this fly under the surface, but don’t be afraid to switch up the leader length to get the fly to the exact right depth.
Fish these anywhere where Pike will hang out and you’ll likely find yourself tied into a couple. You can add a weed guard if you tie your own flies. I like casting into the lily pads or weed lines! This fly gives you the freedom to get exactly where you need.
Flashtail Whistler in size 3/0
The CF Whistler is a classic stillwater fly pattern. It’s flashy, long and has a beadhead to help you get low enough to where the fish like to spend time. You have four color options with this fly so make sure you know what the fish are hitting before you make your purchase.
Pike will hit this fly hard so be sure to have a trace tied to your leader or tippet. A hard strike from a pike can easily break your line so it’s important to take all the precautionary measures. Cast this anywhere near structure or ambush points and you’ll give yourself a chance to land one of these beautiful fish!
Guide Tip: Okay your looking at flies for pike fishing. Do you want to learn more? You need to check out this article – Can You Catch Pike on a Fly?
Gen-X Bunny in Size 0
Any sort of bunny leech pattern is going to work well for Pike. They’re long, colorful and have some serious launch power to them. Strip this slowly along the weed line or throughout the lily pads and you’ll eventually get yourself a hit.
These flies can be found in a red and white combination or a rainbow pattern. If the fish are going after flashier patterns, choose the rainbow pattern. It’ll quickly gain the attention of the fish. It’s a newer pattern in the world of pike fishing so odds are the fish have yet to see it.
Meat Whistle in size 0/3
What good is any Pike fly list that doesn’t have the Meat Whistle? You’ll find these flies in any anglers box that targets any sort of predator fish. This imitates everything from crayfish to baitfish.
Many anglers prefer to use the black pattern due to the small bits of flash throughout the fly. This is really the only color you’ll need! Strip this fly quickly throughout ambush areas and you’ll find yourself with a fish.
If you’re fishing for Pike in the spring when they’re spawning, throw these through spawning grounds and you’ll find yourself with quite a few fish.
Pike Snake in size 0/3
The Pike Snake is a gaudy and obnoxious fly. Bright colors are sometimes exactly what Pike wants. The long tail of this fly drags well in the water and is a solid imitation of a leech. A large leech near shore is something that will entice Pike to strike.
Remember, your goal with Pike is to get them angry enough to go after your bait. Give this fly as much action as you want. Also, stay patient with it. Different retrieval processes are going to be necessary.
Barry’s Baitfish in Size 0/1
In the world of flies, Barry’s Baitfish is one of the most spot-on imitations of a baitfish that you’ll find. The eyes near the top of the fly are hard to decipher. If you’re fishing in clear water, then tie on this fly. It sticks out well and you can even sight fish with it!
It’s also a high-quality fly that doesn’t easily get ruined. Pike will beat up your baits due to their sharp teeth. You’ll find that Barry’s Baitfish can hold its own in these situations. Enjoy throwing this simple pattern. It’s a great go-to if you aren’t quite sure what’s going to hit.
SeaDucer in Size 0/4
The SeaDucer has a somewhat similar appearance to the Pike Snake, but one big difference: it floats. This fly is going to sit on the water for those wonderful mornings where the pike are striking surface baits. You may want to bring some floatant with you to make sure this fly is able to sit high on the surface all morning.
Fish this through weed lines and lily pads. You’ll eventually see one of those blow-ups you wait anxiously for. When Pike are hitting on the surface, watch out. You’re in for some of the most entertaining fishing of your life. This fly is often tied with bright orange and yellow material.
Lefty’s Deceiver in size 0/2
All predatory fish should be targeted with Lefty’s Deceiver. It’s one of those classic simple patterns that always seems to work regardless of the fish you’re hunting. It has dozens of different color combinations so it can work great as a searching pattern!
It’s a long pattern so if you find a weed line in open water, it’s a good option. You’ll be able to cover quite a bit of water with this fly. Switch up your retrieval process and see what happens.
Northwoods Ninja in Size 0/5
The Northwoods Ninja is an extremely unique fly. It has a trailing hook so check with your local waters to determine if it’s legal to fish. The pattern is quite similar to a perch. If you know perch are in your local waters, this is a great option for you.
Strip this fly three times hard and then bump it a couple times. This is a great pattern to follow as you retrieve it. Stay patient and strip it slow! This is going to get the fish to come after you. There are certain patterns that seem to anger Pike most and this is definitely one of them.
Clouser Minnow in Size 0/1
The Clouser Minnow is able to land Trout, Bass, Muskie and Pike. It’s a simple baitfish imitation that will always work. If you have no idea what to throw, the Clouser Minnow is a smart place to start. You have several different color options with the Clouser Minnow. You can also fairly easily tie your own.
If you see a school of baitfish, you can bet that a Pike is lurking somewhere nearby to complete an ambush attack. Throw this fly a few yards past the baitfish and let it fall. Pike will hit it on the fall, but if that doesn’t work, slow strips will.
Game Changer in Size 0/4
Last but not least, be sure to use the Gamechanger if you’re going after Pike. It’s a bit expensive, but you’re going to be shocked at how effective this pattern is. It is a strong representation of Panfish. The Gamechanger is actually a segmented fly. You find these types of bait in spin fishing, but rarely in fly fishing.
An Easy Pike Fly to Tie
Check out this video on how to tie this fly!
Setting Up a Pike Fly Rod Correctly
Rod setup is equally as important as choosing the correct fly for your pike excursion! Pay close attention to the details of your setup to ensure it’s going to perform well.
If you’re going after pike, you’re going to need to use an 8 or 9-weight rod. These fish are known for their serious runs and occasional acrobatics. An 8 or 9-weight is strong enough to make longer casts and handle those exhausting runs. It’s equivalent to landing a steelhead or a salmon.
You also want to make sure your rod is 9 or 10 feet long as well. This will provide you with more leverage on your fights, more length on your casts, but the main benefit is the reach you’ll get with the extra couple of feet. You can get your fly to those necessary areas in finding the pike!
Beware that a longer rod can mean a bit less accurate of a cast, but the more you practice and hone your skill, the better you’ll be! Also, be aware of the longer recovery of the rod. This can provide a bit of a challenge when casting heavier flies, but this doesn’t have to be overly concerning if you’re willing to put in the effort to gain familiarity with your rod.
GUIDE TIP: You’re going to land the majority of your Pike in the middle of the day. Make sure you have plenty of comfortable gear to protect you from the sun.
For your line, you’ll want a floating line with a shooting head. A shooting head line will allow for longer casts that you may need to reach your fish. Scientific Anglers Frequency Magnum is a nice line for pike. It’s smooth, the right weight and launches your fly longer than you would ever need.
Since you’re going to be throwing larger streamers, you’ll want a 0 or 1x leader. Yes, you’ll be using tippet, but a strong leader will be able to handle the weight and fight that the pike provides. If you use anything less, you run the risk of one head shake that will break the line and ruin a potentially exhilarating fight.
Yes, tippet is important when you’re throwing dry flies to spooky trout, but it’s vital if you’re going to target pike. When purchasing your tippet, make sure it’s bite guard or bite proof. These tippets are extremely strong and prevent fish with teeth from getting through your line.
If you’ve ever mishandled a pike then you know how sharp their teeth can be. They’ll slice through any line or tippet if given the opportunity. Do yourself a favor and invest in bite guard tippet and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of landing them.
GUIDE TIP: When targeting pike, you’re going to be stripping in quite a bit of line. Invest in a finger guard so you leave the water with as few sore things as possible.
Pike Fishing Questions and Answers
Pike aren’t a common fish to target for fly anglers. As a result, there are quite a few questions that people have on how to best go after these fish.
What Reel do I need to Chase Pike with a Fly Rod?
Your reel plays an important role when targeting pike. Make sure that it has a strong drag that’s able to handle some serious runs. An affordable option is the Redington Behemoth. It’s strong, durable and has a phenomenal drag. An 8-weight option for this reel is plenty large for you.
Where to Fly Fish for Northern Pike?
An easy answer to this question is fish water that consistently freezes over. Pike need extremely cold water and a regular pattern of spring spawning. Therefore, states like New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Colorado all have healthy pike populations. Bodies of water with plenty of Panfish and annual freezes will hold a nice amount of these fish.
What is a Trace?
Many anglers will also tie a trace on their line when pike fishing. Essentially, this is a 15-25 inch wire that pike are not able to break. If you’ve lost a fair amount of pike because it is too weak of leader or tippet, then a trace would be a good option. You don’t want to ever lose a chance at landing a monster.
GUIDE TIP: Pliers are a must when removing the hooks from the mouths of Pike. Sticking your hand anywhere near their mouths is almost a guaranteed cut.
Last Cast for Pike
Pike are too often dismissed as snake fish and unwanted. They shouldn’t be perceived this way. They strike hard, fight hard and test an angler’s ability at every level. Targeting these on a fly rod is something that every passionate angler should try. Do yourself a favor and go after them. As soon as you land your first, you’ll realize what makes them so special.
*** I’ve got to give photo credit to the great folks at UMPQUA Feather Merchants – Check out more flies with this Link
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels