Northern pike take no prisoners
Cast five poppers into shallow water during early spring and—unless you have a wire leader—you’d be lucky to get one of those back to the boat. That’s pike fishing in the North Country during June, when the days are longest and mature northerns invade the shallow, weedy bays to lay eggs and kill anything in sight.
If you arrive just after ice-off, as that water warms you might spot northerns ranging between “hammer-handle” size and 50-some inches long. They may be resting over sand flats, soaking in the sun, or tucked in among the reeds guarding those eggs. In either case, they aren’t out to make friends, so any well-placed pike pattern should at least get their attention if not elicit an all-out attack.
Later in the year as summer begins, pike move to progressively deeper water and don’t charge as freely to surface flies. But during spring you can cast Bangers, Pole Dancers, and Gurglers to watch massive V-wakes track your offering. This is visual fishing—for pike that range between 5 and 40 pounds. At its finest, this is certainly one of the most engrossing situations in fly fishing.
Northern pike are scattered across the northern hemisphere, stretching from Alaska all the way across Europe, but no place offers so many compelling options as Canada. From Ontario west to the Yukon, countless lakes and rivers offer great pike fishing in pristine landscapes where moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears rule the landscape.
Many waters are accessible by road, but the quintessential fly-fishing experience shuttles anglers from their urban lives to extremely remote lodges only accessible by floatplanes or wheeled props.
Out there, it’s just you, the water, the wildlife and the longest days of the year. Cast from dawn till you drop—daylight isn’t your enemy; fatigue and a sore casting arm could be.
You’ll fish out of lodges with like-minded anglers, all there to catch the biggest “water wolves” of their lives. You’ll dine early in the morning, fish all day, and tell stories during and after supper. Then you’ll sleep, wake and do it all again. After a week spent fishing northern pike you’ll head home missing most of your flies, but you’ll have lifetime memories and repetitive dreams of those V-wakes hunting your fly.