Pike are in my opinion Arizona’s most challenging fish on the fly. I’m sure many will disagree with this. Arguments include big brown trout that lay low in deep pools or native trout in isolated headwater creeks. These arguments all have merit, however half the battle is just getting to these fish. In support of my argument all you have to do is look online. Every summer weekend you see people’s hero shots of big brown trout and small native fish covering instagram feeds and facebook groups. I know people will argue pike being hard to catch by calling them voracious predators that eat anything that moves. They will say that they think only with their stomach and razor sharp teeth. While they are almost all mouth, whatever brain that lives up behind it certainly prevents them from eating flies.
First off it’s a whole new mindset, big, heavy, flashy flies fished in murky water. A far cry from targeting trout in a clear stream with delicate casts. Or picking a sunken log to drift a streamer past to entice a bass. No this is casting into a murky lake. Where you can only see a foot or two into the water. The easiest way to figure out if it is deep or shallow is to get you fly tangled up on a weed or snagged in a rock.
Maybe it’s more of the lake that challenges me than the pike? But the pike certainly don’t offer themselves up on a platter either. The challenge of figuring these fish out combined with how fun their flies are to tie got me into them. Catching one has kept me coming back. As soon as you have one in the line you’ll question fishing for trout in lakes ever again.
Cast, cast, cast.. rarely do I have days where I or anyone with me hooks anything in the first flurry of casts. Sometimes it takes a few hours. Sometimes not at all. I’ll try anything during these times, changing the retrieve rate, changing flies, switching to poppers, heavy flies, light flies, dark flies, flashy flies… Usually it’s right when I’m thinking of moving spots that the first take comes.
Getting a pike to eat is one thing, hooking it another entirely. They have hard bony mouths and their sharp teeth shred even stout tippet or braided lines. These fish charge into the weed beds or try to hide in the rocks and submerged stumps. Keeping their head up and the fight in areas with less obstacles is key.
The traditional pike flies I have seen online almost all seem to be in the hook size 4 or greater. I have made many of these, articulated flies and just plain huge on 1/0 hooks. They are awesome to tie, they are fun to fish, they really suck to lose and they don’t seem to attract the fish that similarly colored flies in smaller sizes seem to work far better here. In fact I haven’t caught any fish on those monster flies, nor have I fished with anyone who’s had any luck using them. This must not be the case everywhere but at our local lake it sure seems to be.
There are few things as satisfying as trying at something for a long time and seeing it come to fruition. After many trips, many more casts and a lot of frustration I’m beginning to figure things out. But that’s a dangerous assumption to make so I’m sure that the pike will prove me wrong and it will be back to the drawing board.