Fly Fishing for Pike 101
When talking about the holy grail of pike fishing, there are few freshwater experiences more electrifying than catching a pike on the fly. For many anglers, targeting northern pike on the fly can offer some of the most aggressive takes that you will find anywhere in the world; a defining factor that makes them an incredible species to target. Imagine yourself standing in your boat sight fishing the grass edges in the shallows for a merciless predator. You throw out a fly that’s as long as your forearm. Then, watching your retrieve, the calm water surface suddenly erupts in a violent explosion as the visual take of a pike destroys your fly with tremendous speed and power.
For northern pike fishing fanatics, it’s all about getting that surprise, aggressive take and getting a really fun fight right from the start. This big draw has lead the folks out at Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures in the Alaskan Yukon drainage to focus their entire program on landing these violent, and sometimes massive freshwater predators.
Fishing more than 350 river miles of the remote Yukon Drainage, Midnight Sun is the only operator throughout the entire fishery. These professional guides provide a level of experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm that will ensure the trip of a lifetime for those anglers interested in hooking some of the largest northern pike in the world.
This two-hundred-mile-long Yukon tributary provides the perfect environment for growing large Alaskan pike: cool, slow-moving water, an unlimited food source, and time to grow old. Yukon Northerns can range anywhere from 10 pounds to 25 pounds and even the occasional 40-pound monster! Northern pike is, in general comparisons, the freshwater version of a barracuda. Native to Alaska and also found in good numbers throughout Canada and much of the United States, these toothy carnivorous fish have an insatiable appetite. Laying and waiting for an opportunity to strike much like a barracuda – they even have teeth to match!
Pike are a lethal fish because the prey on just about everything ranging from other fish, birds, rodents, and amphibians. Named for their resemblance to the ancient pole-weapon known as the pike, this ambush predator’s attack mimics their namesake. They will lie and wait, holding perfectly still for long periods until their prey comes near. Being the fastest accelerating freshwater fish, when they do go for the fly, it happens incredibly quick exhibiting remarkable acceleration as they strike. For them, the hunt is always on.
Where to Find Pike in the Water
So how does an angler go about catching one on the fly?
First, you need to understand where they will be lingering in the water.
Pike are found primarily in sluggish streams and shallow, weed beds and aquatic grasses in lagoons and lakes. You will also find them in areas near big drops. As a territorial, predatory fish, they will often cruise these areas on the hunt. Often you’ll be able to see them from your casting platform on the boat. They will be in plain view being completely still. For the most part, the location, the conditions, and type of water are really going to be your best factors for getting a pike to eat your fly.
Generally speaking, pike like being in the sunshine. They can be found in shallow water and being a cold-blooded animal, they use heat to get themselves active and into feeding mode. Sight fishing can be very effective on days where water is clear, however, it’s not uncommon to blind cast on an overcast and rainy days. If it’s an especially cold day, pike may be slightly more sluggish and less inclined to feed.
Choosing the Right Flies for Pike
Typical flies used to target pike can be anywhere from 6-18 inches in length. They can vary from topwater flies like mouse, frog or popper patterns to using variations of streamer flies made from deer hair, rabbit fur and lots of feathers wrapped around big hooks. Usually, the flies used are big and flashy to entice a strike. At times the uglier and the bigger the fly is, the better!
Topwater patterns are very effective because they churn up water and make noise. When you cast using a topwater pattern like a mouse, frog or popper and start stripping, pike aggression will kick in and they will suddenly b-line straight for it.
Sometimes you’ll even see the fast-moving wakes from 2, 3 or even 5 pike chasing your fly all at once.
Equipment For Pike Fishing on the Fly
Like all successful destination fly fishing trips, the right preparation and equipment will be crucial.
Anglers need to be able to cast big rods and flies consistently over a long period of time. A good pike set up at Midnight Sun is a 10wt rod with a floating or intermediate line using straight 65lb wire leader. You won’t find these professional guides using mono or butt sections in their setups. Neglecting to use wire leaders, your gear will immediately be shredded from these fish, while heeding the advice of using a wire leader will enable you to really play them hard and land them quickly.
Mixing up your approach tends to work well. By reading what the fish are doing, you can see how they are reacting. If you don’t get a reaction the first time, put it back in there! You can throw your fly out again interchange between slow and fast stripping techniques which will often entice a strike. In trophy pike fishing areas like Midnight Sun, fish won’t be very spooky. It’s not uncommon to have fish eat right at the boat.
Practicing your casting beforehand is really beneficial to increasing your trip success. Being able to huck a big rod with a big fly over an extended period of time is important. Most shots an angler can expect to make will be within 20-30 feet from your boat.
Fly Fishing for Trophy Pike in Alaska
Alaska in the summer requires being prepared for the elements. Having quality waders and rain gear are two important articles of clothing you do not want to skimp on. Wearing your waders during the day and long sleeves in addition to bringing bug spray is a good idea. Due to Alaska’s location and seasonality, you can have a rainstorm any day of the summer. Not being prepared for those conditions can make for a rough trip. You’ll be happy you made the investment.
When you think about Alaska, most people immediately think of trout and salmon which are what put Alaska fishing on the map. However, pike fishing, in Alaska is still relatively untapped and often overlooked. Midnight Sun essentially founded this fishery in the remote Yukon drainage, and have optimized the pike opportunities over the last 15 years.
It’s a very fishing focused place and they fish incredibly hard. Oftentimes they will be up at first light and go strong all day and sometimes into the night. In the summer months of Alaska and the Yukon drainage, it doesn’t really get dark so you can literally fish most hours of the day. Keeping your energy up is important and one thing is for certain, you will be well fed on hearty meals consisting of big breakfasts, big lunches, and huge dinners. It’s not the kind of place where you’ll be eating crab legs and filet mignon but instead eating massive pork chops and half a chicken, biscuits and gravy. Viking food essentially.
Midnight Sun focuses specifically on targeting northern pike that range high in numbers, consistent fishing and often times getting into trophy size pike. They operate from June through the first weeks of September.
Midnight Sun has access to hundreds of miles of prime pike fishing and is literally the only established outfitter in the area. It’s the perfect place for any angler that enjoys catching big fish with teeth and wants to throw big rods and streamers while getting visual eats. The program only takes six anglers per week so it’s quite an intimate setting.
Accommodations are aboard a 67-foot, custom-built houseboat with three private staterooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen, dining and lounge areas, and several outdoor decks.
For big mean fish, this is the place to go. We still have some great weeks available for the 2017 and 2018 pike seasons with Midnight Sun.