Monday, October 9th 2006 was a day to remember, but it didn’t just happen, it took hours of lake research, knowledge of the habits and behaviors of Northern Pike and the patience to stick with it, even with a stiff wind in my face. In order to catch large Northern Pike, you first need to find a lake that has the kind of forage base, water quality and spawning habitat in order to grow and sustain large Northern Pike, because let’s face it, if the body of water your fishing doesn’t have large Northern Pike in it, chances are pretty good you won’t catch any large Northern Pike.
A little research on the DNR’s web site can get you pointed in the right direction on which lake to chase these big girls. Next you need to know the habits of Northern Pike, “When will the largest Northern Pike in any body of water be shallow enough to get a fly in front of them?” The answer to that is,” When the water temp is below 60 degrees”, in other words, spring and fall.
With all the research behind me, it was time to hit the water armed with my trusty 9 weight! I arrived at the lake early, not because that’s when the fish would be most active, but because I like that time of day to be on the water, as I would find out, the fish wouldn’t be ready to tangle until late morning/early afternoon. As I left the landing, I looked at my depth finder, the water temp was right at 55 degrees, PERFECT temp for those big girls to be in shallow water feeding, I was PUMPED UP!
I started out using a floating line with a 6 inches streamer fly called a “Lefty’s Deceiver”, it’s a great fly for covering lots of shallow water, say 1-3 feet. The small fish were active from the start, but I wasn’t there to catch small fish, I was there for the big girls I knew were there because of the research I’d done earlier. As the water warmed and the morning moved along, I caught more and more Pike, but still no fish over 28 inches. I decided to switch my floating line for a full sinking line and fish a little deeper. I also switched my fly, to the greatest Northern Pike fly ever (in my opinion) called a “Dahlberg Mega-Diver”.
The reason this fly is so effective, is because it floats so you can fish it on top with a floating line in shallow water and over the tops of weed beds. You can also pull it under the surface a few inches and swim it like a wounded bait fish, this technique is called “waking” the fly. Another effective way to fish a Dahlberg Mega-Diver, is like a suspending jerk bait on a sink tip or a full sinking line at the edge of, or at the base of the weed line, the fly just hangs there, suspended at the desired depth saying, “Come and get me, I’m a helpless, wounded little morsel ripe for the pickin”.
I started fishing around the pockets in the weeds and I noticed the fish where getting larger. All the things I’ve read about large Northern Pike with the water temp being in the low to mid 50s, is that the fish will be in water less then 10 feet feeding and it was my job to find out the exact depth so I could put my fly right in front of their greedy noses! I worked my way around the huge weed bed in a rather large bay and although the fish were getting larger, I was still not satisfied that I was on the largest fish in the lake.
When I was confident that I had covered the shallow water, the inside weed line and all the pockets, I moved out to the deep weed line and it was like someone threw on a light switch!! Big fish, after big fish, destroyed, fly after fly with their razor sharp teeth and nasty attitude as they attacked my fly without mercy! About 30-35 fish later, and around 2 O’clock, a real big girl ripped into my fly and headed for deep water. She was pulling so hard, I thought my 9 weight was going to explode into a thousand pieces! After a brief battle, I slide the 36 incher into my net. My goal that Fall was to catch a Northern Pike 35 inches or larger, I was a happy camper. In fact, when I’m driving down the road and I think about that day and the fish that didn’t get away, I get a big smile on my face.
Next year I’ve set the bar a little higher for myself, I want to catch a 40 inch Northern Pike and a Muskie on a fly rod. Fly fishing for big fish like Northern Pike is not hard, you just have to do your research and get in a little practice casting large flies. But when you hook into a Northern Pike of any size, you’ll truly be hooked, I know I am!
By Rich Sorgaard