Article Written by Christian Drost. Learn More About the Author Below / Article Read Time 7 Minutes
As we get further into the winter season, I can't help but reflect on warmer months when the weather felt like a tropical paradise in the Netherlands and the Pike fishing was fantastic. This past summer featured abnormally high temperatures due to some major heatwaves in our area. It’s strange how in the winter we yearn for the heat and in summer we despise it, but every season has its charm, and so does the summer time. Often a great time of year to target Northern Pike on the Fly, and that is exactly what this article is all about!
This is an insight for anyone who wants to try their hand at catching a Pike on the fly next season. In my opinion, fishing for Pike is one of the greatest things to do in the summer. The water temps can be high, often in the high 60’s to 70's, and we have to keep in mind to hold off on fishing in extreme water temperatures. In warmer water, the Pike's are most active, and for a good reason. Its a feeding frenzy below the surface, as baitfish scatter all around and are often an easy meal for any lurking predator nearby. It's the circle of life that's taking place underneath the water, and a true feast is going on. After spawning in the spring, Pike have to feed in order to get their belly's full and build fat reserves for the coming winter season. The Summer is actually a great time to build those reserves due to the abundance of food. The metabolism of the Pike is high, and they burn a lot of calories swimming around so whatever the conditions are, they need to feed and what better way to feed them than with a fly, right?
Fly-Fishing for Pike in Summer can be absolutely amazing and one of the best adventures you'll ever have if you know where to find them and how to target them!
I mostly target Pike from my float tube, on all types of bodies of water, and try to plan trips around prime feeding times. Summer days are long but it doesn't add any value to spend too long on the water. Of course when you are fishing from a boat, this is different because then you can target multiple spots, and increase the chances of hooking up. When I want to specifically target feeding patterns, short sessions of 3 to 4 hours are best to keep chances high and focus on key locations where they are likely feeding.
My float tube is PVC which enables me to go just about anywhere from shore without having to worry about the terrain. Whatever the shoreline is, be it sand, rocks, weeds or even a dam I can get access to the water I want to fish. When going onto the water I like to take as minimal gear with me as possible. The float tube setup consists of a Raymarine Element 7 sonar with a Navionics map of the water, my battery, a camera on a scotty mount, and some flies. I like to travel light for only a few hours on the water. The Side scan on my Element allows me to easily scout the edges for any big fish and once found, I can circle my way around. It isn’t a necessity, but having side scan dramatically increases your chances of hooking a big fish. A good sonar will help you quickly to identify underwater structures and likely fish holding areas.
Fishing from a float tube gives me a huge advantage over any boat as I can stay on specific spots much easier than I can from spot lock on a trolling motor. Boats will always be affected by the wind whereas the float tube has a lower position in the water with your legs also helping to follow along a certain edge or drop off.
Equipment for Targeting Pike
After selecting a body of water I want to target with my float tube, I like to select my gear based off of the characteristics of that water. These days, I'm a big fan of the Cortland Speciality Series fly-lines, and especially the Pike/Musky Sink 4. This is one of my top choices during the summer months simply because this line fills in the gap between an intermediate and a fast sinking line. It has the absolute perfect sinking rate to fish around the 6 to 15 ft. range, which is exactly where Big Northern Pike's roam in Summer. Also, this line has a thinner core compared to an intermediate which makes it cut through weeds like butter on a hookset, and just behaves really nicely in the water. Its truly the best of both worlds, and this line is a line that every Pike or Musky fly-angler should have in their bag.
For leaders I use Cortland's Fluorocarbon leader material with a stainless steel bite guard on the end, and with a breaking strength of 40lb. No more, no less. This fluorocarbon leader truly enhances your cast and makes it easier to throw large flies. The main reason why I choose this leader is that the fluorocarbon is as tough as nails, and very abrasion resistant. This makes it a perfect all around leader even in the colder months when we are fishing close to the bottom where mussels are present and can easily cut through your line. Additionally, this leader system gives security during the summer when you hook into a big fish on a weed edge and the fish decides to dive for cover. Cortland's Fluorocarbon leader also has a great knot strength which is essential when targeting large Pike.
Regarding rods, and reels I've quite recently made the switch from a WF12 to an WF11 rod for a few reasons. The love for heavier-weight fly rods has not died, however, most blanks on a 12-weight are usually too stiff. When fly-fishing for pike, especially when a fish grabs the fly in a lazy feeding mode, the hardness or stiffness of a 12-weight blank will make you unable to properly set the hook. A rod-like an eleven-weight with a softer tip enables you to set the hook much better. The reason for this is that due to the stiffness of a rod and because of the fact we are not on a conventional setup where setting the hook on a straight line is often easier with a harder rod, there is always some kind of slack in a fly line. With a somewhat lighter rod, the fish will hook itself, and therefore I have chosen to size down. 12 weight rods can be used, however not in my personal preference anymore when they are fast action. Medium Fast action is a different story, but for the overall effectiveness on the water, I could strongly advise an eleven-weight like the rod I currently use, the Taylor Flyfishing Truth Z WF11. It has all the backbone you'll need for big fish, just a little bit more forgiving on the hookset. Whatever rod you'll fish in the summer time, make sure it is paired with a Cortland fly line because you won't find anything else in this industry that casts like a dream and delivers big flies so consistently.
Factors To be Considered When Targeting Pike
With regard to fishing times, morning or evening are best depending on the body of water and these type of sessions are all planned around the weather. Conditions outside such as wind speed, water temperature, and above all, the moon phases are all taken into account.
When a cold front approaches, you don’t want to be fishing on the edge where the wind blows the hardest, instead focus on areas out of the wind where the calmer water isn’t turned over by the waves. In summertime, when the full moon rises, and you happen to find yourself on a shallow body of water with deeper edges, always focus on the transition zones. Minor changes in water temperature from a front passing by, even in the Summer can already make a real difference, especially when you are fishing shallower areas. When a cold front passes by on a big water system, the Pike can be totally turned off, while in smaller waters the action continues. Each body of water has a different approach, and over the years as an angler I’ve developed a skillset through experience which has given me success on all types of water. If you are new to fly-fishing for Pike in the Summer months, I would recommend to fish as many different waters as you can to develop this same skillset. It can take many hours of failure but the toil is often rewarded with the fish of a lifetime. Once you recognize a feeding pattern on a certain body of water you will be on your way to continued success.
About the author
Hailing from The Netherlands and surrounded by water is Christian Drost, owner of EsoxOnly and always looking for new adventures and the next bite. Predator Fly-Fishing is high on his list, and the love for catching Big Esox on a fly for him is just something else. It's the whole spectrum of the game itself he says, as catching large Pike on the Fly is more than just catching fish. It is the experience, the constant hunt to find big fish and one of the best feelings in the world to hook a Giant Northern Pike on a fly rod. It is the initial hookset and contact with a fish that's unlike anything in this world, and nothing gets him closer to nature than targeting predators on the fly. Check out EsoxOnly.com and follow Christian on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with his pike adventures as well as all the tips, tricks and news about targeting Esox with a fly or conventional gear.
Products Mentioned in this ArticlePike Musky Sink 4
Pike Musky Sink 8
Fluorocarbon Leader Material