Trouts Journal

The Pursuit Of Pike: A Journal

Tad Ingles / Apr 20, 2022

On April 9th, 2022, I caught a 21” Northern Pike. Big whoop you say? Let me tell you why this was a big deal. Maybe you can vicariously catch a little bit of my excitement. I set out to catch my first pike. I do a little warmwater fly fishing, but I mostly catch bass and crappie. This summer I am dedicating myself to upping my species count and getting better at fly fishing. I want to test myself by chasing and targeting specific fish. I want to see if I can do it. This is a story about an average fish making a big impact.

The following is an excerpt from my documentation of the pursuit:

March 14th, 2022

Finally, the first consecutive days above 60 since December. This summer I am going to chase warm water species. Camping and fishing as much as possible along the way. There are lots of species I have yet to catch on the fly. This year is the year I up my count.

March 15, 2022

What about Pike? Sounds like fun, maybe even difficult. To up the challenge I want to do it on the Front Range. I begin to dig into possible spots by checking for reservoirs on google maps and look at stocking reports and survey reports for these locations. Brandon, my co-worker, turns me on to a State Wildlife Area that has a limited population of decent-sized individuals. The data is dated. This is a good location for first attempts, but I will need other locations.

I read about the species. Important information: Pike are ambush predators. Spring is the spawning season when fish move out of the depths and into the shallows where fishing for them with flies is more possible. This is my chance.

They become more active, packing on calories for the spawn, and more territorial as the water temperature gets into the mid-50s in spring. We are a ways away from that. Pike are toothy fish with sharp gill plates and can be dangerous when handled improperly. They can also chew through leaders.

I must research proper handling and get gear to deal with the mouth properly. Pike have very sensitive lateral lines. This is important for fly selection. Action and moving a lot of water are just as important as proper color choice to stimulate reactions.

March 16th, 2022

Gear checklist: I have a 7wt rod and intermediate sink tip line. I have some flies that will work, but I will need to get something more specific to the forage in the area we are fishing. I will need long forceps and some type of abrasion-resistant leader.

Technique checklist: I can cast, but not at sufficient distance to get out and down to current holding positions. I have to improve my cast. Ambush predators lie in wait for unsuspecting meals. Look for holding-structure with an area to effectively back cast. Forage for our target water is largely stocked rainbows. I will find flies to mimic this species.

March 17th, 2022

I bounce some ideas off Brandon to see what his thoughts are. I also check in with more experienced anglers to get some tips on casting and presentation.

This weekend will be a good opportunity to get dialed in. We cannot guarantee or even expect success this weekend. Conditions are not very favorable currently. I want to be ready when they are.

March 18th, 2022

My 14” forceps arrive in the mail. I got a pair, so I have a set for Brandon. Now we are ready.

March 19th, 2022

Meet Brandon at the site around 11 AM. It’s best to give the water a chance to warm as much as possible. We get to the pond with the most reports of individuals. There are also catfish, bass, and trout, good second place trophies. The water temp is 45 near the surface and much cooler below.

Most fish are likely lethargic and holding low. We cast along several structures. No success. I may have had one strike, but there’s no way to tell if it was worth talking about.

We move. The second pond we hit had better results. It had recently been stocked, so I quickly catch my fill of trout. Not the pike we are after, but catching is still fun.

I snapped my rod. A 6WT Winston too. All for a stocker. (split shot damage). Brandon caught a smallmouth in prime holding water near a culvert. At least we have something to show for our gas.

The good news is that my cast is getting better.

March 23, 2022

After discussing the outing with Rick, he confirms what I believed to already be true. It is very early yet. We talk about technique and the area we were targeting. He has fished there chasing pike a few times. The rumor mill says there are big pike there, but the concentration is low.

Coworkers have put in a lot of time there without moving a single pike. There may only be two big pike in the whole pond. Time to change. It is better to target an area with a higher concentration.

We refocus and look at other options on the front range with better populations.

March 28th, 2022

Brandon and I pick an area based on Rick’s recommendations. There is a lot of structure providing ambush opportunities. The weather is looking prime. Several warm sunny days to heat the water with a cool cloudy day on Sunday. This weekend could produce positive results!

April 3rd, 2022

Meet Brandon around 10 AM. There are some locals with conventional gear and a couple of other fly anglers. The locals confirm that there is a decent concentration of pike, and their intel suggests some big ones. We fished hard. We saw some fins. I get one to follow, but I think it is a crappie.

FINALLY. I have a take about 6’ down. I don’t set the hook in time. The thrill and the agony.

We both get skunked. Moreover, only one fish is caught the entire time we are there. Slow day. A local caught a largemouth out of a pond near the one we were fishing. She mentions that it had been slow today, but I become more interested when she tells the story of her recent encounter with a thirty-inch pike in a pond within the same system. I am hopeful now.

April 6th, 2022

I speak with Rick again about the day. It sounds like we have the right approach. It is early, and the water temps are not conducive. With cooler water temps, the fish are slower to react. Maybe I should tease the fly a little more to create more interest. Longer pauses between strips will let the fly get down to the deeper holding water as well. I feel that I am prepared for the proper timing.

April 9th, 2022

I have a day to fish wherever I want, so I head back to the last area I was focusing on. There are lots of other people fishing, but I am the only one with a fly rod. Everyone else is rigged with bobbers and bait. No one is actively fishing.

11 AM
– The first group I encounter says that the day has been slow. Clouds are rolling in.

12 PM
– I fish near a father and son. They are getting some action about 60’ out. They finally pull in a small northern. This is the first time I can say for sure that the pike are active here.

12:30 PM
– I slow my retrieve down. A couple short strips followed by a 2-second pause. I am focusing my casts from a rocky bank with downed trees and a lot of subsurface vegetation.

SET. Finally, I get a confirmed take. I cock the rod to 3 o’clock and pull the tip back as I firmly strip the line. Everything goes tight, and I am sure that I have effectively snagged my fly. A second later the violent charges confirm the opposite. The thrashing and shakes continue with my fly about 4’ down. No signs of stopping.

The fish runs directly at me, so I gain about 10’. My mind races while I reel in the slack to start engaging the reel and drag about how I may have the fish I have been chasing a few yards away from me invisible in the gloom of the pond. It could also be a big crappie, bass, or other second-place trophy again. That would almost feel like a disappointment after I have built this moment up for weeks now.

The thrashing ceases. The fish quickly settles down and starts to slowly drag away from me. I can feel how powerful this animal is. It is steadily tugging line out. I lower my rod tip to the side and pressure it to angle back towards the bank. We dance for a minute or two. Who knows, it could have been just a few seconds, but I pressure the fish back and forth angling towards the bank until I get it close enough to grab my net. It is 3 yards out, but it is still 3 plus feet down. I can’t quite see it. I reach for my net and remind myself not to mess this up. Focus. Keep tension. The fish is on the reel. Let it run a little if it wants to.

My new friend slows down, and I can get it in close enough to see it. YES. It is a Northern! It’s a good size fish! I remember how big it looks. I can’t ruin it now.

Suddenly I start to realize that I am going to have to deal with, “the teeth,” which I learned about in the weeks prior. Should I be scared? No time. I net the first pike I have ever caught on the fly. The first pike I have ever intentionally caught. I am respectful of the animals we share our pastime with. I don’t want to keep the fish any longer than I need to. Just a quick photo, remove the fly, measure, and release.

Damnit. I forgot to grab my phone out of the truck! There is no way I can safely secure this fish while I go get it. It’s fine.

The fly WAS eaten. It is a fair hook. All of the fly is hanging out of the fish’s mouth except for the hook. Once the fish settles, I grab the fly and it pops quickly out. I don’t have to open the mouth very wide, let alone reach inside. I take just a moment with my catch to appreciate it and measure it. I examine it a bit, so I have a better idea of how to effectively handle it. Soon, my first pike slips back into the murk and disappears.

In a rush it all hits me. I did it. I achieved the first step of my goal. Catch a pike and increase my species list with a fly rod. I think about the size. I will have to see how the measurement stacks up. I make a mark that I can officially measure with a tape when I get home. I struggle to remember how big I think it was, but I am very excited. The tape will tell the truth. For now, I want to think of it as a big fish.

After letting it soak in, I decide that it is time to do it again. I resume casting to various structures with the same stripping pattern. I have one fish spit the fly, follow, and get hooked again only to spit the fly again. Hook sets. Hook Sets. Hook Sets. I land a few more fish, all black crappie of decent size, and a few of the folks around me continued catching as well. Temps must be right. I’ll be back.

I want to become a better angler. The only way to do that is to get out and practice. There is nothing wrong with catching stocked trout in an area with 500 other anglers. I have fun doing that, and there are lots of people way better at that than me. I measure my personal success in the number of techniques and species that I have pursued with tangible results.

This pursuit for pike taught me some new techniques, I caught a new species, and I got into another species’ head. I tricked one for goodness sake! I have improved as an angler and the measurement markings are tangible proof. I hope to constantly develop and improve my skills while having fun. Fishing for pike has been and will be, fun. True even when I am getting skunked or learning lessons the hard way.

I am thinking about my next personal test, but I wanted to share this success with you all. Come share your successes with us. We know how good it feels to reach a fishing goal or have a good day on the water. Perhaps my friends can help set you up for success in your next pursuit. To wrap up, I want to summarize what this journey has taught me in glowing neon lights.

1. Research

2. Grind

3. Get a little help from your friends

4. Take the shot

5. Set the damn hook

6. Remember your camera

The Best Books For Pike



Shopping Cart


Free shipping over $50.00

Shipping & taxes calculated at checkout

Checkout View / Edit Cart


Sold Out