Pike live in a green chiaroscuro. Their own green coloration adds to the effect while hiding them perfectly. Pike, therefore, are accustomed to seeing things swim too close. Dangerously close.
Pike live and grow large by this philosophy: The less energy spent, the better. When things casually feed dangerously close to pike, the better they like it. Dead baits work best in spring, before the water hits 50°F. The next best thing, late spring until ice-up, is a fly. Suspending suckers under a bobber are the next best thing, yet pale in comparison. Suckers know when pike are dangerously close, and they react accordingly.
1. Jensen’s Magnum Bunny-Strip Leech
Nothing takes pike like a simple black bunny strip. Nothing. Even pike recently caught with a lure will turn on it. Strip it to gain their attention and stop it dead. On a floating line, a bunny strip behaves almost like a suspending bait, undulating with a million little “nyah nyahs” right in their face. Bunnies prod toothy things into lethal hysterics. Pike rarely (if ever) refuse this simple, single-material fly.
Flies can suspend. Breathe. Twitch in place. Undulate slowly. All while dangerously close. Right in the wheelhouse of Ol’ Snaggle Tooth.
Flies with new synthetic materials can be monstrously large yet light as a feather. Some dive and pop back up—perfect for floating lines and dense weedlines. Some hang there, mid column, on the pause. Deadly all year ’round. Some dart back-and-forth on a quick strip, and can be fished on anything from a floating line to a full sinking line, depending on where pike reside in the water column.
The best flies for pike encompass a range of lengths and bulk, from sparse 3-inch bucktails to dense 9-inch composites of hair and synthetics. Smaller flies work best in spring, larger flies late in the season, and anything goes during summer. Depends on weather, fishing pressure, and the skill of the angler. Some flies are best fished “do-nothin’ style.” Some require constant manipulation. Some sink, and act like jigs. Some float, and act like jerkbaits or topwaters.
I’ve fly fished for pike from the Yukon to Labrador, around the Great Lakes, and on many lakes of every imaginable size and composition throughout the vast region described. From my perspective, any list of the “Best 13″ pike flies on earth has to include something from each category described above, because no single fly consistently fools pike in every imaginable situation. However, even within this exclusive list, some flies are more universal than others.
Pike flies can be effective with anything from a size #4 up to a #6/0 hook, depending on the size of the fly and diameter and stiffness of the collar. A stiff, deer-hair collar demands a larger hook. Most of the Top 13 are tied on size #1 to #3/0 saltwater hooks like the classic Mustad 7766D, the sturdy Owner Aki, or the lovely-but-deadly Gamakatsu SC15.
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