When To Fish For Pike

My Pike Fishing Tips: What Makes The Toothy Monsters Tick?

I have been a fisherman nearly all of my life, and a pike fisherman for most of it, but the older I get, the less I feel I understand pike and the way they behave.

Other than fishing for exotic species in foreign countries, fly fishing for pike in my local river is without a doubt my favourite pastime. My lengthy experience in this regard has led me to the following conclusions:

Best and Worst Times to Fish For Pike

In the summer it is virtually hopeless – it’s just too weedy, and small baitfish are evident everywhere. One or two (usually modest) pike can be taken using poppers or surface flies, but on the whole it is only after two or three hard frosts, and a good flood, that things start to look promising. When things settle down, the water drops and starts to clear, that is the time when you can anticipate some spectacular results… but not always. As I have described before in this website under “An Incredible Experience”, Bob Church and I once landed no fewer than ninety pike (and a big perch) in a single January day. Against this, my good friend Tim Sumner and I fished for a full day in, what to me, looked like perfect conditions, Tim with jerk-baits and me on the fly, and never caught a single fish – mild, overcast, clear water, and hardly an offer! Only the pike know why…

Just look at what happened in three consecutive days last week, the conditions looking hopeful throughout:

Day 1

An afternoon start with the fly, fishing two different shallow stretches, commenced with a nine-pound fish on the very first cast. This was followed by a second one, slightly smaller, a couple of casts later. A good start, and indeed the action continued with pike coming eagerly to the same baitfish-pattern fly. It was great fun, and I finished with fourteen fish, that first one being the biggest. The water wasn’t quite as clear as I would have liked it, but plainly they could see it, and seemed keen to take.

Fly caught pike river nene

After this success I phoned Dave Miles (whom I’ve known since school days) and told him of my afternoon. Dave had wanted to try fly fishing for pike, and I told him that, with no rain forecast, I was expecting the next day to be great. He was free and readily agreed to join me, so to be sure, I decided to take him to my favourite stretch of the river, which has over the years produced four different twenty pounders, and plenty of other good fish.

Day 2

A quick peek at the water showed it to be much the same as the previous day, and I was confident of a good catch. After a hundred yards of diligent fishing, however, with just a couple of half-hearted pulls to show for it, I was becoming slightly concerned, and with good reason, as the inaction continued. Now and again a decent pike would follow the fly to the bank, but always two or three feet behind – a sure sign that they are not going to grab it. Dave seemed to be enjoying himself, and was casting a really good line out. He eventually hooked and landed a baby pike of about two pounds, which we photographed, as it was his first one. It doesn’t matter too much to me whether I catch or not, but I was disappointed for my guest. Had he been with me the previous afternoon, he would have been in heaven, but isn’t that just the way it goes? I managed a similar tiny specimen in the end, but it was small consolation after four hours of hard fishing: the big girls just didn’t want to know, and were solidly united in their apathy! Thankfully it didn’t prevent Dave expressing an interest in having another try at a later date.

Day 3

Next afternoon I once more ventured forth with Max (my labrador) for a doggy walk, and as we’d had no rain, naturally I took the fly rod. Commencing operations on a feeder stream, blow me down if I didn’t hook a hard-fighting ten pounder on my second cast and, having taken a quick pic of it laying next to my rod, had a nine and a seven in the next twenty yards. “Where is Dave?” I thought to myself in slight frustration, but there was nothing to be done other than fish on. Encouraged by this frantic start, I made my way to another little feeder a short walk away, and was thrilled when after several short casts, a mouth like a small bucket appeared behind my fly, and engulfed it in a shower of spray. This fish thought it was a tarpon, throwing itself into the air three or four times before powering unstoppably down the twenty five yards or so to the main river. Had it then gone left or right it would have been game over, as I was unable to follow because of bank-side willow trees, but luck was on my side, and eventually I was able to lift out an immaculate fish which weighed thirteen pounds exactly. Again I thought of my pal, and how he would have loved this action.

Nene bonanza small

A further two hours of fishing the main river brought my score up to eleven pike, six of them remarkably (and unusually) ten pounds or over – a terrific spell of fly action. None sported any leeches, and they all fought like tigers!

But WHY?

Is it that they just don’t feed every day, or is it once again that they all know something that I don’t? All three days the conditions seemed similar, but the middle day just didn’t produce for some strange reason.

That night it rained heavily again, so it will probably be back to the cheese-paste and chub until things settle down again. All part of the fun and, at the end of the day, that’s fishing. The answer is to keep at it and wait for them to be in the mood again – it is so thrilling when they are!

Does anyone out there have an idea why these things happen, because I find it so hard to explain?!

Mike Green About Mike Green

Although a bit of a pike fanatic, Mike Green has been fishing in the UK and abroad for most of his life, catching coarse, sea and game fish in the UK, Canada, Alaska, New Zealand, Asia and Americas.