Finding joy in the outdoors since 1988
It’s that brilliant time of the year. Fall is a season of transition for people, climates, and my favorite, the animals. This is the time when age old symbols of the coming harshness of winter ignite the rut for deer hunting, send many of the fowl in differing directions, the salmon and steelhead start to run up river pending the right flows, life is good and beautiful and in a hurry. No better all around season for a sportsman.
Most midwest outdoorsman are putting down the rod and reel for the bow and gun as the leaves change. I grip harder to the rod and reel than any other time and for good reason; with the runs from the Lake Erie tribs not quite at peak numbers, atleast not enough for a two hour drive, it’s still October so I have (generally) a month of downtime before I’m heading east to the chrome packed streams. But October is my month for incredible violent takes, splashing tailfins, and beautiful wading; it’s time to target northern pike.
--Here’s a short shot over a day and half of fishing for those toothy rascals
For some reason the temperature drop in October triggers the pike bite here in northern Ohio. I love to watch the gone in a second violent ambush a pike takes to a fly. Imagine that moment when the bullet smacks into grapefruit, it’s a beautiful mess. Some days strikes happen minutes apart other days it’s hours. But just when your hope in the fly starts to bottom out the explosion of fish occurs and your head’s back in the game. Here’s my set-up:
Line and Rod
I would prefer a little larger tackle here from 5 wt. on up. I use a 6/7wt. loaded with 7wt. line. It’s big enough for the river I beat and can punch clousers and gaudy maribou bank to bank. You might want to upsize if you’re talking bigger streams more than 50 ft in width. Be prepared to single-hand spey and roll cast a ton so think about how well you’re going to be able to perform this with your patterns/rod/weight combo. I need to roll cast 40 ft with a moderate size (3 inch) clouser in my case so the 7 wt. works fine.
I primarily use bright and shiny clousers. The St. Joseph river near my home is notoriously cloudy even in low water (as seen in the video), so I want to make some noise in the water and be as visual as possible. This results in off-color white and charteuse clousers and larger streamers. Pike are amping up their forage before winter so smaller minnows all the way up to chub and baby smallmouth or bluegill are patterns and sizes to mimic. I have an extensive chub population so I match my clouser with the average chub in size profile and make it bright and sparkly to hopefully grab some pike attention.
The goal is to make your fly visible. On the right water and right visibility the hungry pike will do some traveling to pick up your fly so practice some stealth approach and get the clouser down ahead of the hole you’re working. The structure I’m gunning for here are downed trees and log jams or rocky cut bank type formations. Pike hang around this structure in as an ambush point waiting for their next meal so that’s how you should fish it. Work your clouser at the bottom one cast, strip it by quickly one cast, dribble it on the bottom the next cast, or skate it near the top. Don’t be quick to leave the hole; sometimes you need to work the fish 6-7 times before the strike occurs. Very similar to fishing for smallmouth in terms of where and how.
I use a streamer leader and 8lb 2X for might pike needs. The optional replacement is tying on a section of “bite-proof” material just before the fly or even go with heavy duty flourocarbon. I personally just use mono and rarely have any problems. In fact I went through 12 fish and only lost one clouser during the video. (Did hang some in a couple trees) I like leaders in the 8 ft range simply because they’re long enough to hide the fly line and short enough to handle your mending or roll casting needs.
If you haven’t given Ohio pike a shot yet you should definitely jump in, it’s a blast. I’ve found pike in the Maumee, St. Joseph, Auglaize, Sandusky, Scioto, Cuyahoga, Tiffin, and Portage. (I’m sure there are more). If it’s a northern smallmouth stream I’d be willing to wager pike are present. If you’re after the big girls (bigger pike are usually the females) hit the tribs right after the ice melts in the spring.
Gear up and get out there!