Our Man In Canada
April 26th, 1999

Fly-fishing for Prairie Pike, Part 3

Flies for pike and other gear

By Clive Schaupmeyer

This the third of a series of five articles about fly-fishing for pike. The articles include: introduction; equipment and rigging; flies and other gear; when and where; and techniques.


There are many published fly patterns for pike, and most fly shops carry a few local designs. Any number of four- to six-inch-long streamers of colourful synthetic hair and flash filaments, will catch pike when they are feeding. My two favorite colour combinations include brass flash filaments mixed with orange artificial hair, and chartreuse and yellow artificial hair, again with a few flash filaments. Red and white, and yellow and red are also popular colours for pike flies. Streamers that look more like baitfish such as shiners and whitefish are also used. They have light- coloured undersides, dark backs and a few silvery flash filaments.

Variations on the Great Pumpkin

Some anglers prefer long streamers of up to eight or 10 inches, but such large flies tied with artificial fibres can result in false hookups – a fish on for a few seconds then gets off. Apparently the teeth temporarily tangle in the long fibres, then pull free because the jaws aren't anywhere near the hook at the head of the fly. A common solution for this problem is to add a second hook (called a trailer or stinger) to the back end of the fly. However, it is more difficult to remove a fly with two hooks, and there's a greater chance of an unsuccessful release. I've tried huge flies and find that more pike stay connected to smaller streamers–meaning no more than six inches long. Again, my ideas differ from many pike pros, who insist that big eight - to 10 - inch flies are a must for catching trophy pike, so maybe big streamers are worth tying and trying. Perhaps this is why I have never landed a trophy pike, but my friends who do catch big pike also use smaller flies. Besides, is a five - or six-inch-long streamer really that small?

Perch fly

Tie or buy pike streamers with artificial fibers that do not hold water. Natural tying materials like rabbit fur and marabou feathers look great below the surface, but they absorb lots of water and can be quite difficult to cast because of the added weight.

Most of my pike flies are tied on No. 2/0 and 3/0 short-shank hooks. Others use long-shanked hooks down to size 2. Weed guards made from thick monofilament are helpful when fishing through weed beds, especially later in the year. Some patterns use stiff bucktail hairs that cover the hook and reduce weed interference. Brass eyes add flash, and the extra front-end weight presumably adds fish-attracting action to pike flies. And no one can deny that those eyes look so damned cute.

All hooks should be debarbed for ease of removal from pike. You will also appreciate the ease with which an impaled debarbed pike fly will slip out of the back of your hand. (The voice of experience. . .)


There are not many pieces of pike fly-fishing equipment that are as mandatory as jaw spreaders, and either long-nosed forceps or needle-nose pliers. Occasionally, pike will take the hook quite deep, so the jaw spreaders and long forceps are a must for hook removal without hurting the fish – or yourself. Many jaw spreaders have pointed hook ends which can damage pike jaws. To prevent them from piercing the jaw tissue, I slip a few inches of thick surgical tubing over the sharp ends. Others wrap the pointed ends with electrical tape.

Jaw spreaders with rubber guards

Also handy for making on-water adjustments and repairs are an extra spool of monofilament leader, steel leader, cigarette lighter, split shot, hook sharpener, wire side-cutters and needle-nose pliers. Light cotton gloves help grasp slippery pike.

Chest waders are required for spring wading in shallow bays, or paddling around in a float tube or pontoon boat. On most lakes, a small personal float craft or boat is required to get to the pike- feeding grounds after they leave the shallow breeding bays.

Next week: When and where to fly-fish for pike. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer

Our Man In Canada Archives

Bio on Our Man In Canada

Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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