PIKE PATROL (Part 2 of a Northern Trilogy)
by Daniel Kiazyk
This trilogy of articles on one of my favorite northern waters has a militaristic ring. Maybe it is because of the style we employ while fishing these waters, or as a friend puts it, " you guys employ "combat" fishing tactics". The image to a certain extent rings true in so far as I reflect upon the personal discipline needed to fish 17 hours a day with only a break for a can of some processed food. The geographical location hints of the conditions we'd expect special expeditionary forces or may be even navy seals to put themselves into on occasion. But the fact of the matter is this; we are fishing some of the best pike waters in the world and who wouldn't want to sacrifice a little of ourselves to give it our best shot? Just the thought of putting a lure/fly in front of numerous 15# plus pike invigorates even the weariest of body. We have over the years fishing this particular lake established patterns, where when the conditions are equal to other years, that have reulted in considerable success. This success has been won by long hours, hard work and considerable thought, reflexion on our experiences of the Pike Patrol.
So where did we start? Initially we arrived at a monstrous lake that measured more than 150 miles in length and on average was at least 40 miles wide. The lake is ultra clear and can be extremely deep. Depths of over a 1000 feet have been measured. The lake has a considerable lake trout population and fish over 60 lbs have been recently caught. Finally water temperature even in the dog days of summer barely rises above 52 degrees. This is one cold deep, big lake…..
Our approach to the lake on our first visit was to work bays, especially weedy bays. We would often cast to shore working a variety of baits. On some occasions, we could even sight fish, seeing the fish we were casting to. The preceding approach worked quite well and many good, pike were landed. We had only one regret though, the really monstrous pike for which this lake was famous had not been caught in any significant numbers. Simply put our patrol had not infiltrated deep enough into our objectives realm. We had something yet to learn.
It followed that on another trip to this same lake – a person could visit this lake every year for the rest of his life and barely have fished 1/10th all its nooks and crannies—that we accidentally stumbled onto a pattern that would produce greater numbers of big pike. This year, we had three people in the boat and not everyone could cast into shore in those big bays we had frequented on our first foray. One person was obliged to cast out in to "deeper water". It was this situation that produced sightings and hook ups with pike much larger on average than we had seen on previous trips. Moreover, there was a correspondence with big pike and a specific type of cover – a long type of weed we'd soon call "pike-weed". It was in proximity to these areas that we had many very large pike follow our flies and hardware. Our patrol had by luck come upon one of this lake's favorite haunts for really big pike. Now it would only be a short while before we could start to pattern our quarry with even greater consistency.
Finally on our fourth major trip to this lake we put together a pattern that regularly would produce monstrous pike. Not only was "pike-weed" a necessity but access to open water or deeper water was also required. If "pike-weed" was located in a bay was nearer to a large/deep open water expanse pike would be in the area in greater numbers. A rocky point associated with the weed bank and open water access would make a spot even better. Finally if all of the components mentioned above were in relation to an inflowing creek or river you were in proximity to a pike fisherman's nirvana. One other area besides rivers (with a view to having all other components already mentioned) that would produce big pike were neck downs that would experience water movement/current (or current caused by wind). We found that with the latter depending upon the lakes levels and the amounts of wind we would receive big pike were almost always near by these neck-down areas as well. Our long hard hours of scouting and trying/retrying out hypothesis on differing types of water (with different fish holding elements) provided us with a successful strategy for coming into contact with good pike.
Other tools and tricks we would use for tweaking the pike patrols maneuvers involved drifting or using the wind to move our boat. A paddle has also been an indispensable tool for positioning the boat (an electric trolling motor would be best but weight constraints make this an overly luxurious item). I can't wait until we work the lake with a four-stroke motor… the element of stealth is significant when fishing for pike. Various types of lines and hardware are effective but we've had to be choosy as weight once again is a concern (you can only boat in so much stuff on an adventure fishing trip). My own preference in this regard is to have larger marabou streamers, other salt-water flies and some larger bass flies. Flies should also be tied to sink and should be preceded by a leader of seven-strand wire. Hardware can include larger stick baits (deep /shallow running) spinner baits (hair pin and inline styles) and plastic style minnow baits – large jigs can also be extremely effective when fish are deeper. Spoons are a final option that at times can be very effective. A nine-weight fly rod and a heavy bait casting rod/reel combination are tools worth considering to bring along. But as any patrol is aware (and here I'm making a point that can't be over emphasized with these kinds of trips where you have to lug everything in) you have to practice weight control with your gear (quantity not quality!).
It follows that now our expeditions are more productive and that patrols don't have to be as vigorous as they were when we first started. Exploration, however, has not been put on the shelf. A portion of our time will be spent poking around new territory because a pike patrol should always want to encounter new objectives.