Northern Apex Predator - Bear River Tackle
Canada and the upper United States are home to the Norther Pike, a strong and aggressive cold water fish which is the apex predator in most of its range.
This species first appeared around 400 million years ago during the “Age of the Fishes” and retains many of its original prehistoric features including very strong jaws and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
Some people say, “the type of fly doesn't matter for northern Pike; once you find fish, they will hit anything.” This is not correct. It is very important to evaluate your flies under actual fishing conditions because you never know what's going to catch fish. This has always been the case on my trips.
It took me a full day to figure out what the fish wanted. One of the test patterns did not work at all. The articulated patterns were moderately successful but nothing special. However, the third custom pattern proved to be extremely deadly, in five different feather and color combinations.
Once the best fly patterns were identified, everything clicked in place, and I started catching large fish; Sometimes on back to back casts.
37 ½ inch Pike
Released unharmed and swam away
One fly was rigged on a 9 foot 12 weight fly rod, with fast sinking line and 30 pound fluorocarbon leader tipped with 30 pound steel leader. The fly was attached with a loop knot to give it additional action.
A second fly was set up on a 10 foot spinning rod using a bubble filled half with water for weight and 30 pound fluorocarbon leader tipped with a premade wire leader with snap swivels so I could quickly change out different test flies.
Wire leader is absolutely necessary to keep your line from being cut and even then, you must check the fluorocarbon and wire leader for nicks and abrasion after each fish. Skip this step and the next fish may cut the wire or break the fluorocarbon leader. A lot of flies and fish have been lost this way.
Pike with a Bear River Tackle Fly
This may sound like overkill, but northern Pike have very powerful jaws full of razor sharp teeth which will eventually shred a steel leader. Many times, they will also roll when hooked which can cut the fluorocarbon leader with their sharp gill plates.
In fact, their teeth and jaws are so deadly that you must use jaw spreaders to hold their mouth open while you carefully unhook your fly using very long pistol grip pliers. I also recommend you use barbless hooks to make it easier on the fish and make it quicker to get them back into the water. We had several cases of cut hands that got too close to the teeth.
On this trip I was using both a fly rod and a spinning rod to assess the flies.
The fly rod performed best when the fish were holding in six to nine feet of water because the sinking line presented the fly at a lower depth. It was also very good for making precision casts to the shore.
Due to the weight of the bubble, the spinning rod excelled when casting into the wind or if you wanted to make very long casts to cover a lot of water. I also aggressively splashed the bubble during the retrieve to make a ruckus on the surface. Many times, large pike would come up to see what was going on, then slam the fly. Often you could see the flash in the water before the strike.
36 ½ inch Pike
Released unharmed and swam away
So about now you may be wondering if the fly really made any difference or if it was simply that we found the fish. Judge for yourself; let me tell you about some actual experience.
On the third day I was out with a friend who was not catching many fish, while I was landing Pike every two to three throws. Eventually he tried on one of the test flies and his results were immediately different, catching fish on the next five casts, including this 34 inch Pike.
The right fly, evaluated under actual fishing conditions, makes a big difference. The fly continued to perform well for him over the next several days.
The next day I was fishing with a different friend who also had exceptional results on the test patterns including one large fish that broke off the fly and this 34 inch fish that was landed.
Pike with a Bear River Tackle fly
On the last evening we decided to try a small cove near the boat launch not expecting to catch much.
This heavy 36 inch Pike was caught within sight of the boat docks. It was released unharmed and swam away. The blood is from prey fish spit up by the Pike when it was caught.
On three different days I stopped counting after 25 fish were landed.
My five day total was well in excess of 100 fish, most of which were 30 - 37 inches. Within this group were 10 trophy class fish. The Bear River Tackle flies caught very few small fish.
- 34 inches (5)
- 35 inches (1)
- 36 ½ inches (3)
- 37 ½ inches (1)
The flies discussed in this article are available to you by ordering the Custom Designed Fly Option - Max Level. They work equally well with either a fly rod or spinning rod.
Yes, these custom flies are expensive.
However, keep in mind these patented patterns are is unlike any others in the entire world, the flies are eight inches long, constructed with premium materials, contain an internal rattle, and are handcrafted in the United States by experienced fly tyers.
Also, the small cost for these flies is insignificant when you consider they have already been evaluated and proven under actual fishing conditions, which will help you have a great trip!
Look forward to hearing from you.
Go Fly Fishing!
Bear River Tackle