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Taking times for pike

When is the best time to catch a pike on fly?

The author with a pike caught on a late-December afternoon.
The author with a pike caught on a late-December afternoon.

What can you reasonably expect from river piking?

Firstly, there are some significant differences between fly fishing for pike as opposed to salmonids.

In very general terms I have observed that when it comes to feeding, pike are generally either on or off. And when they are off, they really are off! On most occasions an “off” pike cannot be induced to take, unlike a trout or migratory salmonid. It’s important to be aware of this, particularly when getting to know a new water. I’ve walked for miles along a river, fishing as I go, with no sign of a feeding pike. It’s as if the river is devoid of fish. And here is another important observation (small jack pike aside) pike behaviour seems to apply to the whole of the water en masse, such that when they are not feeding, they pretty much are all not feeding.

So, any new water will need to be explored over a number of trips, before any conclusions can be drawn. All this is not too surprising, as pike feed mainly on large food items, which will then require an “off” period for digestion. The good news is that there is another extreme. Every now and again pike can break into a feeding frenzy. Post-spawn pike are generally ravenous, and this means the period May to June can often produce exceptional sessions. Traditionally, October and November, especially after a hard frost, are triggers for pike to bulk up ready for the winter. However, much milder autumns and winters, over the last decade, have mixed up things to a considerable extent, making it much harder to reliably predict pike behaviour.

One thing remains consistent, however: in fly fishing, you cannot catch a pike if you don't go out onto the water. See you out there.

Next time: The take, and how to strike

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