Getting the Sickness Last season, while fly fishing for smallmouth bass, I caught an unexpected northern pike that would launch me into an obsession that I call "Dancing With the Devil". Many of my peers may wonder why I would try to catch pike on the fly, it is an obsession that leads to much frustration and pain. After you read my thoughts on the subject, you may want to take a “Dance with the Devil” as well.
Pike are prevalent throughout the river systems that I fish. I see them almost on a daily basis and I have caught many a pike between 18 and 20 inches without catching the addiction. It wasn't until I was fishing a deer hair diver for smallmouth bass and a larger pike rocketed out of the water making my heart skip a beat did I realize there was much more to pike than I thought. I was hooked! I caught the sickness and now pike consume my thoughts and I have dedicated this past fall to trying to figure how to catch them on a consistent basis.
Part of the sickness is spending hours tying flies to entice the devil to dance with us. Big, long, grizzly flies of all different color variations that make no sense as an imitation. In my very limited experience it seems the keys to a successful fly are neutral buoyancy or very slow sinking, action either side to side or up and down, and flash. Of course if it doesn’t rattle it doesn’t fish. Once you have some flies tied up it’s time to get your 8wt rod lined up with an intermediate sink tip and head out to the dance. Occasionally you may need a floating line if you want to try for some top water craziness but ninety percent of the time I stick to using a sink tip.
The sickness that forces you to Dance With the Devil leads you to parts of the river that few people will ever adventure to. An almost creepy place where dead trees litter the water and leeches are likely to be lurking. In these ghost towns of the river where the water moves slow and runs deep therein lies the devil ready to pounce at any moment. The devil has seven hundred razor sharp teeth and a bad ass attitude to match.
As you are stripping your fly you can see the devil coming from a mile away. A big large wake trails the path of your fly and if you are not prepared it’s already too late as the devil has no brakes. An explosion followed by a whirlpool in the water signals it’s time to set the hook and hang on tight as the devil ravages your fly and heads back towards the depths. A strong sweeping or a strip set is a must but far too often our trout instincts set in and we simply lift the rod and the devil takes advantage of us busting our spirits and breaking our hearts.
Many times the devil will follow your fly all the way to your feet and strike at the last moment. Watching a pike demolish a fly right in front of you is an amazing experience that only strengthens the sickness’ hold on you. Other times, the pike will follow your fly all the way in, then slowly swim away without a strike. This absolutely drives me mad and intrigues me all at the same time. What makes a pike strike in one instance and swim away in other instances? Once you have figured this question out then you will have unlocked the secret to dancing with the devil. I have yet to tame the devil to the point where I can invoke a dance at will and I am sure it will take a lifetime to get there.
I have been pretty lucky to have danced with the devil a fair amount of times in my very short time chasing pike. I have caught a great many pike in the twenty to just under forty inch range, but the sickness drives you to search for bigger and bigger pike. I know some where in the rivers in my backyard there lies a forty inch plus pike and it is only a matter of time before we dance.