Using the right hook, you can tie large streamers that have lifelike depth and action. It’s easier than you think!
[by James R. Boss]
I hooked my first northern pike five years ago by accident. I live on the lower section of Michigan’s Rogue River and was fishing a large pool for trout. This pool has always held both mystery and frustration for me. In more than 30 years of living on the river, I’d never caught anything from that pool other than a few planted steelhead and a handful of smallmouth bass. I always found good fish— mostly brown trout—rising in the runs just above and below the pool. Every once in a while I’d put on a big streamer and go after the monster brown I knew had to live in the pool because little else seemed to, or so I thought.
While stripping streamers through the deep, dark, water one evening, I was about to pick up my fly for another cast when something hit. It seemed to come from nowhere with surprising quickness and viciousness. And then, just as quickly, it was gone. The fish had mowed off my streamer and returned to its shelter in the deep water under the shade of a huge maple.
I returned the next evening with my 8-weight saltwater rod and some of the biggest streamers I could tie. I also rigged up a crude wire bite tippet from some old nyloncoated bead wire. That night I caught three pike from the pool and the runs around it.
The fish weren’t big by pike standards—28 to 31 inches long—but they were much larger than any fish I was accustomed to catching in this pool. More than that, it was an absolute blast; I hadn’t had this much fun fishing in a long time.
Trout fishing can be serious business: quiet, contemplative, and sometimes overly technical. Pike, on the other hand, are in your face with their aggression and explosiveness, not to mention that mouth full of teeth. After watching a friend hook and land his first pike, I walked over and found him quietly staring down at the fish lying by his feet. “I’m thinking about just cutting the leader,” was all he could say.
Since that time, I’ve become somewhat of a pike fanatic. More than once I’ve had to run back to the house for my trout rod because fish were rising and all I had was an 8-weight rigged with an 8-inch-long streamer. Now I find myself carting two rods to the river: one for trout and another for pike.
TAIL EXTENSION: 4-pound-test stiff monofilament and white marabou.
HOOK: Gamakatsu Worm Hook, Offset Shank, EWG sizes 4 to 5/0
THREAD: 3/0 (210 denier). White to match the belly of the fly and olive for the head.
WEIGHT: Lead wire or a non-toxic substitute.
TAIL: White marabou.
BELLY: White crosscut rabbit.
FLASH: Silver and pearl Krystal Flash, and Green Polarflash
CHEEKS: Olive marabou.
WING: Olive bucktail.
EYES: Large gold prismatic adhesive eyes.
HEAD: Epoxy or UV-cure resin.
Starting the Well-Fed Baitfish
Big Flies for Big Fish
My first attempt at tying sizable pike streamers was frustrating. Large pike measuring more than 35 inches long are more inclined to go after a big meal, but I’m convinced that for any size pike, bigger is always better. I first tried the typical pike patterns, but I was not happy with most of them. Regardless of what materials were used to create length, they all had the same problem: the longer the fly, the slimmer it looked in the water. Even an eight-inch Deceiver begins to look more like an eel than like a fish. I needed something with more depth to the body.
I tried tying some of the Puglisi patterns, and while they are effective and undoubtedly beautiful, they weren’t what I wanted. The depth of the bodies was right, but I wanted something with a little more action.
Marabou creates some of the best action; I’ve yet to find another material that looks so lifelike in the water. But marabou has some drawbacks. Most bothersome is its tendency to foul around the hook when tied in long at the rear of the fly. Even when the hook is shrouded by bucktail, the problem never goes completely away.
An articulated pattern was another option, but unless I was willing to invest in a 10-weight or larger rod, an eight- or nine-inch-long articulated fly wasn’t really feasible.
I solved this problem by tying marabou to a piece of stiff 40-poundtest monofilament, and then lashed this to the rear of the hook. I shrouded the monofilament with shorter marabou feathers tied to the end of the hook shank. This method created the appearance of a long marabou tail without the problem of fouling. With that dilemma solved, I returned to the lack of depth in my patterns. I found the answer one day in, of all places, the sporting goods department of a grocery store.