We've all been getting out and fishing pike a fair amount this year so far, but we've all been eagerly awaiting the pike on Pactola to really get active. A lot of the prairie lakes that we've been fishing have been pretty warm for the past couple weeks - 50 degrees or a little better. Pactola was hovering in the low-mid forties in many places, and because of that seemingly small temperature difference, the prairie lakes were fishing exceptionally well and we couldn't hardly get a fish to follow at Pactola. Water temperature seems to be one of the significant factors in getting pike to eat, and the five degree difference meant the difference between lots of shots at laid-up fish and hardly being able to find one. Shaun and I headed out to Pactola yesterday and as soon as we put the boat in and checked the thermometer, it read fifty degrees. In our experience fifty seems to be the magic number, so we got excited pretty quickly! The water in Jenny Gulch was a bit on the dirty side because Rapid Creek has spiked in flows a bit, but the color oftentimes helps you out. On the benefit side of things, pike seem more likely to eat a variety of flies and have a bit less hesitation when the water has a bit of color to it. However, they can't see nearly as far in the dirty water, so you have to cover the water a lot more methodically. Because the water was off-color we really took our time and worked down the bank, placing our casts four to five feet apart and making sure we covered the entire shoreline. At Pactola we usually fish big flies - stuff in the 6-10" range. We're hunting for the biggest pike in the lake, so we fish flies that are considerably more likely to attract the heftiest of pike. I rowed while Shaun fished the first bank, and the wind was making us see-saw a fair amount in the boat. I kept the boat about forty feet off the bank, and Shaun pounded the bank. After fishing down the bank fifty yards or so, he let the fly sink further and stripped it a little slower and caught a small pike on the first cast. Not a bad sign. We fished our way into a little flooded lagoon, and I grabbed the 9 weight and Shaun got on the oars. I was fishing a 4/0 Chartreuse and White Gandlaf pattern, and a RIO Outbound in a type 3 sink tip. I was fishing down a line of flooded willows, and once we reached the end of the bank where it started to turn, I pounded a long cast back into the corner. I let the fly sink for a moment, and then started a pretty brisk retrieve. About three strips in, the fly disappeared and there was a substantial weight in the line. I strip-set hard and lifted the 9 weight, and it felt significantly lighter than when I set the hook. The fish ran towards me fast, and I stripped line in as fast as I could and I was barely keeping up with the fish. One thing that we've noticed when fighting pike is that they won't really pull away from you until you really put the wood to them, so I was trying to get tight to the pike so I could reef on him a little harder. Once I finally came tight, the fish seemed to realize what was going on and bent the nine weight to the handle. After a hefty pulling match between the fish and I, I pulled hard and got the pike to the boat and Shaun slipped the Boga into it's mouth. I didn't really realize the size of the fish until the end of the fight - it's definitely the biggest pike I've ever landed. Shaun took a few pictures, and we slipped the beast back into the lagoon, complete with a serious tail slap that drenched most of me.
Some shoulders on this one.
I decided I was pretty good after that fish, so Shaun and I switched places and continued working down the same shoreline. Shaun chose to switch to a rod with an intermediate line and a Black Piketola Minnow after we fished down the majority of the bank, and I anchored the driftboat and rigged another rod with a different pattern. I was barely getting the bite tippet knotted on when there was a substantial movement of water and Shaun rocked the boat with a serious hookset. After we figured out that he was solidly connected to the fish, he put the wood to the fish and it hardly moved, and took off with a powerful whip of it's tail which left a boil on the surface several feet apart. Pike are really powerful fish, and are built to move with short, strong bursts of speed. After a big tussle at the boat, I wrangled the fish onto the Boga and we pulled the fly out of it's mouth. We took a couple pictures, and sent the pike back to the depths. This is some adrenaline-filled fishing. It's super exciting when a 20-odd pound fish comes and annihilates your enormous fly, and the fights resemble a streetfight. Pike don't run super far, but the close quarters fight of a big pike is something to see! Pike season has begun in earnest, and should continue to be great throughout May and the vast majority of June. Pactola is an amazing fishery, and has an incredible number of enormous pike. While it's generally not a numbers game, you get shots at some of the biggest pike in the area. When fishing there, you're oftentimes fishing for one fish. That being said, the one fish might be pushing 25 pounds and forty-five inches, with there being a good number in the 10-20 pound range as well. Pactola can be a cruel mistress, but you can catch some exceptional pike on a fly when she decides to give some up. We still have availability for our Pike Guided Trips, and May is going to be a great month to be on Pactola chasing toothy critters. Give us a call at the shop if you want to book a trip, or stop by and we can show you the latest flies and rigging techniques, and get you pointed in the right direction! Ryan