This Saturday marks the opening day of fishing on inland waters in Wisconsin. Hoards of fisherman will descend upon Wisconsin lakes, rivers, and streams with most concentrated on the freshly stocked trout streams and spawning runs of walleyes to fill their freezers. I, on the other hand, will be stalking through dark bottomed, shallow bays in search of post-spawn Northern Pike. There is nothing more exciting than big Pike on the fly.
Pike don't rise, they don't sip, they don't slurp. Pike are not delicate nor poetic. They are Iron Maiden to the Trout's Beethoven. Pike stalk your fly and attack fiercely as if you have personally insulted their mother. It's like dry fly fishing for alligators; if alligators stopped being such pussies. They are violent and vicious and angry. They are predatory stalkers that will not spare a baby duckling waddling across the lily pads let alone a set of plump toes dangling off a pontoon boat's deck.
My personal fly of choice is still the Dahlberg Diver. Developed in the 1970's by fly fishing pioneer Larry Dahlberg, it remains my go-to fly for Pike. The deer hair collar provides the perfect rhythmic "bloop" as it is submarines and rises back to the surface. Alternating long and slow pulls versus short and quick bursts, the fly provides the perfect siren's call to the predatory Pike. Many anglers will argue drag screaming runs and bulldog head shakes as prime reasons for fishing for Pike. However, it is the strike that I would contest is the most exciting piece of the experience. Typically prefaced with the fish's shovel head pushing up a wave behind your fly as it stalks, the strike is violent and quick with a sharp turn of the fish's body and explosion of water. It is a visceral experience that requires patience despite the violence as setting the hook too early could prove hasty as the fly is pulled out of the fish's mouth. I was once told to say "Oklahoma" as the fish exploded before setting the hook. Most times, I can only manage "Holy Sh*t!".