We have been getting quite a few inquiries about Montana pike fishing on the fly lately. Most are curious following some social media posts we’ve put out there. But some are aware of these toothy critters and are wanting more information about where we are finding them and how Montana pike fishing works. So we thought we would write up a bit of information for folks who may not be familiar with pike on the fly.
First off… Yes, there are Northern Pike in Montana. In fact, there are tons of them. In water from the Western border, all the way to the Eastern border. They are fairly widespread throughout the state. Most of these fish are found a little more North in Montana. Especially the Northeast portions of the state. They are found in most all of our larger reservoirs and many of the rivers that help form them.
As far as where we are typically fly fishing for pike, that depends. The fish react differently in each body of water we fish. For example, the fish in Fresno Reservoir are much more cooperative in warmer weather than the fish in Fort Peck Reservoir. Since the food sources are a little bit different in each, many of the pike in Fresno will remain shallow in the summer, while their counterparts in Fort Peck will swim off to deeper water.
For the sake of narrowing it down for this post, we will discuss our most recent Montana pike fishing trips. These were all run on Fort Peck Reservoir in Northeast Montana. This is hands down THE best pike fishing in the sate. And there really isn’t a close second. Peck is just that good. It is an enormous lake/reservoir, with lots of different arms and access points. Also, Fort Peck is very remote. Only a couple of the arms have any services at all. And those are usually pretty basic. Your best bet will be whatever small town you pass through before driving 40 miles on a gravel road to access the water. Again, remote.
Montana Pike Fishing Seasons
We run our trips for Montana pike on the fly in the Spring and Fall. Our goal is to find these pike in shallow, looking for food. In the Spring this will happen as soon as the ice melts off the lake. At this time, large numbers of pike move in close to the banks in hopes of ambushing all the baitfish that are beginning to move around and spawn. These pike are very active, as they are beginning to pack on some pounds coming out of the colder winter and spawn.
During these Spring months, fly fishing for pike in Montana, we typically find good numbers of fish. While fishing a particular spot, or structure, you can often find numerous fish. Not all will be the largest in the area though. It is most common to catch a few of the smaller fish first, all in the same location. These Spring fish tend to stick together a bit more in good water. So we are never surprised when we find a few average or smaller fish in a spot. But we continue to fish thoroughly, in case there is a bigger fish laying in wait for their next meal. This too is often the case. Remove a few of the smaller fish and all of a sudden your larger fish shows herself.
In the Fall, we can again find these Montana northern pike in shallower water. This time of year, we are looking for longer nights and cooler temps. We want the water to cool off enough to entice those fish in shallow. They tend to move in close to weed beds that have formed over the course of the summer. Here they will wait to ambush their prey as it moves through or seeks cover.
During the fall months, the number of fish caught pike fishing in Montana will go down a little. This time of year, in comparison to the Spring, where you think there should be many fish, there may just be one. It is more common in the fall for the larger fish to take control of the best feeding spots and chase many of the smaller fish away. So during the Fall months, we don’t move as many fish. But this is the time of year where we will see our biggest fish.
Montana Pike Fishing Gear
Fly fishing for pike in Montana can be a little bit of work. We are typically throwing large flies, often 10-14″ long, for big fish. A good average fish on Fort Peck Reservoir will be somewhere in the 30″ range and weigh in at 8-12lbs. Our larger fish will be over 40″ and easily reach the 20lb mark. So these fish can be big.
With all that in mind, a 10 weight rod is our weapon of choice. We prefer the Echo EPR 10 wt. This rod is strong and fast enough to help punch these huge flies into the wind. You can get away with rods as light as an 8wt, but we have had many break while fighting fish. So we stick to the big boys.
For fly lines we like to throw the Airflo Bass and Musky Line for our floating line. This line is great for topwater flies or fishing very shallow water. We often prefer to use a very heavy fly on a floating line. Then, while fishing a lighter fly, we will throw an intermediate sinking line. Both of these situations allow the fly the most movement in the water. More specifically, very erratic movement which drive our Montana pike nuts.
Montana Pike Fishing Flies
Now for the fun part! The fly selection while fly fishing for pike in Montana can be pretty crazy. We fish everything for your basic size 6 black leach, to triple articulated flies that are 14″ long. It all just depend on the day and what you are trying to accomplish. But we definitely prefer the larger offerings on Fort Peck Reservoir.
Mainly, they seem to move bigger fish for us. Big fish, big fly they always said. Well up there, we believe them. So its not uncommon to see us tie something pretty crazy on the end of our line. But there is a time and place for the smaller stuff too. Or perhaps even topwater.
In the Spring months, we tend to “match the hatch” so to say. This meaning we will throw flies that closely mimic the baitfish moving around the lake. This could be anything from small trout and perch to something more common like a white sucker or cisco. But very often in the Spring our flies are a little more tame in color and size.
During the Fall season, you can pretty much go nuts. Now you are trying to get the pikes attention. Even better, annoy the crap out of them. So we go bigger, brighter and more motion. Crazy colors, all kinds of articulations and flash are a good bet. Pink and white or Red and White are some of our favorite combos for this time of year. But we play around with a lot of stuff while Montana pike fishing this time of year.
Montana Pike Fishing Leaders
Your choice of leader is important, while pike fishing in Montana. There are a variety of different ways to get it done, all of which work well. Again, for the sake of this post, we will focus primarily on fishing tactics for Fort Peck. As we mentioned, it is not uncommon to see a 40″ fish topping the scales at 25lbs. With a big fish comes big teeth.
For that reason, we typically use wire in waters where we know there are larger fish. The Ariflo Titanium Predator leaders are our favorite. This is a combination of a poly leader, tipped with 12″ of coated titanium wire rated up to 45 lbs. Also, it is nice having a snap swivel at the end, making for easy fly changes. This wire is burly enough to protect from fish cutting through your leader and breaking off.
Another tactic is to go with just a length of very heavy flourocarbon. Typically this would be 80-100 lb Seagar, cut to length of 6-8′. We tie it directly to the fly line and then the fly. Very easy. But not unheard of to have larger fish cut through the line. It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. Also, you may only get a fish or two out of this leader, before needing to replace it due to abuse by the fish. But this is an acceptable method, and maybe a bit less costly.
We have one more trip up to Fort Peck to guide for Montana northern pike this coming weekend. Beyond that, it isn’t certain if these fish will remain shallow enough for us to target them. But at least we get to sneak in a couple more days. Once the fish swim deeper here, they are found from 16-30′ deep for most of the warmer summer months. A little tough for us to reach with a fly rod.
So we will take our Montana pike fishing endeavors to other waters in search of smaller fish and patiently wait for the weather to cool in the fall. It’s a little tough to plan out just when the fishing will get good again on a body of water the size of Fort Peck. The warmer our weather remains, the longer those fish hold in the deeper water. So for those of us that do enjoy chasing pike on the fly in Montana, let’s hope for a decent Fall cool down so we can start chasing these toothy critters again soon!
We will continue to update our Montana Pike Fishing Report as we get out there. So you can check back to see where we are fishing and what all we found out there. And of course if you have any questions at all, you can always Contact Us. We are more than happy to help or offer up any advice we can.