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The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.

Years ago on a flight to South America, I was forced to check my camera bag onto a small plane due to the size of that kit. When I reached my destination, the kit was missing. I called the airline, the terminals, and my homeowner’s insurance company. The kit surfaced three days later . . . along with a $700 bill for international calling fees. I knew right then, I needed a better communication plan.

            Reliable communication is imperative when you travel to fish. I need to be in touch with my office, my family and with guides I’ve hired along the way. So how best to tear down the walls and link up when your guide is late picking you up because their outboard is on the fritz? Or how do you call for help when you rented a boat to do a DIY bonefishing day in the Exumas and the engine dies, leaving you languished – true story!

The Bradford Camps in northern Maine are off the grid. No email, no phones, no nothing. Just the way it used to be. And sometimes getting away from it all is all you need. The camps were in contact via VHF radio in the event of an emergency.

             During travel, most people turn to their cell phones. If there’s coverage at your island getaway, or on a chilly mountain river, this is the best option. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards for your phone and then you’ll be communicating like a local. Most moderate-sized and large airports, in both hemispheres, sell these cards.

             It also pays to contact your cell carrier prior to departure. I use Verizon and even without a SIM card that company offers a travel plan. In fact, for $10/day you can dial away without fear of a big tab on the next month’s cell bill. This is the best mobile option for the traveling angler and may offer unlimited calling and texting.

             WiFi offers another solid choice. Back at the lodge, if it has Internet, various apps can be used to complete a WiFi call. The leading apps are Whatsapp and Viber. Both offer free calls if you use WiFi. A caveat: often these apps don’t trigger an audible ring on a recipient’s phone, meaning your contact might not be aware you are trying to reach them. Both offer a fee-forcontact enhanced service that skirts that issue.

Satellite phone to the rescue. Andy Irwin dials up his grandmother for a birthday call, direct from the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite’s backcountry.

                Should you be traveling far off the grid, there’s the option of carrying a satellite phone. I have one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Many sat phones offer data plans, so if you want to surf the web or do your online work while off the grid, you can.

                If you select the satellite phone route, you only have two realistic companies to choose from—Globalstar or Iridium. I have a Globalstar GSP-1600, which you can secure for under $1,000 ($300 on Ebay), and it’s fair. Dropped calls are an issue, but that phone has served me well on numerous expeditions and in isolated areas like the Abacos, after hurricane Dorian decimated those islands. Take note: in some places, these phones will get you in trouble. In India, for example, they’re banned, as years ago they were used by insurgents who attacked embassies in Mumbai. I learned this by whipping one out on the border of Nepal while angling for mahseer. My guides were horrified to see that device. I quickly stashed it away. In most places this is not an issue but it’s always best to check before leaving home.

Ryan Suffron holds a trophy laker on Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. The lodge is equipped with satellite phones that enable a bit of bragging if you need to call home to the the better half and the kids.

                  Sat phone plans vary. The significantly more reliable Iridium phones offer better plans than Globalstar, and its satellite coverage is superior. However, Iridium plans aren’t cheap, starting at $52 per month for a mere 10 minutes of usage. Globalstar is less reliable, but offers 1,000 minutes for $699/year. This option is the logical choice for me.

                 Staying in touch while traveling can be challenge. But with a plan in place, you’ll be able to check on your family while pursuing of a one-in-a-lifetime fish. After the line goes tight and you’ve released that fish, you can dial up and relay the battle.

EDITORS NOTE

If satellite phones are too expensive for your budget, there are other options—two-way satellite communication devices. These nifty gadgets offer portable GPS and allow users to send and receive text messages and emails via a satellite network. The most popular units, the Garmin inReach and inReach Mini, use the Iridium satellite network, and can be paired to your smartphone for convenient texting. InReach models cost around $400 and data plans range between $30 and $50 a month. Prepaid two-to four-week plans allow coverage during specific timeframes, such as the duration of a fishing trip. These devices work well whether you’re fishing the Arctic or the jungle rivers in Guyana or beyond. For the cost and size (the mini is about 3”x1”x1”), they are much more efficient than a satellite phone, and more reliable. Even if you don’t have connectivity at a given moment, you can type out a message in the morning, hit send and go about the day, knowing that message will reach its destination—if the inReach connects with a satellite at any point of the day, the message sends. If a Garmin inReach is outside your budget, the ZOLEO two-way satellite messenger offers similar features at a fraction of the cost.

The author’s first brackish waterpike, taken just a few miles from Stockholm, Sweden, December 2020.

As an author, traveler and professional fly-fishing guide, I had to cancel most of my 2020 projects, with only a curtailed guide season in Iceland surviving the global lockdown. But out of adversity comes opportunity—per ardua ad astra, as the Romans used to say.

I’d spent most of the first two months of the lockdown at home, becoming increasingly frustrated with imprisonment, while dutifully trying to follow social distancing recommendations. When May arrived I knew two things: If I wanted to fish, I needed to focus on local waters; at that time of the year, the pike were just coming off the spawn. I made a few trips to the west side of the Czech Republic, near the German border, to try and catch a monster on a fly. That trip made 2020 my Year Of The Pike, culminating with a remarkable December day in Sweden when I caught eight big pike in the brackish archipelago waters not far from Stockholm.

We were lucky—in other years those very waters were frozen in December. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic day fishing some of the best water that Sweden offers. And my conclusion after this unexpected year pursuing these aggressive predators? Pike are the same no matter where you find them—thrilling to catch in shallow water, beautiful to study, and all capable of leaving a nasty cut with their razor-sharp teeth. I learned the latter at my own expense on several occasions. Here are some takeaways from 2020, my Year of The Pike.

Pine Lake in western Bohemia (Czech Republic) June 2020. This clear water with shallow bays and channels is a prime spot for big northerns, especially during the early season when water temperatures are cool.

Weather
All fish are affected by changing weather conditions. Depending on the weather, some species feed more aggressively while others make our lives more difficult, as they basically shut their mouths no matter what your throw at them.

In my experience most pike are caught as atmospheric pressure drops before storms and other unsettled weather. During summer, if I wake up after the weather has been stable and hot for a long time and find that it’s a cloudy or rainy day, that’s definitely the right morning to go off for pike! When you encounter that situation, drop everything and get the fishing gear out. But don’t overlook the sunny days if that is the only time you have to fish—pike will still feed in bright light, especially early or late in the season when water temperatures are low. Keep in mind that pike sense weather changes many hours before we do, so they can “come on” at unexpected times.

You might hook a pike anytime during the day, but early mornings and evenings are best. Hitting a day when pike feed from dawn to dusk is rare, but they do happen. You’ll need luck on your side to have that happen and the only way to increase your odds is to be on the water as often as you can.

The author hoists her personal best 2020 pike, a 41-incher that she landed on a local lake, just a few kilometers from her house in the Czech Republic.

Right Place
Many fly fishers prefer to target pike in rivers. I prefer lakes with clear water, especially in weedy areas, such as bays and flats. These are the spots where pike hold during the summer months. Often, they relax in deeper holes behind, for example, a drop-off or a fallen tree or some other piece of structure that provides security. When the weather changes, or the light is low, these fish move out of deeper water and into feeding areas to chase baitfish. You can find them in surprisingly shallow water, even during fall and winter.

When targeting pike, it’s always good to cast your fly to a drop-off and swim it back towards a shallow area, which mimics what a real baitfish would do, while teasing any pike that may be holding in deeper water. Never pass a weedy area, fallen trees, or big rocks without covering them thoroughly. If the fish are really in feeding mode, they’ll be aggressive and it shouldn’t not take long to find out if you are in the right spot. For that reason, if you don’t have any action right away, don’t stick around—go find some fish in hunting mode.

I caught my final pike of 2020 in Sweden as the sun fell and a cold wind blew. I fished from a boat, covering a shallow area where thin, dying reeds barely poked out of the water. There were some open areas between the reeds, some no bigger than the size of a car. It was tricky casting, but I covered those open areas at last light, got a great hit, and watched a pike explode from the reeds. Five minutes later I was holding my catch, wearing a huge smile, knowing that 2020 hadn’t been a waste.

No serious pike angler lets a little toothy cut get in the way of success. Bring the patch kit and keep throwing.

Season
The pike season in Europe varies from country to country. Many fisheries do not allow fishing for pike during the spring and summer months. However, the best chances to get a trophy pike on the fly (at least in the Czech Republic) are after the spawn in May and June, and late in the season shortly before the water is covered with ice. During late fall the baitfish move into deeper parts of rivers and lakes and the pike jump at the chance to gain that last bit of weight before the winter months arrive.

Pacchiarini’s Wiggletail is a winner no matter where it’s thrown. The author’s Year Of Pike woolen’t have been as successful if she hadn’t included several of these patterns in her arsenal.

Best Setup for Pike
Eight-to 10-weight rods rigged with intermediate lines and heavy heads are the ideal choices for pike. My favorite fly line for pike fishing is definitely RIO’s InTouch Pike/Musky as it smoothly loads 11-inch long flies without any problem. I consider intermediate fly lines as the most versatile for pike fishing, but there are situations when sinking or floating lines serve best. In Sweden, where we were fishing from a boat and casting towards drop-offs, the depth quickly fell to several meters. To get our flies to the bottom, where pike are usually waiting, we used Type 5 sinktips and flies with foam heads, which kept those offerings just above any snags.

Pike have lots of sharp teeth and are difficult on gear. If you use an insufficient leader you may reel in, find your fly missing and the leader bitten clean through. To combat those teeth I sometimes use a 70-pound mono tippet looped straight to my fly line. On other occasions I use a tapered leader with a 20-inch section of wire. To be sure you don’t lose a trophy pike, I strongly recommend using a piece of fluorocarbon connected to Trace Wire.

Another look at a beastly pike.

The Killer Flies
Pike are ambush predators, so a good silhouette is key to success. These fish must see your fly against the sky. Usually, pike will feed on anything with great movement, but it helps if your fly emits sound—pike can easily sense vibrations in the water.

We all want to catch big pike and big pike definitely feed on big baitfish. When hunting for these fish I definitely use big flies, up to 10 or 11-inches long. If you want to catch big pike, don’t waste your time with a minnow on the end of your line. You’ve got to go big. I prefer flashy flies with lots of movement. I like Dougie’s Sparkler (silver); my absolute favorite—and the fly I would use if I could only fish one—is the Pike Tube (fire tiger). Both are available from Fulling Mill.

In clean water I like to use bright colors. In dirty water I like silver colored flies that imitate roach and hot green/orange flies to imitate perch. To cover your bases, fill up your fly boxes with lots of Wiggletails. And don’t forget some poppers for those memorable summer evenings.

Good luck. I guarantee a huge pike is out there with your name on it!

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.