My new obsession with Pike on the fly brought me to Bearhole Lake. A mapbook gave up a little information and the internet provided the rest. A Google search coughed up a listing on the travel site Tripadvisor.com complete with reviews. The first said, “THERE’S PIKE IN THIS LAKE!” The second complained about the FSR road used to access the lake. Between the two I knew what to expect.
Access to Bearhole Lake is via the Bearhole Lake Forest Service Road just outside Tumbler Ridge off Hwy 52. The Trip Advisor review about the road wasn’t exactly wrong. It’s just most people don’t complain about the quality of forest service roads. The road was fairly rutted and would be interesting, to say the least with a little bit of moisture on it. With the jet sled bouncing back and forth between ruts I slowly picked my way down the road. Around 20k there is a twisted and rusted wreck of a pick-up being consumed by the forest — a testament to someone’s bad driving and even poorer judgment. A few kilometers later I arrived at the lake campground.
The lake is in a Provincial Park. It’s tea colored water shores are surrounded by dense forest of conifer trees typical of the region. There are no reserved campsites and walk-in wilderness camping is allowed. A few 4wd trails meander around the lake leading more campsites. The boat ramp and I use the term “boat ramp” loosely here is currently an undercarriage grinding descent to the water’s edge with no room to turn around. Backing down is not an option. Getting a boat in requires a little creativity but possible
I brought 3 rods with me to experiment with different types of line and tip set ups. What I found I liked best was my 9ft – 9wt GLoomis with a 375-grain OPST commando head and a 10’ floating tip with a 7.5 Rio Pike leader. The Spey rods were fun too but Skagit casting from a boat on stillwater is not ideal. With the single hand rod, it was easier to just pick up line, double haul one stroke and chuck it where you wanted it. The Winston with a 250-grain commando head, no tip, and a 7.5’ Pike leader worked pretty good casting overhead but it was limited to smaller flies. I suspect I would be way under gunned in the event that a monster decided to look me up but it was a blast with the smaller Pike. The Winston microspey if proving to be a very versatile and fun rod.
Taking fish on the surface is often considered the apex of fly fishing and Pike are no exception. My large mouse patterns got a few looks but no one fell for it. Next year I will invest in some of those traditional Pike streamers that require half a chicken of feathers to construct. I eventually settled on a large black and white bucktail or a smaller perch imitating pattern. Both worked amazingly well, Casting big streamers on still water is audacious. They collide heavily with the water saying I dare you to eat me. Predatory instinct kicks in and Pike dart from their concealment to oblige. Most often it was two or three strips on the line and then a headshake on the other end as a Pike sunk his teeth into the offering. Then all hell breaks loose. These fish fight hard and more with the purpose of keeping what’s in their mouth than escape. Their aggression is endless and it doesn’t end with hooking them. There is still the matter of retrieving the fly.
Pike are voracious predators. If they were Sharks, no one would swim in the ocean. They hit flies with extreme malice. Any disturbance in the water will at the very least be investigated. When they do attack, their toothy jaws clamped shut on whatever is in their mouth and they will not let go for anything. Getting a fly back from a Pike can be a precarious endeavor. Their teeth tangle in the fibers of the artificial prey. As tempting as it may be to use fingers to aid in the extraction, it is a horrible idea. Ask me how I know this. Keep all digits away from the fish’s business end at all times.The delicate hook extractions performed on trout will not work on Pike. Even if all goes well the fly is often mangled beyond fishability. One difficult extraction required the use of both pliers and hemostats simultaneously while holding the leader in my mouth. The fish survived. The $20.00 Polar Bear hair bucktail did not. Once the fish is in the net be prepared for a struggle retrieving flys and use caution… and bring Band-Aids.
Day two was more of the same as I got into a dozen Pike in a couple hours before I was beaten off the lake by a steadily increasing wind. Whitecaps were making the lake treacherous to navigate in a flat-bottomed boat. Ducking and dodging 6-inch flies tied on 0/1 sized hooks made conditions less than appealing and I decided to call it a day. It was only 2 o’clock so I opted to pack up and head home. Loading the boat went well following the unloading sequence in reverse and road in stayed dry so there were no issues getting back to the highway. I took a route home that allowed me to check out conditions on a few of my favorite rivers in the area and as I suspected they looked terrible. I drove the rest of the way home thinking about where to go next week. I had successfully caught Pike on the fly. The total for the weekend was somewhere around 25. As is always the case the next step is now to catch a big one. I will spend the next week researching where the best place for that to happen will be. I may be returning to Bearhole Lake. There have to be bigger ones in there.