On the fly: Hunting the water wolf | AspenTimes.com

On the fly: Hunting the water wolf

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – The Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the finest trout fishing on the planet. Anglers from across the globe and from all walks of life flock to our valley in search of large rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout.

Who can blame them? The fly-fishing along the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, Colorado and Crystal rivers is truly exceptional. Overlooked though, are the warm-water fishing opportunities we have within a short drive. In-the-know local anglers often make the short drive toward New Castle and Rifle to fish Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap reservoirs in search of the elusive water wolf, also known as the northern pike.

These voracious predators are truly the barracudas of the freshwater world. They’re sleek, long fish with huge appetites and equally large teeth. The northern pike in these reservoirs diet on yellow perch, stocker rainbow trout and crayfish. Many of the pike caught here exceed 3 feet in length and I’ve personally seen a small handful of fish that will push the 40- to 48-inch barrier.

Due to the large size of these fish and the large flies needed to imitate their food sources, much bigger and stouter gear is needed. I prefer to fish rods in the 7- to 9-weight category. An 8-weight is the ideal all-around rod weight to use, except during times of low, flat water when a 7-weight is preferred; 9-weights are used during windy weather or with larger, heavier flies.

Pike have rows of sharp teeth and because of this, heavier leaders are needed to prevent getting your fly bitten off. Knottable wire in the 20-pound class is often used, though I prefer to fish heavy fluorocarbon tippets of 03X (25-pound). The fluorocarbon tippet provides more invisibility as well as giving flies more freedom of movement.

Local fly shops carry assortments of pike flies in a variety of lengths and colors. Most of my flies are commonly in the 4- to 5-inch range, with my favorite color combos being green/white, green/yellow, red/yellow, purple/orange and lastly black/purple.

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