Night Fishing for Pike on the Fly

By: Nick Campos

The superstitions of getting your line in the water on a clear full moon evening have been ingrained into the fabric of fishing culture for generations. The thought of the grandfather fish being on the hunt for a large meal is enough to get your blood pumping. My dad and I planned our trip to 11 Mile Reservoir in Colorado to target big Pike on the evening of the Hunters Moon. For weeks I prepared my fly box with the largest streamers my tying bench could produce. Everything from a 4-inch Feather Changer up to an original 10-inch articulated design. 

Though I tied a handful of extra large streamers, the flashy shad fly I created had me dreaming of netting a 25-pound Pike. My dad introduced me to the film “On Golden Pond” (1981) starring Henry Fonda, and since then referred to the big fish we went after as “Walter”. We were on the hunt for Walter! After about a six-hour drive from Albuquerque New Mexico, we finally received some satisfaction from the breathtaking beauty of the high mountain reservoir. 

Cold and icy, we awoke in the morning to an incredible sight of the sun rising over the distant mountains. The warm rays hit the lake creating a heavy fog, there was only one thought that came to mind. 

We spent the day scouting and learning about the lake on our kayaks, along with some light fishing. Across the bay from our campsite, we found what seemed to be ideal Pike hunting grounds. Thick reeds, tall grass, shallow water near drop-offs, it felt like Monster Pike territory for certain. As the evening began to approach and the temperature started to drop, we hesitantly paddled back to camp to prepare for the night. The sun had set, and we caught the first glimpse of the bright full moon shimmering on the lake’s calm surface. 

It was time to break out the heavy rod and big flies! We made a mental note of the spot we wanted to fish and made our way there. Under the bright clear sky, it was easy to see everything around us, including the shadowed mountain ranges that seemed to completely surround the reservoir. I steered my kayak into the thick reeds and fished right off the edge where I thought a drop-off would be. The first cast was surreal, hearing my oversized streamers rip past my ear as I double-haul nearly all of my fly line onto the glasslike surface. Almost an hour had gone by and there had been no movement other than the nearby ducks occasionally splashing around. Until, my last and longest cast, halfway through a jerk strip retrieve a sudden “TUG and YANK!” followed by a solid hook set. Immediately, I yelled to my dad “FISH ON! FISH ON!” I knew instantly that I was on a monster. The beast began to tow me out of the thick reeds and into the bay as I attempted to fight the tangled mess of line and get the fish on the reel. As I spool up the last few feet of my line the fish pulls a 180 and starts heading toward the reeds it just pulled me out of. Almost as if it had just discovered a way out, at the same time I realized the intelligence of this fish. I widened my stance and pushed my 8wt rod and 20lb tippet to the max in an attempt to keep the fish from diving straight into the thick weeds. This only increased the speed at which I was being towed and at this moment I regretted not anchoring my kayak down. The fish did exactly what any fisherman would fear, regardless I held the tension on my rod and pulled myself over to where I had hoped I was still hooked into the beast. My dad pulled up to help me clear the weeds as we felt some flopping and tumbling. Full of excitement my dad grabs his big game net ready to pull the fish out of the muck, only to see my disappointment as I clear one last section of reeds to uncover my fly lodged in the tangled mess. I was defeated and outsmarted. All I could think about was how much I wished I had anchored outside of the reeds, and though I didn’t even catch a glimpse of the fish, my years of experience in fly fishing have made me aware of when those “once in a lifetime fish” are on the end of your line.

 We arrive back at camp, cold and disappointed I stand at the water’s edge gazing up at the full moon wondering what it would have felt like to hold that beauty in my hands. At the same time, I felt grateful for the experience, our biggest mistakes can lead us to even greater successes. I’ve always believed fly fishing is much more than just catching fish. It’s a unique and wonderful pass time, and those who pay close attention to the immense beauty and respect all life around it will receive the true gift nature has to offer. 

Keep fishing. Keep loving.


Bio : Hi, my name is Nick. I have had so many beautiful experiences in my 20 years of fly fishing. I believe nature offers so many wonderful opportunities that we can learn from. Recognizing presence while on the water allows me to feel more connected with myself and the fish. Which in turn, helps me truly see how fly fishing is much more than catching fish.

2 thoughts on “Night Fishing for Pike on the Fly

  1. Wow, love this story. Well put bio and the passion for fly fishing and being in nature, That’s Passion!

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