I haven’t been at the pike fly fishing game long at all but the experience of casting very large, bulky flies and hooking into pike lets you in on the secrets pretty quickly.
At first I thought I would be able to happily use my #6 weight rods, a Sage TCX, which as you probably know is a very stiff, powerful rod. I thought it would cope with pike no problem… wrong. Well, not entirely wrong, it is fine for small jacks and casting smaller flies but that is where the biggest limitation comes in – the flies themselves. I can upline it, stick an #8 weight line on it, even a #9 weight line and it works but it really slows down the recovery speed of the rod and makes casting size 4/0 bunny patterns a bit of a pain. But hey, if you only have a #6 weight and you’re only going to cast small flies for small jacks on a local canal then by all means give it a go! You will be outgunned for bigger fish though, bear the welfare of the fish in mind at all times.
I was told by a few well respected anglers that I should be looking at an #8, #9 or #10 weight, something beefy that will handle 20lb+ fish if you come across them, which on my local waters is a distinct possibility, and will handle heavy lines to chuck big air-resistance flies. They were right. I use a 9’ #9 weight rod and it is a far better tool for the job both in handling the flies and the fish. Which rod is up to you, pick one that you have tried and get on well with, whether that is a softer or stiffer rod is your prerogative. You should also note that pike are going to give a fair bit more of a pull than your typical sized trout which is definitely part of the appeal, so take the right rod with you.
Ok, onto the fly lines – this is probably the most important bit of kit as it will make or break your setup in terms of casting. Get something with a heavy loaded front taper, you need the weight up front to turn over the large flies. If you imagine a typical trout taper as having most of the weight in the middle to rear of the head with the line tapering out thinner towards the tip for delicate presentation, we want the opposite. We want a short front taper that is heavily front weighted. Anything designed specifically for pike fishing or throwing salt water flies will probably be a good bet. A line weight to match your rod should suffice, but don’t be afraid to overline if you feel you need a bit more weight. I use a floating line or an intermediate most of the time and use both full lines and integrated shooting heads depending on circumstance, have a play around with different setups and see what you like best. The shooting head is easier to cast further but it’s not as delicate. In simple terms that is the trade-off.
Now onto the leader make up. There are some pretty cool products on the market ranging from hard mono, a very stiff monofilament, to knotable wire, to non-kink titanium wire. Again this is a personal decision and you should probably experiment. I have used hard mono and haven’t had a problem but my preferred setup was one detailed by Dougie on Fly Forums. Making leaders - From the link you can see it is a fluorocarbon leader joined to American fishing wire single strand 40lb titanium attached to a fastach clip. I’ve had very positive experiences casting and fishing with these. No kinks at all and very strong. The clip also makes changing flies a doddle and they will never accidentally open.
The last thing to remember is take a pair of long nosed forceps with you. Pike have large mouths; even the small ones and they have an intimidating number of teeth lying in wait to shred your fingers if you get them too close. It’ll also aid you in removing the hook as fast as possible and returning the fish to the water, oh yeah… last thing – fish barbless!
Let me set the scene to start with. Imagine leaving the house before 7am in pitch darkness, the air filled with dense fog and a heavy frost on the ground. You plan to fish a venue that you have never fished before but have instructions from a friend so you are confident you know roughly where you are going. Arriving at your destination after a slower paced drive than normal you are greeted by two young deer prancing across the road. You park up, set your fishing tackle up and start following the directions. When you arrive near the water the water level is very high, well above the bank and in the fields, there are trees in the water, the mist is so dense you cannot make out much of anything, there is an eerie silence about the place and then it happens, the first fish of the day is spooked and all of your senses hone in, your heart gives a few thumps and your inner fish bum instinct kicks in.
Ok, I realise that is a departure from my normal writing style but that morning was magical, it was so wonderfully eerie, hopefully the following pictures will help convey that.
The first spooked fish was a smally, nothing to worry about but a great sign all the same. There were a few fish crashing about on the surface, difficult to say if they were pike or not as there’s a few other inhabitants in this particular water. One thing I can say for certain is that the water was freezing! I started off covering the water with a white and chartreuse split bunny pattern with no success. After a short time Craig joined me and we meticulously fished the bay. Nothing seemed to be doing, a few fly changes, a lot of areas covered and nothing. It took until about midday before we came across a fish when Craig hooked into a nice Jack that fell to a yellow deceiver. Here’s a short video of the fish, be sure to play it in HD.
That was Craig 1-0 up and something had to be done about that! Craig and I were working in opposite directions along the bank away from each other and not long after I had one have a couple grabs at my fly but it didn’t stick, got the adrenalin rushing again though! Presumably a Jack that missed the hook, could even have been a perch for all I know.
After covering a bit more water, I finally hooked into a spritely jack that gave a good account of itself. It was a white bunny pattern with a burnt orangey/browny/reddy marabou collar. Result! Fish on the bank and the score level at one a piece.
We decided to head back to the cars not long after this but on the way back Craig decided to try and outdo the 1-1 scoreline and upped the anti to 1.1-1. He found a piece of a pike! The full lower jaw was found in two pieces, a seriously impressive set of gnashers.
And that raps up this weekend’s fishing excitement. It was great to finally fish this water, one I’ve been looking at for a while and one that definitely warrants some time being spent on it. Hard to beat that for quality fly fishing after wild species in the winter outside the trout season! The weather is starting to get really cold though so it might soon be time to switch over to chasing Grayling instead.