Catching Pike on the fly is one of the fastest growing branches of fly-fishing. Pike are a true sport fish which fight very hard on fishing tackle. They are one of the fastest fish that swim in our freshwaters, and in the spring and summer with warm water temperatures they will tail walk and leap just as readily as a Salmon or Trout. Whilst not making long screaming runs, they will rush and pull with bulldog tenacity with an almost unbelievable strength.
For the Fly fisherman they make a great alternative to Salmon, particularly with the state of the stocks at the moment, and they provide a similar ‘big fish’ thrill. They can often be caught in conditions that would normally be hopeless for Trout, in flat calms and hot bright sunshine. Pike fly-fishing also opens up many famous Trout reservoirs to the coarse angler in search of a specimen. Gigantic Pike have actually been caught on fishing tackle, for example the 40lb 8oz record fish from Chew caught in May.
The optimum fly rods would be a 9 foot #9 or #10 weight, the heavy line rating being needed to punch out and turnover outsized flies. 9 foot proves less tiring to use all day than a longer rod due to less leverage on the arm. To cast the big flies use a slower stroke than usual with an open loop.
The rod I normally use is the Airflo Bluetooth 9’ #8/9 which I use with a floater or intermediate WF9. The lines I use on this rod are the Airflo cold saltwater ridge floater and the cold saltwater ridge intermediate. Both have a low stretch core which helps set the hooks and detect the most delicate of takes. I also use a Bluetooth XT in the 9’ #10/11 which I use with fast sinking lines such as the Airflo depth finder 300 grain, for the occasions when the Pike are in deep open water in depths of over 20 foot.
As for reels any thing that will accommodate the line with about 50 yards of backing will be fine, your normal trout reel 6/9 size will do. You need not worry about too much backing, as the Pike will not run hundreds of yards when hooked. A great reel would be the Airflo switch cassette in 7/9, which comes with extra spools and has a decent drag system.
A wire trace is essential, there are several types on the market, the most satisfactory of which I find to be the Airflo titanium predator polyleader which incorporates a titanium trace with a snap link which makes changing the fly a simple businesses. They also never kink unlike some other types meaning that they last practically forever.
Flies need to be on the large size, I generally use from 2/0 to 6/0 wide gape chemically sharpened sea hooks, with a total dressing length of perhaps 6 inches. Flies as small as 3 inches will catch Pike, but the bigger stuff tends to attract a better stamp of fish. The fly needn’t be a perfect imitation of a prey fish; a hank of crystal flash tied to hook will and has caught good Pike. Surface wake lures can also be deadly which I tie with a big lump of plaztezote for a head. The takes to surface lures are often incredible in their ferocity and is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating things in fishing anywhere. The best and most consistent colour is yellow. Please see the Airflo Predator Ex-citer range of flies on the website, these are tried and tested lures and are based on my own patterns.
The retrieve used is not normally a fast strip as you might think but rather a slow twitchy figure of eight interspersed with long pulls and pauses. This seems to be the most effective retrieve for them. The take to subsurface flies is usually a drawing away of the line much like a Trout taking a buzzer. Set the hook by strip striking, pull the fly home into the Pikes mouth – do not lift the rod straight away or you will miss the fish. If you do miss one cast for it again as they will usually come back for another go. I remember one instance where my boat partner actually hooked and lost the same Pike twice only for it to take my fly on the third attempt! Takes to surface lures are usually an explosive affair which may cause you to strike with a ‘knee jerk’ reaction – again what you must do is allow the fish to turn down with the fly before strip striking.
When hooked you can play the Pike as hard as you want, there is more chance of loosing them if you play them lightly as they will dive into cover, also by bullying them you will insure the hook is well and truly embedded into the hard jaw. The Airflo lines with low stretch cores will help the hook setting process greatly.
A good net I would recommend would be the McLean’s Salmon weigh net, which will comfortably swallow up monster fish. Its size and shape make it ideal for use on a boat. Long nosed forceps are a must for unhooking, such as the Dr Slick Cuda 8 ½ inch pliers.
Pike, despite the ferocious appearance and reputation are one of the most delicate fish when taken out of the water and need to be carefully revived until their strength returns before releasing them, particularly in warm summer water. The unhooking is a much easier job with a fly compared to lures and dead baits. Fly hooked Pike go back much better than fish hooked on a treble hook and they are very rarely deeply hooked.