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. It’s 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!