The Fly fishing opens new ways to pike fishing, even if it’s not really fly that we use, it is a totally different approach than lure fishing.
Fly fishing for pike requires adapted gear, more powerful than the gear we’re using on rivers for classic fly fishing.
You need to be able to throws quite big flies, sometimes more than 20 cm long. These streamers are made of natural materials like deer hair, rabbit strips, … or all kinds of synthetic fibres which give a bit of flash to the flies or movement, which is very attractive to the pike.
Like lure fishing, there are two different kind of strategies to try to get takes. You can fish for pike when they are feeding, or you can use their territorial aggressiveness towards intruders. The streamers you use are different according the strategy you choose, if the pike are feeding you’ll want to use streamers imitating their prey.
If you choose to push their aggressiveness, you’ll want streamers which are colourfull and more noisy combined with erratic, more aggressive animation.
As pointed out earlier, pike fishing demands specific gear. Let’s detail the most essential points.
The rod needs to be powerfull with a fast action. When you consider the flies we use (some of them soak up water), and the sometimes difficult climatic conditions (strong wind), you really want some power reserve.
A 9 or 10ft rod , line #8, is the most flexible combination. If you’re looking exclusively for trophy pike, you’d better step up to a line #10.
An important piece of your kit ! If you get a strike from a big fish, a reel with a very good brake is vital. Your reel must have a very good and progressive brake.
Because even though the rushes of big pike rarely exceed some 15 metres (or rather …), these rushes are extremely brutal and repetitive. They are difficult to manage when handlining your fly line. So it will be the brake of your reel wich comes into play, giving only what’s needed to the fish, and in the same time putting enough pressure to stay in touch with the fish.
Using the right type of line will enable you not only to be capable of throwing big pike flies, but also to bring the fly to the desired distance and depth.
The ideal profile seems to be a WF, it will ease on your casting.
The fly line’s density will vary along the seasons, type of spots, and type of water you’re fishing.
When fishing still waters with low depths, or hotspots like lelie-beds, sunken trees, etc, a floating line will be your best bet. You need to keep in mind that a pike always chases with its head up.
On the contrary, when fishing deep waters, or when the water temperature is very low and the fish hugs the bottom, a sinking line will save your day.
Another type of line which can be useful is a floating line with a sinktip. It will help you sink to the bottom when fishing tree roots or lelie beds . It will also enable you to fish all kinds of depths depending on the speed of your retrieve.
You can also re-cast with an amount of line on the water, or fish it out to your feet if necessary.
Here you’ve got numerous kind of flies, you just can leave it open to your imagination. But don’t forget, big flies = big fish. And it’s known that a big pike will rarely spend energy for a small prey.
(photo from Barry Ord Clarke)
There are some important facts : your streamer will have to move water.
Pikes are very sensitive to vibrations, which they capt with their lateral sensing line. So a streamer which moves water will trigger a hit quicklier (f.e . a rabbit strip streamer).
Flashy colours can also work wonders and generate a hit in some situations.
Combinations like red/white, black/yellow, black/orange or white/chartreuse generally produce good results, but once again, be creative !
The fishing techniques
The animation of your streamer can also be the key factor when pike fishing.
You’ll need to match it to the mood of your fish.
When the fish hunts and is active, a fast and erratic animation will do.
You’ll be stripping (pick up your line quite quickly by short strips) and also use your rodtip too.
If the fish are inactive or lazy, a slow animation of your imitation will be more effective. In some cases, you’ll virtually be fishing static. Once again, you’ll have to figure out how to adapt to your prey. It’s critical to analyse how the fish responds.
During which season you fish also plays an important part in the animation type you should use, as well as the spots you’ll have to fish at first.
In the springtime, the fish is found at the banks. They’ll hunt the preyfish to recover from spawning.
During summer, you’ll have to look for the shoals of fry, which can be found from a distance as they will be active at the surface. If you don’t see them, look for obstacles, pontoons, aquatic vegetation, in fact the usual features.
In winter, the pike will search for deeper water, and it’s there that you’ll find them. You’ll have to look for underwater features such as submerged walls at the lake bed. Usually the pike follows the bass and walleyes, but you can still manage solitary fish in undeep water.
When you’re fishing from the shore, it will be harder. You’ll have to make good choices on which spots you’ll want to fish. You can pick out in and outlets of the lake, which could still hold some pike.
Winter is also the time that pike put up some fatreserves. Those days should be your number one choice to fish, because the pike often goes in a feeding frenzy.
It’s always useful to have some small streamers you normally use for trout fishing, because when you’re lucky you’ll see some spectacular chases in the fry shoals, and when they are on fry, nothing else interests them.
Winter is the classic pike season, because you have the opportunity to hit that big one in the deep parts of the lake . When the pikes hug the bottom, they usually stop feeding, and you’ll really have to put your streamer in front of their nose. They hardly move, so a slow animation is required during those cold winter days.