Fly Fishing for Pike
One of the most sought after species for the fly rodder. Whether it’s called a snake, hammer handle, gator, or any other name, it can be found across Canada. This fish has resulted in near heart attacks and utter chaos when striking a fly. As we all know Pike will hit almost anything thrown into the water, including flies, so what will be discussed are the different techniques used to take Pike in lakes. This will be broken down into the three different types of fly line, the flies used for each, plus the types of leaders and tackle required.
When fishing with dry lines one must remember that you will be fishing quite shallow, usually no more than four feet deep, and of course, you will be fishing weed beds so flies should be weed less. The edge of the weed bed is the first place to start fishing. The choice of fly here would be a Bass Bug or a streamer. When casting these flies, place them a foot into the weeds then retrieve out from the weed bed. Once the fly is in open water be ready for an explosive strike. Another spot to fish is the pockets, which are the openings in the rear of the weed bed. The flies I enjoy using most in this situation are Dahlberg Divers and Weedman’s Sliders. The number of pops you give the the bug depends on the size of the pocket. You will find that if Pike are near by, they will hit the bug within four pops. If you don’t get any response after 3 – 4 casts to a pocket, move to the next one. When pocket hopping like this keep mobile and you will end up with more fish.
The last location is my favorite place to fish, and that is where there’s an indentation or an in turn. Cast 10 to 20 feet into the weeds and retrieve very slowly, until the fly hits open water, then do four to five fast strips and hang on tight. The Pike will go crazy trying to kill the fly. I fish the full length of the in turn and have found this area the most productive.
The fly patterns that work well for this type of fishing are Dahlberg Divers (color of choice), Weedman’s Sliders (White and chartreuse), and a T.G.T. Streamer.
Sink tip Lines:
These lines are great for fishing weed beds and flats that meet an adjoining drop off. Fishing these locations can be very productive if you follow one simple rule, which is, cast towards deeper water retrieving your fly toward the shallow flat or weed bed. You will find that most of the strikes will occur when the fly is making its way up the drop off. The style of fly used for this type of fishing is a streamer. A Black Nosed Dace is a popular choice but don’t forget about some others, such as Hi-Landers, in pearl dace and red, orange, and yellow, and the I’s Streamer.
There is one more little secret I would like to pass onto you and that is using a popper on a sink-tip line. You may never have heard of this before or you may be a non-believer now, but give it a try. When retrieving the popper, give three quick strips of the line. The first strip will create the pop and gurgle desired, and the last two strips will make the bug react like a wounded bait fish. The reason for this is when you pull the concave face of the popper under the water; the resulting pressure will move the bug from side to side. Once you stop the retrieve the bass bug will swim towards the surface, again acting like a wounded bait fish. I have found that Pike simple cannot resist this type of action in a fly, sometimes jumping three feet out of the water just to get at your bass bug. Just a little note about this technique, it is probably the most effective retrieve I have used in catching Pike.
You do not require all types of sinking fly lines that are available on the market, since the first ten feet of water depth is covered by the dry and sink tip lines, the only type of sinking line required is a Hi-speed HI-D line. With this line you can cover from ten to twenty feet of water with no problem whatsoever. The area that you would be fishing with this technique is underwater humps. This location will draw bait fish and subsequently Pike like a magnet. To reach this productive area you have to use the countdown method to get the fly in the proper position. For those unfamiliar with this technique let me explain. The sink rate of a HI-D line is approximately six inches per second. If you want to fish down to ten feet, you have to count to twenty. In other words, your line sinks a foot every 2 seconds. The fly will then be down to the proper depth and the retrieve started.
There are two types of retrieve to use while fishing the humps. The basic one being a strip retrieve where you control the line with your casting hand and strip the line, in 8 inch strips, with the opposite hand. The other style of retrieve is a hand twist. Control the line with your casting hand and pick the line up with your thumb and index finger, then bring the palm of your hand down across the line holding the line with your third and baby finger. Twist your hand around to grab the line again and repeat the process. This is the basic hand twist retrieve and the most effective when using a wet line.
The types of streamers used for this type of fishing are the same as mentioned earlier, but with a subtle difference. As all fishermen know the Pike, which feeds on sight, will target the eye of the bait fish, therefore, when tying large streamers, tie in or glue on some type of eye. This will actually increase the number of hits you receive. Another tip for tying large streamers is to tie in a tail of 3 – 4 inches, with the wing as long as the tail. Again if you have observed Pike feeding, they will hit the bait fish dead centre. When fishing these streamers, it allows you an immediate hook set, with the hook in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
Never, ever, ever go out Pike fishing under gunned. There is no place, in the world of fly fishing Pike, for a 6 wt outfit. Minimum to use would be an eight weight rod and reel. My preferred out fit is a Streamside Elite rod that is 10 foot long and is rated for a 9 weight line. The reel is a Streamside Harmony 9 wt. With this reel I have an abundance of backing but it also comes with a very smooth disc drag, which is a must when fighting big fish. No matter who makes the rod and reel as long as you use a 9 or 10 wt. system you will have no problem casting or fighting big fish.
The most important part of a Pike fishing system is the leader. There are numerous ways to make Pike leaders. You can use the Bimini Twist, buy leaders already made up, or you can make up your own using steel line for tippet material. I find doing the Bimini Twist method time consuming, so I will elaborate on the last two choices. Climax makes a leader just for Pike and Musky fishing, which consists of an eight foot mono section and a 15 inch steel tippet. You simply connect the mono end of the leader to your fly line in the conventional fashion. Then taking the steel tippet pass it through the leader sleeve provided in the package. Now take the leader and pass it through the eye of the fly and back through the leader sleeve forming a loop. Slide the loop tight to the eye of the fly and crimp the sleeve. You are now ready to fish.
The system I prefer is one I designed years ago. I take six feet of 17 pound Trilene XL and use and Albright knot to join 2 feet of Mason Nylostrand wire to the mono. I then tie a Double Surgeon’s loop in the mono end so I have a loop to loop connection. After my leader is secured to the fly line I use a Figure Eight knot to attach my fly. I don’t have to worry about crimp sleeves or bringing a lighter to do a twist melt. The Figure Eight knot only takes a couple of seconds to tie and you are off fishing in no time.
Always keep in mind that Pike have razor sharp Teeth. So here is a list of tools I take along.
1) 10 inch forceps
2) Long needle nose pliers
3) T shaped fish gag
4) Landing net ( soft cotton bag)
5) Musky cradle if I’m fishing with someone else
6) Lots of band aids
Have fun and I hope these tips will help you.