Pike Fishing ‘On The Drop’
In my last blog post, we touched on the subject of dropping flies down through the water column as a “legitimate” and often overlooked technique by most pike fly anglers. Check it out here.
In this post, we will look at it in a little more detail and will try and answer some of the questions I am frequently asked on this subject…
“On the drop” is simply what a bait angler would refer to as “sink and draw” and adapted to suit the fly angler.
In its simplest form the cast would be made directly downwind of your drifting boat, the fly is then allowed to drop down through the water column, stripped back up and allowed to drop back down through the column again, then the whole process is repeated.
Now here’s where it can get complicated, for this to be effective the fly must drop in a natural way through the water like an Injured or dying fish at a rate faster than the fly line. So fly line density is crucial and important to the depth we want to present our “dropped” fly.
Overall leader length can also affect how your fly drops through the water, I usually use around 7ft of Masterclass Fluorocarbon and up to 20” of FM 26lb 49 strand pike wire, this may seem extreme to some, but you must bare-in-mind when a 20+lber sucks your fly into the back of its throat as it is dropping down through the water and then decides to roll on it boat side the last thing you want to be worrying about is being cut off.
The speed the boat is drifting can also have an impact on how our flies should be presented. As we said earlier in its simplest form it would be directly downwind of the boat, but this may not always be the best approach especially in windy conditions as we will be playing “catch up” with the fly line as we drift over and on to it. We must be in constant contact with our flies waiting for any sign that a pike has taken.
My preferred method in these conditions is out the side of the boat. The cast is made at around 180 degrees out the side, and then you must follow it around, stripping and dropping as the boat drifts forward. This technique can also have its downside in that at some point, depending on how fast the boat is drifting, everything is going to start tightening up and we will lose our “natural” drop through the water. In this instance, I would change my retrieve to a steady figure of eight. Experience over time and trial and error will tell you what angles to use in relation to wind and boat drifting speed.
Now I usually refer to this technique as “on the drop” but let’s not forget the strip we incorporate into this to give us our rise up through the water column. I like this to be erratic, usually starting with two sharp pulls followed by a series of smaller ones, this is also extremely effective for zander, on more than one occasion Guy Eldridge and myself have been fishing through areas where we felt confident there could have been zander, using more traditional stripping and figure of eight techniques which have resulted in no response, only to change to dropping the fly through the water and having almost instant success.
For me, fly choice is extremely important, the fly must be highly mobile and have plenty of movement both on the strip and drop. In recent years my Gold Perch pattern has been my go-to choice, closely followed by my Silver Perch. The design of these flies also means they do not absorb water becoming heavy and cumbersome to cast.
Fishing in this manner requires great concentration. Each time I drop or strip my fly through the water I am trying to create a picture in my head of where the fly is in relation to the water depth and how it is behaving. It’s crucial to watch the fly line as it leaves the rod tip and enters the water… I usually hold my rod tip around 8 inches off the surface, this gives a slight bowing effect on the line that I watch for any indication that a fish has taken the fly. A pike take can be extremely subtle and at times you may feel nothing only to start your strip and find yourself connected to a fish, quite often you will find if a fish has inhaled your fly as it was dropping it will be well back in its throat and if it has taken on the strip it will be around the front of the mouth.
Takes can also be savage as the pike engulfs the fly and turns on it, or you may simply feel a tap and the line starts to tighten, this should be met with a firm strip strike and when the weight of the pike is felt raise the rod into a fighting position.
Watching the “bowing” line as it enters the water can also give you an indication as to whether you are getting the natural drop you are looking for, if the line is straight and tight it’s more than likely you haven’t got your angle correct and the momentum of the drifting boat is dragging your fly.
The venue I am fishing can also dictate how I fish this method, for example, if I was fishing at Chew Valley I would be looking to strip and drop my fly close to the bottom of the lake, say within 4ft, but at Rutland I would comfortably fish in the upper layers with an intermediate line up to depths of 25ft.
It’s very rare nowadays for me to venture out on the water without a rod specifically set up for this technique and on more than one occasion it’s the only one that has brought the desired results.
Take the time to master it and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results!