Pike: Progressing to SuccessRead Time: 5 Mins | Published: 27th July 2021 | Author: Paul Clydesdale
I am constantly looking to improve my technique and catch rate. As a serious pike fly angler, my goal is to try and catch the biggest ones I can possibly find. When most people start out fly fishing for pike, we automatically think the largest flies we can lay our hands on are the way forward. Then, we head straight to the nearest set off lily pads or bull rushes. But, as we get more experience under our belts, we start to realize that there is way more to hunting pike on the fly than throwing huge streamers against the edges. Restricting yourself to one technique, limiting the venues you fish and the areas within these places will leave you with a poor skill set. I’m here to help you get past that with some pike fly fishing tips I’ve collected over the years.
No Easy Answers
Early on in my pike fly fishing it became obvious to me I was going to have to start traveling to different venues throughout the country if I wanted to improve. Now, I enjoy nothing more now than the challenge of fishing a new water for pike. I also enjoy “hard” fishing. There’s nothing better than a tough venue to keep you on your toes. No one ever achieves anything great in life by taking the easy routes.
The ability to fish a variety of different depths will massively increase your catch rate. This is one of the biggest “flaws” I see in today’s modern pike fly angler.
With that said, one man’s deep may well be another mans shallow. So for the purpose of this write up I will say that depths of 20 feet and below are shallow and above 20 feet are deep. The thought of fishing in 20 feet of water for pike with a fly leaves many people felling uneasy. But, this mental block can easily be broken down. Think about it this way—most modern pike fly rods are 9 feet in length. By standing your rod in an upright position next to your body and imagining a second rod’s length above, we can see that depths off around 20 feet are in fact not that great.
How Far Will a Pike Travel for the Fly?
To break this down even further we now need to think about the depth we need to present our fly. To be more precise, we need to determine how far the pike willing to travel through the water column to intercept our fly. It’s not uncommon for me to fish intermediate lines in depths over 20 feet. Pike on the likes off Rutland and Grafham will travel up through the water column to take a well presented fly only a few feet under the surface in “deep water.” This is especially true early in the predator season when they have had little pressure placed upon them.
With the mental image in our mind of depth in relation to a rod’s length, we can search further down through the water column with faster sinking lines. DI3 and DI7 maybe required for those fish that may not be willing to travel any distance through the water column. When fishing deeper, the ability to “switch off” to what’s going on around you for long periods of time and look straight down your rod and line in an almost “tunnel vision” like fashion is essential. Again we must create this mental picture in our mind: how deep is the water, where in the column exactly is our fly line and how is our fly behaving in relation to our retrieve? Simply blasting a fly line out and pulling a fly back with no thought behind it will more often than not not get the results you are looking for.
The more we get into the routine of building pictures within our head, the more success we are likely to have. This will in turn boosts our confidence. Then, you find yourself in a position off having the ability to fish any depth of water presented to you at any given venue.
The Pike Fly
Pike fly fishing has never been so popular. That brings us to the “evolution” of the pike fly. Newcomers to this branch of the sport would be forgiven for thinking that huge wiggle tailed articulated streamers are required. Social media platforms like Instagram are awash with pages dedicated to pike flies that are nothing more than showing off fly tying skills. There now appears to be a somewhat “bravado” element to tying and throwing big flies. Granted, large flies do have their place within pike fly fishing. BUT they are possibly not just as important as you may think. I am quite happy to sit in the “old school” camp where I tie flies to impress the pike as opposed impressing the anglers’ eye.
For me a good pike fly must be tied in various different weights. This can be done by using hooks of various gauged wires, adding (or subtracting) materials to the hook shank, or—and this is possibly my most favorite method—by adding a large bead chain to the front of the fly.
Fly color is a well debated subject. I very rarely venture from golds, silvers, whites, greens and blacks nowadays. The bait fish that pike feed o don’t change color in poor water clarity, so why should we change colors? Pike still find them just fine. I’ve yet to see a “fire tiger” colored fish swimming in any UK waters. As fly anglers we’ve all heard the term “matching the hatch.” This is relevant regardless off whether we’re throwing dries to rising trout, or throwing 6” streamers to pike that are feeding on roach. For me, it’s all about showing them a fly that’s a close imitation of their prey.
Let’s also bear in mind that at certain times of the year—especially early in the season—pike can be seen gorging heavily on buzzers. Newly hatched pike feed upon daphnia, plankton and small crustaceans. Then, within a matter of months they will be on buzzers, fry and nymphs. It only seems sensible that adults will continue to feed on buzzers when, at times, the water may well be thick with them in lengths of up to an inch. I am not suggesting that we should set out to catch pike on buzzers, I am merely high lighting the fact that their prey does not need to be a mouthful.
This brings us swiftly on the the subject of how to retrieve the fly. The only thing that dictates whether we are doing it right or wrong is the pike it’s self. Don’t fall into the trap of continually doing the same thing just because it worked the day before. Pike go through mood changes the same as any other living breathing animal. What may well have worked the day before may not “excite” the pike on the next day.
Fast, or slow?
Speed of the retrieve can be crucial to success. I like nothing more than casting a fly out the side of the boat and doing a figure of eight it back. It’s one of my favourite techniques to catch pike. It’s also a technique that can give an indecisive pike too much time to look at the fly and decide wether it wants to take it or not. This results in plucks, tugs, poor hook holds and follows back to the boat.
This is where an extremely fast strip comes into play. If anyone has ever told you that a fast strip for pike only catches small ones, completely disregard it ! Some of the biggest pike I have caught have come to flies pulled back at neck breaking speed. This gives the indecisive pike little time to look at your offering and decided if it wants it or not.
Progressing With Pike
To summarize these pike fly fishing tips…if you want to progress as a pike fly angler, don’t keep fishing in your “back yard” and relaying on the same techniques in the same areas year after year. Learn how to fish all the different depth of water efficiently and this will set you up for any venue. Don’t make the mistake of thinking fishing for large pike requires a large fly. Carry a small selection off flies you are confident in in various weights. Mix up your retrieves until you have the pike confidently taking your fly, and finally build pictures within your mind of what’s going on in the water you’re fishing. The ability to “switch off” to what’s going on around you and concentrate for long periods off time is absolutely essential for consistent success.