Pike Panic 2
How to target Pike with Fly Fishing Tackle.
So where do we start ? Well there are many venues across the U.K. which hold Pike including Canals, Rivers and Lakes. You may need to ask around and do a bit of behind the scenes research but odds on there is a water close to you with a stock of Pike, the only basic requirement of each is that there is some room to make a back cast.
Venues need to have features which will attract the freshwater tiger, a favourite being reed beds. Jacks are often found prowling up and down these nashing their teeth, ready for an unwary fish to make its mistake and venture too close ! Other things to look for include a weedy bottom, especially tall, ' stringy ' weed which stands up off the lake / canal bed and provides an excellent background for Esox to mould into. Ideal water depths can vary depending on your chosen location, size of fish stocked and time of year, but often 3 - 6 ft is an excellent starting point.
Right, time to begin fishing. Thread up the rod which should be weight 8 and above, and attach 6 - 8ft of 20/30lb mono, loop to loop is ideal for this and when using such strong leader I go for the Perfection Loop Knot. Then using an Albright Knot splice in 1 1/2 ft of 20lb twisted steel strand wire, after which use the method described in Pike Article 1 to attach your fly. Pattern selection depends on a few criteria, mainly venue and weather conditions, my own first choice is often an intermediate line coupled with a Black Fly as described in the previous article.
To start fishing set yourself up to cast at one of the features mentioned above, ideally on a boat you will be 10 - 20 yds out from a reed bed and throwing the line so the fly falls extremely close to the stems. On a canal or river the best policy is to cast to the opposite bank on a diaganol or so it returns parallel with your own bank. Allow the fly a little time to sink and then start a very 'jerky' retrieve, remember you are trying to imitate an injured / dying fish or one which is frightened and alarmed by the presence of Mr Pike ! My standard retrieve is to use very quick strips of 2 feet or so and then stop dead. Hard, rod wrenching takes often occur just as the fly stops or when you resume the retrieve. One fantastic element of Piking is that often the strikes are so visual with a great push of water towards your fly, or the incredible sight of the fly dissapearing into the cavernnous mouth of a hungry Pike !
Another favourite tactic is the Popper ! A floating line should be your choice with a similar leader rig to that described above, and a bouyant fly made using clipped deer hair, platazote block or something similar. Cast your offering in close to the reeds, along river / lake banks and over weed beds. Don't begin an immediate retrieve, instead wait for a while, often Pike will become attracted by the noise of a Popper landing and launch a savage attack on what it thinks is a dead or dying fish. I have experimented with strikes and have found that you need to strip the fly home or lift firmly. Strike hard upon impact and often the hook comes loose which most likely has something to do with the way Pike turn their prey ( head first ) once consumed. All that and we haven't even begun to retrieve yet ! Start by ripping the line several times with a savage strip, this will cause the fly to suddenly spring to life, popping ( hence its name ) and gurgling towards the rod tip. Quite often there is an explosion behind the fly as a Pike takes pursuit and strikes out, once again though use plenty of pauses as often this can be the trigger point for an attack. One point I would like to make is that I do not often use weed guards as I feel that they hamper a decent hook up, many will disagree with this I am sure, but it is my own personal preference. Besides, I have witnessed on a number of occassions a fly eaten with a foot of weed trailing behind!
Once hooked your Pike will do everything in its power to shed the hook, and quite often they succeed, but even this is a fantastic spectacle as the fly is tossed away in a shower of spray and teeth. Small Jacks are fun because of the incredible speed which they use to attack, having been hooked they will often thump around a little before giving in, exhausted by the energy needed to engulf the fly. Large Jacks ( 8 - 9 lb ) and double figure fish are quite different. Takes will almost always be a rod wrenching slam, followed by an aerial display to rival the Red Arrows and a run that Linford Christie would be proud of. It is now that decent wire traces, strong knots and plenty of backing becomes paramount for the successful capture of this hard fighting predator.
Playing fish is similar to any other heavyweight species, put on as much pressure as you dare ( that's quite a lot with 30lb line ! ), use your disc drag if you have it and try and beat the fish as fast as possible. Many people believe that Pike are incredibly hardy, but in fact they will go very belly up very fast if not handled correctly. There is a simple reason for this, they have no enemies ( other than each other ) and have been designed to attack and kill, so their biological system is not best designed to cope with being preyed upon themselves. Your first big Pike cart wheeling away at a formula one pace is certainly something never forgotten, but once beaten action is needed to avoid stressing the fish and inflicting injury on yourself.
Once in the net ensure the fish has finished thrashing and then quickly lift the fish out. Try and get the Pike on its back as this seems to calm them down, in fact they can go as quite as a mouse, and on to an unhooking mat ready for surgery. Then if you are using a glove place it on your unatural hand (i.e. the one you don't write with ) and get ready with the forceps. Place your gloved hand gently inside the gill plate using extreme care, never touch the blood red gill rakes. By holding the fish using this method you will cause it to flare open the jaws displaying to the world just why they are nicknamed the Freshwater Barracuda. It is then very easy to locate the hook and use the forceps to remove, never ever be tempted to use your hand, even if the hook is stubborn. One slip and you have a very nasty injury quite literally on your hands ! If this proceedure sounds risky please be reassured that with care and common sense it is very simple operation. Just remember 2 golden rules, never turn away from the Pike for even a second and keep your hands behind the jaws at all times. Please don't use a Pike Gag, they are outdated, don't always work properly and can cause the Pike injury.
Get a nice trophy shot and then spend plenty of time reviving the Pike before allowing it to swim away. I watched one guy chuck back a mid teen fish earlier this year having uncerimoniously dragged it to the boat, weighed, unhooked and dumped it back into the drink before picking up his rod and frantically re casting. I am sad to report that later on that day this magnificent fish was dead, purely because it had been handled with little or no respect.
Fly Fishing for Pike is one of the most exciting avenues of the sport to come to light for years, so why not give it a go ? After all where else can you expect a WILD double figure fish, on a regular basis, in the British Isles ?
Would you like a guided trip Fly Fishing for Pike with the author ?
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