With fly fishing for pike increasingly popular, it’s more important than ever to fish well and get the details right. Flyfishing for Coarse Fish author Dom Garnett has six great tips to making your time on the bank count.
A gorgeous river pike, caught in icy cold conditions.
Be mobile, fish boldly
Today’s predator fishing world is very different to the past. Pike anglers are no longer an eccentric minority; every venue of any note now has it’s share of pressure. This doesn’t mean the fish are gone, but it does mean that they are less naïve and require more effort to catch.
One absolutely golden rule with any predator fishing is to explore as much as you can. Your feet and eyes are as important than any rod, reel or fly. Covering the miles will always pay off, as will getting stuck in to places that are a little awkward to fish. A majority of pike anglers access only a fraction of the water in front of them- so get stuck in and think about where the fish want to be, not where is easiest for you.
Improve your gear!
Directly related to our first point is the need to tackle up to cope with demanding spots. Reliable, safe gear is not optional for pike, it is essential! It’s no good fishing steep banks or snaggy spots with a puny little net, for instance. I wouldn’t set out on my local venues without an extra large landing net with a handle of at least three metres, which lets me fish awkward spots without putting myself or the fish at risk. Nor should you leave home without a large unhooking mat and long, heavy duty pike pliers.
Even more important than catching pike is releasing them with care. Never skimp on strong tackle- and essentials like a large net and mat.
Similarly, 30lb fluorocarbon to a minimum of 20lb wire should be standard kit for all your pike fishing. There is no advantage whatsoever to going lighter- and with strong tackle you should avoid any risk of breaking off on a fish, while you’ll also win more arguments with snags and lose fewer flies.
Another great investment for all pike fly fishing is a line tray. These are now available at under £30 and save so much bother. They not only avoid wasted time tangling with the undergrowth, but lessen the wear and tear on your fly lines.
Timing is key
You won’t catch pike in bed, so get out there while they’re feeding!
Pike do not feed like trout, carp or any number of other species. While other fish might browse and eat hundreds of tiny food items in a day, pike will often just take one or two good mouthfuls and then shut up shop. Hence, it is vital to be on the water when they want to feed.
Working out this golden spell is rarely an exact science, but some useful general trends are worth noting. One of these is that in the early season or during mild conditions, the first hour of light is often “bite o’clock”. In the later season, or after any bitterly cold night, the late afternoon is often better. Nothing is set in stone, however, and every venue is different. A great shout here is to keep a diary and record the times when you get your bites. Fish are creatures of habit. Do your angling habits reflect this?
Opt for quality, dedicated pike fly lines
One question raised a lot is: “Which fly lines do I need for pike? Will a floating line do or do I need others?” The short answer is that on many venues, and certainly those no deeper than say six or seven feet, you can happily kick off with just a floating line. Should you need to get down a little more, a fly with dumbbell type eyes will achieve this to some extent, even if you only own a floater.
However, if you do any variety of pike angling, especially on deep or flowing venues, you’ll also want a sinking line or two. This depends on where you fish, of course. I find a fast intermediate perfect for rivers and venues of up to ten or so feet deep. A fast sinker is a godsend, however, for bigger and deeper waters, or on those tough days when pike refuse to budge far off the bottom.
Whatever you do, don’t skimp on quality. A dedicated pike line is a different beast to standard kit and, yes, a bit more expensive, for good reason. It’s made for the job in hand, with an extra strong core and a thicker “head” to punch out large flies. The Cortland Pike and Musky lines are brilliant in this regard. In my fishing they’ve stood up to a lot of abuse, including a 45lb catfish!
Establish the mood – and vary your flies
A helpful way to think of pike is in terms of their “moods”. By this, I mean there will be times they are ravenous and other times when they are stubborn, along with everything in between. Getting one to bite could mean giving them something flashy and silver- or throwing a curveball such as a bright pink fly or even something black.
I’ve never subscribed to the idea that fly colour and size makes no difference. You needn’t have a zillion options, but I’d always have the following:
- Some “naturals” in roach and perch colours.
- A few loud colours in hot orange, pink etc
- Some weighted flies with dumbbell heads
- At least a couple of black flies! These often save the day when all else fails.
A selection of Turrall pike flies (L to R): Stupid Boy, Scruffy Tiger, Pike Flasher and Blackie.
Mix it up and keep retrieves lively
This is such a big subject, but the best advice of all I can give is to be committed and lively. Pike don’t always need a rapid retrieve- but being erratic and injecting some feeling and thought is essential. No matter how slow you bring your fly in, always add the odd burst. No matter how fast you retrieve, always provide the occasional pause.
Every day is different and it’s up to you to experiment and see what they want. Again, it can help to think of pike as having different “moods”. Are they actively hunting and willing to chase a fast moving target up in the water? Or perhaps they’re rather lethargic, but might be provoked by something big and bright?
We are presenting something artificial, however, so in order to convince the pike we must also convince ourselves! Another great tip if your belief is waning is to keep imagining that there is a pike following your fly. It sounds silly, but it really works!
Persistence can be key- this reservoir fish was literally the only bite of the day!
Above all else, pike fly fishing rewards those who think about what they’re doing and make good observations about the fish. These are fickle fish, too, however, so perseverance is also a great virtue. Sometimes, they will only feed for a short burst in a single day. It’s down to you to fish smart and keep believing until that happens.Check out the Turrall Flies Facebook page to get the latest action and tips from Turrall, including our current fly fishing videos!
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