Fly Fishing For Pike
The sun beats down from an azure blue sky, piercing deep into the gin clear water. No breeze ruffles the glass smooth like surface. Shoals of bait size fish seek sanctuary in a dense weed bed. Nothing moves except you as you shuffle ever so slowly through the bankside vegetation, The only shade is from your long peaked cap, polarised sunglasses help your eyes to seek and search deep into the dazzling shimmering water.
You blink, then squint, can it be or is it a shadow, you squint again. Yes there it is. You spot a fin movement, then a tail moves slightly. Your squinting, blinking eyes move slowly up the length of a fish it must be forty five inches long. You gasp! The heart beats a little faster. Its the big one you've have been seeking all summer. Perspiration rolls off your forehead into your eyes stinging as it does so.
Your brain goes into over drive, Its like a computer as you work out the angle of the cast, the distance to target the time to shoot the line. You aerialise ten yards of line, you need another five. Pull this off the reel quickly, all the time keeping your eyes on that fish. Your the hunter, The hunted is a fish that goes back a few million years. It probably weighs twenty five pounds Its there for catching, If you don't make a mistake.
The fish is moving ever so slowly away, you only have this one chance. You cast the fly to interception point which is two feet to the left of the pike, your cast is spot on. The fly lands with a soft plop hardly breaking the water surface.
The quarry moves its head slightly and slowly turns, this is the moment you have been waiting for, you twitch the line it sends signals to the fly which comes alive in the water. The Polar bear hair tied into the fly which is some seven inches long creates life around the 4/0 Partridge hook.
Slowly you retrieve six inches of line, The pike's off the starting blocks and moving fast towards your fly another a quick pull of some three inches makes the fly come alive again. The big one can't resist it and hurls himself at the fly which he engulfs. You tighten. His speed and momentum carry him skywards like a Polaris missile.
For a second, perhaps two, you stand spellbound watching 25lbs of fighting fury crash back into the water its like an underwater explosion as the water erupts and the ever increasing circles go out over the lake A moorhen screams in disgust at having been interrupted from its peaceful slumbers.
Your Greys "Esox" nine weight rod tip is savagely pulled down to the water, The fly reel screams likes a scolded cat or demented demon. Fly line disappears in a blur, suddenly your backing is going the same way. Your knees tremble, the hands shake as a powerful adversary plunges down into the gin clear water head shaking and powering away at a fast rate of knots.
This is fishing at its best. Its called fly fishing for pike. Its a growing branch of angling today and I suppose it can be likened to fishing for bonefish or tarpon except its done in freshwater. Rivers, lakes, canals, reservoirs even small streams can offer exciting sport to the fly fishermen in search of pike .
Catch a 6lb pike in winter that has picked up a half mackerel bait at about sixty yards when fishing with a two and a half pound test curve rod with fifteen pound breaking strain line and four ounces of weight. You will think its a plastic bag you have hooked. Its a different story if you catch that same fish on a fly rod it will be a bent stick, pulled string and singing reel all the way.
Getting started - The Tackle
In the past, the rods I have used for chucking big hairy fluffy pike flies have been manufactured in the United States. Excellent craftsmanship and quality, fly rods that I couldn't fault in any way except the cost 400-00UKP plus.. Sometime ago I had the opportunity to visit Greys of Alnwick where I was able to see the care that goes into making fly fishing rods for throwing big flies and small. Rods designed for fishing small chalk streams to huge rivers, lakes and of course in saltwater by a British company.
I am not a rod designer but an angler who knows what he wants. During my conversations with Greys rod designers and builders they have put together the Esox range of fly rods designed to throw big flies in strong winds and handle big pike. This means today I am still fishing with great confidence but using a British built rod costing less than 200-00UKP. The Greys of Alnwick "Esox" fly rods in the Martin James series have been put through there paces in some horrendous cold windy weather conditions during the winter of 1995/96.
The rods I use for throwing nine and ten weight lines in fresh and saltwater are built from top quality blanks at Greys factory and have the best fittings available. Rods that have been designed for casting big flies for big fish under all conditions. I don't fish one session every two or three weeks, But five or six sessions a week under all conditions. Often in other parts of the world with guys who don't just talk about catching big fish. They go out and do it time after time. For throwing smaller flies up to size 1/0 after pike on small rivers and canals, The standard Greys reservoir rod rated 7/8 can be used. But should the pike weigh ten pound plus my advice is go for the Esox nine foot for a nine weight line with its extra power. For fishing big waters go for the ten foot ten weight with the optional hand grip to give additional lift when hauling a big fish from deep water. The rod is an important aspect of tackle and that's why at Greys they pay attention to every detail in its construction then make sure that the finished product will do the job required so you the customer can have confidence in the rod you are using in attempting to catch one of the most powerful fish in freshwater. A fish that has been around for a few million years. A fish that has learnt a few lessons along the way.
Your reel and line are the other top items of equipment. The reel and line must be top quality to match the rod. Do not skimp on these items. You will be sorry. The reels I use are the British made Scientific Anglers System 2. Its also a reel that can be used in saltwater, . I use the model size 10/11 which will take a size ten floating line with a 250 yards of backing.
The flies I fish with are not the small streamers that you use on your local reservoir for trout. Pike flies are big hairy fluffy beasts some of them up to ten inches in length often tied up on a size 5/0 sometimes 6/0 Partridge hooks even six 8/0 are often used.
. For throwing these big boys you need good quality weight foreword tapered floating and sinking lines in nine or ten weight. Over the years I have probably tried most of the lines, These days I stick to just one manufacturer Scientific Anglers, they also now make a pike taper fly line for the British market.
In 1995 I purchased the new Scientific Anglers Pike taper floating fly line in a 9 weight during a trip to Canada. It has proved excellent. This was followed later by a ten weight, These two lines cover all my needs for floating line work. They do everything I ask of them. I've not found better.
At one time I was using Airflo sinking lines and sinking leaders, Today its different. The sinking lines I now use are from Scientific Anglers in various sinking rates. This company also have a Deep Water Express. Its an excellent line when you need to get down deep in cold water conditions. It doesn't seem to have any stretch which helps set the hook when your fishing deep with very big flies. Its also a good line when fishing for saltwater species around the British coast.
A line that I am looking foreword to fishing with is the Launcher line from Mark Bachman who operates the fly fishing shop in Welches Oregon 97067. This is a specifically designed floating weight forward taper of about 100 feet in length. They are designed to float very high and special attention has been paid to shootability. Each line has an Aquatol Loop for quick changing tips.
Frank Casson a very experienced salmon fisherman who fished with me last year on the Deschutes River in Oregon purchased one of the Launcher lines and is very impressed with it. Frank told me, "Matched with the Greys fifteen foot salmon rod I could shoot all the line with no problems" Another line I look forward to field testing is the Jim Teeny series of lines.
Having purchased your rod reel and line you will need some leader material which is attached to the end of the fly line. Leaders are extremely important in pike fishing just as they are in trout and salmon fishing. The one problem we pike anglers face that trout and salmon anglers don't usually have is the casting of huge flies on large windswept waters. What we don't need are tapered leaders It doesn't matter how you cast the fly it want drop like thistle down onto the water surface the flies are to big and bulky for this. Often a splashy fly will encourage the pike to strike. Depending on the conditions you will need six to eight feet of 12 lb to 20 lb of mono line and some twelve inches of 20 lb wire.
One end of the mono is nail knotted to the end of the fly line, To the other end of the mono I tie in a small ring, The silver rings made by Ryobi Masterline are perfect for the job, as I write this I have not been let down by these rings .Also attached to the ring is one end of the wire trace. I use the Haywire Twist. Its very simple to tie and described by Sosin and Kreh in their book Practical Fishing Knots published by Batsford. A book I recommend to all anglers. Attaching fly to wire trace I again use the Haywire Twist. Some anglers have told me that using this knot they have to make up a new trace after changing flies three or four times. This is true, but I like to use what I feel is the best knot for the job and that's the Haywire Twist.
I use a large range of flies tied up from many materials on hook sizes from 1/0 to as I have previously mentioned 8/0 I have all my flies tied on Partridge hooks British and the best.
Frank Casson of Barnsfold Water Tel 01995-61583 can supply the Martin James series of pike flies. There are ten flies in the series which make a good starter selection that one can build on. The beauty of fly fishing for pike, Is it's a new way of catching pike that's exciting good fun and you are learning all the time.
Should you have any questions please write to me:-Martin James c/o Greys of Alnwick Ltd 2a Greensfield Park Alnwick Northumberland NE66 2DD
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