Catching Pike on the Fly

Catching Pike on the Fly
Hooking a Pike on the fly is one of angling’s great moments: from the moment that you feel the first surge of power down the fly line to the final cartwheel jump, even smaller Pike will give you an adrenaline buzz that no other style of fishing can deliver. The attraction is the Pike’s speed and power, especially on the initial take, which often is a thunderous hit.

Catching Pike on the fly in the UK is very accessible given that you are never far from water that holds them. All they need is a healthy stock of smaller fish on which to prey and they are happy. Pike will take a fly all year round, but as is the case with most of fishing, you need the right conditions, strong knots and a few more accessories, but it’s not as technical as you may think.

Pike fly fishing essentials
The first thing you should do is research. Ask fellow anglers or friends who go piking where the best spots are. But if you are a bit stuck, or your pals are a bit tight, you can’t go far wrong looking for structure, bridges, inlets, areas where two rivers meet, slack water in bays, off points, reed beds etc, As they are all worth thorough investigation because they are excellent spots for Pike to ambush prey.

All though you have control over where you fish you have no control over the conditions. Water clarity is very important. You don’t want it too clear, especially if the skies are clear too because the Pike can spook easier. You don’t want water that’s too coloured either because Pike won’t see the fly, and all that enticing movement you’re putting into it will go to waste. Somewhere in between is ideal.

The beauty of Pike fishing is that you never know what you’re going to hook into – a 2lb ‘jack’ or a 20lb ‘big mama’. The element of surprise and anticipation fuels your angling spirit. So, make sure that you fish the fly right up to the edge of the water as Pike can appear suddenly from nowhere.
Vision Big Mama 2.0 Flyrod
When it comes to your rod, arm yourself with a 9’rod in either a #9 or #10 weight. Saltwater rods will do but Pike specific rods with a deeper action are a favourite for casting big flies. These powerful rods will also enable you to play the fish hard and get them in quickly for a safe release.
Redington Predator Fly Rod
Reels don’t need to be fancy with expensive drag mechanisms if they have a decent capacity to hold a #9 or #10 Pike fly line plus 50m of 30lb backing. Strong, short leaders of 4-5’ of 20-30lb mono or fluorocarbon are recommended attached to at least 12” of your chosen wire trace.

Rio Pike/Musky Leader Knottable Wire
Experienced Pike anglers recommend 20” of 49 strand knottable wire as it negates the need for swivels or clips which add unwanted weight to the leader.

Redington Behemoth Fly Reel
Investing in a purpose made Pike/Bigfly fly line is highly recommended. These have the right taper make up to make casting big flies much less of a chore. An intermediate is probably the line to begin with but there are other times where a floater or faster sinker will be required. A type 3 or 5 sinker is also useful if you are wanting to retrieve your flies on a deeper plane with a roly-poly retrieve – this can be deadly when the Pike are up for it.
At the risk of sounding too obvious, you cannot go fly fishing for Pike without flies, and the good news is that an increasing number of commercially tied patterns of excellent quality are now available. Dragon, Fulling Mill and Highland are just some of the commercial suppliers of good Pike flies.

Guidline Pike Line Intermediate
Pike fly patterns should have plenty of movement, flash and big eyes, the latter provides that all-important target point for the fish. The best flies have a good profile, like the classic ‘willow leaf’ or extended ‘teardrop’ shape when seen from both the side, above and below. Pike often look up when stalking their prey and flies will be seen, like baitfish, in silhouette – so the shape of the fly, when seen from below, is therefore paramount.
Fulling Mill Dougie's Baitfish Perch
A good Pike fly should trigger a Pike into striking and yet should be easy to cast. It should also look good in the water and have a natural, sinuous movement. A well-tied fly pattern will out fish any other type of artificial Pike lure, its only limitation being how far it can be cast.

Highland Copper Comet Tube
Colours are also important. Flashy, bright flies tend to catch aggressive Pike and are well worth a cast, especially in coloured water. Another thing to consider when fishing in coloured water is to incorporate little rattles into patterns to enhance them and attract the Pike’s attention. In clear water use a natural fly imitation with more subtle colours and tones as they are often more successful.

Fulling Mill UV Flashtail Whistler
Size is not as important as you might think. Small patterns have been known to catch very big fish. Movement however, is crucial in Pike flies so mink or rabbit patterns with a long tail are ideal. Also, try to incorporate a Straggle Fritz body because it pulsates.

Dragon Acrylic Head Pike Fly
Artificial patterns shed water so are lighter and aren't as heavy to cast but they might not have the same movement as fur. The movement of fur is more natural and subtle than any type of artificial Pike lure and it can be worked much, much more slowly without losing its action.

If Pike turn away from your pattern, try a different colour. It often results in a positive take.

Wiggle tails can add flash and vibration to a fly
Pike can be caught near the bottom, midwater in and around snags or weed beds and off the surface. A selection of Pike flies to cover these likely scenarios will suffice. Much of the battle with Pike fishing is finding the fish. Spend your time learning about the water and its features.

Pike will rocket up from the depth and hit your patterns with ferocious speed. When casting big flies, you must slow the cast down and allow the backcast to fully unfurl so that you feel the weight of the fly as the leader extends before making the forward cast.

When a Pike takes hold of your fly you must strike to set the hook because it can very easily let go again. Strip strike hard, and not with the rod. The flexibility in the rod won't allow the hook to set.

As you work the fly’s movement close in before lifting off to recast, be prepared for a super-fast lunge – Pike are built for powerful, short surges. The rest of the fight might be slow and deliberate, but you’ll know you’ve been in a scrap – that’s for sure.

Slow retrieves work well in the colder months and use quicker retrieves in the warmer ones. Vary the retrieve to impart movement on the fly and don’t be afraid to stop the fly, allowing it to sink.

Smaller fish can be unhooked in the water
It’s always worthwhile remembering, although they look fierce, Pike are actually a lot more delicate than you think. Be careful that you don’t let them flap about on hard ground or on the bottom of the boat if reservoir fishing.

A pair of forceps and unhooking mats are essential purchases as they not only keeps your fingers safe from the business end of the fish and keep the fish off the hard ground but having these items will speed up the unhooking process meaning less distress for the fish. When releasing Pike, make sure they can hold themselves upright before letting them go. When you feel the power return to the fish just let it swim off using your hands to gently cradle the fish in the water.

Support Pike when releasing
A general tip that goes for all types of fishing is stay safe! If you are venturing out on a boat or float-tube, please, wear a lifejacket and always let someone know where you’re going and what time to expect you back. Wear appropriate fishing clothing for the conditions. Think about keeping a small packable First Aid kit in your luggage – Pike teeth are sharp, and you WILL get a little raker rash at some point.

Investing in a pair of polarised sunglasses will also aid in your safety, keeping sharp hooks away from your eyes but you will also be able to stop the fish better. 
Pike will take a fly all year round, but you may have season restrictions on your local venue and it’s generally accepted that they’re better left alone when they are spawning in the Spring. Post spawn (late Spring/early Summer) is a good time as they are looking to pack on weight and regain condition after the exertions of breeding. Then you have late Autumn when they are feeding hard in preparation for the leaner cold months ahead. In the Winter, just layer up, go deep and slow with your flies and you should still get some rod wrenching action!

Fishing should be fun and catching big predators on the fly is exactly that.

If you would like anymore information regarding fly fishing for Pike please visit us in store at either the Glasgow Angling Centre or the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Or call us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert staff will be happy to help.