Fly Rod Pike Tactics

SOME PROVEN TECHNIQUES FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR CONSISTENT ACTION
By WAYNE PHILLIPS

Anglers come from all over the world to fish for Saskatchewan pike, while Saskatchewan anglers generally scorn pike and only occasionally fish for them. For many years I was a ‘typical’ pike hater, until at the urging of a friend, I used my fly rod to go after pike. After catching a few pike on large streamers, I became addicted.

Every year in June a group of us goes up to Jan Lake to fish for walleye. The last few years I have taken my fly rod and caught some pike once the walleye limits are nearly filled.

Last year there were several large pike in the 5-20 pound class that kept taking our jigs. While a shore lunch was being prepared, I started to fly fish for some pike. Using a 10-foot sink tip and a Fishhair streamer, I caught several pike in half an hour. We kept the two biggest and they each weighed in at an even seven pounds.

This example is by no means out of the ordinary. Even though trout are often described as a fish designed for fly fishermen, pike (especially large ones) are a good test for any fly fisher.

Anyone possessing a fly rod and reel is ready to fish for pike. A heavier rod rated for a 7-8-9 weight line is fine. Personally, I like a 7 weight rod with a stiff butt to drive the bulky flies when casting and also to help set the hook into the fish’s mouth.

Floating lines can be used when fishing shallow bays or rivers. The large hooks on a short leader will sink the fly a couple of feet below the surface. If you are casting, a sink tip line will serve you better than a full sinking line. The sink tips are easier to cast, and on flowing water the floating portion helps you to see the fly’s movement. Generally, a 10 foot sink tip will put your fly down to the depth where pike like to feed most.

If you are trolling, a full sinking line or a heavy shooting taper will help keep your fly down. Since fly lines are so thick, water pressure against them while trolling tends to make them bow up to the surface. The more line you let out, the worse this problem becomes.

Scientific Anglers and Cortland both make shooting tapers weighing 450 or 550 grains that are perfect for pike in deeper water. Sometimes, due to wind conditions or to interest lethargic fish, you have to troll more quickly than usual. A shooting taper will be the only line to keep the fly on the bottom.

One morning on Cree Lake last July the wind was pushing up some waves and our guide had to troll rather quickly to control the boat. I had few hits until I put on a Cortland 550 grain Kerboom shooting taper, and then the fun started.

fter catching a few smaller pike, which we released, I got a solid hit. The fish made two strong runs and it felt like it would be in the 15 pound plus size range. Halfway through its third run, the line went slack. My tippet had been broken by a large pike.

This is one of the problems with fly fishing for pike. A short section of steel fishing line will mean a pike’s sharp teeth will not cut your tippet. Casting a steel line tippet is awkward and difficult. The best solution I have found is to use Cortland’s Cobra Flat Mono. Flat Mono always turns over the same way so you can keep the streamers right side up by using this for a tippet. Use 30 pound Cobra for the leader butt and 20 or 25 pound for the tippet. Besides casting well, the Flat Mono seems to have a very tough surface that stands up to a pike’s teeth.

The first thing I did when I reeled in my line after losing the large pike was to check the tippet. It had not been frayed, nor had it broken at the knot. It had broken in the middle. In my hurry to pack my gear for Cree Lake, I had forgotten to put in a spool of Flat Mono. I had borrowed some other mono for a tippet, but it must have been old since it broke in the middle. After each fish, it is a good idea to check the tippet to see if it is frayed. If it is, just cut off the frayed section and tie on the fly once again.

You do not need a special reel to fly fish for pike, just one that is balanced to your rod. Pike rarely make very long runs, so 100 yards of backing should be sufficient. Usually only heavy winds or motor trouble will cause you to need all of the backing. A nice feature to keep a wildly spinning reel handle away from you is a fighting butt. It will allow you to lift heavy fish because you can jam the butt into your stomach and provide the rod with a fulcrum.

Fly tyers complain because popular fly patterns are often hard to tie and very small. Not so with patterns for pike. The rule seems to be make it big and make it gaudy.

The most successful patterns seem to be anything that represents a minnow and has lots of flash or glitter to attract pike strikes. Tie all of the flies on long shank hooks. To help prevent unnecessary fly loss due to sharp pike teeth, tie the patterns with materials far back on the hook and leave as long a section bare as possible. This style of tying first achieved recognition when Stu Apte used it to catch tarpon in salt water.

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