Fly fishing for pike is an increasingly popular way of targeting them. They are great fighters, have a big appetite and have an unmistakable bite. What is not to like! There are a few things about them a trout or salmon angler might not be aware of, so lets take a look at how to catch a pike with fly fishing gear.
Pike are carnivorous fish and consume large amounts of food each day consisting predominantly of fish, although they will take other foods such as water foul and frogs. Pike have a long thin body, which is designed for maximum speed over a short distance and green coloration.
This makes them a perfect ambush predator as they sit amongst vegetation waiting for an unsuspecting food item to swim by close enough for them to strike. Pike also possess a flattened snout that is full of razor-sharp teeth.
So once a pike has grabbed its meal there is very little chance of escape. As well as ambushing its prey, pike will also go on the hunt for food, looking for an easy meal such as a dead or dying fish.
Fishing for Pike, Lure, Baits and Now on Flies!
When targeting pike, anglers will generally use a small live bait such as a minnow or shad underneath a bobber and cast it out towards a weed bed or work a certain area with an artificial lure such as a jitterbug or spinner using a spinning rod.
These methods all anglers to both wait for a pike to pick up vibrations and scent and come to explore, or to present a lure in front of the pike and encourage it to bite. Both are successful options especially with pike not being a particularly discerning hunter.
This has opened up opportunities to try different fishing methods to target pike. One of these is fly fishing for pike. Although similar in theory to fly fishing for trout or salmon there are some subtle, and not to subtle, differences which we will explore below.
When targeting pike while fly fishing there are important points that the angler needs to take into consideration: What weight of rod to use, which reel and its features to opt for, what line and leader to use, also what type and size fly to tie on, and of course retrieval tactics to attract pike.
What Gear To Use When Fly Fishing For Pike?
The good news is if you fly fish already then a lot of the gear you already have will be suitable and you will jsut need to add some larger flies, leader and wire trace to your tackle. ( Pikes teeth are more formidable than a trout’s!) We have our tips below with some links to check them out yourself if you need.
Fly fishing for pike requires similar equipment to that of trout and salmon with a few adjustments. A rod weight of 8/9, a reel with a large arbor, a solid drag system and interchangeable cassettes will cover most situations. Add to this flies between 4’’ and 9’’ on a 12’’ wire trace and a 20 – 30lb leader
What Weight Fly Fishing Rod To Use For Pike?
When it comes to selecting a rod for pike fishing, the angler has to decide what weight of rod will be the most suitable to use. To determine this, take into consideration the size of the pike that will likely be encountered, what size of fly will be used and also consider how thick the cover is that the pike will be in.
If large pike are the target in heavy cover when using big flies, a 10 weight rod would be a suitable choice but if the angler plans on fishing where most pike are of a smaller size using smaller flies with little cover, then a 7 weight would be a good choice.
A lot of anglers opt to use an 8 or 9 weight rod as these two weights are the most versatile and can cover a wider range of eventualities.
If it is your first time trying fly fishing then there are a selection of inexpensive combinations on Amazon, it may be worth considering if you are not sure if it is for you or not. Check them out here.
If you are looking to upscale though and get a stronger rod than your trout gear. We have had great success pocket hopping and castings to the edge of reed beds with this rod. The Maxi catch range have served us well, as we tried on to see if we liked the idea, however have never felt the need to upscale. The offer bundles and combinations with a reel as well, although not for cassette types. Just remember to get a rod weight of 8 or 9. You don’t want to be under powered for pike.
With Fly fishing there is ALWAYS the option to upscale, so probably better to buy to try before spending big bucks on a Orvis Rod!
What Reel To Use Fly Fishing for Pike?
Although when fishing with a fly rod the angler does not play fish using the reel, there are three points to consider when selecting a reel which will benefit the angler.
- The first is to choose a reel that has a large arbor as this will allow the angler to pick up line faster when and if the situation requires.
- Secondly, the reel should have a good drag system, so if the line is on the reel and the fish needs to take some line it is able to do so easily with out straining either the rod or the line.
- Thirdly consider purchasing a reel that has a cassette system as it will be far easier to change between floating, intermediate and sinking lines when required it will also save money on having three or four separate reels
We have used the Aventik Z Fly Reel with pretty good success, the ability to change out is a ”reel” benefit when you are assessing the water and searching for pike. You can check the price on the link.
What Line To Use for Pike Fly Fishing?
When it comes to selecting the type of line to use the angler must take into consideration the position of the pike in the water column and the type of environment that is to be fished in.
- If the water is very shallow and weedy, the best option would be to go for a floating line as this will keep the fly higher in the water column plus it is also a good option if the pike are feeding near the surface. However it does limited your options to just surface fishing.
- An intermediate sinking line will be a good choice if the angler is not too sure of the depth of the water or where the pike are and wants to cover the water column, as every few casts the fly can be left to sink longer before starting a retrieval. A type 3 would suit as it has the ability to hit slightly deeper waters without hitting bottom.
- During the summer months, when the water is at its warmest, pike will head for deeper depths, as the deeper the water is the cooler it is. This is when the angler should choose a sinking line as it is important to get the fly down as deep as possible to the fish. However, Although larger fish may be down there, there will still be fish all through the water column so don’t worry to much if you find yourself without the correct line. You can still target fish.
- With pike flies on average being large and bulky, the fluorocarbon leader should be between a 20lb and 30lb breaking strain as the stiffness in thicker line like this will help to turn the fly over.
- As all pike have very sharp teeth that bite through monofilament and fluorocarbon very easily, it is critical to use some sort of wire trace to connect the fly to the fluorocarbon leader. Wire traces should be a minimum of 12” in length and have approximately a 30lb breaking strain.
- These can be shop bought or the components can be purchased separately so the traces can be constructed at home.
We have linked to type three sinking and sinking tip line here, as to link to the HUGE number of line choices would just be crazy. However a middle group line, just like a middle groups rod, is likely to serve you best.
What Flies are Good For Pike Fly Fishing
Pike flies vary greatly in size from 4” up to around 9” and can be tied on size 4 hooks through to a size 6/0. Unlike when fly fishing for trout and salmon, the fly pattern does not necessarily have to match the hatch.
Pike are inquisitive and aggressive, often striking at anything that moves within range. The angler does not need to carry a vast selection of flies when targeting pike, a few different colored flies and patterns will see most situations covered. You can check out these to get you started. Image below as well
- 16 LURES
- Supplied in the box photographed
- Sixteen pike flies - Including Poppers Divers, Muddlers and Mouse & Shrew patterns Supplied in waterproof Lure box....
These are receiving good reviews, though pike usually like the big eyes, which these do not have. However if the reviews are to be believed then they are bringing up fish. They are only 14 dollars as well. So may be worth a go. Let us know if you have tried them !
How To Retrieve The Fly When Targeting Pike
When it comes down to retrieving the fly, there is no hard and fast rule on the style and speed of retrieval to use as one day a slow figure of 8 retrieval will work and the next day a steady hand over hand retrieval with long pauses may work better.
The best way is to experiment with a few casts and retrieval methods and see if anything bites. If there are other anglers around and you are new to the water then asking advice would be the best course of action.
General Tips When Fishing For Pike
- It is a very good idea to carry a decent pair of forceps, ideally at least 10” in length, which makes the un-hooking process easier and enabling hands to be kept away from their sharp teeth.
- Consider a jaw spreader as well, these are strong fish!
- Although you are there for fly fishing it is worth having an alternative set up to hand in case they are not biting, or if you want to add some variety to your fishing day. Pike may not be picky eaters but that’s not to say they don’t have a preference on any given day.
- Take band aids and plasters, you are going to get a nip at some point
Having the correct tackle can make fly fishing for pike one of the most exciting ways of targeting these predatory fish. THe key takeaways from this article are as follows.
- Use a 8/9 weight fly rod, incase you hook into a 20lb trophy fish!
- You can try a variety of flies, don’t be afraid to go large
- You will need a foot long trace to protect from their teeth
- They live in reeds and vegetation, so a strong leader as well.
- Have some options for fly presentation so a cassette reel would be useful.
- Vary your retrieve methods
- If fishing in the Northern States or Canada be aware you may hook into a Musky! they tend to be even bigger!
Oh, and catch one for me!!.
Tight lines guys, with this fish that’s a guarantee!