Fly fishing for pike with Ron Sharp

Mon 25 November 13

 

I’d better state from the start, that I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert in fly-fishing for pike – but I am an addict! My business is selling fishing flies, and in the past few years, the demand for pike flies has increased dramatically as more and more trout anglers discover the excitement of catching pike on the fly.

My own introduction came about some years ago on a week long fishing holiday on Pitsford reservoir. The trout fishing was good, but it was very hot and sunny, and every afternoon when it got too hot, the trout would stop taking until it cooled down a bit in the evening.

One of these hot days, my fishing companion, Dougie, suggested that we have a go for the pike during the afternoon. So I went up to the lodge and bought a large fly called “Lefty’s Big Eyed Deceiver”. We didn’t have any wire for traces, but I used some 15lb nylon which I thought would do (well obviously I know better now).

We poked the boat into some weeds while we were tackling up, and as I was ready first, I did a short cast into a gap in the weeds just to see how my “big eyed deceiver” looked in the water. It looked great, in fact it looked so good that a huge pike shot out from nowhere and had a good chew at it. I was so shocked that I hit it hard and pulled the fly out of it’s mouth. Speechless and shaking, I turned to Dougie (who actually was a bit of an expert) and he managed to stop laughing at me long enough to say “put the fly back in, that pike will be looking for it”
“Surely it won’t come back after that” I said.
“It’s a pike, not a trout, put it back in!” he said.
So I chucked it back in, gave it one pull, and the pike shot out from the weeds again – and bit my “big eyed deceiver” clean off.

And that was me hooked!

Dougie lands a jack on that hot day on Pitsford - not nearly as big as the one I didn't catch!

Catching a big pike on the fly will leave you shaking and your knees knocking – and you don’t need much gear – a 9 or 10 rated rod, a floating or slow sinking line, some fly fishing trace wire, and some pike flies.

The Gear

Pike flies are big, and you need a powerful rod to chuck them! Modern pike flies are made from synthetic materials, so don’t become waterlogged and heavy, but even so, casting a fly which is six inches long still takes a bit of doing.

Even at a distance you can make out the pike fly against the bushes in the background

A 9ft rod for a line #9 or #10 is ideal, and this will also be powerful enough to handle big pike. Obviously you’ll then need a matching flyline or lines, and a reel big enough to hold them. You can probably get away with using a floating line most of the time, but occasionally an intermediate or slow sinking line is useful.

My own gear is as follows:

Rod. I was using a 4 piece 9ft rod from Orvis, but it was very stiff, and didn’t suit my casting action. (Which is another way of saying that I’m a rubbish caster!)

However I recently switched to a rod from Sharpe’s of Aberdeen. It is a 9ft for a line 9 in the Sharpe’s Gordon range – It’s called the “Predator”

The more through action of this rod is much more forgiving, and I find that I can fish for much longer without getting tired.

The reel. I use an old Leeda Magnum 140, which was one of the original disc drags. I originally bought it for summer salmon fishing, but it doubles up for the pike fishing no problem.
The Lines. I use a floating line when possible, but I also use an intermediate and a sink tip for times when the fish are lying a bit deeper.

Attaching the Flies

I have a braided loop attached to the end of my flyline, and I attach my leader to this using a loop to loop connection. Originally I was using a setup from Orvis called “Retwistable Haywire Bite Guards”. These consist of a length of heavy duty nylon, which comes attached to a solid wire trace length. The wire trace ends in a little loop, and the wire is twisted back around itself. To attach a fly, you just untwist the wire loop, slip the end through the eye of the fly, and retwist the wire. A plastic sleeve is then slid over the twist to stop it undoing. These were great because it was so easy to change a fly and the loop meant the fly could move freely which gave it a better action. To be fair this set up never let me down, but the solid wire did have a tendency to become quite badly kinked.

Authanic wire attached to a fly using a clip link.

These days I use a product from Germany called “Authanic” wire. It is a woven steel braid with a Dyneema core. It is flexible enough that you can tie standard knots in it. It is expensive, but I just use a length of about 12 inches with a loop tied in one end to attach to my cast, and the other end tied directly to a clip link. One of these traces can easily last for a whole day’s fishing – possibly longer, but I don’t like to push my luck.
I’ve even used authanic wire for dead bait traces with no problems.

I usually have a 6ft length of 15lb nylon from the fly line to the authanic wire trace, which gives an overall cast length of 7ft. It gets very hard to turn over the bigger flies if I use longer than this.

Tactics

I find that my most effective method for fly fishing for pike is from a drifting boat. I can drift right down the front of weed beds, and explore right across pikey looking bays. I usually slow the drift down with a drogue, which lets me cover the water and work the fly properly.

Fly fishing from the shore is effective, but you are limited by more factors such as the wind, and generally you (I) can’t cast as far as you can with ordinary trout flies.

Fishing a weedy bay from the shore on one of my favourite waters

Ideally I like to fish with a boat partner using lures or jerk baits while I fish the fly. This has a couple of advantages:

First if the lure fisher is hitting fish and I am not getting any on the fly, then I know it’s time to change pattern, or depth – or both!

Second if I am getting fish on the fly and the lure fisher isn’t – I can feel really smug!

I like to retrieve the fly slowly with jerky movements and pauses – trying to mimic the action of a small fish.
Because the flies are so big, if you get the right light conditions on a calm day, you can actually see the fly in the water, and this helps to work it in a realistic manner. I’ve hooked lots of pike in these conditions, and it’s great sport – one minute you’re watching the fly, letting it sink, giving it a little twitch – then suddenly the fly is gone and you’re hooked onto a pike. You never actually see the pike, just the fly suddenly disappearing!

perfectly hooked pike on a fly

Always squeeze the barbs on the flies – it makes it nice and easy to pop the fly out and return the pike.

Finally – the Flies

On the Fliesonline website I stock a range of streamers, bunny divers, foam poppers, pike tube flies and some foam frog imitations. I also sell a small mix of flies in a box as a starter kit, along with a spool of Authanic trace wire.

The Streamers

The Streamer

These are tied using synthetic materials, and come in a range of colours as well as imitative patterns such as roach and perch. Everyone has their own favourites, and it is just a matter of trial and error to find out what works for you. For instance I recently got some feedback from a customer saying that he had had a great week’s fishing, and the best fly of the week was a white and pink streamer – a pattern I sell, but have never even tried! As usual, confidence in the fly is half the battle.

The Flasher range of streamers are all made from tinsel. I have an arrangement with a Swedish fly company, whereby we swap patterns, and this range is very popular in Scandinavia – very successful here too now! Some of the flasher patterns come with weighted eyes – when fished with a floating line, these give a great sink and draw action which can often entice a take.

The inside of a pikes mouth is a pretty harsh environment for flies. Always double up on your favourites!
This is a picture of one of my flies after a very successful day – but definitely ready for retirement – and I didn’t have another with me!

Bunny Divers

Bunny Diver

These are made from rabbit fur strips, and so become very heavy when wet. Very heavy to cast, but I sell loads of them, so they must work. Possibly people are using them for trolling rather than casting.
Foam Poppers and Foam Frogs

These are great fun! They all have nylon weed guards, which lets you fish them through the weed beds. On a summer’s day, fish these along the front of some reeds, and you’ll get really explosive takes. You only actually hook about one in five takes, but it’s heart stopping stuff – and they’re easy to cast!

Pike Tube Flies

These are another recent arrival from the Swedish company – I haven’t tried them yet, but a friend recently ended up using them for tuna in the Maldives – but that’s another story!

Ron Sharp

 

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