Fly fishing for pike: basic set up

I often get asked about my setup for fly fishing for pike and leaders and traces in particular so I thought it might be useful for some people if I put it into my blog.

As with most things with any type of fly fishing I’m a big believer in keeping things as simple as possible. The less complicated your setup is the less to go wrong really. And my pike fly fishing setup really is as simple as you can get.

Rod choice is important because you will be using it to cast big flies all day. With that in mind that is exactly what dictates which weight class of fly rod I choose for me. I choose to use a 10# . The main reason is because I like to use big flies for pike usually on 5/0 and 6/0 hooks so I need something that’s going to be capable of effortlessly casting those big and sometimes heavy flies all day long. And a 10# does the job perfectly for that as well as having that extra power when needed for playing large pike especially on a boat or float tube. Many people use 8# or 9# rods and they are perfectly acceptable for the job. But personally I prefer the extra power for casting large flies. Rod length is also an important consideration. I prefer a 9 foot rod so it’s more versatile for me wether I want to use it on a boat , float tube or on the bank. I won’t go into brand names here because everyone will have a different opinion based on their own needs and casting style. But there’s a lot of choice out there to suit any budget.

Reels are not something I think too hard about really because with pike fishing there’s only a couple of things of importance. Somewhere to store your fly line along with approximately 50 yards of backing. And a good reliable smooth drag . Most popular reel manufacturers brands of reels will be up to the job. It’s rare that a pike will take you into the backing and when it does it won’t be for long . They fight hard but it’s mostly short bursts of speed at a time with each run giving you plenty of time to recover line between each run. So 50 yards of backing is plenty. Another option is cassette reels which are very handy if you have you have a range of different lines and are likely to be changing them throughout the day which really does happen often enough to consider it.

Line choice is a question I get asked often. There is no short answer to this. Depending on the waters you fish will most likely need a few lines . A lot of people turning to fly fishing for pike for the first time often already have an 8# or 9# salmon rod , reel and line . These are acceptable for fly fishing for pike . Often the line is a multi tip or an intermediate which would be fine for canals and some rivers but for deeper rivers and lakes they won’t allow you to reach the necessary depths. But it is important that your line has an aggressive taper for turning over large flies. So a proper purposely made pike fly line will be much better than any salmon line for the job of casting large pike flies . I would recommend getting at least 3 lines. A floating line, a di3 line and a di7 line would cover you for the most of what you are likely to need for rivers , lakes and canals. A floating line is necessary if you want to fish floating flies such as surface poppers which can be really good in the summer months and early autumn. A floating line can also be used for canals and shallower rivers it also has its uses in weedy shallow lakes or parts of lakes even in the depths of winter. If your budget is limited and you can only afford one line at first then a di3 line is a good compromise in a lot of situations and it will be the ideal choice for depths between 3 feet and 8 feet. For deeper water you will need a di7 line . There are heavier sinking lines available and they are useful but these three lines will be enough to get you started.

Leaders as with all fly fishing are very important. Some people like to use fluorocarbon and some people prefer monofilament leaders. Personally I like to use Sunset Amnesia in 30lbs b/s. It’s a very stiff memory free monofilament which is perfect for pike fly leaders. Whatever you decide to use a length of 5 foot from the fly line to your trace is perfect. You don’t want your leader any longer than that because it will cause more resistance against the water and hinder your ability to keep your fly deep on the retrieve.

Traces that are resistant to the pokes sharp razor like teeth are essential for all kinds of pike fishing and fly fishing for pike is no different in that respect. But for fly fishing it needs to be supple enough to cast the fly and also a very useful trait is if it is supple enough to be able to knit it easily instead of having to crimp it. You can buy traces already made up but they work out expensive and they are so easy to make up yourself that it’s a no brainier really. I like to use Ironclaw Authantic Wire which in my opinion is perfect for everything we want from a wire trace for fly fishing for pike. After each fish always check your trace and if there’s any signs of fraying then replace it immediately. But one trace should usually do you for a few fish. I like to have a few already made up in a rig wallet so that I can just change them quickly when necessary without wasting valuable fishing time . After catching a fish or repeat casting the supple traces do tend to coil up a bit. A good form stretch in your hands will take out those kinks. To make a trace cut off a 10″ section of your trace material and at one end make a perfect loop. On the other end simply knot it onto a Mustad Fastach clip . It really is as easy that to make up.

Flies come in a huge range of sizes , shape and colours and all will have their uses. There are some good rules of thumb to help you with fly selection. When water temperature is comfortable for the pike which essentially means when it’s not too hot or too cold then larger flies will work best most of the time. In the summer if the water temperature is quite warm or in the depths of winter when the water is very cold then small flies are necessary. The main reasons for this is because it’s much easier for the pike to digest smaller prey in those uncomfortable temperatures so they will mostly feed on smaller prey when possible. Another rule of thumb is bright day, bright fly and dark day, dark fly. In the case of pike flies bright meaning very flashy and dark meaning less flashy. Think about it from the pines point of view and it will make sense. A bait fish such as rudd or roach has scales which act like a mirror as they change direction and the sun reflects off their scales. So a bright day it will be natural for a pike to see bright flashes of silver, gold or bronze. Whereas a dark day a darker dull silhouette would show up better for the pike and also appear much more natural to them. Some days pike will literally take anything you throw at them but most days are not like that. And sometimes especially in winter the right size and right colour can make all the difference between landing a couple of pike and blanking. So it is essential to have a few different flies in different sizes and different colours.

So I’ve covered rod, reel , lines and flies. How do we connect them together? Again keep it as simple as possible and little will go wrong. My setup is as simple as you can get and it won’t let you down. To the end of the fly line attach a braided loop and use a good waterproof superglue for extra security. On both ends of your 5 foot leader tie a simple perfection loop. To the braided loop attach your leader using the loop to loop method. Connect the trace to the leader by the loop to loop method . Then simply put your fly in the fastach clip and you’re ready to go.

Casting is pretty much all about double hauling. If you don’t already know how to double haul then learn it. There’s plenty of good videos on YouTube or better still get lessons from a qualified casting instructor.

Retrieve will vary with time of year and what the pike want on that particular day. In winter and warm summers it will be a case of fishing deep with small flies and retrieving them as slow as you can. Other times of the year you will have to experiment on the day to find out what it is that they want on that particular day on that particular water.

Striking is also something worth mentioning because pike are different to most other fish in that they have a very bony mouth so you really need to set that hook well. The best technique is to use what they call the slip strike where you strip the line hard to set the hook. I also simultaneously lift my rod and bend into the fish and I find with the combination of those striking techniques that I miss much less takes.

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