IN RECENT YEARS TARGETING PIKE ON THE FLY HAS BECOME ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING BRANCHES WITHIN OUR SPORT.
With game anglers looking for new thrills on the fly rod and most fisheries opening their doors to the predator angler, there’s never been a better time to give pike on the fly a try. The days of the pike being demonised are long gone, and rightly so!
With brands such as Vision specialising in well-balanced predator fly outfits, we are now seeing anglers from bait and lure backgrounds crossing over ‘to the darkside’. Whether you come from a non fly-fishing background or are simply taking it up for the first time, it can be somewhat daunting when considering fly rod weights and actions, a wide choice of line tapers and weights, and various reel designs and constructions.
In this blog post we will cover the tackle required to safely and efficiently target pike. So let’s first take a look at the fly rod and what dictates the best option. Usually the fly size / weight determines our choice and with flies from 4 inches to 1ft in length, or possibly even larger, a rod of a certain AFTM rating will be required. AFTM stands for Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers and is a scale of line weights: the heavier the line, the greater the AFTM number, the lighter the line the lower the AFTM number.
Generally for targeting pike a fly rod with a rating of 9# or 10#, paired with a fly line of the same AFTM number, is a good all round user-friendly outfit. This will allow us to deliver the flies required for the job. Rod action should also be taken into consideration. Action is defined by the length of time it takes the blank to recover back to the straight position from being flexed.
Fast-actioned rods mostly bend in the top third of the rod and recover quickly. We can create higher line speeds, tighter loops and cast greater distances. Timing during the casting stroke with these rods needs to be more precise and they are better suited to smaller pike flies and experienced casters.
Medium/fast actioned rods are more desirable to the pike fly angler. They mostly bend from the mid section of the rod to the tip and it is easier to feel them ‘load’ the line. Timing during the casting stroke needn’t be as crucial as the recovery of the blank is slower.
They are better suited to casting larger flies but will also cast smaller ones with ease. Examples are the Vision Merisuola Predator and Grand Daddy which are both firm favourites of mine. They also possess immense power in the butt section of the rod blank for applying pressure during the fight.
As mentioned, fly line AFTM should be matched to rod AFTM rating for a well-balanced outfit. A fly line is basically a long flexible weight made up of a core, which gives it its strength and determines its stiffness and stretch, and an inner and outer layer that make the line either float or sink.
Pike fly lines are usually of a shooting head type, with a short head section connected to a running line. The head, or front, of the line is tapered to ensure proper turnover of the fly and leader and to transfer and dissipate energy evenly. The rear taper of the head stabilises the line in flight and acts almost like the tail of a kite. The mid or belly section of the head is where all the weight is and this is the section that allows us to load the rod during the casting stroke.
Quite often pike fly lines will be described as having ‘aggressive’ tapers. This generally means that the taper/weight is in a forward position on the head. This allows the head to transfer energy quickly and turn over large, air resistant flies. The running line is a small diameter, level line that allows us to achieve distance in our cast. It is pulled through the rod eys/guides by the weight of the head. Vision Grand Daddy fly lines have short 8.5 metre ‘aggressive’ heads. Most of the weight is in the forward position of the head and these are my favourite lines for windy days and bigger flies. They load the rods easily and will shoot line with the minimum amount of false casting.
Vision Big Mama lines have 12.8 metre heads, again with the weight in a forward position, but with a longer rear taper. I prefer these lines when casting smaller flies. The longer head allows me to hold more line in the air during the cast, allowing greater distance in a more controlled fashion.
The fly reel’s main function is to store our fly line, which is wound round a rotating spool within the reel frame. This contains an adjustable knob which we call the drag, essentially the braking system, used on the fly reel to slow down the rotation of the spool by applying controlled pressure.
The Vision XLV range of fly reels has a disk braking system, allowing a wide range of adjustment to suit the angler’s needs and has what we call a large arbour design. The arbour of the reel is the centre of the spool and increasing the diameter of this increases its circumference and drastically improves the retrieval rate of the line back onto the reel.
It enables a more constant pressure over the drag braking system and is less likely to create memory problems (coils and kinks) with your fly line. To attach the fly line to the arbour of the spool we use backing. Simply put, this is a ‘back up’ in case we hook a powerful fish that pulls all our fly line off the reel. About 100 yards of 30lb backing is more than enough for pike as they don’t usually make long runs.
And finally to the business end. We need to facilitate a smooth transition between the fly line and the fly and to do this we use a ‘leader’. This is a fairly simple affair for pike. Most modern pike fly lines come with a welded loop on the end. To this we connect around 5ft off 25lb Vision Prisma fluorocarbon via a perfection loop. At the opposite end, again with a perfection loop, we attach around 18 inches of 30lb flexible wire. Pike have extremely sharp teeth and there is absolutely no substitute for wire.
My preference is to tie the fly directly on to the wire. There are, however, various different clips available that can be used, like Vision fly swivels.
An alternative is to buy a pre-made leader set up. Vision Big Mama Classic leaders come with 19 inches off 35lb wire attached to 5ft of Space fluorocarbon via a tippet ring. This means the wire can be easily changed if required and is finished off with a Mustad Fastach clip at the fly end and a prefection loop at the fly line end.
We are now armed with the correct, well-balanced outfit and terminal tackle necessary to fly fish for pike safely and efficiently.
In my next blog post we will look at the flies and techniques we use to hunt pike successfully . . .