31 - Pike fly fishing on big stillwaters: 11 Top Tips!

Pike fly fishing on big stillwaters: 11 Top Tips! 

With fierce good looks and thrilling speed, it’s no surprise more of us are fly fishing for pike these days. Large stillwaters are especially popular, giving any angler the chance of a real net-filler! The pike of big lochs and reservoirs fish can require a more effort and searching compared to the pike of rivers and canals, however. Here are a netful of great tips to help you catch more pike on the fly this season. 

With pike like this fine double relatively common on our larger lakes and reservoirs, it’s no surprise more fly anglers are now fishing them! 

Location, location, location 

For any angler used to smaller settings, it can be daunting to find pike on a huge water. The classic looking areas, such as reed lines and sunken trees, are not always reliable features. For much of the year, the best features are hidden.

Depth changes are perhaps the single most important area, for example a sudden drop in the lake bed, or a shoreline where there is a distinct “shelf” where predators lurk. A depth chart or even a fish finder could be very useful, and don’t be afraid to chat to fishery staff and experienced anglers! 

A lively jack is hooked; when you hit the fish, it’s worth noting the depth and distance from the bank and repeating the drift again!

Find the “Goldilocks” zone! 

Talking of location, the depth and distance from the bank to find pike will change throughout the seasons. At any given time of year there will be definite “zones” where the pike find the temperature “just right”!

One good way to proceed is by systematically trying drifts at different depths or distances from the bank until a pattern emerges. If you get a couple of bites in 12ft of water, for example, you’re highly likely to get more by sticking to this depth. 

Pack a wide selection of fly colours

We’ve sometimes heard it said that fly colour is irrelevant when pike fly fishing. We disagree! As with trout, you have to suss this out on the day and while there are days they’ll hit anything, there are plenty of others when they show a definite preference. 

Pike can be fish of moody tastes, so stock up with plenty of options! We have dozens of quality pike flies, starting at under £3. Click here to browse our range. 

Make sure you have a decent selection of colours and sizes, from smaller and darker, to large and extra flashy! Black, for example, is a great colour for lethargic fish or those that have seen too many very bright offerings before. Very bright colours might score best if you face less than perfect water clarity. And of course, changing flies can also revive our confidence, which is useful in itself! 

Best seasons and conditions for pike 

Another key factor in success can be identifying the best times to visit a fishery. While fly fishing in 20ft or more of water is possible, for example, it can get quite impractical in the dead of winter on very deep waters. You might have far more success in autumn or early spring, when the fish head for the shallows. 

This varies by lake, of course, but be sure to ask other anglers and follow your nose. Even blank sessions are also useful in this regard, as they tell you the conditions that are less productive! 

A Broadland pike on an overcast, mild winter’s day- great conditions for piking.

Keep hook points sharp and tackle reliable  

Pike might not be as fussy as trout, but they will make even greater demands on your tackle! How many of us set up with a tired leader or a fly that has been used several times? Two very simple steps will help you land more pike here.

 First up, keep a hook sharpener handy and use it on any flies that see a lot of action. Second, stick to strong gear and freshen up your leader if you see any damage! For more info, see our tackling up for pike on the fly article.

Pike demand safe, robust tackle. Always check for damage and don’t leave home without a wire trace. Our current top choice is the new Cortland Tie-able Stainless Steel, which you can order at just £11.99

Find that feeding spell

More than any other species, pike are moody feeders. They can go from comatose to ravenous in the same few hours! Fisheries vary, but the first hour of light is always a likely time. Otherwise, though, keep a diary and note carefully which times of day you get the most action. “Bite o’clock” can vary greatly, but if you take notes on your favourite waters, useful patterns will emerge.  

Mix up your retrieves

Don’t be fooled into thinking pike will always respond best to a fly ripped back fast. There are plenty of days when they like a slower presentation, for example, or a pattern of several jerky strips followed by a pause.  There are certain waters that definitely respond better to a patient retrieve- especially those where there are big, lazy pike that have an excess of food and needn’t go speeding around to catch dinner.

Try the hang! 

Try “hanging” at the end of each retrieve- and never be in too much of a hurry to lift your fly out of the water! 

Catching fish on “the hang” is not just for trout! One of the most common mistakes in pike fishing is to lift your fly from the water too quickly. Instead, let that fly lift and linger at the end of the cast. Take your rod sideways and use the tip to impart a final twitch or two- before counting to three before you lift out. Quite often they will follow for several metres and hit late!  

Be ready and strike hard 

While some pike will hook themselves, most of the others will need striking. Too many anglers either don’t strike at all or do so too weakly. With a bony mouth to penetrate, you need to do this firmly. Try both a line strike and sweeping the rod sideways, to be sure. If you are tackled up correctly, there is no risk of breaking off on contact, so be positive. On a sinking line you will need to strike even harder to tighten up and make contact. 

Keep fly lines simple 

If you fish shallow to medium depth water (say 4-10ft deep) you may only need a floating line for pretty much all of your pike fly fishing! A fast intermediate can be a better option for reservoirs or rivers, however. If you regularly fish deep natural waters where pike lurk at depths of 10-20ft, such as large lochs, a fast sinker is another important tool. Don’t always assume pike are on the bottom though! Use the countdown method, just as you would when trout fishing, to find their level.  

No matter the situation or depth we have a line for you with the new cortland Pike / Musky Lines


Don’t worry about hitting the horizon with your casts

When you are casting big pike flies, it can be challenging to put a very long line out. Rather than make lots of false casts and losing momentum, try getting a comfortable 15-20 metres out consistently with just a couple of back casts. This way, you’ll spend more time fishing and get less arm ache. 

Put the effort in and your dream pike is out there, as Rodney Wevill demonstrates!