8 - Fly Fishing for Pike
Fly Fishing for Pike is fantastic fun. Not only that but Pike are an all year round species and can be found in most types of waters from small canals to large still waters.
Below are a few tips from angling writer Dom Garnett on what best to use when going after Pike.
Suitable leaders for pike fly fishing
Pike are a fish that demand different tackle for quite special reasons. Not only do they get big and strong, and live in snaggy places, but they have very sharp teeth. For this reason it is essential to use an absolute minimum strength of 15lb leader materials. Better still is to use 20lb fluorocarbon- since pike are not line shy and there is no benefit to go any lighter.
How to make a pike fly leader & trace
A typical leader consists of around 7ft (2.4m) of tough fluorocarbon attached to your fly line. There then follows a bite proof trace; these are typically 18"/ 45cm of knottable wire (Authanic or Surflon are ideal), attached to your leader by a tough rig ring at one end (some trout rings are simply not strong enough, so do test- carp models better) and a small but strong snap link at the other.
There are two reasons to use a rig ring. One is that you shouldn't knot wire direct to mono or fluorocarbon, because it can cut through under pressure. The second is that a rig or leader ring is small and much lighter than a swivel.
As for the wire trace, 18" is always sensible because more is better than less. A short trace could easily wrap around a pike's head during the fight and you'll get cut off. Also, the ends of traces tend to kink after a point, so if we start with a longer trace of 45cm we can always re-tie a couple of times without ending up with something that's too short to be safe.
The length of your whole leader and wire trace is important. For floating line fishing, this should be no more than around 8-9 feet (just under a rod's length). When you use intermediate or sinking lines, however, you can make the trace shorter to prevent the line sinking much quicker than the fly.
Is it essential to use a wire trace for pike?
In a word, YES! You will see some anglers occasionally suggest using only fluorocarbon. This is not sensible, because a large pike will still cut though fluorocarbon... unless you go up to silly strengths of say 100lb, which are so stiff and inflexible they have no major advantages over wire.
How long should a pike fly leader be?
Pike handling and release tips: respect your catch!
Finally, always test your pike leaders to make sure they are really secure. Do also check at intervals to make sure there are no splits or bits of damage that could cause a weak point. Pike are quite fragile fish, in spite of their mean looks, which is why we must take great care when fishing for them, because a broken line could easily mean a dead pike. If it is a big pike, that could have a serious impact on your fishing... to give you some idea a 15lb pike lays approximately half a million eggs every spring!
Please, please, please fish for pike with great care and release them carefully because they will not stand careless handling and are precious fish (a big one could be well over ten years old). You should always have a large landing net, mat and proper unhooking tools (foot long forceps minimum). Debarbing hooks is also a good idea. For further guidance on unhooking pike safely, the Angler's Mail site has a handy visual guide and video: https://www.anglersmail.co.uk/