Online Fly Fishing Magazine

Pike On The Fly

Thinking of giving pike on the fly a try? Warren Langridge gives you some top tips to get you started in search of the fish at the top of the food chain…

Mentioning pike can sometimes be a debatable subject amongst some anglers. There are certain people that believe they have no right to be where they are or there’s too many pike present. My opinion is that they wouldn’t be able to survive without a sustainable food source, mother nature always levels the playing field! One exception to the rule would be our trout fisheries but that’s a different discussion.

Top Of The Food Chain

There’s something about fishing for pike with a fly rod that’s keeps me going out in the coldest parts of winter where every sane angler is probably fly tying. I think it’s the fact that your targeting the top of the food chain, the speed of an attack, the aggression they show towards a lure that enters into their lair, the fish equivalent of a tiger if you like. I’m lucky enough to have a great friend with over 40 years of pike fishing experience across all types of waters within, the UK whom I’ve soaked knowledge from over the past few seasons. If you are already a fly angler contemplating fishing for pike what follows is some advice based on several years of experience gained targeting this amazing predator.

Warren uses a 9ft 9-wt with a range of lines for targeting pike on the fly.
Warren uses a 9ft 9-wt with a range of lines for targeting pike on the fly.

There’s something about fishing for pike with a fly rod that’s keeps me going out in the coldest parts of winter where every sane angler is probably fly tying

Tackling Up For Pike On The Fly

Tackle for pike on the fly is far from the norm. You’ll need a short, powerful fly rod capable of casting large flies, and when I say large flies 10-12 inch are not uncommon, and a solid large arbour fly reel with a good sealed drag to stop powerful lunges from a big fish. I favour 9 or 10-wt fly lines. A floating, Intermediate and DI3 will cover 90% of boat or bank fishing situations but I do also like a 10ft Sink Tip and DI7 to cover every eventuality.

Now down to the business end, for me it’s a 40lb fluorocarbon leader 7-9ft in length, a shorter leader for sinking lines and a slightly longer leader for the floater and at least a 12-inch trace of Rio Wirebite 30lb. This set-up ensures good turnover even with the largest of flies. I use a simple loop-to-loop set-up and attach a clip on to the end of the trace for ease of changing flies on a cold day, plus the fly moves freely on a clip rather than tied on – hence more movement is gained.

Flies For Pike

As with trout fishing the best option with flies is to give them what they like to eat! Most pike flies are based around a fish profile and are more about movement than anything else as this is the key to triggering a reaction from pike. White and silver coarse fish colours work the best for myself, other colours worth trying include, red/white and yellow/orange, these have all done well for me over the last few years. If you tie flies try to use both natural and synthetic materials, they both have their benefits. For example, materials such as Funky Fibre are great for creating realistic patterns and create a good fishy profile. Natural materials to try include rabbit, marabou and bucktail. All provide good movement and are available in a wide range of colours.

A selection of Warren’s pike flies, patterns tied with natural and synthetic materials to imitate baitfish.
A selection of Warren’s pike flies, patterns tied with natural and synthetic materials to imitate baitfish.
A selection of Warren’s pike flies, patterns tied with natural and synthetic materials to imitate baitfish.
A selection of Warren’s pike flies, patterns tied with natural and synthetic materials to imitate baitfish.

Fishing For Pike On The Fly

The actual method of fishing for pike can be very similar to trout fishing in that you have to experiment with various speeds and types of retrieves. I’ve caught pulling as fast as I can across a river and also fishing a slow figure-of-eight retrieve in the depths of a stillwater, there’s no particular rule for any day as we all know. One key thing I would like to point out is that about 80% of my pike have been caught right under the nearside bank so its key that you fish your fly with confidence right to your feet and give a fish every chance to nail it.

Moving on to places to fish… I was once told that pike, even big pike are easy to catch, its finding them that’s the difficult part. That said, just about every river and stillwater has pike in it and when you do find them there is some real fun to be had! Special permission may need to be gained in order to fish certain coarse fisheries but most rivers and canals are very accessible on a membership or day ticket. There are no real limitations to pike fishing – every town or city has some form of water nearby, water, which will contain pike!

Warren with a small jack pike taken from the boat at his local reservoir.
Warren with a small jack pike taken from the boat at his local reservoir.

Unhooking Pike

So, you now know how to catch a pike, you now need to unhook them safely. The first thing to be said is if you are not confident handling pike then take someone with you who is until you are. Great care should be taken when hooking fish, they should be handled confidently and unhooked correctly. Some people like to use an unhooking glove – for a first-time piker this may be a good idea to avoid any mishaps, however I personally avoid this where possible as you have more feel without a glove. Any filleting glove is fine should you feel the need. The best method of gaining control is to gently grip under its jaw and rotate your hand slightly to open the fishes mouth. Then you will be able to safely remove the fly with a good set of pliers or long nose forceps.

Now winter is here why not give it a go. Catching pike on the fly is something I enjoy and is great fun on a cold crisp winters day.

Warren with a superb double-figure pike taken on the fly. Why not give a try this winter?
Warren with a superb double-figure pike taken on the fly. Why not give a try this winter?

Warren Langridge

Having fly fished since the age of 14 Warren Langridge has turned his passion into a career, working for one of the largest tackle chains in the UK. His wealth of knowledge across the sport spans from competition fishing through to a particular passion for pike on the fly and night-time sea trout.

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