Fly Fishing in Europe - Zander; The King of Deep Waters
Laurent Guillermin's second article looks at the European zander, or pikeperch - found in lakes and rivers of Eastern, Central, and Western Europe. The diet of the zander depends largely on the food available. Any species of fish is fair game for the zander's toothy jaws, even its own kind! That is enough reason to give it a try with a fly!
Zander; The King of Deep Waters
Zander, also commonly known as pike-perch (Sander lucioperca or Stizostedion lucioperca) were introduced a couple of decades ago in Europe. You will find them in Poland, Sweden, Finland, Spain, England and France of course.
In my country they do quite well in the Rhin, the Rhône, the Loire, the Saône (The Burgundy remains a top spot), the Seine and the Ain. The habitats occupied by zander are likely to vary during different seasons.
In autumn, the adults prefer a substrate of large pebbles in 1.20-1.80 m depth. In winter, when the temperature approaches 5°C, zander are found in pits and holes where they over winter. During the day, they can be found at depths of between 10 and 40 feet, in the evening they usually move to more shallow water. When the temperature rises above 3°C in spring, they commence their upstream migration. However, you can also concentrate your fishing in our clear lakes and that is often the key. A combination of understanding the fish and the fly-fishing techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish on the end of your fly line. Better knowledge and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fly-fishing on a river or on the beach of a lake!
In my local area, zander are particularly fond of the smaller fish species, especially the bottom feeders such as gudgeon and roach. If you are a beginner with zander, keep always in mind that they prefer smaller fish than pike do. Sometimes just before the night or in the early morning they chase their prey (schools of bleak) close to the banks! According to my experience, any fish they cannot swallow is ejected and picked up dead from the bottom! Sometimes it is worth trying to leave your fly without retrieving for a few seconds!
In France this popular fish can grow up to 1 metre and weigh 15 kg! As a conservation measure, law regulates the minimum size of zander (40 cm) considered mature enough to be eaten. The interest for a fly angler is its tendency to be fussy with its prey, making it harder to catch than many other fish on fly. Your best streamer retrieved too fast will not get the zander's attention.
A good zander fights by pulling backwards, giving the impression of a big stone attached to the end of the fly line! Although zander may be large and aggressive predators, fly-fishing for it does not require much specialized gear for the angler to be successful: But I have to say that I have done some of my best zander fishing using a float tube. Float tubing is a great way to go zander fishing. It does not cost a lot, and it will give you access to areas that cannot be reached by shore anglers or boat fishermen. You can get very close to the best spots without spooking the fish. Ideally a 9 or 10 foot fly rod with a number 7 or 8 HD line will handle most conditions you will run across. A good lake trout or reservoir outfit might be a good idea. Just remember that sometimes a slightly smoother or softer tip is great to detect subtle takes! Matching your reel to the rod weight is an important consideration no matter what type of fly-fishing you will be doing! In order to reach the depths the fastest sinking lines on the market will be needed.
The zander is still a bit of a mystery species but even though its teeth look quite impressive, it is not capable of damaging the leader. With a good DI seven or eight, the leader is short, around 4 or 5 feet, and made with 2X or 3X fluorocarbon material. Loads of predator flies are available on the market today and come in a wide variety of colours and fashions. Most are brightly coloured resembling saltwater flies and they will do the work in white, yellow and black. You can also try a booby fly, a very effective pattern for pikeperch in white colour. With it, the depth control is dependent on the length of the leader and the pace at which the fly is retrieved. With a short leader, the angler has the ability to slowly walk the fly through the strike zone. After your cast wait for your fly to touch the bottom and start a slowly figure of eight retrieve. The king of deep waters is there but its take can be very soft. Watch out!
Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”
You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
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