Fly Fishing in Europe - Large Moving Flies for Pike
When the trees are adorned with their finest yellow and orange colours, autumn reminds us that it is time to fly fish for pike. What is more exciting than casting a big fly to a pike chasing a school of baitfish on a chilly and brisk morning? Large rivers and lakes are an excellent playground for those who want to live magical moments!
In search of the toothy critters…
With the exception of catfish, the pike is the undisputed master of our lakes and other large waters. Fly-fishing for pike is often in competition with various techniques and it is true that good results are sometimes difficult to obtain. The quantities of pike present in our waters are very diverse. This predator is particularly fond of reed beds, large gatherings of lilies as well as more or less swampy areas.
Targeting pike in the spring and late fall is a wonderful sport! Shallow waters will draw in the baitfish and the pike will follow. Sometimes a pike will hold completely still, relying on its incredible ambushing skills to devour a tasty meal. Believe me when I say that sight fly-fishing is the best method to catch a big fish! In some gin clear waters, it is possible to focus on very large specimens. We should also remember that in our waters, this is a totally wild fish with rare exceptions. Success will therefore depend largely on our ability to assess and understand its predation on baitfish!
When the water gets cold, sheltered areas, arrivals streams heated by the sun have to be fished first. A slow current river can welcome thousands of white fish, roach and bream together, which then form compact schools where predators such as pikeperch (zander) and pike will chase a good part of the day. According to my experience in many different places in Europe, it is very rare that a big pike of one metre moves for a 5cm streamer! Very large flies that move the water when you retrieve will catch the biggest ones! A big, voluminous and flashy fly is what you need on the end of your leader! Those big flies must stay fairly easy to cast in spite of the amount of material tied on the big hook! Most pike flies are tied on large single hooks. My choice goes from 6/0 to 9/0, nothing smaller. To assist unhooking, use barbless hooks or debarb the hook first. You could eradicate barbs by crushing them down with pliers. Some flies have a weed guard, that can minimise the chance of snagging up in weedy water. I know that many saltwater fly patterns will catch pike but it is best avoiding stainless steel hooks, as these won't rot if you loose the fish!
Anglers who “hunt” big pike in gin clear water should look for maximum efficiency with the minimum of casts. It is often in this way that we manage to capture very large pike on the fly with a good dose of adrenaline bonus. In fact, the big pike are real fighters and it is often difficult to beat these formidable opponents quickly. Their mouths paved with teeth are always a problem. Big hooks have trouble sometimes finding a place to take hold. Some places, especially rivers with submerged woods give a lot of trouble to the most talented among us, but the game is worth the prize, as taking a fish of more than 20 pounds is a real satisfaction for a fly-fisherman!
The angler should always keep in mind that baitfish behaviour largely determines the appetite of pike. Some scientists have noted that in Lake Geneva, evolution of the schools of perch was directly correlated with the status of big pike populations. Fly fishing for pike demands the use of robust rods to be able to cast the heavy fly lines required to present large flies. A 9-foot rod designed to cast something from 8 to 10 weight fly line may also possess adequate backbone to restrain large fish. These types of rod will be by far the best to return a big pike to the water quickly, and much more quickly than a fish that happens to be played to a standstill on lightweight tackle. Casting large flies is a lot easier with the use of heavy lines, and in particular Pike taper fly lines with an exaggerated weight forward profile. Whatever fly line you choose it is vital to make sure that your fishing reel can hold a minimum a hundred metres of excellent quality backing. Pike are capable of making short but very fast runs!
My fly fishing tackle for pike
Rod: Airflo Bluetooth NanTec Rod 9’line 8/9 or Orvis Clearwater 9-weight 9' Fly Rod
Reel: Airflo VLite 7/9 Reel or Orvis Hydros 4.
Line: Airflo Bass/Musky line WF9, Airflo Titanium and Predator Polyleader.
Flies: Ex-citer Bloody Roach, Ex-citer Jack Attack, MF114 Fry Perch, Broonie MF41, SGR4 Rattle’n'Hums orange, SGR2 Rattle’n' Hums perch, MF107 Monster Dahlberg Diver, Luke's bunny chartreuse white SPR46, MF99 BC Grizzly, MF102 Dougie's Baitfish Perch available from www.easyfly.com
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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