Pike on the Fly- Terminal Tackle, Make things Easier.
by Mark Bailey -
It's all very nice using top-end, rods, reels, and lines when fly-fishing for pike. After all, we can all benefit from using well-balanced equipment. Making sure that a rod and line marry up correctly. Making sure that the AFTM rating of the rod is sufficient to be able to cast, and turn over a big bushy fly, and making sure that the rod has enough power to be able to control a large thrashing pike to the bank. But in reality, as good as all this is, its what's on the end that tempts and fools the fish. There are a lot of anglers now entering the sport. Many are traditional fly fishers, who fancy trying something different when the trout and salmon season comes to an end, and some are specimen anglers who simply wish to catch their favoured species by another means.
When starting off fly-fishing for pike, apart from the basic tackle requirements such as a rod, reel and line; most people will then go on to choose a selection of flies for the job. Whether its a popper for stripping back across the top of a weed-bed, or a baitfish pattern twitched and pulled along the contours of the lake floor. All very good. After all without this you wouldn't be able to go fishing. But it seems to be the terminal end that tends to let a lot of anglers down. Probably overlooked as boring and irrelevant- but it is the thing that keeps the catch of a lifetime, attached to the end of your rod.
I've tried and tested most things over the years. When first starting my pike fly-fishing career I hadn't much idea. I'd use a level sea-fishing line as leader, with a traditional spinning trace attached. Combined with an oversized and overdressed mess wrapped around a 6/0 hook, things were looking bad from the start. It's not the easiest thing in the world trying to cast a large wet pike fly. But the idea is to make things as easy a possible, and enjoy the days fishing instead of struggling.
After plenty of frustration and blanks, I began to look at the best ways of compiling the terminal end. Firstly to make the casting easier, and then to find the best trace material that didn't hinder both casting and fly presentation. The first thing was weight. Unlike a spinning rod that actually casts out the lure, a fly rod is designed to cast the line. The fly that is attached is simply coming along for the ride. So the heavier the fly that the line has to pull behind it, the more awkward the casting. Often known in the game as a 'chuck n duck' cast. The best flies to cast are light and airy. Tied to give the illusion of size and bulk, and made up from materials that help to shed water whilst casting and have plenty of movement when been fished. But it is the part in between the flyline and fly (leader) that is most often overlooked.
There are plenty of purpose made pike leaders available on today's market. I always make sure I use a tapered leader. The advantage of this is the energy transfer to the fly. Quite simple to construct. I usually start with a four feet length of 35lb fluorocarbon, and step down the breaking strain to 20lb. I like the leader to be as short as my fishing allows. Usually between about 8 and 10' in length, with the trace tied direct of about 18". I have in the past tried using a mono trace. Using a length of 40lb hard saltwater monofilament to which the fly was attached. The advantage was that the use of snap-link and swivel could be eradicated, and fly and leader could be attached direct. Casting became so much easier, as the swivel and snap-link would often hinge during the cast. Through out, the mono trace held out quite well. Very abrasion resistant, and durable. But I once had a very large pike inhale a fly that I was stripping back, and with the twisting action of the fish during the fight, it managed to bight through the trace. From that day on I went back to wire.
Presentation when it comes to fly-fishing for pike isn't in my opinion that important. Don't get me wrong. It has to be right. But it's not so important as when flicking a small dryfly to a wary brown trout. I learnt this whilst using jerk baits. It was common to use 80lb braid, with a solid steel wire trace. Once the pike had locked onto its target, it didn't seem to worry about the trace or line. So I wasn't that worried about using wire whilst fly-fishing for pike. The only problem was connection. Today there are purpose made trace materials designed to be supple and tie direct to the leader and fly. AFW (American Fishing Wire), produce a massive range of trace materials designed for fly-fishing. Also Angler-Pro, produce Pro-Leader which is another excellent trace material. Some are very supple wires, which tie direct and others are made up of a braided core, coated in strands of steel wire. The knots that I use for attachment is the double grinner for making up tapered leaders and attaching the trace, and a half blood knot for attaching fly to trace.
So as you can see, even though casting an 8-inch water logged pike fly can be hard at times. It can be made easier by compiling the correct terminal parts of the set up. There's nothing more frustrating than seeing a hungry pike smashing into baitfish about 5' further out than you can reach with a cast. At least if everything is correct in your set-up you will have a better chance of reaching the fish!
Points to Remember:
- Make sure rod and line ratings match up.
- Make sure AFTM rating is enough to cast and turn over large flies. 8-10#
- Use correct tapered fly line.
- Use tapered leaders.
- Use trace that can be tied direct to the leader and fly.
- Use flies that will shed water whilst casting.
- For safety always wear eye protection and a hat/cap.
- Learn to cast with a professional instructor.
For tuition please check out the
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