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‘Tis the season for pike

A cold, still winter’s day is the perfect time to start fly-fishing for pike, no matter where you live


A windless, blue sky and a crisp winter's day – perfect for a pike cast.
A windless, blue sky and a crisp winter's day – perfect for a pike cast.

It was a series of articles that appeared in FFFT back in 2007 that got me well and truly hooked on fly fishing for pike. It’s something that I enjoy for most of the year. Even though I’ve enjoyed my best pike fishing for post-spawners in May, I always associate piking with autumn and winter, especially if it is foggy or has snowed or, best of all, both. I love the atmospheric stillness and quiet along with claustrophobic low visibility. Fishing for pike as a teenager has no doubt conditioned me to go in search of a toothy predator at these times.

One of the great things about pike fishing is that you will (at least in the UK), more often than not, discover that you live relatively close to a water where you can cast a fly for pike. In my view, the best starting place is a river. Aside from weekends, I find I can walk the banks of most rivers for miles without encountering another angler.

My standard set-up for river piking is an 8wt fast-actioned rod matched with a 10ft sink-tip (clear intermediate) line. The leader is 5 feet of 18lb BS monofilament.

Trace material is brilliant these days, Rio’s Wire Bite (30lb BS) is very user friendly. I can attach trace to leader with a double grinner knot. The fly is secured with a perfection loop.

The reality of fly choice is remarkably simple. You could, if needs must, for most circumstances, rely on just two flies. First, a baitfish pattern of about 3-4 inches long, tied with EP fibres (or equivalent) using a mix of medium grey with some olive fibres mixed in (80:20 ratio). These are tied on Ad Swier barbless hooks (size 4/0 or 6/0). I have caught nearly all my large teens and twenty-pound plus fish on this humble fly. One session I caught three fish over two days of 18, 23 and 26lb. They were all stuffed full of large bream and had been caught a few feet from the bank, where they had been resting up after their feed. I imagine it was the pike equivalent of having a post prandial at Christmas time, but then still be up for just one more chocolate?

Second, a nice fluorescent orange coloured fly (EP fibres or racoon zonker). This is for use in coloured/murky water. These flies generally work very efficiently, unweighted, especially when paired with a sink-tip. However, it would be worth having a few flies with lead tied in at the head for use in fast flowing or deep water.

That said I would estimate that the small grey baitfish pattern is the fly I use 90% of the time.

This minimal tackle requirement makes roving and exploring miles of bank really pleasant (you will of course need a large net, carried on your back and some long forceps).

In the next instalment I will discuss some of the subtleties, challenges and rewards of fly fishing for river pike.

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