Beginners Guide To Fly Fishing For Pike
As I touched on briefly in Cant Double Haul, Wont double Haul, if you want to go fly fishing for pike in Ireland it isn't really that overly complex. Sure, you need to learn to cast and the different line / rod ratings but once you have the basics down it becomes second nature. You will soon find your self discussing the finer details between an intermediate shooting head, a T11/T17 or a Di7 Airflow Extreme that you crafted yourself.
So let's cover a few of the basic requirements you will need to chuck some fluff, or "Christmas decorations", as a good friend of mine describes the flies.
The following are what I would describe as the essential items you will need when out on the bank or in a boat.
1. A good unhooking mat
2. A full set of tools, from forceps to cutters. It helps if you pick up the Greys Prowla Tool Roll and the corresponding tools. While this may prove costly, they may become invaluable one day when dealing with a deep-hooked fish.
3. A large landing net.
4. Life jacket
5. Polaroid sunglasses
Without the above you are endangering yourself and more likely the fish you may catch. Think "fish care" at all times.
The first thing you need to understand is that fly rods and lines come with an AFTM rating. Now I have a few fly rods for piking for several reasons; the first being when I started I was under the assumption that I'd get a cheap enough rod, try it out and see if actually enjoyed fly fishing for pike.
Well I soon discovered that it was, of course, a great way to fish and went to purchase another rod, thinking that a more expensive rod would give me further distance and a better cast right off the bat. In reality I soon found out that this was not the case at all.
My two rods are rated the exact same, 9 foot #9. One is a Ron Thompson Esox and the other a Grey's Platinum XD.
Originally I started on the Ron Thompson. I found the rod a little awkward at first. It lacked the bump you get when your line extends behind you, so I picked up a Grey's Platinum XD, and found it to be an immediate improvement.
However, since I have managed to double haul now I find the Ron Thompson has some what of a more comfortable grip and I have improved on my timing so I no longer need to feel the bump when the line extends.
So… what rod should you buy? Well, I know a lot of people talk about the Grey GS2 being a great rod to start on, however, I have never used one. The best advice I can give somebody who is starting out is to pick up a second hand rod and see how it feels in your hand. I would not go higher then a 9 foot #9 for the moment. #10 rods are for throwing huge flies, where you need more back bone in the rod.
Fly lines can really throw you off. There are so many different types that it can get a bit confusing but essentially you have three categories; floating, intermediate and sinking.
I have one of each. In fact I have several of each, bar the floating line. I cannot give you a definitive answer here in relation to which line will catch me more fish, each has it's own purpose and use, at different times of the year – for example, using a fast sinking line with a long leader attached to a floating fly during winter will effectively allow you to twitch the fly a foot or so off the lake bottom, thus attracting any near by pike who maybe hugging the bottom of the lake.
In summer a floating line or a slow intermediate is preferable as many of the pike are up in the water column. Sinking lines can be used in shallow bays with a floating fly and a long leader, allowing you to fish the fly several inches below the surface.
Choosing a line can be difficult, there is a huge range of choice from – lines that cost €10 to lines that cost €70 .. I will go through some of the line I have used and the two I use now..
I already had a floating line but was not happy with it, so it went in the bin and I tried the John Norris lines but never really gelled with them. Again, as I have mentioned above, now that my loops are tighter and I can double haul, I will go back to them and see how they feel.
Moving on, as I was unsatisfied with the above lines I made the crazy purchase of a Rio Outbound line. For those of you that are not aware, Rio make some fantastic lines but they also charge a fantastic price.
This Intermediate line comes with an integrated shooting head which may leave you wondering, "What the heck is that?". Well the line essentially has a much heavier head on it. While the line is rated as a #9, the head is more like a #12, thus allowing you to load the rod more and to throw the line further.
And finally a
This was my new sinking line coming in at a DI-3 sink. I find it is quite fast to sink and has a very low diameter. However, I find it is not as easy to haul as the Rio shooting head, simply as the shooting head is designed for distance.
I think I will actually try out the John Norris sinking line again as a replacement for the Shakespere Line.
Finally the Guideline pike series, I have not used these lines but have been told they are fantastic. You will notice they come in two basic lines; a floating and a Sink1 and a Sink 3. Both are WF (weight forward taper, to help with throwing the flies).
So what do I recommend for a beginner? Well, it's March now and if you intend on taking up fly fishing for pike at this time of year you will find a lot of pike are located in the shallows or up in the water. You could buy a full range of lines; sinking, intermediate and floating. Or two intermediates and a sinking… why two intermediates? Well you could arm your self with a slow sinker and a fast sinking intermediate, thus covering a wide range of fishing and depth variables.
The final, and in some cases most important, piece of advice I can give you is if you buy a cheap line, always go up one weight. If you rod is a #9, buy your line in a #10, generally (but not always) cheaper lines do not have the same quality as say a €70 line.
There is an abundance of choice out there when it comes to reels but in reality your reel is only there to hold the line. It is important to at least match the reel to the AFTM of your rod.
The reel that I use is an Okuma Airframe and it comes with 3 spare spools and a case. It has a fairly solid drag, although you will soon find that the drag is not terribly important when you connect with a pike.
You can spend hundreds on a reel and spare spools but for a beginner I would highly recommend the Okuma airflow, simply due to the number of spare spools you get with it.
So now we are getting to the business end of things. Your leader is a fluorocarbon line, and like everything else, you have a few choices; you can buy a pre-cut leader from a well known manufacturer like Cortland's toothy critters leader
You always have the alternate option of making your own leaders. I use a spool of Seaguar Ace Fluorocarbon. Take a length of about 7 – 9 foot and tie a perfection loop on to the end of this and connect it to the end of your braided loop. You can shorted this length as you require.
On the bottom end of the leader I attach 12 – 18 inches of Surflon Micro Supreme Camo. To attach them I use a shock leader knot, with the over hand knot being on the wire side.
It is often suggested that a dab of glue should be applied to secure this knot.
As with everything else we have discussed you have two choices for flies; you can buy ready made flies or you can venture in to the world of fly tying. For the moment we will discuss ready made flies, as my fly tying skills leave a lot to be desired.
So what should you look for in a fly? Generally I separate flies into two categories; flies with flash and natural bait fish flies. Of course you also could separate them based on floating, sinking, neutral buoyancy, etc ..
But I find on some days flash based flies work better then natural flies, mostly in coloured water, where the natural flies perform better in clear waters as they more subtle.
Where to get your flies? Well, there are plenty of options..
PikeTrek provide some fantastic pre-tied baitfish patterns, of which I have quite a few..
Dave Lindsay is heralded as one of the first to really get the sport going in the UK. Dave ties some amazing flies, reach out to him on this blog and he will send you some goodies
Norbert Renaud - Cavan based French angler (although he's more Irish now than French). Norbert is well known around Ireland for his beautifully tied pike flies. Check out his blog for some of the videos and to order flies off him ..
Finally I will add – check out your local tackle shop for flies. There are plenty of other manufacturers who supply direct to shops, many of which I have tried and had success with.
That should cover the basic items you will require for getting out there. Finally I will add that while the initial premise may seem daunting (casting a wet sock) the feeling of anticipation while twitching a fly through reeds and lillies simply cannot be beaten .
If you have further questions leave a comment below, and we can organise a day out for any anglers who would like to try fluffing for pike, free of charge of course..