Salty Pike – part 1: The Right Gear
Autumn is traditionally “the time for Pike”, we make no exception. So in keeping with “the tradition” we go fly fishing for Pike …
… but not in freshwater as everyone else does, no that’s far too “traditional” for the folks @ BFF, we go for them in the sea, the Baltic sea, off the coast of southern Sweden, in the Skærgården!
When autumn is setting in over Sweden it is time to head out to catch some salty pike. Although the Baltic Sea is salty it gets more and more brackish the further East and North you head and even though Pike are a freshwater fish, they also thrive remarkably well in brackish water. The area where we fish for Pike is the unique and picturesque landscape of the Swedish Skærgården (archipelago), characterised by its flat shoreline, scattered with small and large rocks, deep gullies, and small stone islands. In short: ample hiding places for Pike. The way we fish for them is by foot, walking and wading, stopping to fish in likely looking areas. Don’t think you have to cast into the next postcode either, in fact this approach is often detrimental to success; the Pike are usually lurking in a hiding place such as in weed (normally bladder wrack) , sandy holes or simply behind a stone. The water does not even have to be deep, hence when you are on the Pike hunt, remember that Pike can be anywhere: close by, to the side of you, behind you – everywhere. The shift of focus where the fish resides is key element for success. Get to know where and how your prey lives!
Pike are definitely not selective and will feed on anything which moves in the water; a zonker, bunny or a flashabou fly in hook size 2/0 – 4/0 will usually animate a pike to take the fly. However you might face a little irritation when casting such a big fly or “wuschel” or pike-brush (as we call it). Get used to the fact that you will probably be casting huge, barn-door size, open loops which look everything but “sexy”. Add a little wind to to the equation, we’re fishing on the coast remember and mega frustration is bound to be near! However a few tackle tips might lessen your frustration.
Although personally I am a lover of light fishing tackle I would suggest not going lighter than an #8 weight rod for Pike fishing, I use an ECHO3 SW 9’0″ #8, my Dad (aka Stuart or Stui) uses an ECHO EDGE 8’4″ #8, or an ECHO ION 9’0″ #8 and occasionally one of the ECHO Switch Rods (but more about that in a future article) and my husband Lasse uses either an ECHO3 FW 9’6″ #8 or an #8 weight TCR from you know who ;). Using an #8 weight or even a #9 or #10 fly rod will certainly help to make it easier to cast big Pike flies, plus you can fight the fish harder and release them much sooner.
I use the new RIO Pike line, my Dad prefers an AirFlo Sniper or a RIO Outbound-Short and Lasse uses home-made shooting heads or an ECHO Rage Compact (actually a DH shooting head) in 330grain/21g (the Rage is vaguely similar to the old Loop Pike-Booster head). All of these set ups have “massy” heads which helps to turn over big mama pike flies more easily. Your casting will feel much more at ease too, as the short but heavily weighted heads help get that extra ‘umpf’ into your cast – even in the toughest windy conditions.
When casting big bushy flies you want to have a rather short stout leader and an even shorter shock tippet on the business end. You can use something like a RIO Toothy Critter or AirFlo Titanium Predator leader, both of which have the wire bite tippet built in. However you can of course approach it more pragmatically – a length of 0.45mm or 0.50mm mono as the butt section with approx 30cm of 0.80mm Hard-Mono or a shorter piece of one of the Kevlar based tippet materials as shock tippet is enough. Just make sure that your leader is no more than a rod length in total – even better if it is shorter. The more compact your leader and line set up is the better. Use loop to loop connections and pre-load your flies with your choice of tippet material this makes changing flies much easier, particularly when you have cold wet fingers.
I use an ECHO ION 6/7 fly reel for my Pike fishing, they have plenty of capacity for the lines I use but if you use a #9 Sniper or similar then an ION 7/9 is better. But any fly reel will do but bare in mind that bulky “massy” lines like the RIO Pike line or AirFlo Sniper do require more capacity than a normal fly line. Of course if like Lasse you are a shooting head aficionado then you don’t have any problems at all with fly line capacity.
I use flashabou flies tied on size 2/0 to 4/0 barb-less (of course) hooks mainly in Red/Green and Dark Bronze; I will be writing more about my Pike flies in a later article.
Choosing the right gear for your Pike fly fishing trip really means choosing an outfit that is easy and enjoyable to cast. You should enjoy the time you have at the water as much as possible – and choosing the right outfit might show that you are not such a poor caster after all!
I would love to know how you fish for Pike – its always interesting to learn from others.