Salty Pike – part 2: Tactics
In my previous blog article I wrote about the most exciting Pike fishing I know of in Northern Europe namely fly fishing for salty Pike in the Baltic. There are several aspects which make it one of my favorite types of fly fishing be it wading, the picturesque landscape of the Swedish archipelago and last but not least the salty Pike itself.
These coastal Pike cruise the brackish water looking for food. The size of the fish vary, but a fish under 3 kilos is rare, and specimens of up to 10 and 12 kilos are not uncommon. Like all Pike, the salty Pike is a great predator. It is a fully blown professional in ambushing its prey; it hangs almost motionless in sandy holes, behind big stones or in the seaweed (bladder rack) jungle, to aggressively explode out of its hide to engulf its prey with vicious deadly precision. The take is mind blowing and as fast as lightning it is followed by silence… until the fight begins.
Structure is the key to success as it not only provides hiding places for the Pike but also for the bait fish such as, Eels, young Pike, Ide, Cod (yes), Sea Trout and I am sure the occasional Salmon. Drop your fly close to rocks, strip it across a gully, by all means cast out as far as you can out over a drop-off but do not and I must repeat do not ignore the area behind you in towards the shore (beach); contrary to what you may think, the Pike are not necessarily in the deeper water, but will rest calmly in thigh or even knee deep water. Consequently you need to find them, staying on the move, walking and wading, popping your fly in all the nice little spots will probably bring you more fish than staying put near a “likely looking spot” and waiting for the Pike to come by! We often walk 5 or 6 kilometres or more during a days Piking. The fish are blitz fast and attack the fly viciously. Very rarely do they not “get hooked.”
The Pike flies I use is the subject of a seperate article in this series and for now I will just summarise briefly. Pike are in general not selective feeders and attack anything which looks like foooood. Rather than imitating the Pikes actual prey I use un-weighted and slightly weighted streamers made of Flashabou. These flies have a voluminous body and the Flashabou makes the fly not only glitter 😀 but also gives the Pike fly a sexy, pulsing movement under water. They are very effective, believe me!
Retrieval speed basically depends on water temperature; use slower strips in cold water and faster strips in warmer water. I try and cause the fly to undulate by combining both and building in [sink]pauses. I have found that on some days the Pike like loooong strips, other days short strips. But remember this is fishing, so there are no absolutes so don’t be afraid to think out of the box, experiment and do something completely different to what “the experts say”. I can remember one occasion a couple of years ago when I caught half a dozen or so Pike on a surface gurgler, in extremely cold weather (it had just started to get cold so the sea hadn’t frozen over) just a few days before Christmas. According to “tradition” gurglers and poppers are only for the warm days of summer!
Hooking, Landing and Releasing
When I first started fly fishing for Pike I used to set the hook by striking with the rod. I lost quite a lot of fish, either at the “strike” with the hook not setting properly or midway when the Pike “got out.” Something was wrong. I watched how others (mainly men) did it and I noticed that most of the Pike catchers did a strip-strike. Since teaching myself to “strip strike” – by this I mean when you feel a take just keep stripping until the line tightens, then clamp down on the line, lift slowly into the fish and allow it to turn away – the numbers of Pike I lose now approaches zero. This first rush of a Pike is for me “the drug” of Pike fishing: the line whizzes through your fingers, the water boils and the Pike surges away in a bow wave!
Landing a Pike might seem dangerous to your fingers, but grabbing it with your hand under the jaw between the gills is safe, however you may prefer to use something like a boga-grip.
I release them in the water and if you have a set of long nose pliers, unhooking the (barb-less) fly is easy, most of the Pike I have caught were hooked in the snout, only very occasionally do they take the fly deeply. Do not attempt to use your fingers! Pike have dozens of rows of razor sharp teeth, they will bite you… and you will bleed.
What tactics do you use Fly Fishing for Pike – let us know, tell us your story, send us some pictures!
I hope to see you on the water … Silja