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Flyfishing Pike Season Starts Soon


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Here is a copy of a flyfishing article I came across. The Pike fisherman should enjoy this piece.



Something about a fly. It hovers, but not like a suspending bait. It drifts, but not like plastic. It breathes, but not like a hair jig. It moves through the water with its own symmetry, one that crankbaits and soft jerks can’t emulate, especially when the fly is presented with a fly rod.


The differences add up to something special, because pike and muskies respond to the fly in a manner we don’t see with lures presented via casting or spinning gear. Maybe it’s the pause, followed by a slow sink or slow rise. Maybe it’s the sudden disappearing act, or the jagged stop-and-go motion of the stripping procedure. Or it could be the triggering halt—the sudden reappearance of that intriguing horizontal profile, feathers and hair breathing like a panicky creature poised for flight.


Most likely it’s all of the above in combination with things we can’t know, like the image the predator sees, or the primal response it feels just before it rips into that fly like it was the last baitfish in the lake. Of course, just any fly won’t do. It doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, it can be 3 inches long—a mere remnant, slashed by so many teeth more than half the body is gone. Even then, a fly has that “something” big toothies can’t resist.


Presenting The Victim

While fly patterns need not be large, they tend to start out that way. Some flies should be weighted, and a wire or titanium leader is required. The remaining leader extending to the flyline can be a simple concoction with 3 or 4 feet of 20-pound mono tied to another 3-foot butt segment of 30-pound mono. A 7-foot leader is fine, but the weight and resistance of everything being thrown demands a 10-weight flyrod in most situations.


The easiest method to attach a fly is to create two loops on an 18-inch long piece of nylon-coated, 20- to 40-pound steel wire. The length allows you to cut a fly off and retie two or three times before having to replace the leader. Run one end of the wire through the eye of the hook, twist the wire around itself, grip it with pliers and heat it with a lighter. Create a second loop at the other end in the same manner and tie it to the 20-pound mono leader. Or use material that can be tied in knots (like Tyger Leader, Terminator Titanium, or American Fishing Wire Micro Supreme). Using a small barrel swivel to tie steel to the leader works fine, too.


The flyline itself should be a weight-forward floating version for water 2 to 8 feet deep. In water down to about 12 feet, floating lines and sink-tips both apply. In deeper water you need something between a sink-tip and a full sinking line, depending on how fast it needs to get down and how fast the fly should be worked. In many instances, a floating line is best, and it’s the line itself that delivers part of that “something” big fish can’t resist. It makes the fly hover, creates a unique angle of retrieve, and keeps the fly out of trouble by making no contact with cover underwater and by drawing the fly upward on the retrieve.


When predators use dense weeds for cover, a fly on a floating line can be trolled right to them. The fly is lighter than a lure. It doesn’t blunder heavily into dense patches of weeds, but skirts around or over, continually led upward by the position of the floating line laying on the water. A fly can be tied to have a bulky profile, like a big crank, but with materials light enough to give, and with hooks protected with loop guards. A fly can be stopped in the midst of a weedbed and it maintains its position, working its magic, with a twitch or a quick triggering strip.


When predators can be seen sunning themselves, hiding in shallow water, or cruising near the surface, fly fishing is effective. Blind-casting is more efficient and requires less energy with other types of gear. But when pike or muskies are shallow or hovering near the surface, a fly can be as effective, if not more effective, than any other artificial.


Surface flies, bunny strips, Lefty’s Deceivers, and a variety of streamers lend themselves to sight-fishing. While Esox-variety predators can ignore any lure, they almost never ignore a fly, making it a perfect “throw back” option as fish slowly swim off after declining the invitation of a perfect figure-8. They may not always eat the fly, but they almost always take a look, and if all they do is look, change patterns.


Learning to make at least a rudimentary double haul is essential. Casts longer than 50 feet are seldom required, and most casts are much shorter when sight-fishing; but the double haul allows you to reach pike and muskies spooked by the boat and moving quickly away, which is a perfect time to present a fly. Spooked fish turn on a fly better than any other presentation I’ve seen, and to get the fly out there you need to learn to accelerate the line by pulling down on it with your free hand as you are lifting the line off the water. Stop the rod at 1 o’clock and let your line hand drift back up to the rod as the line passes overhead. As the rod begins to load, pull the line downward while making the forward cast, stopping the rod tip at about 11 o’clock. Pulling down on the line at the beginning of the forward cast and back cast accelerates the line, adding distance with larger flies. If you can make a basic cast, it takes 20 minutes of practice in the backyard to become adequate at the double haul—at which point you can run back into the house to order some flies.



Killer Patterns

Ever since Larry Dahlberg invented the Dahlberg Diver and helped to popularize the hunt for big toothies with a flyrod, we’ve been defining the range of patterns most effective for ol’ evil eyes. The ones we find work best tend to (1) be sinuous and long; (2) give the illusion of bulk; (3) perform the same kind of classic triggering moves found in classic lures; and (4) imitate specific prey species better than lures.


Leeches fall into that last category. They are easy protein and far more important to big predators than we understood them to be in the past. Big pike and muskies at times cannot resist an unweighted or lightly weighted black bunny strip. Other colors work too (especially brown, olive, and cream), but the efficiency of black, and the resemblance in the water to a leech, and the fact that big toothies almost always turn to look at one going by, forces us to examine the relationship of leeches and top-of-the-line predators. In my estimation, 3- to 8-inch bunny strips should be among the first patterns to stock up on.


A streamer tied with a little white marabou, a little flashabou, some white deer hair, and with an overtie of peacock herl and blue mylar imitates a delicate cisco better than most hard-bodied lures. Ciscoes remain a primary forage for both of our primary toothy friends.


The Dahlberg Diver remains a basic tool. It’s the fly-fishing equivalent of a Suick or a bucktail, with a beveled deer-hair head that forces it to dive when stripped. The buoyant deer hair also makes it pop right back upward on the pause. Divers are available from a variety of sources, in many colors with a variety of body types, but they all fit into category #3—imitating a classic trigger, the Z-like, vertical, stop-and-go retrieve. But as a fly performs this triggering move, it swims, bends, waves, and undulates more like something alive and less like a solid piece of wood.


Also from this category are flies with plastic lips that cause the fly to dive and wobble. But, again, when a fly dives and wobbles, it shakes its hips and waves its tail, something an articulated crank is designed to do but not with the same, sinuous realism. And an articulated or “jointed” fly can really drive that point home when watched at close range. Articulated flies, such as those tied by the late Joe Donato, combine features in unique ways, such as his bunny-strips with attached, articulated diver heads.


Bunker flies, designed for saltwater species, are an example from category #2. Synthetic materials make a bunker fly look thick and heavy, like a fat cisco or sucker, without adding weight. An variety of synthetic materials make it possible to construct flies deceivingly bulky yet practically weightless. The same goes for length, our category #1.


Why Try The Fly?

Rich Belanger, promotions manager for St. Croix rods, spent more time fly fishing for muskies the past few years than fishing with traditional gear. “I find it more exciting than fishing with traditional gear,” he says. “It’s more challenging, not because of the casting, but because of the hookup and the fight.“


In other words, the challenging part is not getting fish to bite. “I’m showing pressured muskies things they’ve never seen A fly moves in ways that are more natural, more subtle, and more quiet, which is one reason you can get away with smaller lures. River muskies are especially opportunistic. They’re going to eat if you get it in front of them, and I have to think a muskie views the fly as something real. It’s a new and different way of catching muskies, and that’s what intrigues me.”


When a muskie or pike follows then turns away from the boat, put a fly in front of its face and “why” ceases to be an issue. For anglers who fish traditional gear, it’s difficult to cast blindly with a flyrod all day. But if you pick situations where you can watch big predators react to the fly, it becomes increasingly harder to put the fly rod down. Nothing wants to kill a fly more violently than saw-toothed Esox critters with rows of teeth and malicious eyes, and watching it happen is worth all the double-bladed bucktails in the universe.

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