People have been fishing for pike in the UK for decades and nowadays more and more people are starting to throw a fly at them. It is a very exciting way to catch pike and there’s something special about catching fish with teeth, using heavier equipment and bigger flies. I have been pike fly fishing for about twelve years now and it all started when I bought two pike flies at a charity auction.

Pike fly fishing

I had put the flies along with a couple of wire traces away safe in a box and one day we were on a loch fishing for trout. Not much was happening so I decided to give one a swim to see how easy it was to cast. Low and behold a couple of casts later there was a huge explosion in front of the boat and I had hooked my first pike on the fly. It never stayed on for long but after that I was hooked big time!

Over the years I’ve upgraded my equipment and would like to share with others my approach to these very exciting toothy critters.

Fly Fishing For Pike Setup

Pike Fly Rods

The fly rod has to be a bit more powerful than trout gear, I use 9 foot, 9 weight rods as a minimum. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, when you hook a big pike the rod has to have enough backbone to land it fast enough to lower the risk of stressing the fish through the battle. A double figure pike can take a good few minutes to land. Secondly, the flies are a lot bigger than your typical trout flies and the heavy line helps to carry the fly through the cast making it less tiring throwing them all day.

Pike flies

Pike flies are a lot bigger than your typical trout flies

Pike Fly Reels

I favour a large arbor fly reel they help reduce line memory and they retrieve excess line fast. Reels from 8 – 10 weight are the perfect size to take a large diameter line and about 100 yards of backing. I wouldn’t worry too much about disc drag reels but they will help when playing a large fish. A good size pike can take you to the backing so be prepared.

Pike fly reels

Fly reels from 8 – 10 weight are the perfect size to take large diameter line and about 100 yards of backing.

Pike Fly Lines

The fly line for pike is probably one of the most important things, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one on the market, it’s more to do with the taper and how it is made.

Lines for pike are designed so they have a short front taper and short head to aid in casting a big bulky fly and turning them over easily.

A range of different line densities is very useful. My favourite all-round-go-to line is a clear slow sink. It only sinks about 1.5 inches a second so you can fish the surface and if you let it sink, it will get down in the water column.

When fishing from a drifting boat sinking lines really come into their own – anything from a slow sink to a fast sink and everything in between. It depends on how fast the boat is drifting and how deep you want your fly, having a floating line or even a sink tip is very handy in different situations. Again, it depends on the time of year, water depth and water temperature.

Pike Fly Leader

With your leader, I think simple is best. You can get predator tapered leaders but I use a 4ft length of 25lb stiff mono with a loop on both ends, one attaches to your fly line and the other attaches to an 18-inch section of wire trace on the business end. It doesn’t matter if you hook a fish of 2lb or 20lb; their teeth are sharp enough to cut most mono leaders so you need the wire.

Pike fly leader

Note the knotted wire pike leader and the snap lock for quick and easy fly replacement.

When you look in a pike’s mouth you start to feel sorry for anything that finds itself in there. As for the wire trace, there are a lot of different types of wire you can use from knottable wire to titanium and everything in-between. I use multi-strand plastic coated wire, normally a 49 strand and tie a loop on either end. I make my trace by creating a loop on one end which joins to my leader by a loop to loop connection and the other end I make another loop but put a snap link in for ease and quick change of flies. The length of your wire should be a minimum of 18 inches long because a lot of the time a pike will inhale the fly and a section of the wire will be in between the teeth. If you loop to loop the wire to your mono leader it’s easy to change if and when it gets damaged.

Pike Flies

You don’t have to go that big with your flies. Small flies catch big pike but I use flies up to 16 inches long when I need to.

Even at that size if you tie them correctly they are light and shed water fast for aiding casting. If your flies have too much material on them, sometimes they don’t swim correctly and they won’t shed water fast enough when you’re trying to cast.

Pike flies

The best way to describe a fly that doesn’t shed water is like trying to cast a shoe or a sock, it just doesn’t make an enjoyable day.

In general, flies from 4 – 8 inch on 2/0 – 6/0 hooks are my go-to size in the colours chartreuse, black, white, yellow and olive with some sort of flash, will see you good on most days. It’s normally more important to get the profile correct than the colour combo.

Pike are an ambush predator so your flies should have a good silhouette to make it easy for them to see it against the sky.

pike fly

Customising pike flies with rattles or dragon or wiggle tails, can sometimes be the trigger stimulus required to entice a pike.

Some flies also have rattles in them for noise, these have a big place in my box and sometimes pike just can’t resist them.

Surface patterns such as deer hair divers and poppers swim great and make a lot of surface disturbance and noise. They can be very effective on the day and you can also fish them on a sinking line over weed beds which allows you to fish them static or very slow, kind of like booby fishing for trout.

Landing Net and Unhooking Mat

There two things that are very important for the welfare of the fish when you get it to the bank or boat and that is a net and an unhooking mat. The net should be strong and large enough to fit a big pike in it without the risk of damage and folding the fish in half. I also would advise getting a landing net with rubber mesh because they don’t stay wet for long so you won’t get a damp smell and things like hooks and teeth don’t get tangled as much.

The unhooking mat is very important to protect the fish. I would advise you to try and keep the fish in the water at all times but if you have to remove the fish from the water for any reason you should put it on a wet unhooking mat. This protects the fish scales and the protective slime rather than resting the fish on the hard ground.

Pike fly outfit

Unhooking mat and unhooking tools are essential.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive mat, a cheap one is better than not having one. Pike can be ferocious predators but they are very delicate fish and can be damaged very easily so the utmost care should be taken when handling them.

When starting out fishing for pike the best bit of advice would be to go out with an experienced season pike angler to learn how to handle and unhook the fish properly and do a lot of research.

The internet is full of useful information. The welfare of the fish is of the utmost importance to keep our sport alive for many years to come.

Other essentials that I always carry are long-nose forceps, pliers, wire side cutters and long nose pliers for the aid of unhooking, scales and a weigh bag. You don’t want to remove the hook with your fingers! I would also carry some plasters, just in-case.

There are places all over the UK that have great pike fishing on day and season ticket waters, it would probably surprise you how close you are to one. If you’re interested but aren’t sure where to start or haven’t got the right equipment, there are fishing guides up and down the country that you can book a day with and you will learn far more in a day with a guide than a month of doing it yourself.

This article was brought to you by Angling Active Ambassador, Stuart Smith. Stuart has over 20 years of fishing experience and is one of the UK’s hottest pike fly tyers as well as being a part of the Deer Creek Pro staff team.