Our Man In Canada
May 10th, 1999

Fly-fishing for Prairie Pike, Part 5

Fly-fishin Techniques for Pike

By Clive Schaupmeyer

This the fifth of a series of five articles about fly-fishing for pike. The articles include: introduction; equipment and rigging; flies and other gear; when and where; and techniques.

Not a lot to say about technique. Try various retrieval depths, strip speeds and actions until something works. Here's a good way to start. After casting your fly, let it sink for a few seconds, depending on water depth, then retrieve the line in short, snappy four-inch strips every second or two.

Strip speeds don't have to be fast, but they usually need to be lively. In spring, sluggish retrieves just don't get pike excited. Or, I should say that lively strips work well in the spring and I am not about to change a technique that works.

In midsummer, when water temperatures increase, a more sluggish fly retrieve may be required. We normally quit fly- fishing for pike in June when the water gets warmer, but in the summer of 1998, some friends continued fishing and caught lots of pike in July–and the action carried on well into August. Local fly-fishing club member, Alan Kloepper, told me that he had noticed a slower recovery seemed to produce more pike.

On my first late July outing, I let the fly sink down several feet and used the faster strips–not as Alan had suggested. It worked, but not like in spring. I then tried keeping my line barely tight and pulled on it very slowly. There was little forward movement or action to the fly, but it worked well. One evening using this retrieve, I landed five pike that had merely mouthed my gaudy streamer–not one of them hit it. I could feel there was a fish at the fly because of a slight tension, and sometimes the line vibrated, whereupon I set the hook.

Releasing Pike:

Debarb all pike flies!

Fly-fish for pike with heavy gear that allows you to get a fish to hand as soon as possible without undue fatigue. Pike can usually remain in the water while the hook is removed, especially if lip hooked. Sometimes they will have to be gently lifted out onto the mesh deck of the float tube or pontoon boat. Handle them carefully, trying not to damage their delicate gills or remove excessive amounts of mucus from their skin.

Landing nets should not be used for pike that are to be released. They twist and tangle too much, making them difficult to remove from the webbing. Many fly anglers use landing cradles (hammocks), which allow large pike to be gently controlled while the hook is removed.

Most pike are lip hooked and the fly is easily removed, especially if it is barbless. But, as mentioned, jaw spreaders and long forceps are a must to remove the occasional streamer that is hooked down inside the mouth.

Clive and Pike

When the hook has been removed, cradle the fish in the water and move it gently back and forth until you are certain it can swim away. Usually, you will be rewarded with a spray of water in the face as the lively pike splashes its tail to escape, which is fair ball considering what you have just done to it.

This is the last of a five-part series on fly-fishing for pike. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer

Our Man In Canada Archives

Bio on Our Man In Canada

Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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