From time to time I get an Email or one forwarded from someone looking for an
assist with a fly fishing problem. I thought I'd share this one with you
because I think it could answer a lot of questions for a lot of people who may
be considering fishing for Northern Pike. There are a couple of photos in this
article from our Reel Fish Tails section which
show it can be done.
Here's the first email:
I'm relatively new to fly fishing. I have posted this question on the
bulletin board before, but still need help. I'm going pike fishing in two weeks and
need to tie up some leaders. I've purchased some Mason hard type leader
material in 30#-.028'' dia., 25# .025'' dia., 20# .022'' dia. and 16# .020''
dia. I also have tippet material in various size (12# to 2# ). The real
question now, how do I go about tying up a leader? Do I use all hard type
and just attach the tippet at the end? If so, what lengths do I tie together?
Also, if I wanted to use a steel leader do I tie this to the tippet? I need
help, please, or can you point me in the right direction, web sites, books,
etc. I would really appreciate it.
My first response:
Jim and Deanna forwarded your email to me and asked me to try and give you
some help in trying to catch a few pike. I know there are a couple of
articles in the panfish archives
that deal specifically with Northern Pike that you might want to check out.
You didn't say what size rod you were using. I hope you plan on
using at least an 8wt rod or better. Anything smaller will probably bust if
the pike has any size to it at all (10lb.+). Next, you need plenty of
backing, especially if your rod is less than an 8wt. My set up for pike and
musky is currently an 8wt rod and a large arbor (saltwater) reel.
I put about 100yds of backing on the reel, attach a Wulff triangle taper,
weight forward, slow sink fly line, and an 8 to 10 ft, 20 to 25lb leader.
I don't use tippet material for pike or musky. They're very territorial and
very aggressive. As far as I'm concerned, tippets merely reduce the line size
so the fish can't see it attached to the fly. The flies used for pike and musky are
usually large enough that tippets really aren't necessary.
Okay, lets get into your questions on leader material. I started out, a long
time ago, using monofilament for leader material. It was usually in the 20 to
25lb. range. I had a lot of problems with what I call the "mono memory."
Heavier mono seems to hold the memory of the roll it came off of. In other
words, if it was on a 3" spool, it had a lot of 3" loops in it, and, because
of its thickness, the "curlies" or loops never really wanted to come out. I
tried some material in the 10 to 15lb. range and lost a lot of flies to the
pike because they would either bite it off or cut it with their gill plates. So I
went to a salt water style, steel leader (or tippet). I'd tie an 8ft section
of 12lb mono onto the fly line, then about a 24" to 30" section of steel
leader (I make my own using Seven Strand, vinyl coated stainless material
purchased through Cabela's). I cheat at this point. When I'm building my
steel leaders (or tippets, which ever you prefer to call them) I put on a
sturdy, good quality, ball bearing snap swivel. It makes changing flies a lot
quicker and easier! I lost a lot less fish, and flies, with this set up.
Then a few years ago the fluorocarbon and the braided lines came on the
market. I tested a lot of them and stopped using the mono all together. The
braided lines, such as Gorrila and Spider Wire have the tensile strength of
the heavy mono with less than half of the diameter. Plus, it has almost no memory.
On top of that, they are so abrasion resistant that I no longer needed the
steel leaders. The only two drawbacks are that you need a scissors to cut it (it'll dull your
best knife real quick!) and you need to seal all of your knots with super
glue. I figure these are pretty minor things, considering the benefits. I also
still use a snap swivel on the end for changing flies. All in all, you get
better performance, a lighter leader, and a stronger leader with a smaller
diameter. What more could you ask for?
Hopefully, this answers your questions. If you have more, please feel free to
contact me directly at FritzFratz@netscape.net
The next email:
Let me start by saying thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. You
were very helpful, but I still have a few questions. You did write that I
could e-mail you if I had any more questions, right? First I checked out FAOL's
archives for article pertaining to pike leaders and pike fishing, quite a few
articles to go through. Several were helpful. Second, the rod I will be using
is a 9 wt. with a Cortland 140D magnum reel, spooled with about 150 - 200
yards of 20 # backing and Cortland 444SL WF floating shooting line in 9 wt.
This is the same set up I used for striped bass last summer down on Long Island
(by the way caught my first stripper then 30'' 19lbs.). I assume from your e-mail
that this should do the trick. As far as the line is concerned should I go to a sinking
line? Now for the leader I like your suggestion especially since you have fooled
around with different methods over several years. Just let me recap. If I use Spider
or Gorilla line in the 20-25 lb. Class, with a snap swivel at the end (which I assume
gets connected directly to the fly) I should be all set to go and beat the water to a
froth!! But with the thinner Spider line will it turn over the larger pike fly's,
which I will be tying myself with help from FAOL's archives. I will be fishing Lake
____ in ___. If you have any suggestions on fly patterns I would appreciate
it. Let me say again thank you for all your help, its great to have a place
like FAOL and people like yourself to turn to, especially for us rookies.
Someday maybe I'll be able to help out a rookie in return......Tight lines and
thanks again .........
It's never a problem, you can write me anytime. Just make sure you take one
of those weather-proof, disposable cameras so I can see what you catch!
Also, if you don't mind, I'd like to use parts of these emails to write an
First, there are others, like you, who are just getting into fly fishing and need a little
Second, I'd like more people to try fishing freshwater big game fish.
I think they're as big a challenge as the saltwater species and put up
just as good of fight.
Third, Northern Pike and Musky are the most aggressive
freshwater predators I know of and if they aren't culled once in a while
they will take over a lake, ruining fishing for any other specie (so eat a few,
they're delicious!). Now that the political commentary is done, on to your
The rod/reel/backing and line setup sound fine, shouldn't be a problem unless
you hook into a real monster. If that happens just keep a hold of your shorts
and play the heck out of him! Since I'm not familiar with the your reel, (who has
time to keep up with the hundreds that are out there?) if yours has an
interchangeable spool, and you can afford it, make one up with the sinking
line in case the pike are running a little deeper. My experience is that if
they're hungry they'll come to the surface, so don't worry too much about it.
As far as your worry about the braided lines. I don't have any problems with
them turning over the larger flies. You do need to be careful when you're
bringing in the fish, not to bring the braided line onto your tip guide
because it will groove or even cut into the metal, especially if there's a
fish flopping around and putting pressure on it. I've repaired a number of
rods for people who forgot this, one rod tip was cut completely through! I'm
going to assume here that you will be fishing with another person, which is
the only way I fish anymore, so you make a pact: the person who doesn't have the fish on,
nets for the person who does. And keep in mind the teeth and gill plates,
use a needle nose pliers or a good set of hemostats to take the fly out,
not your fingers!
Speaking of flies, like you said, there are some good ones in the archives.
Also, most frog patterns or crayfish patterns work well. One of the best I've
found is a modified Lefty's Deceiver, tied in a perch pattern. Most lakes with pike
usually also hold perch (but not always), which the pike dine on. Using epoxy
on the head really helps because the teeth have a tendency to tear them up
pretty badly. Also tie some up in the local shad or chum patterns. Don't be
afraid to try some "off the wall" colors - like I've been saying,
pike are territorial, get almost anything into their area and they will take
One other thing my sorry mind just dredged out of the cobwebs - when I fished
the northern states cold water lakes and farther north, into Canada, most pike
were in pairs, a male and a female. 90% of the time, when we went into a cove
area that held pike, we'd catch a pair of them, then move to the next area.
Remember, they are territorial fish, so don't spend too much time fishing in
Have fun, and let me know how you do.
~ Randy Fratzke