Welcome to Panfish!

Part One Hundred-five

Randy Fratzke

Panfish Chat- Host Wind Knot (substituting for Fritz Fratz)- Monday. 6-8 p.m. PST (9-11 EST)

From the [E]Mail Bag

By Randy Fratzke

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.

Clive Schaupmeyer with 20 pounder

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:

Hi Randy,
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 .........

My response:

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 article.
First, there are others, like you, who are just getting into fly fishing and need a little help.

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.

Jeff Martin and a tiger musky 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 questions...

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 it.

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 one place.

Have fun, and let me know how you do. ~ Randy Fratzke

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