Pike Fly-fishing on Rutland Water
On Rutland a red letter day is when I catch more than six fish, but what fish are they. This season I've had Pike to over 25lb, and days when more than half the Pike I've caught have reached double figures. I've caught eight fish in a day and the passion thats developed for catching these superb fish has taken me to Irelands Limestone Lochs where the twenties tail walk. It suprises me that more reservoir anglers dont invest the time and money thats needed to catch Pike. Tackle has never been cheaper, and those that reckon the Pike eat 'their' Trout should perhaps turn the negative into the positive. I honestly belive that Pike take very few Trout with so many coarse fish around that are easier to hunt. These days we should view Pike as a worthy part of the reservoir scene and take as much care with them as we do with catch and release for Trout. Take a look at the tackle fact file for the specifications, but I'd recommend buying a rod, reel, and line from somewhere that you can try before you buy. I settled on a 9 foot rod because it is less of a strain on my arm than a longer rod.
Casting big flies and lines like these can be hard work, even though you will rarely cast more than twenty metres. Before leaving home to fish, check you have got sufficient traces and that they aren't kinked. Never fish without a good landing net and an unhooking tool. Finding big Pike on reservoirs can be the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. You best bet is to always have long conversation with the fishery staff, and find out where the anglers have reported hooking Pike, get specific directions to the best areas.
On Rutland 'Pike Alley' in the North Arm is well known, it's a channel along the old river bed with depths from 15ft -25ft and consistently produces fish to flies. Here, the object of the excercise is to systematically search the contours until you begin getting takes, then target that contour.
I usually fish at anchor and move the anchor after six or seven good casts. In a gentle breeze you can drift, too, but try to cover the water a yard at a time. Even at these depths you will be fine with a floating or intermediate line. Pike will come right up in the water to take the fly. Used too fast- sinking a line and you will subconciously speed up the retrieve to stop the fly getting weeded on the bottom. In really deep water, a fast sinker may be worth a try, but use a slow sinking line as you can. The retrieve should be really slow figure of eight through to eratic short pause. The polytip will help keep the fly at the right depth but not if you begin stripping the fly back.
In my view Pike presented with a meal racing through the water and another just pulsing along will take the slower moving meal everytime to conserve their energy. With slow retrieves, the takes may be very gentle plucks, which you 'strike' by pulling at the fly line pretty viciously, you cant connect with an overhead strike so dont try. I try to visualise the Pike following my fly. It's a technique which helps with concentration, and ensures I am trying various retrieves and staying positive- some days, it takes a couple of hours to get the right method, but it's vital you dont resort to mindless stripping. Pike are truly wild fish, and you catch them if you put some thought into your fishing.
Shallow water can also produce Pike. On Chew and at Pitsford, for example, you should cast right among the weed beds and put up with the occasional snag. Once you have hooked the Pike keep it well clear of the weed, weed is like a thousand disgorgers- a Pike ploughing through the weed invariably sheds the hook. in clear or shallow water, you'll have Pike follow the fly to the boat and turn away. Cast again, because Pike will often come back for another go. Pike will follow a fly for ages without taking it. It's sometimes a question of where it sits in relation to their field of vision. Using the rod to make the fly swerve, stopping the retrieve or speeding it up can result in a take so dont assume that because a Pike hasn't taken the fly, it's lost interest, a different angle will often result in action.
One of the most important techniques is helped by a little bit of tackle tweeking. After the retrieve is more or less over you'll lift the rod to recover the last of the fly line and re-cast. The fly will sweep through a short arc and move upwards and suprisingly this movement frequently results in a take. I've sophisticated this into a method, whip a length of fly tying thread onto the line about 15 feet up coat the whipping in a varnish. On the last part of the retrieve, when this marker reaches your hand the fly is still coming to you on a fairly level plane. Now you stop pulling in line and lift the rod- a similar method to fishing for Trout on the hang- Pike can find this irresistable, rocketing upwards and taking the fly with confidence. Be prepared for the take, and to give line. It suprises me how often this technique works.
Pike can fight really well though I am bound to say that Irish and Scottish Pike- the best of all. In the main reservoir Pike give a series of powerful runs but eventually come to the boat. If you hook a big fish, it may somehow manage to provide a completely solid resistance, the rod not powerful enough to shift it.
Your next move may sound like madness- believe me it works. You point the rod straight at the fish tightening up as you go getting all the fly line back on the reel, then just dead pull the rod. As long as you can give line when the fish runs, you'll be fine; even the most stubborn fish will come towards you.
Netting the Pike is one thing-unhooking it safely is another. Once in the net, take a look and see if the Pike can be unhooked without lifting it out of the water. You'll catch plenty of average Pike which is the reason i use only single debarbed hooks on my flies. I think there is little to be gained from using barbed hooks and nothing at all from using tandems. With tandems you get more casting tangles and more chances of the stinger hook breaking away and dreadful unhooking problems.
If the Pike is worth weighing or photographing, lift it onto the waiting wet weigh sling. If the hook is down its throat slide your fingertips inside the Pikes gills (take care not to damage the gill rakers) and work them towards the front of the jaw. You will eventually feel the jaw bone, and when you pinch finger and thumb together, they'll go round the jaw bone and almost meet, just a flap of skin seporating them. You now have a firm grip which wont damage you or the Pike. Don't let go if the Pike 'kicks', lift its head to stop it concussing itself. If you use this grip to open the Pikes mouth you'll be able to reach the fly with your forceps and flip it out. Get the Pike back in the water as soon as you can and support it by the wrist of its tail until you feel it kick and swim away under its own free will.
There is plenty of evidence that Pike just dropped back in the water often keel over and die later on, do your upmost to stop this happening. At one time the only good Trout fishery Pike was a dead one, but times are changing. Since i have set out to catch these superb sporting fish deliberately it has taken over from my Trout fishing.
On Rutland Fly-fishing for Pike has become part of the seasonal cycle. On a good day it even outfishes the lure and bait angling methods allowed on the autumn Pike weekends.
Rods: A 10/11 weight rod is essential for Piking. Pike can be landed on lighter gear but it takes time and time = stress. The flies are big and the extra oomph of a 10 weight will also help casting, Mine's a 9 footer and less strain on the arm than a longer rod.
Reels: I use an Okuma Integrity which has a good clutch and can be batted to get the line back quickly, any wide arbor reel for 10 or 11 weight lines will be fine.
Lines: If you take Piking seriously you will need a range of WF10 lines from floating to fast sinking, for starters get a floater and intermediate which work in most situations.
Leaders: The technique demands joining loop- to- loop, an Airflo polytip to the fly line. Use the 40lb Tarpon size, and attach 5 feet of 18lb Airflo ESP flourocarbon to this. The polytip gives perfect presentation for this method.
Traces: Dont even contemplate heavy weight nylon traces, use 28lb 'soft' multi-strand wire and attach a size 6 swivel to the reel end and a swivel and split ring to the other to carry the fly.
Landing net: When boat fishing with someone else I use a 42inch landing net mounted on two longish glass fibre arms. Your boat partner can then hold in both arms scoop Pike out easily without a landing net handle to manoeuvre. My other net has a short handle with a 36inch net, which i use when I am fishing alone.
Accessories: Dont leave the jetty without a big unhooking mat and a weigh sling. Before i fish i lay these on the deck and slosh some water over them. If you're happy with long forceps for unhooking, fine, but try the Baker Hook Out or a pair of long nose pliers. I'm experimenting with a home made catch and release disgorger.
Address: Rutland Water Fishing Lodge, Edith Weston, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8HD
Tel: 01780 686443
Location: Take the A606 Stamford to Oakham road from the A1, just before the village of Empingham turn left to Edith Weston and fishing lodge signposted
Description: 3,300 acre man made reservoir
Facilities: Tackle shop, restaurant, bike hire, nature reserve, walks, sailing, museum and butterfly house
Ticket Prices: Pike permit £11.00 (boat only), £23.00 (reduced to £19.00 in october)
Owners: Anglian Water Plc
Season: March 28th- Dec31st
24hr weather line: 09063 610206
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