by Hans van Klinken
pike on a fly is something very special. In some countries, it's
extremely popular, while in others, there is hardly any interest. I am
sure that it is also a matter of the availability of local fish
species in certain countries. Fly fishing in Holland is a bit
different then in most of the surrounding countries. We frequently
fish for bream, perch, pike, roach and rudd by fly when we want to
practice our great sport. We do have some excellent fishing for
stocked trout in small private ponds, or in the famous large salt
water reservoirs, but with no spectacular wild trout or grayling in
our rivers, we have to travel abroad to fish for these more desirable
I like fly
fishing for pike in the Dutch "polders," but if you really
want superb pike fishing, you have to go to Denmark, Sweden, Finland,
Ireland or Canada. There are many other countries that can offer you
some good pike fishing, but usually fly fishers don't travel abroad
solely for pike fishing.
many people start their fishing for pike in late autumn, or even in
the winter. Every year, from the beginning of November until late
winter, I would receive several letters from friends who described
their forays for pike as soon as the trout season was finished.
Several of these individuals are fly fishing fanatics, but I was
dumbfounded to find that they instead used bait fish, spoons and plugs
to catch their pike! Personally, I think that catching pike on a fly
is a much more spectacular and beautiful method than using a spinning
rod, and not really any more difficult.
can be a fantastic sport, and fly fishing for pike is a great
alternative when the trout fishing has been closed. Pike are very
strong fish, sometimes making spectacular jumps out of the water when
hooked. They often take the fly with unbelievable speed and violence.
when the weather starts to change, the water clears up when the weeds
have died back and the algae has disappeared. This makes the fall and
winter the most popular seasons for pike fishing in Central Europe.
With the weed beds gone and fewer places for the pike to hide, the
master of camouflage is much easier to see. In the arctic regions, the
situation is much different. There the water is crystal clear all year
round, and summertime is usually the prime time to find large pike in
the warmer shallow waters. While lying in wait in their secret lairs,
they can be easily reached with a fly line. Early springtime can offer
some awesome pike fishing as well, but unfortunately too few people
take advantage of the pike's early spawning season.
for pike is a rather new sport, even here in Holland. It started in
the early sixties, and in the beginning we used small trout streamers
like the Mickey Finn, Grey Ghost, Missionary and Chief Needabey. Since
then, however, our techniques and methods have changed dramatically.
With this change, there has also been a considerable alteration in the
fly patterns we use. I strongly believe that the experiences of
several Dutch anglers while fishing for pike abroad have had a huge
influence on the development of these patterns. Ad Swier, who does a
lot of pike fishing all over Europe, has enormously increased the
popularity of pike fishing with flies.
sizes and hooks
orange, pink and white are still the most popular colors in our pike
flies. Colorwise, there is not much difference in today's patterns and
those that we formerly used. What has changed radically is the size of
flies or lures we use for pike fishing today. Many of the patterns
used nowadays are 15-20cm (7.8" ) in length or even larger. Large
single hook tube flies have been used with considerable success as
well. In recent years, very large tandem streamers have also become
more and more popular. You may be amused to learn that because of all
the feathers, hairs and synthetics used in these huge pike flies, we
often refer our Dutch pike streamers as "half chickens." We
never use treble or double hooks, since nearly every fish we catch is
released. We also use either barbless hooks, or hooks that have their
barbs flattened. The new barbless pike hook, specially designed by Ad
Swier, and manufactured by Partridge, is surely one of the best hooks
available on the market today.
started using much bigger flies, the most notable result has been the
very large size of the pike we are catching. The record pike caught by
fly in Holland is almost 10 kg (22 lbs.), and my own best ever, caught
in the River Guden A in Denmark, weighed over 10 kg. In the last few
years, I have fished for the Great Northern Pike in the Yukon. They
are the biggest and most powerful pike for which I have ever fished.
In 30 years of fly-fishing, I broke my first rod while fishing for
pike in Canada. This happened when I was playing a large Northern,
which was then attacked by one that was even larger! My rod wasn't
able to handle the force of that enormous attacking power.
enormous streamers is not at all easy, and to do so, you have to use
heavy rods, rated for 7, 8, 9 or even 10 weight lines. It is a pity
that some of the sport in playing the fish is lost with these stiff
one rods, but with such large flies, there is really no alternative.
Casting speed must also be slowed down to allow the fly and leader to
extend properly. A word of WARNING: casting these "half
chickens" can be rather dangerous, especially for beginners. Eye
protection and a good thick hat must be considered essential safety
equipment. I also would suggest never fishing alone when you begin
this kind of fishing, and always use barbless hooks!
For the last
10 years, I have always used 9 or 9-1/2 ft. rods for 7 or 8 weight
geared up with sink tip lines. Many people, however, also use floating
or full sinking lines. I don't like to use a 10 weight rod for pike
fishing, but when I use a floating line, I find it necessary. The
reason that I started to use sinking tip lines in the first place is
because I could use a much lighter rod. It's not easy to find the
perfect rod for pike fishing, but by using a powerful 7 weight rod,
the fishing is much more exciting and enjoyable. Today, I use the new
Helix (HE 967S-4) from Thomas and Thomas because it's extremely light,
and powerful enough to perfectly handle my big flies. It is one of the
nicest rods I know of for sinking tip lines, and when you use Cortland
QD 225 grain line, you can cast these much larger flies with little
Because I use
mostly sinking tip lines for pike fishing, I designed the big flies so
they sink very slowly. I personally prefer a pike fly that floats, and
this is the second important reason for me to use sinking lines. A
"floating" fly in combination with a sinking or sinking tip
line will give you an incredible action. With strong pulls, it is
possible to induce a very effective diving action in the fly. In still
water, the best method is to strip the line back rather quickly, but
allow a pause between your pulls to achieve those diving actions. In
shallow water, I always retrieve the line much more quickly. This does
not create a problem since, in warmer water, the fish are more eager
to strike the bait.
Today our pike
patterns are constructed mostly out of very mobile materials, such as
marabou, spectraflash, crystal hair, long soft hairs, soft synthetic
fibers and very long saddle feathers.
With these materials, the action of the fly seems to be much more
attractive to the fish than with the less mobile materials which were
formerly used. The best material I have found to date are synthetics
mixed with long fibers of polar bear hair, which, unfortunately, is
illegal in most countries.
fishing, a monofilament leader is not a very good choice, as the teeth
of the pike will easily cut it. I would advise everyone to use a wire
between the fly and leader. Personally I use a very clever wire leader
system that was developed by another Dutchman, and distributed by
Tackle Trends. I also prefer to use barbless hooks. If the wire or
leader breaks, the fish can still get rid of the barbless hook fairly
quickly. I know of one situation were the fish shed the hook in just 5
minutes. It also makes releasing the fish much easier.
early eighties, I lived and worked in Northern Germany, and visited
Denmark very often to fish. Most of the time I fished for trout and
grayling, but sometimes, when the weather turned for the worse, I
fished for pike as well. I also used floating lines at that time, but
I found it very difficult to present my fly at the proper depth in the
fast flowing rivers of Denmark. This became my third reason to change
to a sink tip line. It was the only way to get the proper action in
the fly at the desired depth. After much trial and error, I found a
very effective river technique that works perfectly for most Danish
rivers. I usually drop the fly in the middle of the river, and then
let it drift very close to the bank before fishing it back upstream in
short pulls. I play my fly close to deep holes and between weeds and
weedbeds. It is very important to fish the fly all the way back
towards you, for pike will often seize the fly at the last moment,
right under the rod tip.
Text & Photos by
Hans and Ina van Klinken ©