Mid June through to the end of September is the most productive time to use artificials. To catch pike on the fly in mid February would not be easy. But just before they spawn at the back end of the season, plug fishermen can catch – especially on mild days.
The Counter Drain in Lincolnshire is an ideal venue for fly fishing: the water is exceptionally clear and shallow, so the pike can see the fly easily. And the drain is narrow, making long casts unnecessary.
The pike went on one good long run before its store of winter energy was spent.
With Ad spinning in the background, Paul gets ready to land a well-hooked, fly-fooled pike.
Dayle lifts his fly-caught 6lb (2.7kg) prize, taken from the day-ticket Counter Drain, for closer inspection.
Pike which are caught many times, by deadbaiting for example, may just respond to fly fishing. Here Dayle slips his healthy fish back into its watery home.Even though the water was low and clear, you couldn’t see the pike – true masters of camouflage -until they were right behind the fly. Big deer-hair flies and abrasion-resistant Quicksilver (which didn’t fray even after two pike) served well together to take this superb 61Alb (3kg) fish. Any structure on a featureless drain -iven a bridge – is worth some attention. Big ‘oach were cruising nervously in the shallows under this bridge, and pike weren’t too far away.Despite the foggy day in mid-February this five-pounder (2.3kg) found the big deer-hair fly a tempting late-winter meal.
I met Dayle and Dutch friend Ad (pronounced Art) at the drain at 9:00am. We quickly set up with WF floating lines and 2m (7ft) long mono leaders of 10lb (4.5kg) b.s. We attached a 30-60cm (1-2ft) length of 35lb (16kg) Kryston Quicksilver with a Uni-knot to the leaders to prevent the pike from biting through the nylon. Ad set up his spinning gear and attached a Toby spoon – he was going to act as a sort of control for the fly fishing experiment.
The strategy was to cover as much water as possible. Dayle and Ad would go off in one direction and I in another.
Breaking the stillness
I explored the drain by casting the big white Dalberg Diver across, across and down, across and up and directly up and down (parallel to the bank).
With a slow figure-of-eight retrieve, the big fly dived about 5cm (2in) under the surface, wiggling vertically and pulsing all that white marabou and silver Flashabout.
We fished slowly and conscientiously for two hours without seeing any action. Our initial excitement and anticipation had long since departed. But we weren’t panicking — not yet anyway.
In the early afternoon the February fog loosened its grip on the land. Casting across and down, I was now taking five steps after each cast. The surface of the drain remained resolutely still.
I was casually retrieving when a large wake broke the placid water well behind the fly. I stopped dead – frozen with excitement. The wake stopped.
I started retrieving again, and the wake got bigger and bigger until an open mouth pierced the surface then closed down on the fly. I lifted into the fish, and it was hooked.
Tearing off on one long, impressive run, the pike stayed on the top, shaking violently from side to side in an attempt to rid itself of the hook. But the fight didn’t last long. The fish soon spent its winter energy reserves and glided in rather easily.
I slipped my hand under the gill cover, hoisted it on to the bank and breathed a sigh of relief. The pike weighed a respectable 6 ½ lb (3kg). We weren’t expecting massive fish – most of the pike you cater with artificials are middle weights.
Later Dayle connected with a six-pounder (2.7kg), and I had two more, at 511 (2.3kg) and Mb (0.7kg). Unfortunately, Ad blanked; the pike wanted flies, not spoons By 3:00pm we had four fish.
I think we proved that catching pike off the top with flies in clear, shallow venues is a highly effective and entertaining way of fishing. Next time we’ll cover even more water after each cast (20 paces, say), for the fish were well spread out.