Spring is fast approaching and the pike are staging for their spawn; the females are full of eggs and are aggressively taking streamers and the males are battling off competitors willing to bite anything that may pass in front of them. With the fishing turning on I want to go over more of my packing essentials for these apex predators. I went over rods, reels, and lines in part one of my packing list, part two will focus towards leaders, tools, and the flies to use.
After I have put together my rod outfit, the next item to think about is your leader. There are two ways to go about finding a leader. First and the easiest way would be to buy a tapered leader specified for pike. Both Rio and Umpqua have pike specific leaders, they look like your traditional tapered leader you would use for trout but have a piece of wire tied to the end to keep the fish from slicing your fly off. This is a great way to get started, simple and fast, just a loop to loop connection and you’re ready to go.
Using wire isn’t always the best way to go; sometimes pike can become leader shy, depending on the fishing pressure and water quality, wire leaders can spook fish at times. For locations or times when wire is not ideal we switch over to custom hand tied fluorocarbon leaders. I know what some of you are going to think when I say “hand tied leaders”: sounds complicated, but it’s not. We start with about a five foot section of 20 pound nylon tippet; we tie a barrel swivel onto one end of the 20 pound and tie a perfection loop on the other side. This will allow you to make a loop to loop connection like you would from any other manufactured leader. Next you will want to tie on a section of 60 pound fluorocarbon onto the other side of the swivel, usually anywhere from two to four feet, this is the section that will really help your fly turn over and the stronger, thicker section will help avoid pike from cutting off your fly but it may still happen.
Next on the agenda would be a good selection of flies, you want to have multiple colors for varying conditions. I still stick to the old saying when it comes to my fly selection: “Light days, light colors. Dark days, dark colors”. When I buy or tie flies the main components I really look for in a pike fly are flash and water pushing ability. It doesn’t necessarily have to be both, but at least one of those attributes is a must for myself. The flash does a great job enticing the fish and coercing a strike, where the flies mass helps push water towards a target’s lateral lines, once again enticing and coercing a fish to eat. A few of my favorite flies to use in our area are the Gen-X Bunny, Umpqua Pike Snake, Umpqua Pike Fly, and Barry’s Pike Fly. Although these are my go-to, I have also had some luck with a few saltwater baitfish patterns, such as clousers and deceivers.
You will also need some essential tools when out chasing pike. The first and foremost are a pair of pliers, the longer the better in this case. You want to keep your hands as far away from the business end of the pike as you can, so the shortest pair of pliers I would use would be 8 inches. If the fish gets hooked down deep you may have to cut the fly off, which is why I use a long pair of Rancher pliers, in the 12 inch size. If my fly goes any deeper than that I will just cut the leader in order to avoid unnecessary stress and damage to the fish.
Next item would be a large net or pike cradle. Both have their benefits but I have found if you are fishing by yourself a net is the better way to go (Brodin Excalibur Ghost Net in my case), because typically you need an extra person to hold the cradle while you steer the fish into it. The cradle makes for a quick and easy release with as little stress on the fish as possible. You are able to work on removing the hook while the fish rest in the cradle, allowing it to remain in the water and not adding pressure to the swim bladder.
You always should have a place to store the equipment, a large sling or day pack works best for storing your gear while out on the water. The Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling is a solid choice if you are looking for the convenience of a sling pack, large enough to fit your Bugger Beast or Fishwest Bulkhead Box, tools and a water bottle. The sling feature is great when you’re wading around a lake and need to grab something out of your bag quickly, being able to swing the bag around your body instead of completely removing it helps when standing in the middle of a lake.
Here are a few more items I like to carry with me when I’m out on the water:
- Buff – These are lifesavers when it comes to blocking out unwanted weather. Great for both winter and summer fishing, blocks UV rays, protects against wind, keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and quick drying.
- Lippa 4 Life – I like having these for the smaller fish, allows you to grab the fish by the mouth with minimal stress and damage done to the fish. They also allow for a solid grip on the fish mouth when removing the hook out of any toothy critter.
- Stripping Guard – Hours upon hours of casting and stripping can cause havoc on your fingers, having a few of these helps avoid the cuts and burns one can get from consistent rubbing of the line against your finger.
- Camera – To take a picture of anything of note throughout the day, hopefully it’s something fishy.
- Big Nippa – I have used my trout nippers to cut the tippet for my pike leaders and it works the first couple of times, dulls the blades quickly, and getting the pliers out every time you need them is a pain. The new Big Nippa from Rising is killer for cutting your big game and saltwater leaders and tippets.
Attention local customers: Fishwest will be having our annual fair on April 25, 2015. This years theme is Troutside the Box, focusing on Pike and Musky fishing in Utah. We will be going over fly patterns, techniques, equipment, and conservation. There will be food, drinks, demos, a casting competition, and plenty of great giveaways so stop on by. For everyone who can’t make it out stay tuned for part III!