The first time I ever saw a pike was in a German animal book that my grandparents gave me when I was about 6 years old. The photo depicted a beautifully striped, long, slender pike that had another big fish sticking out of its mouth. It fascinated me how a predatory fish could eat such big prey and after that I could never stop imagining catching one of these top predators with hook and line.
Decades passed during which I changed from bait fishing to lure, and then finally fly fishing; and then a good fly fishing companion, Gerald Penkler, moved to Europe, giving me a great excuse (and opportunity) to go pike fishing. Initially he was based in the UK and as a keen species fly angler (typical scientist) he started targeting pike among all the other cool things, like European barbel, bream, chub etc., living in rivers and lochs near his home. He soon messaged me and said that pike were really difficult to target in the UK, and while he did come right with some beautiful fish, especially in Scotland and Wales, I realised that Gerald was living at the wrong end of Europe to fulfill my pike dream. He’d send me videos of chaps fly fishing for pike in the Netherlands, where they nailed fish-after-fish and some really big pike over a meter.
At that point I jokingly said to him: “Dude, of all places why did you move to the UK!? You should’ve based yourself in the Netherlands!”. Well, long story short, ironically Gerald IS living in the Netherlands now and I will be visiting him in the new year to, hopefully, fulfill my ‘lifelong’ fantasy of catching a pike.
To prepare myself for the Dutch fishing mission, I visited local fly shops to look for suitable hooks and materials. I was amazed to find everything I was looking for at the StreamX fly shop in Milnerton.
List of hooks I found for pike and zander at StreamX:
Ahrex TP610 Trout Predator Streamer 4/0
Ahrex TP610 Trout Predator Streamer 6/0
Ahrex SA210 Bob Clouser Signature Streamer 3/0
Gamakatsu B10S Stinger 3/0
Hanak Streamer Maxx H 95 XH 6/0
Gerald gave me a summary of tips to take into account when tying pike flies:
The fly is not everything: “Bottom line is, when pike are active, they eat! Personally, I think fly choice is only 10% of success. Location, location, location! Location is 50% of success. Then, having actively feeding fish is the rest.”
Match the ‘hatch’, and go gaudy: “I would focus on colours that match roach, rudd, bream and eels; and then also a few bright things like fire tiger, or red/yellow over white, chartreuse etc. etc. Pike love a black fly…Pink is also good sometimes, I hear. I have not found a colour that pike dislike though.”
Add flash: “Pike love a bit of flash.” – in other words, pike love lots of flash and it seems like you actually can’t add enough of it.
Tie flies with rabbit fur: “Pike really like large bunny patterns – I just find the super-size ones difficult and heavy to cast, they feel like a wet sock.”
Tie flies that suspend or that have no weight added: “Weightless flies are critically important for negative pike.”
There is no need for a stinger hook: “When pike really eat I have had 25-30 cm flies hooked at the back of their throats. Hence why I don’t like and rarely use a stinger hook, which inevitably gets caught in the gills.”
To add to Gerald’s tips, I thought it would be wise to also look at recommended flies tied by the local (and highly successful) pike anglers in the Netherlands; the names that I started following on Instagram due to their regular catches of really giant pike included Edwin Kerssies (Dyckers), Raymond van Ewijk, Tim van Putten and John Uilenberg (John Uilenberg Pike flyfishing):
Besides these flies and recommendations from Gerald, I thought that my homework would not be complete if I didn’t have a look at the flies that people use in the States for their northern pike:
Taking all this information into account, I started tying a few flies for the pike mission:
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