Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Gotta love them tooths....
I like to fish for fish that have serious teeth. Predators with bite as it were.  To be able to successfully fish for these fish you need to do something to protect your tippet from their teeth. There are several options:

1-    Use wire bite tippet.
2-    Use hard nylon bite tippet
3-    Use fluorocarbon bite tippet
4-    Don’t do anything and hope for the best.
See the wire?  Use the wire.... jackass...
Now, unless you are a complete moron, you will opt for 1-3. I know of one jackass who almost always opts for number 4. He lands about 50% of the pike he hooks which means that he potentially kills 50% of the pike he puts a fly into. Yea, the fish might be able to get the hook out or it could rot away, but why take the risk? No question it is unavoidable to leave flies in fish from time to time. They fight hard and will occasionally break off. It happens. But to start off with no protection from bite offs when intentionally targeting toothy fish like pike is just not good practice or ethics. The best part about this guy?  He guides. Tells you all you need to know about him doesn’t it?

Well, what do I use to prevent bite offs? I have used wire for years and it works. I have tried hard nylon and had some success, but I will take wire over it. I have heard a lot of good things about fluoro and I intend on trying it this year. I guess it is the price that has kept me from trying it out until now. I have used a variety of wire over the years, from single strand to plastic coated and the new multi-strand knotable wire. I definitely have my preferences! I liked the single strand stuff in it’s simplicity but it kinks pretty easily and the large loops that it need to be stored in makes it less practical for a wading or canoe bound angler. And it isn’t as easily available. I have used mostly the latter two for the past few years.
"I thought it was a frog.... seriously..."

Most brands of both the coated wire and multi-strand are fairly similar to one another. I really like the new low diameter knotable wire. Great stuff to work with. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive. $1 foot is a bit steep. I love to use it for topwater flies though. I like the reduced weight in those situations. What is on my leader most of the time now is Climax wire. I have used this stuff a great deal over the past 15 years and it has not let me down. It is inexpensive, widely available and easy to use. If I have to clip off the wire I have on because of kinks or twists I don’t feel like it has cost me a ton of money by the end of the day. And I am more likely to change the wire when it needs to be changed.

Another material I found last year that I really like is called Beadalon. I found it in a craft store. Yea, I am one of those guys that frequent craft stores for tying materials. It paid off. For about $7 I can get 80 feet of 20lb wire. It accepts knots well and I haven’t had any break offs with it yet either. Good stuff. Works great for other applications too- like fly tying...
Ken Capsey- the other reason to use wire....

The system I use most is pretty simple. I tie my leader directly to a small swivel, then the wire and either directly to the fly or to a duo-lock snap. The knot I use for both ends of the system is the non-slip mono loop knot. It is not difficult to tie and it holds well in the wire. The leader system is nothing too special. I suspect that a few people might ask why I use the barrel swivel. Well, two reasons for this. First noticed a lot of line twist when fishing bigger flies and the swivel helps out with it. Second, it is a lot easier to tie onto the swivel instead of tying the Albright knot. Nothing against the Albright- it is a great knot that I use frequently in some situations- but it is nice to tie a simple knot quickly sometimes.

I won't be surprised to get a bunch of feedback from folks about what they use and that hard nylon/mono is much much better than wire for this and that reason. I know that folks say that pike can be leader shy. Well, I have not found that to be the case around here. I think that if a pike or musky wants to smash something they are far more focused on their victim than the bit of line in front of it. Here is my biggest dislike of hard mono, especially larger diameter (80-100 lb). It floats. Plain and simple, it is buoyant. I use a lot of sinking flies and leaders. Why the hell would I put something buoyant on a sinking fly?  That just does not make sense to me. With a fly you want close to the surface, sure... 

The final reason to use wire is that it helps you get your flies out of trees. Take this last photo of Marty... without wire on the leader he never would have been able to climb up into this tree to get his fly back.....
Yes, he is in there and yes he did get it back...


  1. In the past, pike have only been incidental catches with a few line fraying close calls. You've offered up some exellent options for when I start targeting snot rockets. Thanks.

  2. great and very interesting read drew

  3. You are welcome John! These guys are awesome on the fly indeed! And thanks Dave!

  4. Drew-
    Nice article. I used hard nylon and flouro this year both. 30 lb. I did not notice a difference between the two. Hard mono is more difficult to tie knots with. I do not use wire for a different reason. I target pike, but catch alot of bass as well. The wire stops most bass hits. I often catch equal numbers of both and there am willing to loose a couple of pike to keep dozens of bass. But I only lost 2 pike last year because they went through the leader. I probably caught 100 bass.

  5. James, I have caught most of my biggest smallmouth while fishing for musky using a wire leader... I have caught many, many bass with a wire leader so I haven't noticed much of a difference myself. When I wrote this I was going to mention that and put up a few pics of big bass I caught while targeting muskies and using 40 and 60 lb wire....

  6. good post drew.....on target as usual loved it!