|Dave hard at work on another fly|
How did you get into fly fishing?
|Nice pike Dave!|
I was around 7 or 8 years old and my folks had just taken a job as a butler and chambermaid in a castle in Scotland which had the River Tweed running through the grounds. As a kid I used to walk the river bank with my dad and watch the salmon anglers catch big fish- their reels screaming and rods bent double. I used to love watching that and spent a lot of my free time down at the river, so I guess my folks saw the interest and bought me a small fibreglass trout outfit of my own. I remember knowing nothing much about fly fishing so I kind of did the casting style I’d watched the salmon anglers do and I managed to get a line out a respectable distance with a single fly. The second time I went on my own I watched as a big black shape came up under a big mayfly I was using, of course I froze solid and the fish turned away but from that point I guess the seed was sown.
Pike are quite obviously your favourite target with the long rod. What is it about pike that gets you so fired up?
|Whats not to love about these fish?|
I see a lot of discussion about the perfect pike stick these days and I have caught pike on rods from 6wt up to 10wt and have my own opinion about what rod does the best all-around job for pike. What is your take on this and what would you recommend to someone just starting out?
You know there is so much choice out there and if you don’t know what you’re looking for it can be very confusing to somebody just starting out. I would say without a shadow of a doubt a 9/10wt is the best all round pike fly rod. These days rods like the Pikesaber are so light you can fish with it all day without getting fatigued. These rods are light, powerful, get fish in quickly and can throw the biggest of flies no problem. But the rod you use is a very personal thing and I’d say what you need to do is go and try a rod out first- your local tackle shop will be happy to help you out. If you have a fly fishing buddy ask them as well and have a cast with their rods get a feel for what feels right for you. That makes the whole thing a lot easier. I’d also suggest if you haven’t been fly fishing before is to get a couple of lessons with an instructor this will really help you on your way.
Do you think there would be a difference in rod choice between what you would use in Scotland compared to here?
No, not for pike. I use the same gear over there as I do in Scotland. No need to go buying different gear although any excuse for a new rod or reel, eh?
Lines are another common area of discussion among the pike crowd. Do you have personal preferences?
|Tossin' the Saber!|
Well, you know Drew; I like to keep things simple. The only thing I do insist on is buying a brand name. The reason for this is that the line companies have a wealth of experience in making lines and although they may be expensive it’s a good investment. I use lines from Rio and Scientific Anglers they have always done me well and I’ve never had a problem with them. Also I’ve just started playing with the lines from UK company, Piketrek, which so far seem to be very good but time will tell on that one. Always buy from a company you trust and have a good customer service- should anything go wrong again asking people will help you on your way. No question is too stupid if you don’t know the answer...
What line or lines should a piker have in their bag of tricks and why?
You know I’m a “keep it simple guy” and I like to keep it uncomplicated. I mean half the battle is getting your fly past a fish. If a fish isn’t where you are casting it doesn’t matter how many lines you have: you can’t catch it if it’s not there! I carry only 3 lines floating , intermediate , and a fast sinking line. I use a floating line on shallow water venues and for surface work with sub bugs. The intermediate line tends to be a line I use to explore the depth layers and I also use this on new venues that I don’t know the layout a great way of finding fish. Finally a fast sinking line- this I use on deep water venues and I usually use foam heads or sub bugs on these with a shorter leader so the fly sits of the bottom. Length of leader determines how far off the bottom you go. If there’s no weeds I tend to use four feet of leader: this can be deadly especially in colder months when you can just inch these flies along just off the bottom for lethargic fish. This technique can often make a pike snap at a fly.
Do you prefer fishing a weighted fly on a floating line or an unweighted fly on a sinking line?
I have no preference, really, on that one. It really depends on conditions and where I’m fishing. For example, a local canal I fish I’ll fish a floating line with a weighted fly as I know the fish hug the bottom so I need to have a fly that fishes off the bottom and sinks back down a.k.a. dying fish. The sinking line and unweighted fly I use as per the question above so it’s really down to conditions and where I’m fishing. If I had to choose one, I think it would be the floating line and weighted fly. Good question.
|Dave and Ken- trouble incarnate!|
Since spending some time “across the pond” with fellow pike nut Ken Capsey, what do you see as the major differences between fishing pike in Scotland and in the States?
You know the U.K. has always been years behind the U.S.A in terms of fishing and pike fishing is no different. In terms of gear and even tying materials we are still way behind you guys but catching up slowly. The biggest difference I see is the attitude towards pike fly fishing. I see in the States people being interested in the method and more accepting of fly fishing for pike and muskie without really questioning the method. In this country we are still regarded a somewhat of an oddity as we don’t really fit into the general acceptance of what fly fishing is in the U.K. i.e. trout and salmon. We don’t fit into the general acceptance off a pike fisher in general, so we are still very much out there in a lot of people’s eyes. In Scotland the pike is still seen as vermin in a lot of places and should be killed on sight by the old guard of fly fishers of Scotland’s lochs and rivers. Attitudes are changing slowly as land owners and fishery owners realise that they actually can make some extra money by allowing pike fly fishers onto their waters. We pay the same price for fishing them and we put the fish back in the water not on a plate so no brainer really. It’s still a long way off to where you are over there. The tide is turning but very slowly.
Are you surprised by the increasing popularity of pike as a target of the long rod crowd?
Yes and no really. We have always been on the edge of acceptance to “normal” pike anglers. When I started fly fishing for pike there was maybe half a dozen people doing it in the U.K. Flies consisted of all marabou flies- there was no such thing as synthetic fibres or even pike patterns. It was still very much hit and miss.
Then as the years went by it was still pretty stagnant until Peter Jones formed the Pike Fly Fishing Association in the U.K. and people started coming together to talk about the thing they loved to do. There were no internet forums or club pages in those days it was all done by the club magazine and telephone calls. Of course once the internet side of it started and bait and lure anglers were seeing that we were regularly catching double figure fish on the fly, they started to sit up and take notice of what we were doing. They liked the idea in principle, hell some people actually bought fly gear as well, but a lot of them dropped off and went back to their bait and lures because they didn’t know what to do (and never thought to ask questions) with the stuff or it wasn’t for them. But it did leave a hard-core group of people who loved the sport. Even so we still got a lot of stick from people who said that pike couldn’t be bought in fast enough on fly gear and it would harm them fishing for them on fly gear etc. etc. etc. Perseverance was the key and these days a lot of pike anglers consider fly fishing as a viable method to catch them so we are still attracting a lot of people here in the U.K. In fact I was fishing the other week and was chatting to a guy who only lure fished. I gave him an impromptu pike fly fishing lesson and you know he said what a lovely way to fish. It took a while to get my rod back off him!
Where do you see pike fly fishing going in the next 5 years? Lots of new products, new thoughts, new challenges?
I’ve seen massive changes in the sport in the last 5 years. From websites popping up all over the place to new materials and the range of rods, reels, and lines available for the pike fly fisher. It’s incredible! I see the next 5 years being pretty much the same as new tying materials and methods of fly tying come forward. I also see a lot more mainstream acceptance of the method from both the game fishing fraternity and the coarse fishing fraternity in this country. I also think the American arm of the PFFA will start to gather momentum as more pred-heads get together to fish. It’s a very exciting time to be a pike fly fisher!
You have a lot of innovative fly patterns you have come up with. Could you describe a few?
|A lovely Sub Bug|
Nice of you to say Drew, thanks! Fly tying is such a big part of what I do and to be honest I’m forever giving flies away to people. A challenge really fires me up and that’s how one of my favourites “the Sub Bug” came about. A guy said to me once “Well flies are all well and good but you can’t make them move like a jerk bait.” Well red rag to a bull that was! So I set to work and designed the Sub Bug (no, it’s not a Dahlberg diver) which when stripped and paused works just like a glide bait and looks fantastic in the water. Currently I’m playing with a new material from www.deercreek.co.uk called Gliss-n-Glint Plus which is very mobile in the water and has a flashy material running through it. So far I’ve only tied big patterns with it but they really look like the real thing in the water so I’m quite excited about it. They are starting to do a nice range of colours as well, check ‘em out but suffice to say I still have a few patterns bursting to get out...
Do you have any personal favourite hooks to tie pike flies on and what is it about those “irons” that you like so much?
|The alchemist at work...|
I have a few hooks that I really like to tie on for flies that I need to be lightweight. For example- for big Flashbou patterns I like to use the Sakuma Manta in sizes 4/0 to 6/0. For Sub Bugs I like the Orvis Pike and Muskie hook in 6/0 as it has plenty of shank room for materials without masking the hook. If I need a heavier hook I tend to go for the PikeTrek x-s Aberdeen in 6/0- this is a great hook and really sticks ‘em when It counts! I also love to use the Gamakatsu SL12 in 6/0. It’s quite expensive as far as hooks go but is perfect for big synthetic baitfish patterns and the sharpest hook I’ve ever used. I tend to stay away from barbless hooks as I believe they do a lot more damage than barbed hooks as they penetrate deeper. The jury’s out on that and it’s my own personal opinion from what I’ve witnessed firsthand. I also love using circle hooks but that’s a whole different subject in itself. Feel free to check out my website for my take on them.
What other species do you get to target in the UK? Do you have any other favourites?
Sometime I just love to get out on a small stream near my house with my 3wt and chase wild brownies. I also love chasing perch on the fly in summer but to be honest I don’t do very well when targeting them. My biggest perch, three and half pounds, was caught by accident while pike fishing. I do also like to target saltwater species like Pollock and sea bass although my tying schedule means I don’t get as much time to chase other species as I’d like so maybe I need to address that next year …
|Pike like this AND 25 lb browns? Sign me up...|
You told me a story about a rather massive Ferox trout that was haunting you after a pike trip this past summer. Do you mind sharing that with my readers?
Oh geez, I still get flashbacks of that! What happened was that we had been out on the water for a morning and the sun was blazing. We had already had a few pike to the boat so we went back into the lodge, had lunch and discussed tactics. We came back up the nearside shore that was tree lined and fished into around seven foot of quite green water. I cast out small bead eyed streamer pattern and was fishing it around a foot under the surface when I had a small pluck at the fly. This is nothing unusual on this water as the rainbow trout have a habit of nipping the backs of flies. So I cast out into the same area and changed my retrieve to a fast strip and pause when the fly was around 40ft or so out I saw a massive black shape right on the tail of my fly! As it got closer I realised that it was a massive Ferox trout. As my fly got to the side of the boat the fish came around the side of the fly and down the side of the boat before disappearing into the depths. I could only marvel at the big kyped jaw and big spots and massive paddle tail as it glided past me. I estimate this fish was up past the 25 pound mark, maybe 28-29lbs. I’ve seen pictures of these magnificent fish so I know I’m in the ballpark but it’s a sight I’ll never forget... and this thing didn’t get that size eating nymphs...
Ok, time to bring up unpleasant memories… what fish(es) that you got into but lost haunt your dreams or nightmares? Tell me their stories…
More unpleasant than the ferox? Well actually, I have a few that are up there with that including being stalked by a big bowfin on Lake Champlain. Ken Capsey and I were about to launch the boat when we saw lots of fish rising off the boat ramp. It was only 5am so Ken suggested we could go throw some flies at them with the 5wts we still had in the truck after an afternoon chasing brook trout up in the Green Mountains the day before. I waded out to my butt and got in amongst some awesome white perch fishing. I then started to catch small yellow perch which was fun. It was as I was bringing in a small yellow perch that I spotted a really big bowfin just sitting out there watching the perch on the end of my line. I got the perch in and realised that the bowfin had disappeared. By this time I caught another perch and the bowfin was sitting 20 odd feet away from me. I released the perch and the bowfin was still in the same place. I shout over to Ken about it and he says “What’s it doing?”
I said “It’s sitting looking at me!”
“Is it quivering along its tail?”
“Er, yes. Why?”
“oh don’t worry, it’s just starting to get aggressive.”
OK, so a fish with a mouth full of teeth like that and looks like a cross between a moray eel and the devil’s spawn was enough to get me out the water screaming like a girl- much to the amusement of Capsey! I may add, I really wanted to catch one after that but from the safety of a boat. I didn’t really hook and lose that fish but its close enough… I have had many other fish throw hooks and get off but hey, that’s fishing! They do come back to haunt me now and again... I had a large 30lb+ pike that threw a hook at my feet but I don’t want to talk about that, a grown man crying isn’t a pretty sight…
When you were here fishing what struck you as the biggest difference fishing these waters compared to what you have in Scotland?
|Dave will be back Lake Champlain....|
Are there fish in Lake Champlain that you have yet to tangle with that you really are dying to get into?
Oh man is there... bowfin are top of my list just now as well as sheepshead and carp. I’m in the planning stages for this year’s trip so who knows.. I’m sure a few more will be added to the list...
I love asking this one: if you could go anywhere in the world to fish for anything, price is no object, where would you go and what would you target?
There really is only place for me and that’s on the waters in northern Vermont! I’d spend all summer and fall there and only come home when the lakes freeze up! I have so many great memories of my last trip there I really wouldn’t want to go anywhere else…
Thanks a million for the interview Dave! Be sure to check out all the websites and blogs that Dave has going on: