Winter is coming and it’s a good season to tease pike. Here’s something to motivate you with tips from Mista Pike
For starters, could you give us a little presentation, please?
Norbert: Born in France, I touched Irish soil at the age of three months for the first time. I spent part of my childhood in Ireland (primary school) and then returned to France for a few years before returning to settle here with my parents and my sister. It has been more than 25 years now that I live full time in Ireland.
How did you fall in fishing and especially fly fishing?
My dad passed me the fishing virus, very early I had my first experiences at the edge of the water. I started like any kid, with a bamboo cane and a cork… Then a gradual evolution, fishing for white fish, feeder, fishing, pole fishing, coarse competitions… It is only after several years that my passion for pike is developed. I pike fished many methods for many years, from dead baiting, lure fishing, soft lures, jerk baits, big baits, wobbled deadbait. Then all these techniques quickly became tiresome for me, I needed a new challenge, and that’s where fly fishing has arrived in my life. But all these past techniques helped me to understand what gets pike going.
I had no fly fishing clubs, no instructors in my area, and at the time there were not many resources on the internet. Youtube quickly became my best friend, you learning how to double haul to tie my first few streamers.
What was this first streamer?
My first was very ugly, but I quickly learned that the beauty of a streamer is only important to the fisherman… The predator is more interested in movement than neat finishes. This first streamer was simple, a rabbit tail (chartreuse), the marabou (red of course) and a complete fail of an epoxy head, bent, full of bubbles, crossed eye straight out of a horror movie. Then I caught the virus… Four hours and eight beers passed after my first streamer and I found myself surrounded by hair, feathers, flash and other debris. My desk completely disappeared under the mess that I have just created. But I’m satisfied, I have a box with half a dozen streamers, ready to go hunt my first pike on the fly.
You are passionate about pike, but why did you choose this species of fish and not another?
It’s a simple answer, pike is THE predator here in Ireland. It’s aggressive, it gets big, it’s a fish that changes mood very often, and every day on the water it’s different. It’s a fish that constantly challenges me.
Can you tell us your first fly pike, what did you feel…?
This pike marks the moment when my fishing career completely changed. Some call it “the dark side” of fishing. Not for me, it’s like a rebirth, discovering new sensations and to learn something new… So yes I remember very well this first pike. A jack about 65 cm. I had a floating line and it was early May in Ireland. I stripped my streamer 30cm under the surface of a clear water lake about 3 meters deep. The pike arrived behind the streamer and follows… and follows…and follows… Then finally he put an end to this mental torture by inhaling the streamer very deep. This very athletic fish surprises me with its speed and the line get stuck on everything that can find on its path… This sort of thing doesn’t happen when you’re spinning.
What advice can you give for those wishing to start Esox fishing?
You have to start, simply. We can read articles and books about pike and perch, but nothing replaces the experience on the water. One of the first things to learn in my opinion is respect for the fish, knowing how to fight it, get it off the ground and put it back in the water in the best possible conditions.
And at the level of gear?
Nowadays we have more and more choices in the gear we can use. Pike fly fishing has become very popular in recent years and the fishing brands have quickly gained the upper hand with new models of rods, lines and reel dedicated for pike. Gear is very personal, everything comes into play, the budget, the style of casting , the types of streamers used and the fish you are targeting. For my part, I’ve made the move to fiberglass for the last five years now. Many fishermen think of daddy’s fiberglass, heavy and the action of an overcooked noodle. But modern fiberglass is completely different. Much lighter, but with a flexibility that is always present. And it is this flexibility that is fantastic. I find the action of the fiberglass very suitable for pike fly. More flexible it loads slowly and it’s perfect for launching big streamers. On a windy day try waterloading works like a dream with fiberglass. Here pikes love to jump out of the water to spit lures and streamers. The softer action of the rod effortlessly absorbs all these head shakes. And the fight!!!! It bends with angles that can not even be imagined with graphite. But we must not think for a second that it has no power. There is a huge reserve of fighting power in the butt section. It just takes a period of adaptation when you start with the fiberglass. You need to slow down a bit your casting and adjust.
I fish mainly 10 weight not only to cast large streamers but also to be able to fish comfortably in windy day, and here it is very often that you have to deal with windy days. 10 weight also reduce the length of the fight to assure a good release. Of course fish barbless, but i like to crush the barbs instead of buying barbless hooks. Fot the bite proof leader I am 100% steel or titanium. I have a great preference for multi-strand stainless steel from American fishing wire, the “Bleeding Wire” in 15 kg minimum. I hate fluoro (here in Ireland and for trips in Alaska) Fluoro is useless here, only to be cut regularly. As a guide and owner of a fishing lodge I have seen too many fish cutting of clients and swimming away with streamers and lures in the jaws… And then what is the use of tying streamers that are light and swim naturally to put in front a thick, stiff piece of fluoro???
My leader setup is super simple, 1.50 m of Amnesia shock leader 14kgs connected to fly line loop to loop and I connect the bite proof tippet with a “6 turn Yucatan knot” easy to find a tutorial on youtube (I only do three turns with stainless steel).
You are also an excellent fly tier, what do you like in this art?
What I like most is when you tie your own streamers, we have no limit, the only limit is our imagination. We are not subject to this commercial pressure like the lure fishermen. We tie what inspires us.
Moreover in terms of imagination, I could see that you had fun to ride a turtle. Did you fish with?
Unfortunately I could not try it… I had it on my last trip to Costa Rica for dolphinfish and she stayed in my suitcase with all the rest of my gear. Thank you Air Canada for losing my suitcase. I still recovered it but way too late.
What kind of materials do you use most and why?
I like both synthetic and natural materials. I still have a weak point for the rabbit, bucktail and flash. For pike I try to find materials everywhere, especially synthetic fibers. There are cheap fibers and flash, easy to find on the web without having to spend a fortune. I’m trying to make a maximum myself. I fish a lot of articulated streamers, making my own shanks can save you a lot of money and I’m free to do any size of shank i need.
What are your favorite streamers?
And if you had to choose only one, what would it be?
One… MMMMhhh… it’s like choosing between your father and mother… I can choose two? The T-bone and its variations (MiniBone, Gamechanger) and the flasher. I have a series of videos on youtube with tutorial editing of my top 5 that will be released soon.
More and more people are using flies tubes. I noticed that you did not ride enough. Why?
I’m not a big fan of tubes, you almost always get the same action with tubes, the fact that the leader goes inside stiffens the swim too much. I like “free” streamers, articulated in different sections, or a jerkbait type swim, or a fast jigging action with leaded heads. I think the action of swimming streamers and often more important than the size or color.
You talk about swimming action, how do you bring back your streamers?
Everything depends on the pike’s mood .. It goes from the 10cm mini strip with long pauses to a fast rolly polly.
To continue, I would like you to tell us about your lodge.
My parents opened the lodge first, and I took over when they retired.The lodge is located in the middle of 365 lakes and rivers. A real pike paradise. The lodge offers full board and owns different types of boats for customers. We can fish from the shore, float tube, boat on the largest bodies of water, and recently I just imported from the United States a raft to fish the rivers in summer and offer my customers a brand new type of guiding (first raft of this type in Europe). The lodge welcomes 10 people maximum.
Has the raft really changed your way of guiding? If yes, how? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Yes the raft is a revelation! I love to guide from the raft. When all the lodges and guides are choosing big bassboat with 150hp and all the electronics imaginable, I turn the opposite direction and I return to the basics. The raft is silent ,stealthy, it rides in super skinny water, it is ecological (my arms are the only engine on board). I find this type of guidance more “intimate” .I love rivers, the landscape changes all the time and they are never the same from one week to another. When the levels drop in summer many pike migrate to the rivers to look for freshness and aport of oxygen. The raft allows me to access parts of rivers that are impossible to fish on foot or by boat.
The only drawback is the wind when it blows hard, the raft becomes difficult and capricious.
You also travel a lot, what destination did you prefer?
I like all types of (big) fish, so the destinations change but are not alike.It is difficult to compare Alaska, Ireland with tropical countries.Every trip is an adventure and that’s what matters most.
Tell us a little anecdote during one of your trips?
Anecdotes, I have a lot of them, but one of my best memories comes from a trip to Alaska. More particularly on the Innoko River. Our fourth day of fishing was miraculous, with more than 40 pikes of 40 inches. (102cm) taken in a fly day with my friend Dominique.
What is your next project?
I have several, you must always have projects. Next project Wolf fish in Guyana and to bring clients back to Alaska for an other memorable trip.
What could you say to make people want to fly pike?
To put so quickly… I regret having waited so long… The sensations are incomparable with other techniques.