Pike have always held a fascination with me, the biggest, basest, most beautiful predator in UK freshwater and after years of targeting them on lures, deadbaits and the like I have finally ventured into pike on the fly.
But I needed some specialist equipment. Luckily, Airflo are a one stop shop for all things fly fishing, pike included and I have now found my ideal set up.
If you fly fish for pike and predator species then you need serious tackle for the job. This fishing tackle review by all-round angler Ben Fox takes a look at the great range of predator fly rods, lines and leaders available from Airflo.
Ben Fox Fly fishing for pike on a canal
After using the Forty Plus Expert lines from my trout fishing set up for the first few months with little to no issues, I did find I sometimes struggled to get out a longer line with a large heavier pattern into the air. I had assumed, wrongly, that this was just something I needed to work on.
Enter the Airflo Forty Plus Sniper fly line. An aggressive taper, short head, big fly specialist, predator line. Coupled with the excellent Airflo Bluetooth Nano 9” #8/9 weight fly rod, the 9 weight intermediate line was a dream to handle, the line matching with and loading the rod perfectly. I also had the Airflo titanium predator polyleader to replace my usual fluorocarbon leader to the wire trace, I’ll go into to more detail on this later.
The Sniper line range
The intermediate is an ideal all-round line for canals and smaller waters where fishing at great depth isn’t required (have a look at the Di3 and Di7 versions if you need to get deeper) so it was spot on for my test session on a local canal.
There where two main areas I wanted to look at with the line, its ability to handle big, heavy, air resistant patterns and its ability to cast in tight spots (hoping the reduced head would help with this).
First however, I wanted to get an idea of how the set up handled with a pretty standard sized fly. A 2/0 perch pattern is one that has taken some sizeable pike for me in my short pike fly fishing career. My first impressions where good, the line didn’t struggle with the size and weight of the fly and the polyleader aided the turn over as I started to cover all the likely looking spots where pike like to lay in ambush.
The line behaved well with both standard and oval casting styles and only requires a short amount of the head to be outside the tip to sufficiently load the rod and shoot the running line. The line had ticked my first box – it can cover the distance required with minimum back cast making it ideal for the often cramped spots you find on UK canals and rivers.
Next for the big stuff. I had with me some tandem flies tied using two 5/0 hooks joined with a clip and a good heap of flash added to that. Heavy, wind resistant, big! Exactly what I usually hate and struggle to cast. No issues, the line didn’t struggle, feel unmanageable, loose contact with the fly or fail to turn the fly over.
It felt like more than a good enough match and gave me the confidence to fish the larger heavier patterns I would usually shy away from. This has led me to buy both the floating and Di3 versions of the line and it won’t be long before the Di7 joins the ranks and I can confidently target pike in any situation!
The Airflo titanium polyleaders feature a solid welded loop, a top quality wire trace and a strong, reliable snap swivel. The wire trace is welded expertly onto the leader with minimum disturbance to the taper and provides a strong connection which you can trust to hold.
The leader material is stiff which eliminates the possibility of kinking and aids turn over, something that for most is a must when it comes to pike on the fly. The clip used to attach the flies is solid, admittedly it did take me a while to figure it out but once you do it’s easy to use and seems impossible to split, bend or break, allowing for fast changes on the bank.
Kinks in leaders are a nightmare for any angler targeting toothy predators and especially while fly fishing, I believe a good wind knot would put a lasting kink in any leader. So of course after I add a few tailing loops to my cast one appears right next to the snap swivel. I expect this to be game over and another leader needed but the leader had barely changed and straightened well after being unknotted.
The connection to the polyleader was solid, as tested by several sizeable snags, and the breaking strain (30lb) was more than enough to pull my fly out of the various detritus found in the canal. Sadly, I didn’t get to test it on a fish on the afternoon of the photo shoot for this review but I’m sure it will handle even the biggest pike comfortably.
If you’re thinking of trying your hand at pike fly fishing I cannot recommend these lines and leaders enough, combined with the Bluetooth Nano rods and a selection of pike flies you really can’t go wrong. They’ve changed my pike fly fishing!
About the author
A qualified guide and fishing instructor, Ben Fox is based in Yorkshire but operates throughout the country. An all-round angler proficient in many disciplines, quality angling coaching or a guided fishing trips can be arranged via Ben’s website here.