Friday, 31 October 2008

About Pikeflyfishingarticles Blog

Having been an avid saltwater fly-fisherman in South Africa for many years I crossed over to fly-fishing for pike when I moved back to the U.K In 95. My passion for it really took of though once I moved here to Finland in 2004, and that I attribute to being able to dedicate a lot more time to catching Pike on the fly.

If you have come to this blog in the hope of finding images of massive pike caught by me on the fly you will be very disappointed. I know I am going to have to be extremely lucky to catch a 25lb’r with some fluff, so I am just as happy showing you a 1lb’r as I am with a 10lb’r that I have caught. My whole ethos has changed towards the sport as I have truly started to appreciate my surroundings more and more, and that has been the greatest addition towards my love for the art form.

What I do want from this blog is to not only show and share my experiences of fly-fishing for pike with other like minded pike fly-fisherman around the world or just those who might be interested in taking up the sport, but also a place for me to draw on your experiences and insight into chucking fluff for “Esox lucius”.

Yes, Every now and again there will be something reviewed by me on a specific piece of equipment that I have come across and feel has helped me in improving my strike rate, “Although don’t always take my word for it”. I will also be adding the odd fly-tying tutorial here either by me or by any of you out their willing to share your skills and yes there will be enough links to other like minded pike fly-fishing websites ie: (Rods, reels, flies) for you to access, but mainly this blog is for those just interested in reading about an everyday bloke living in the wilderness truly enjoying fly-fishing for pike in one of the most beautiful countries and fishing destinations in the world.

Oh & Lastly! Please feel free to leave comments and feedback whether it be positive or negative. If you have something specific to discuss or show, drop me a line and well add it to the pages.

Tight lines

Simon Graham

If you fish the wrong fly long and hard enough, it will sooner or later become the right fly." -- John Gierach

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

In need of a fix

After three days of pretty miserable weather here in Kuru, Locked indoors working on a canoeing project with my Partner Lena, I was desperate & in need of a fix. My daily check on the weather report last night showed promise for this morning so I decided to get up extra early and head of to a small lake I had stumbled across while out walking Dingo the dog last week in the forests. I’d found an old rowing boat with oars inside along its shore and decided to risk it and was pleasantly surprised to find it had no leaks.

To say it was the most picturesque setting is an understatement. The lake was a mirror and mist covered it like a blanket. The only noises I heard came from a loan Black woodpecker screeching from the far end of the lake and the incessant tapping of a Lesser spotted woodpecker on the side of a dead Birch stump close by.

Its moments like that, in places like this knowing full well that you will be the only person here for the whole day that stay indelibly printed in my mind, in fact the fishing was just an extra bonus by this stage.

Anyway to cut a long story short within twenty minutes I had caught 2 jacks both on a mouse imitation and a nice Perch (size un-important) on a small white & red streamer, and was feeling rather content with myself. I swapped over to my fast sinking line and attached a bally-bomber to the business end and decided to try some deeper water. My 3rd cast (and to be honest by this time I wasn’t paying much attention except to my surroundings) I felt a rather strong thud from below and knew I was into something a little more substantial.

5 minutes later and I had a nice 3.5kg pike on board and my fix was complete.

I paddled back to shore and took this image just for remembrance of a perfect mornings pike fly-fishing.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Stripping baskets/Trays

There are numerous stripping trays on the market these days which is apparent when trawling the net, and over the last few yrs I have been able to try several makes from different manufacturers but none have come close to the stripping trays. Other manufacturer’s products were either to cumbersome, wide or flexible and became a hindrance when landing a fish on the shore of a lake, river or even in the boat.
Then I came across stripping tray and I have to say that it has become an invaluable piece of my days fly-fishing.
It is extremely lightweight & compact for a start but its 3 main features that propel it to the top of the list for me are:
Firstly the 9 cones which separate the line evenly when stripping line back.
Secondly the curved back fits snugly against your waist and
thirdly I have found the rod holder the most helpful feature with this stripping tray whenever I have been trying to extract the fly from the pikes mouth especially while out wading in The Baltic.
I can’t praise this peace of equipment enough and although it comes in at a hefty
Є49,90 it will be the best buy you make all winter….that’s if you spend your day walking from Peg to peg or even along canals or rivers bank all afternoon.
Orvis also retails something quite similar if you feel the need to shop around first but I have found this tray a little deeper and little less wider than the model sold by
The only design fault I find with these models are the lack of drainage holes present. Surely the manufacturers could have designed the press mold with a hole in each of the four corners. As i say, its only a small gripe and can be rectified quite easily by drilling the holes yourself.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Colour differentiation

Just thought I would show you the differences in colour between Pike caught from a lake here in Kuru and one from the Baltic Sea. Many of the lakes in Southern Finland are quite dark due to run off from the thousands of bogs and Myers that litter the countryside and so most if not all of the Pike you catch are also extremely dark and lack much of the typical spots and stripes they acquire in cleaner water found further north or in the Baltic. What is distinctly noticeable though in many of these lake caught pike, are their wonderful orange bellies which contrast fantastically against their dark, but slightly mottled flanks.

I’m left wondering though, with darker water comes less visibility and with less visibility there isn’t much need for camouflage. Would this make pike more active in these conditions than they generally would need to be? Or would they still spend most of their time waiting in ambush areas for their intended quarry to come along.

One can see here that this Pike has all the traditional trademark patterns you’d expect from a clear water dwelling species as the Baltic pike. Its need to blend into its surroundings seems far more apparent than its darker cousin, thus provoking the question again in reverse. With clearer water and much better visibility, would this make pike less active and more prone to ambush tactics? Or would they still be as active knowing they would be more easily spotted by their intended prey?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Loop's Pike Buster rods

I early March this year I read an article by renowned pike fishermen Chris Mcully on the new 9’0” Loop Pike Booster fly rod, and since acquiring one from a fly-fishing fair here in Finland from a company called Eumer I can honestly say that it has to be the best Pike fly rod “I” have used so far.

Mine came with a fully loaded Loop Evotec c/w Seight reel, with 80m backing, 30m intermediate fly line and coupled to that with a shooting head line, leader and Pike trace + a lightweight travel case for just €250. Although there are a few rod manufacturers out there producing fly rods specifically for Pike fly-fishing none that I have come across over the last twelve yrs have the overall grunt and design features that the Loop Pike buster has got going for it. It casts flies of 20cm or more like a dream but it’s the stiffness of the tip that I find has been the greatest help for me with casting larger flies.Fly-fishing for pike in Sweden has taken off in a big way and it shows with the development of Loops pike fly-fishing equipment & Tackle. They have managed to corner the market here in Scandinavia in regards to the sport with innovative development and feedback from an experienced pool of Loop guides and tackle users. It is also evident in the amount of Swedish Pike fly-tiers that are popping up all over the net with not only products for sale but wonderful fly-tying tutorials as well.In Finland though fly-fishing for pike is still in its infancy. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me during the course of the day over here to tell me that there aren’t any Salmon or Trout stocked in the lake or river I am fishing on. Many shake their heads in disbelief once they learn that I am fly-fishing for pike and many have stated that why would I want to waist my time and energy fly-fishing for such a “rubbish” species as the pike anyway.

…………………..If Only they knew hey!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Autumn Popping

Its been a fantastic autumn for me here in Kuru. No massive pike to write home about but as I have said many times before I couldn't care less what size they are, I am just so grateful and fortunate to be able to spend as much time as I do Fly-fishing for pike in some of the most picturesque wilderness on some of the most pristine lakes the world has to offer.

"Location,Location,location by boy". Haven't we heard that before.I'd spent the good half of the morning with nothing to show for my efforts then within a ten minute period I first caught this 3kilo on a frog imitation

And then this 3.2kilo caught on a Bally bomber

I have 42 lakes within a 12km square radius of my home to choose from but the other day I just had to walk 5 minutes to catch this cracker on one of my own "Grim Reaper poppers".

This was caught last weekend in Vaasa in the Baltic sea in conditions I can only describe as utterly miserable. Still didn't stop me from getting in the boat though.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Pike Recipes

I know many of you out there hold strict views with catch & release policies, me included but to be honest I also like to eat pike and always take one back home with me for dinner. Many of our guests have never had the opportunity to taste pike and so we offer them a choice of one of these delicious dishes to try, and as I teach outdoor cooking courses with pike in mind nearly all these can be cooked over an open fire as well. All these recipes have slowly evolved through trail & error over the last 5 yrs and I promise you everyone is delicious.

Thai Chilli Pike with stir fly veggies and noodles
On the stove or over the campfire

2x Pike Fillets
2 x teaspoon Thai chili Sambal-Oelek paste
2 x Spring onions (Finely chopped)
Pinch of salt
1 packet stir-fly vegetable mix
Portion of noodles
2 x table spoons olive oil
1 x table spoon nut oil

Place both Pike fillets in to glass oven dish
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & Lemon Pepper
Spread Thai chili Sambal-Oelek paste over fish
Sprinkle with finely sliced spring onions
Cover with a generous helping of mayonnaise
Leave in oven for 20min 180’c gas mark 3
Boil noodles then drain
Place Olive oil & nut oil in to the hot wok
Empty stir fry vegetables in and fry till crunchy
Mix in noodles

Serve Pike over the bed of noodles & vegetables in a bowl

Open Fire
Place each Pike fillet on top of a separate sheet of tinfoil
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & lemon pepper
Spread Thai chili sambal-oelek paste over fish
Sprinkle with finely sliced spring onions
Cover with a generous helping of mayonnaise
Enclose all ingredients in a parcel and place on coals for 20min

Place stir fry vegetables in to wok and fry till crunchy
Mix in noodles

Serve Pike over the bed of noodles & vegetables in a bowl

Beer & Peanut butter battered Pike with spicy potato wedges

2 x Pike fillets cut into chunks of your choice (add pinch of salt)
400dl Barley flour
1 x bottle beer
1 x teaspoon peanut butter or nut oil
3 or 4 larges potatoes
Olive oil
Mixed spices

Place Barley flour and peanut butter or nut oil into mixing bowl and slowly add in the beer.
(I prefer a Guinness or dark beer but a normal larger works just as well)
Mix with egg whisker until the consistency of thick paint and place the bite sized chunks of pike inside the batter.

Place generous helping olive oil in bowl
Add mixed spices (Taco or tortilla Mexican spices will do perfect)
Slice potatoes into wedges
And soak in olive oil spice mix
Place on an oven tray and leave for 30min at 180’c or gas mark 3

15 Minutes before the potato wedges are ready, heat oil in Pot
Once boiling, place 2 or 3 pieces of pike from the batter & deep fry into the oil
Turn once until just golden brown approximately 1 min.

Serve with wedges

Moroccan Pike with Couscous

2 x pike fillets cut in to pieces

1 x jar Sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (take out 5 dried tomatoes for couscous)
10-20 Fresh basil leaves
3 x garlic cloves
Approximately 20Pine needles
Place all in a Liquidizer and mix into a pesto
Place 2 x pike fillets into glass dish and cover with a generous helping of pesto
Cover with mayonnaise
Place in the oven 180’c or gas mark 3 for 20min

1 cup couscous
400dl warm water

5x Sun-dried tomatoes
Approximately 10Capers
6 to 8 Mushrooms
Half a Red pepper
Half an Onion
Pinch of salt
Finely chop all the ingredients and fry in a little butter until sautéed
Add the cup of couscous and mix in vegetables
Add the 400dl warm water and let simmer over a low heat for 1min
Cover with lid and leave

Once the pike is simmering take out and serve with the couscous.

Spicy Pike fish fingers served with fresh steamed vegetables & potato gratin
On the stove or over the campfire

2 x pike fillets cut into finger size slices
Bread crumbs
Mixed spices
2 x eggs
Beat two eggs in a bowl
50ml cream
6 x potatoes
2 x garlic cloves

Place and overlap potato slices in glass oven dish
Lightly salting each layer
Finely chop garlic and sprinkle on top
Pour cream over and cover with cheddar cheese
Place in oven 200’c gas mark 3 for 50min

Add mixed spices to bread crumbs in another bowl
Dip pike slices into egg and then roll in to bread crumb mix
Shallow fry in a frying pan with oil until golden brown
Serve with steamed vegetables of your choice

Dutch Brie Pike with sherry sauce and new potatoes
On the oven or over a fireplace

2 x pike fillets
Pinch of salt
Brie cheese
5-10 Capers finely chopped
10 x Sweet or new potatoes

Place pike fillets in to glass oven bowl
Sprinkle finely chopped capers over
Cover with mayonnaise
Sprinkle with paprika
Cover with Brie slices
Place in oven for 20min at 180’c or gas mark 4

Open Fire
Place each Pike fillet on top of a separate sheet of tinfoil
Sprinkle finely chopped capers over
Cover with mayonnaise
Sprinkle with paprika
Cover with Brie slices
Enclose all ingredients in a parcel and place on coals for 20min

Boil potatoes till soft

Sherry cream sauce
2 dl Crème fraiche or cream
1 cube vegetable stock
1 dl Dill
1 tbsp butter
1 dl sherry
Boil the vegetable stock and the sherry till half boiled down.
Add the crème fraiche & Butter
Add freshly chopped Dill
Use over fish and potatoes

Baltic Pike cooked in Chanterelle sauce served with asparagus heads
On the stove or over a fireplace

2 x fillets pike cut in to bite sized chunks
Add a Pinch of salt & Lemon Pepper
2 dl crème fraiche or cream
1 onion
1 tbsp butter
10 capers
1 ltr Chanterelle mushrooms
Asparagus heads

Heat frying pan a place the chopped Chanterelle mushrooms in and cook down.
Pour out the excess water from the mushrooms
Add the finely chopped onion with the butter and sauté down
Add the crème fraiche and stir in the capers
Add the pike pieces
Slowly turn ingredients till you see the pike is cooked 5-10min

Serve with steamed Asparagus heads and broccoli

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fly retrieval & the art of cricket

Having been an avid Saltwater fly-fisherman for many years in South Africa I eventually crossed over to Fly-fishing for Pike once I moved back to Europe in 95 & two of the main aspects I have had to change with regards to fly-fishing for this species was not only having to deal with learning how to chuck much large flies but I have also had to change the way I retrieved the fly as well.
Saltwater fly-fishing to me although as technical as any other form of Fly-fishing didn’t need much finesse. Sure, any saltwater fly-fisherman who has fly-fished for bonefish off the flats in Cuba will tend to disagree but overall I found the art form a tad slap n dash. Warmer, clearer water played a big part in why my retrieval was fast and furious, and off course obviously the species I was targeting, Barracuda, Garrick, Salmon, Jack Trevally, Shad (Tailor), Stump nose.
When I moved back to the U.K and started Fly-fishing for pike I brought the same gung-ho approach, and spent the good part of 2 seasons with very few fish to show for it, and so a drastic change in my approach was needed in order for me to become more successful as a pike fly-fisherman.
So I started reading as much literature as I could find, about my intended quarry the Elusive “Esox Lucius”. Something I encourage all novice Pike fly-fishermen to do.
With living in the tropics all those years I hadn’t taken into consideration the changes of season, which are more apparent in Northern Europe and thus have a much more adverse affect on not only the Pikes feeding habits but also its metabolism and general movement habits during each of these seasons.
After a month or so of reading I set about practicing different retrieval techniques at different speeds & depths, And it wasn’t long before I started to reap the benefits.
About two years ago I was float tubing on a smaller stretch of water in the forests here in Kuru Finland and It suddenly dawned on me while stripping back my fly that Fly-fishing for Pike was, if not very similar to the other passion in my life “Cricket”.
Now I know what you’re thinking…Simon you’re talking a load of bollocks, but if you stop and think about it for a moment my words aren’t that far from the truth.
Trying to explain the game of cricket to a layman can take day’s even months. (Which batsmen battles against a spin attack? Whether to bowl left arm over the wicket? How many fielders should be placed in the slips or on the off side? When should the captain declare his team’s innings?) The list goes on & on and even then, until they have sat down and watched a five-day test, enjoyed it, and understood all the games subtle nuances will they have a better appreciation of the game. The same principle applies with Pike fly-fishing. (What fly to use? Surface or fast sinking, Flash streamer or a white/black bodied Bunny. What fly works best with the line you are using at that specific place you are fishing? Whether to use a floating or intermediate line. How long should one let a fast sinking line drop before retrieval? Should I retrieve the fly fast or slow? What action can you impart on the fly with the line you are using with the retrieve you use?
The list went on and on, and even now after 14 years of fly-fishing for pike I find myself learning every time I venture out.
Here in Finland especially the Southern parts many of the lakes Are extremely dark due to the run of from the hundreds and thousands of bogs, which litter its landscape. For a pike fly-fisherman this makes the effort of chucking some fluff with the chance that a Pike will spot your fly even harder. Added to that, time of year, depth & area fished will eventually all come down to how well presented your fly is in the water. In Northern Finland (Lapland) the lakes are for want of a better word ‘crystal clear’ and so it is possible to not only get away with using much darker flies but your retrieval of that fly can be far more quicker & erratic due to the Pike having much better visibility. Also waters that far north never really get over warm and so during the short season Pike can be found at all depths and are extremely active.

Winter Piking
In General though Pike fly-fishermen have to contend with two main seasons Winter & Summer and with both seasons come different challenges. I found while living in the UK whether I was fishing in Ireland, Scotland or England that during the winter months the slower the retrieval the better. The question is “How slow is slow?” Well depending on where & what stretch of water you are fishing will depend on quite few many factors. Let’s take for instance canals. These stretches of water aren’t particularly deep and so I would use an Intermediate slow sinking line and count down until I knew the fly was lying on the bottom. This would take anywhere between 10 to 20 seconds. I would then begin to strip back the fly 10cm at a time for at least 4 strips and every now and then a longer strip of around 20 cm. I also have got in to the habit of raising the tip of my rod straight after this longer strip either to the left or to the right. This too imparts another angle of movement in the fly instead of just a straight-line movement back to the shore you are fishing from. Once you have worked the fly across that stretch of water, recast backs across the canal but two metres either side of where you last entered the water. This time count down half the time it took to hit the bottom and start your retrieval. Look at it as if you have a left-hander at the crease and maybe a right arm spin bowler would fair better against him. Always be prepared to try something different I say. This time strip back in 20cm lengths, with every fifth one being a 10cm strip, Remember to raise your rod tip after this short pull. Lowering your rod tip again puts just enough slackness back in the line for your fly to flutter down again before your next 20cm strip. I also encourage to you to get in to the habit of stopping In the middle of a strip every now and then. Over the last few years I have noticed that many of my takes have been during this period where the fly has stopped, so stay alert!

Spring Piking
Springtime for me here in Finland brings new revitalised energy to my Fly-fishing. Here in Southern Finland most lakes thaw out in early April with Pike spawning As soon as they can get close into the shallows and reed bed areas. This period lasts for around two weeks.
This is probably one of the best and most productive times to go Pike fly-fishing here. Pike are ravenous and in my experience just as aggressive as in late autumn. Pike lie close into the shoreline and I am often toiled with the problem of whether to use a floating line or a slow sinking intermediate. As Pike feed at all depths during this period I usually use an Intermediate slow sinking line with a surface lure to start proceedings (Poppers, Ballydoona bombers or even a Bunny-wobbler) Although your line sinks slowly, the short 20cm strip you give imparts a wonderful action in your fly which become irresistible to any Pike lying anywhere in its close proximity. Vary the length of your strip here 10cm, 20cm, and 30cm at a time. The longer the strip the longer the fly will stay under water and its rise to the surface will also be longer. Always try remembering to every now and then raise and lower your rod tip from right to left and stop the retrieve every 3 to 6 strips. If it’s an all day session I invariably swap over to a floating line with a fast sinking fly and fish 3m to 8m from the margins. Although the front 4 metres of your floating line sinks with the fast sinking fly attached the action is opposite with the fly rising and sinking in short 10, 20 & 30cm lengths. (Most takes will be as the fly sinks back down).

Summer Piking
Summer time here in Finland is like most other places in Europe extremely hard for the Pike fly-fisherman. Pikes have now moved into deeper water around the 5m to 10m depths due to the rise in the waters temperature at the surface, & the oxygen levels dropping off.
A fast sinking line here is needed coupled with a fast sinking fly. A fly preferably with a lot of flash built in. As I have mentioned before the lakes here in Finland are quite dark and fishing at these depths I want to give myself all the chance I can for a pike to see my fly. The Pike will still be active and quite aggressive but it’s getting down to them that put many a Pike fly-fishermen off.
The last two yrs though I have been employing a different tactic while fishing at depths. I take two rods on the Boat, fishing from either side of it. I cast the 1st line out 10m to 15metres over a respected drop off with a fast sinking line with a fast sinking fly attached allowing it to fall down into the respected area and then place it in a rod holder, then while that is sinking I then move to the other side of the boat and with the same set up (Fast sinking line/fast sinking fly) cast out 10m to 15m over the drop off. This would have given the 1st fly time to sink to a reasonable depth. Place the rod in the Holder. Now I start to retrieve the fist rig. With this method I am able to use extremely large flies of around 20cm to 25cm in length, as I don’t need to cast them all that far.
I start by stripping lengths of between 30cm and 60cm stopping in between each strip allowing the fly to slowly flutter back down. I also raise the tip of my rod either left or right a lot more with this method. To be honest I still haven’t caught any monsters using this method but I have regularly had fish in the boat between the 4.5kg & 6.5kg range. This I put down to not finding the right drop off yet but my day will come, as it will with you all. Sure its not classic fly-fishing in the true sense but it brings results especially on those days when it’s hot and all you want to do is feel the fly line between your fingers. Once I have retrieved the fly back up to the surface I cast it out 2m either side from its last position and start retrieving the other rods fly. Other than that during the summer months Pike fly-fishing should be practiced either in the early morning or very late afternoon/evening.

Autumn piking
Autumn time here is by far the most prolific and productive season for fly-fishing for pike. It’s a chance for me to go out onto a lake armed with just a box of Poppers and my favourite fly the Ballydoona Bomber. But that’s another article altogether.

By Simon Graham
Wilderness predator fly-fishing in Finland

fly-fishing with poppers

I’m sure all of you who fly-fish for pike have at least one or two poppers in your ever expanding collection of flies. If not, I highly recommend you invest in a few or if possible make a couple. My fly box primarily consists of 80% surface lures from mid August to the end of September, especially the Popper. Now I’m not suggesting you follow my train of thought in any way, it’s just my preferred line of attack during the autumn months.
I still remember the fist pike I caught using the popper like it was yesterday. I had bought a couple in the Netherlands in 98 and had taken them up to Scotland with high hopes of them being everything “Henk” the tackle shop owner had so vehemently promised they would be, and how right the old boy was! The sheer rush I received when I saw the water boil behind it as I stripped it across the surface has stayed with me to this day. I just don’t get the same thrill while fishing with a Streamer, Bunny-wobblers or a Bomber under the surface. To visually watch my lure slowly creeping its way back towards me supersedes by far any other form of Pike fly-fishing. I also tend to concentrate a lot more during a session of popping as well. Coupled with the anticipation & frequent rushes of adrenaline that cause through my veins, I am literally quite drained at the end of the day.

Poppers themselves
Most fly tackle shops that have a Pike fly-fishing section now supply a range of ready made surface lures from Divers, Skipping bugs, Sliders, Wiggle bugs & off course Poppers. Many also carry a range of finished Popper heads which come in all manner of colours, materials and sizes. Unfortunately though I found that most Popper heads on the market were quite small in comparison with some of the 20cm streamers I had been using and found during a couple of seasons that I was only able to attract Pike in and around the 1kg – 2kg size bracket. This I have attributed to most of these popper heads being developed primarily for the American Bass angling market and not for us Pike fly-fishing enthusiasts.
Then Last year while trawling the net I came across a company called

Edgewater fly-tying materials that had not one but two separate popper head products. The first being the Boiler Maker Popper Head. Loud poppers that get a big fishes attention! Super durable with a concaved face for good sound! And the Master Blaster Heads, large heads to attract big fish! now armed with larger popper heads I obviously needed a larger hook especially with a longer shank and this I found in the Mustad 3401 4/0 long shank hook. Unfortunately though this hook doesn’t have a kinked shank and after just one or two tussles with a fish I was finding the head would come loose and spin around the shank. Since then I have now changed over to the 4/0 long shank
Wapsi Popper Hooks
and have found that the foam heads have lasted me several outings before either needing a repair or full overhaul.

The Tail
Another aspect I found a bit disappointing with Poppers bought from a tackle shop, is the length of the tails tied in behind the popper head. On average they range from between 50mm to 70mm and personally I feel this is too short. (Yet another attribute from the American Bass angling market). I have two specific designs which are now working well for me and catching bigger pike.
The first which I call “The grim reaper” gets given a black head. I then tie on top of the remaining section of visible hook shank a 5mm wide 80mm length of white rabbit tail and then on either side of it I tie a black feather so they curl outwards also around 80mm. This whole new popper has now given me a total length from tip to tail of around 135mm for not much extra weight. I always tie in some red hackle directly behind the head, just to finish it off.

To say this popper has a wicked action through the water is an understatement. As you strip it forward the feathers pull in tight to the hook but as it stops they swing back outwards coupled with the wobble action from the strip of rabbit fur and the loud popping noise it gives off, I am getting an extremely active surface lure.
The second design which I call the “Gaudy deceptor” has a white body. Instead of Rabbit fur I use a generous clump of flash tinsel also 80mm long (any colour will do) but still retain the black feathers on either side. For me here in Finland with the dark water, adding the longer tail in “Flash tinsel” has increased my strike count tenfold.

Weed guards
The old adage is,” if you aren’t fishing the structure’s your not fishing for predators!” Poppers can be fished out in open water but your best results will come from stripping your Popper past visible & non-visible structures like reed beds, water lilies or even a submerged tree stump. This is why a weed guard is an absolute must when fishing structures .With all my Poppers I have a weed guard tied in. Don’t use a thin monofilament here as it will more than likely snap within the first decent fight. I use a very thick mono (100lbs breaking strain). With heavy mono it not only lasts longer but helps prevents snagging up a lot less.
I would also recommend giving it a decent loop from the back of the hook to the front. If tied in to close to the hook and the under body of the head It becomes hard to set the hook in the pikes mouth. This is also another reason for the wider loop.

In the early development stages of these flies I used to apply eyes to the popper but found they would eventually disappear over the course of a days fishing, so I don’t bother with them any more and to be truthful I personally don’t think it makes any difference especially with surface poppers.

Another surface lure I must recommend are mouse imitation flies. I always dedicate an hour to using a few every time I’m out fishing. As soon as I arrive at the first patch of water lilies I slip one on and yes as I mentioned in my last column you are not going to get a lunker with this fly but to trick a pike (even a jack) into taking one is great sport.

Lastly, and I’m speaking from experience here, I have noticed that when stripping my popper back, most takes, if not all, occur while the popper is stationary. Every now and then you will notice a pike is interested by the wake it is leaving directly behind the fly, but most takes are from below and are literally quite violent Affairs……….. SO STAY ALERT!

A picture tutorial will be placed here soon with regards to my” The Grim Reaper” & “The Gaudy Deceptor” Poppers.

Andrew with his 1st Fly caught Pike with a mouse popper