There’s something about it, searching for Pike in small waters. Often forgotten and some rarely fished, these little places can produce quality fishing time when approached right. In Europe, and Holland, in particular, there are tons of smaller channels where Pike find a home and hunt their prey. For some people there isn’t much challenge to fishing here, but it’s a great get-away and often you find yourself in a beautiful wild environment where hidden gems are lying beneath the surface…
As the title already says, this article is about fly-fishing the smaller waters that roam our planet. Back when we were kids, these were our first hunting grounds to find the illusive Pikes, and where all of our adventures started. Now, all those years later, we still find joy in discovering new area’s to fulfill our day. There’s just something magical about being alone outside, or with a friend, and discover new waters, smaller waters, which you would have easily driven past, not knowing what was there.
It all started probably around 6 years ago when Freddy, one of my fly-fishing friends and I were scouting for new waters. Sometimes in Winter, you are not always able to go out by boat. The weather forecast sometimes puts a hold on our adventures on the big waters, so we find ourselves shelter from the hauling winds. Living in Holland, there are many bigger canals where you can find the fish, but beyond these canals is where the real magic hides. During the years that passed by, we have discovered so many new waters that we’ve lost count. These waters are often pretty shallow and require a special approach, a fly-fishing approach.
”A beautiful fish taken from a small and shallow water”
But why fly-fishing? Simple. Most of the smaller waters we fish are pretty shallow, in fact, no deeper than 5 feet or less. Over the years we have found that conventional fishing gear doesn’t come in hand when fishing such small and shallow water. The reason for this is quite simple. Often, the Pikes are found right underneath your feet, and when reeling in a crankbait, spinner or jerk bait, most of the action is lost when the bait is only a few feet out of your rod tip. When fly-fishing, on the other hand, you can really get an ultra slow presentation right under the bank where you are fishing, and ultimately increases your chances of landing a fish dramatically. Plus, when the water is really shallow, you can create much-needed hangtime with your fly, in order to cover as much water as possible and make sure that any lurking predator nearby will see it.
It still amazes me what you can find in smaller and shallow waters. Even in the depths of Winter, the Esox that live there can be pretty active. It’s often told that when the water is cold, the fish go to deeper water, or of the feed, but we have found that the colder the water get’s, the more active the Pike become, even in skinny water. However there is a big difference when you would look at these waters in Summer, in fact during the warm water period, you can find all sorts of baitfish all around the place, and these waters seem pretty lifelike, but when the water cools down to the lowest of the year, all life and activity seems to be gone, except that from the Pike, who still have to feed in order to stay alive.
”Winter’s true colors. A beautiful piece of Pike habitat”
That also brings us to the part of where to start fishing. If you have found yourself a small water to fish, it’s interesting to see how that water is build up. Is there shelter closeby in the form of any reeds, a lock, bridge, someone’s home, or perhaps s slightly deeper hole which you can see from above? These are the key area’s to look out for because unlike deeper water, there aren’t many exciting other things to look out for, such as a deep drop of whatsoever. However the Pike just as well might be all over the place, and it’s up to you as the fly-angler to find them. How would you fish it? Well, as you might have already noticed these waters are pretty slim and there is not much to be found on both shores. 90% of the time, these fish are hiding on the tiny drop (even if there is any) just only feets from the bank believe it or not. Approaching a water with care is what you want to do here. When I’m fly-fishing with a friend, one of them casts the upper bank on the other side, and I cast to my right, all the time. Cast and repeat. When I’m alone, I make one cast to my right and after to the left. This way you can cover as much water as possible, all in one turn. Either way, you might want to believe that when they see the fly they’ll grab it, but it has happened to us many times that one already fished an area and eventually the other hooked up.
”A monster to be, but still great fun in the shallows”
How to find these smaller waters? Well, you can either drive around, or look onto Google Maps, and see what you can find. There are a ton of forgotten places just waiting for you to be discovered. And if you’ve found yourself some of these waters, it’s time to fish them, and the beauty of this is that you don’t need a lot of gear at all to have fun! Travelling light is the key here, and that is also the beauty of fishing here. Depending on the fly, you can either use a floating or an intermediate line. Either a Scientific Anglers Mastery Titan WF 8-10 or a Sonar Titan WF 8-10 is perfect to fish in such conditions. An 8 or 9 weight can be used to fish smaller synthetic flies that don’t take on a lot of water, the 10 comes into the light when using medium sized Bufords, or other bulky streamers that push water and have a bit more air resistance. Although a WF10 might sound heavy to some people to use in smaller water, there can be some serious predators hiding in here. Big Pike is no exception here and these fish do like a large meal, so always adapt your setup to the kind of fish you’ll expect to catch.
Furthermore, the rest of the setup is simple. A quality 90lb leader, I use the AFW 49-strand Surfstrand Micro Supreme, as this is a thin wire leader and gives a great action to any fly you are using, plus it’s really light and doesn’t kink. On top of that, we tie a mono leader of around 3 feet in 50lb. You can use thinner, but I wouldn’t go there since you can also encounter a bigger fish, and the thicker leader helps turn over a bigger fly easier. For the rest, it’s really simple. Do some homework, and start driving around, make your casts, and fish to discover. Step out of your comfort zone and do things differently than you would otherwise. All waters are connected, and fish have fins and therefore swim. Give it some time, and I’m sure you won’t regret it. There are some magical places out there waiting for you to be discovered!
”You don’t need much for a great day out. A colorfull box with flies, rod, reel and line”