TABLE OF CONTENTS
TOOTHY CRITTERS LOVE FLIES
Why fly-fishing for pike is an exciting opportunity, even for anglers new to the long rods. Plus a brief history of the pioneers in the sport, and a recap of what this book is about.
Fly-fishing for pike and musky isn’t just a stunt. Debunking common misconceptions about what will attract strikes from these ultimate predators. An explanation of why flies are so effective, and a general discourse on where, geographically, they are most likely to produce.
2. THE PLAYERS Descriptions, identifying characteristics and usual habits of muskellunge, pike, tiger musky and pickerel, plus discussion of possible “Bonus Species:” smallmouth bass, Arctic grayling, walleye, lake trout, brook trout and largemouth bass.
3. PIKE TALES
Recounting exciting experiences from various pike fishing trips, mostly throughout central Canada, with tips about habits, techniques and locations woven in while describing the action.
4. MUSKY TALES
Experiences with musky fly-fishing trips, relaying the same type of information as Chapter 3.
5. BONUS FUN
Adventures while taking a break from fishing for pike or musky. A complete discussion of the various Bonus Species, including why they can add so much excitement to the reader’s primary quest for toothy critters.
6. SPRING, SUMMMER OR FALL
The best time to go is whenever you can get away, but we will tell you what to expect, with the pros and cons for each season. When it is the best time to catch a really heavy fish.
An in-depth discussion of what rods, lines, leaders and reels that work best, including a section for the various Bonus Species. Many “experts” suggest tackle that may be totally inappropriate, and I tell the reader why.
8. FLIES THAT WORK
Which flies are most effective, and why, plus flies often suggested for pike (and musky) that, while they may catch fish, may be more trouble than they are worth. There is a photo plate of my favorite flies on the back cover, and tying instructions are included that even a novice fly-tyer can follow.
Important tips on how to cast big flies all day without exhausting yourself. Also details on how to most effectively work your flies; tips on not missing “Ghost strikes;” the best way to set the hook in bony jaws; getting the most from the fight; and landing and releasing your trophy so he can fight again another day.
10. WHERE TO GO
How to find the best places to fly-fish for pike and musky in the USA and Canada. Many lakes that produce great fishing are single out. How to pick the best spot for you, whether a deluxe all-expense paid trip or a limited budget, no-frills do-it-yourself trip.
11. A WORD ABOUT THE IGFA
For those interested in possibly setting a tippet-class record with the International Game Fish Association. Who the IGFA is and why it is important to all sport fishing. How to be properly prepared without infringing on your fun, just in case…
12. FINAL THOUGHTS
A recap of the book and why the reader can enjoy this exciting, not too complicated sport, regardless of his expertise.
A) A pike/musky weight chart, based on length and girth
B) A resource guide for finding pike & musky waters in any state or province
C) A list of several fly-tying material vendors
WHO IS GEORGE BERNSTEIN?
George Bernstein, ex-president of a small publicly held appliance company, is more recently the retired owner/operator of Outdoor Safaris, one of the earliest fishing and hunting travel services.
George started fishing at the age of ten, from their summer home at PawPaw Lake, Michigan. A 12” perch fired his enthusiasm for the sport, but with no outdoorsmen in his family, everything was self-taught. By his mid-teens he was already an expert, and took his first bonefish on a flyrod…no mean feat for a kid. A true sportsman, he pursued big fish on light tackle, and was practicing “catch-and-release” by the early 1980s…well before it became popular. He also authored several articles on chasing IGFA World Records on light tackle, providing new insight on fighting techniques that are now common practices.
Fishing all over the world as research for Outdoor Safaris, he acquired eight fly-rod International Game Fish Association (IGFA) World records, including 2 for pike, 2 for Arctic grayling and 1 for smallmouth bass. He was the official fishing & hunting tour wholesaler for Lan Chile, Aerolineas Argentinas and Pan Am Airlines. Over the past 20+ years he has concentrated mainly on fly-fishing for pike, musky and smallmouth bass, plus the other Bonus Species often available in their waters. He has rubbed shoulders with baseball great and fly-fisherman supreme, Ted Williams, as well as internationally revered anglers like Leon Chandler, Lefty Kreh, and others in the fly-fishing world. Now George has organized his life-time of experience into a definitive and easy to read book, Toothy Critter Love Flies, giving you everything you need to know to catch BIG pike (think 20 pounds and up) and musky on fancy feathers. Not a fly-fisherman? The book will show you how easily you can learn to catch this aggressive predators on flies…and how exciting that can be!
With most classic fly-fishing for trout and bass, you cast your fly to a place for a good drift over likely holding water in a river, or close to structure or the shoreline in a lake. A short retrieve takes the fly out of the “strike zone,” so it is picked up and cast again to another likely spot. Pike and musky fishing is different. Toothy critters are curious characters and will often follow a lure for as much as fifty feet. As the fly nears the boat, it begins to rise, as if about to escape, and this often triggers a strike. Most of my largest fish have been hooked within fifteen feet of the boat. Musky especially will strike right at the gunnel.
Catering to this quirk is the difference between a good trip and a mediocre one. The fly must be worked all the way to the boat, bringing the leader-to-line knot right to the tip of the rod. Even then, your work is not done. Because of the length of the rod and leader combined, your fancy feathers are still not along side, so you must continuing working it, sweeping the rod to one side, then continuing to draw a “figure 8” (or more practically, and ellipse) with the rod tip, next to the boat. The streamer will surge up and down as it skitters back and forth erratically, often drawing an explosive strike that will set your heart hammering. You’ll be amazed at how many big Esox boys are hooked this way, so be vigilant. When a twenty-pounder boils up, throwing water in your face, then bolts off, often under the boat, if you are not ready to handle your rod and loose line, he’ll be gone, leaving you with heart palpitations and maybe a broken rod tip.
Don’t be in a hurry to pick up the fly for the next cast. Many fish are hooked with the streamer just dangling in the water. In fact, when I am preparing for my first cast in a new spot, I strip off twenty to thirty feet of line and toss out the fly while I pull out the rest of the line I intend to cast. Keep the line snubbed under the forefinger of your casting hand while you prepare for the first cast. I can’t tell you how many good fish I’ve hooked with the streamer just dangling in the water, the marabou wings breathing softly.
If you see one of these sleek torpedoes follow the fly but refuse to hit, make another quick, short cast in whatever direction to which you think he swam off. I’ve seen what appears to be the same fish follow a fly two or three times to the boat before finally eating it…or just swimming off. Muskies are the biggest offenders of multiple follows.
Now let’s talk about properly working the fly. Classic traditions say pike and musky like fast retrieves. Typical spin and bait-casters crank their spoons, plugs and spinners at near-sonic speeds, but that is necessary to get most of their lures to work properly. No matter how fast you reel, a toothy critter can catch it if he wants. More recently hardware-chuckers have switched to soft plastics like Sluggos, big leeches and jerk baits…lures that can be worked more slowly…and they are cleaning up on big fish. They have seen the success of flies, and are copying the method as best they can.
Streamers, especially the marabous, should be worked with about six to eight-inch strips, pausing some of the time. A typical pattern would be: strip, strip, strip, pause, strip, pause, strip, strip, longer pause, strip, pause, strip, strip, strip, etc. The consecutive strips should be quick some of the time, or more deliberate others. Create your own pattern, but there should be variety throughout the retrieve. Keep the rod tip close to the water, and the line passed under the forefinger of your casting hand to retain control. When bringing the fly along side the boat and doing the figure 8, it should still be twitched, using the rod tip, not just dragged across the surface. That will work some of the time, but making the marabou wiggle and breathe enticingly will ultimately be more effective.