How to Choose the Best Fly Reel for Pike
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We've talked about choosing a fly rod for Pike. In that article, we go into the pros and cons of different rods for Pike. A multitude of methods and strategies are used for catching these ambush feeders and sometimes upgrading or downgrading rod size improves chances of angling success. In this post, however, we'll talk more about the best fly reel for landing these toothy targets. And, of course, fly reel choice is based on fly rod choice and which method you're using to catch Pike.
Because of the articles' overlap, I'll insert some wisdom that may have already been covered in 'How to Choose the Best Fly Rod for Pike'. Fly fishing for Pike means big gear. These fish are large, strong, and aggressive. They eat big flies, often require sinking lines, and don't turn over and come to the boat easily. That means a strong reel is a must. And a reel that picks up line quickly, has enough drag to stop a charging fish, and one that accommodates heavy sinking lines add to the angler's chance of success. Here, we cover the must-haves for a Pike fly reel and how to choose the best one.
Before we dive in, let's start with the basics. It's necessary to match the size of the reel to the size of the rod you're using. This may seem intuitive but it's worth mentioning: if you're fishing a 9wt fly rod (and a 9wt is the most popular rod choice for Pike), choose an 8/9 or a 9/10 sized fly reel. If you're fishing an 8wt, choose an 8wt fly reel. The right reel will help balance the rod, properly store the right sized fly line, and help improve your chances of landing a big Pike.
Line Choice (and how it affects reel choice)
Pike can be targeted in many different ways. Some Pike eat topwater flies in 1 foot of water, some eat larger streamers in 15 feet of water. Different techniques necessitate different lines, rods, and reels. You wouldn't want to use the same line to target Pike that are ambush feeding in shallow water and Pike that are cruising a 25 foot drop off looking for baitfish. Fly choice affects line choice which affects rod choice which affects reel choice. It's a circular relationship.
If you're fishing big flies with heavy sinking lines in deep water for larger Pike, a larger rod and a larger reel will increase chances of success. Sinking lines technically weigh the same as a same-size floating line, although they're smaller in diameter. A line with a smaller diameter takes up less room on a reel spool and allows for more backing making the loaded reel (backing and fly line) heavier. Therefore, choosing a reel with a slightly lighter overall weight when fishing a sinking fly line will help balance the rod and provide maximum performance.
If you're changing tactics, a fly reel with a spare spool also goes a long way. Most manufacturers produce spare spools that can be purchased separately from a full fly reel. A spare spool allows an angler to fish a floating line or a sinking line on the same fly reel.
Tippet Selection (and why a fly reel with low start-up inertia isn't needed)
If you know anything about Pike, you know they have big teeth... seriously big teeth that easily slice hands. And they're a big, strong fish so wouldn't a reel with a massive drag be important? Not quite. Big teeth typically mean wire leaders. And wire leaders are strong. Therefore, a fly reel for Pike doesn't have to protect light tippet. That also means a Pike fly reel doesn't have to have low start-up inertia. You're not going to find a quality reel that has insanely high start-up inertia, but you also don't have to do a ton of research to find the reel with the lowest.
And drag adjustability follows a similar suit. If you have a heavy leader (which you will when fishing for Pike, wire or not), it's easiest to set your drag and leave it. Adjusting a reel's drag while fighting a fish helps protect light tippet and minimize a fish's chances of getting away... but if you have a strong leader it's not as important. Don't break the bank or spend a lot of time researching a reel that has the very best drag adjustability. It's just not that important.
So... what should I be looking for?
Line pickup is an important consideration when choosing a fly reel for Pike. If a Pike eats your fly, charges in the opposite direction, and decides to turn and run at the boat, keeping tension on the line can be tough. A reel with high retrieval rates helps the angler stay tight on a Pike when it decides to swim at the boat.
A reel with a quality, durable design is also worth spending some money on. Pike fishing is often done from boats and reels can get banged up depending on the fishery, so a structurally sound reel goes a long way. Reels that have a more durable finish also generally have better overall construction. A quality reel makes sense for the avid Pike angler. Spending a little more money on a reel with a bombproof construction will certainly pay off in the long run, especially for the angler who spends a lot of time on the water.
And finally, a reel with a big game handle is nice (although not paramount). Pike can tear line off of a fly reel pretty easily and a larger reel handle helps control the fight. One reel with a big game handle that comes to mind is the Seigler MF Fly Reel. Although they're expensive and packed with features that may seem a little unnecessary to the casual Pike angler, Seigler reels are insanely durable with a big game reel handle and high retrieval rates to stop Pike in their tracks. If you're a Pike fanatic and a serious angler, check out the whole Seigler Fly Reel line.
The Top Three Pike Reels
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