Fd: What would you say to the anglers who haven't yet tried pike fly fishing in Ireland?
Norbert: Just do it! You’re the one missing out. Not me... My local fishing grounds are made of small landlocked ponds, rivers, lakes, bigger lakes, lots of them are connected to each other via a complex system of rivers and large drains. And all this is not at easy reach, very few lakes offer a slipway to launch a large boat, so most of it is wild… Very wild. So we use float tubes and pontoons a lot. This is one of the best approach for me, it's discreet, practical to carry over a couple of fields, and most importantly, it gives you unmatched sensations. But you’ll only know the true sense of my words when you are being towed around a lake by a big Irish pike.
Fd: What are the ideal conditions for catching pike on the fly?
Norbert: This is a rather difficult one to answer, as i had many different experiences over the years…
I had memorable days in cold, windy, or even hot summer’s day… But I do like a steady drop in the atmospheric pressure, a nice cloud cover is always appreciated, and finally wind, as much as i hate wind, its become a “good” friend over the years.It create waves that break the light coming into the water, stirs shallow bays and get fish moving.Especially the bigger fish.
Fd: When you're prospecting new pike waters, what kind of areas and structures do you usually look for?
Norbert: It all depends on the time of the year. You won't find me on the same spots at different times of the year. In general, in early spring the pikes start to move closer to the shallows to prepare for spawning, as the water temperatures get higher in the summer, pike tend to hang on drop offs and deeper waters. Coming into autumn, we get another chance in finding them in shallow water, to feed strongly in preparation for the winter. Then winter, it's a more pelagic type of fishing, deep drop offs are a good bet. Water temperature i believe is very important as well to understand pike movements better.
Fd: What kind of stripping actions and movements on the fly usually trigger a pike attack?
Norbert: Easy! The pause! Not enough anglers take a pause while stripping. And don’t be afraid to experience with the length of the stops. Sometimes they take the fly on a long drop.Keep the line tight, make sure you have a good connection between you and the fly at all times, and be ready to strike at any touch you get, even the slightest as pike can be voracious, but they can also be very picky at times.
Fd: How important do you consider the rattle to be in streamers for predator species?
Norbert: Not very. I have only 5% of the flies in my boxes that have rattles on them. Saying that, there is days where they can be a deciding factor. I fished many times with friends, one with rattle, one without, and we never witnessed a massive difference.But i wouldn't go out without having a fly or two equipped with rattles.
Fd: What is the idea behind your "junk in da trunk" patterns?
Norbert: I like to challenge myself and my fly tying all the time.Not in the beauty department, but in the movement and action of the streamers. Pikes love something that swims out of the ordinary.
The idea of the Junk in the trunk was to imitate a dying fish. It's a streamer that needs to be fished slowly, and with long pauses (again…pauses). The first few months of trying this streamer and i am very happy with the results.Its not the easiest of ties.It does look easy when we watch the video, but the trick is to achieve a perfect balance so it sink “trunk” first but not too fast.
Fd: Pike flies seem to be getting bigger every year. How do you achieve a balance between volume and underwater movement in your patterns?
Norbert: They have, over the years we see more and more articulated models, and bigger is more and more the norm.But i’ll be an exception on this one, like the rattles, i only have very few “big” flies in my boxes (flies over 25 cm).
Nearly all my biggest fish came from small, baitfish size flies.Small bunnies like the pike version i tie of the famous trout pattern “Gandalf” is easy in my top five streamer for pike. This in Ireland and abroad.
But if you really need to go big, and at certain times of the year, you have to offer large flies. Less is more…Achieve volume without using too much materials. Synthetics are great as they don’t hold water much (funky fibres is my favorite), bucktail is near impossible to avoid, as it's one of the best material for volume. And in recent times i’m using the body tubing from Flymen Fishing Co. a lot.
Flash is also a must.Large flies have a great presence in water, pike can “feel” them from a long way with their lateral line. Big is my choice for murky waters and deeper fishing situations. Add a big wiggle tail to the mix and you’re giving the pike a difficult time refusing such a big easy meal.
Fd: Do you believe color combinations are a huge game-changer?
Norbert: Yes, I do believe colours and colour combos play a very important part. The pike probably don’t see colours like we do, but they make the difference between some colours.They are after all, a predator using their sight first.
Yellow, orange tan and white are a firm favorite of mines. And black is often forgotten by anglers.
But black can be a fantastic colour.
I like to mix colours in combos, but without overdoing it, keep to 2 to 3 colours maximum.2 main ones and one to add an accent, like red or orange to imitate fins or gills.
Fd: There are new tails, new eyes and lots of new fly-tying materials these days. But, in your opinion, what are the basic elements that make a good pike streamer?
Norbert: Movement is number one. Tie something that moves naturally and you can’t be far from success.
Simple bunnies are a fantastic all rounder, they have caught me so many fish when nothing else was working.
Size is another important aspect for me, like the previous question , i like to keep the flies between 12 to 20 cm.Most of the time it's windy here, we get tired very quickly casting big and bulky
Fd: What is your ideal gear setup for pike fly fishing?
Norbert: Rods and lines are the two most important part of the set up.The reel is mostly aesthetics for pike, rarely a pike will burn your drag and empty your backing.
I like to use rods from 8 weight to 10 weight. And my love for modern fibreglass is growing daily.
I currently use an Epic rod, the “Bandit” in ten weight. It's a real pleasure to cast pike flies with fibreglass.The rod loads easier, and what a sexy curve when you’re hooked into a good fish!
For the reel I use the Nautilus CCFX2 in 8/10 , they are real workhorse, and they double as my saltwater reels.
Fd: Do you enjoy tying other kinds of flies and fishing for trout or other species?
Norbert: I have a secret love for tying crabs, shrimps and other saltwater flies.I don’t get the chance to use them much but they are fun to tie.
I fish for anything that swims, but I like my fish big and mean. Tropical saltwater is very addictive… Not good for the wallet, but it's a fantastic rush.
Fd: Lastly, what does fly fishing mean to you?
Norbert: Well, I could write a book on what fly fishing means to me or how fly fishing has helped me in life.
It's given me focus and escapism at a difficult period in my private life. It’s taken a lot of negatives in my life and opened my eyes to a new path.
It's more than a job or a hobby, but entirely a new lifestyle.
I get a kick even when i don’t catch. Guiding someone to a big fish is priceless, i get more excited than the client on a boat. Fly fishing is like a close friend, the one that calls you and say, “Hey, let’s get out, NOW”.
Find Norbert Renaud's flies & information about his pike lodge in Ireland, right here: Ile Verte