Searun Pikes, dreams of the southern archipelagos
By: Ilias Karanzas Photos: Arek Kubale
Finding myself in my car heading towards great fishing with friends is something we should do way more often. Me and the wife have spent the early hours of the morning heading up north up to oslo to pick up my friends that flew in from poland, and now finally the car is packed with people and gear and we are driving south towards the brackishwater flats of the blekinge area to flyfish for pike. My friends Arek, Wojtek and Aga have never fished for pike in conditions like these, while my wife and me often have visited our friends at Sandhamn Marine for the type of flyfishing that you can only get here.
Arriving at Sandhamn Marine at the most southern tip of the Torhamn peninsula on monday afternoon ww get greated by Ulf and his son Mattis, hearing that fishing has been great made our expectations rise. The guys just threw in our gear into our cabins and jumped out in the bay and started fishing, casting of the entire area without a single nibble, needless to say our moods fell and we called it a night. Sitting together in the evening and discussing the weather and temperatures for the coming days we started building our strategy. Most people think that early February pike fishing is something that is not done, that pike pre spawn are sluggish and not in the mood to grab a fly. This is as far away from the truth as it can be, especialli in the blekinge area, the pelagic pikes from the baltic sea come in late october into the shallows of the blekinge archipelago to fatten up before the spawn and to stay in warmer water. That is what makes the fishing here so fun. Big flats, 2 -3 feet of water and massive amounts of fish. If you come to this area in late february, have days that are partly sunny with about 6 degrees in the air you will have some great fishing experiences, and thats exactly what we hade coming. Me being from the westcoast of sweden still find this type of fishing very strange, as its very similar to the type of fishing we have at home, with the same type of bottom structure and biology, but instead of catching cod, flatfish and searun browns, you catch pike, and lots of them.
The flies rekomended for this area are flies in natural brown and green colors as the favored prey for the pikes in this area is the ellpout, we had a bunch of these tied up but we came to the conclusion that we needed something more aggressiv in color, this as the colder conditions might call for a fly that might trigger a strike rather than a feeding behaviour. A couple of beers into the night we started looking into what materials we had with us and we ended up creating a pattern that was named the ”MCD” or the Murder Cucumber Destroyer, a name that came up while in the mist laughing at the nicknames we have for pike here in sweden, ”Murder Cucumbers”, a hook based streamer pattern tied with a yellow butt, chartreuse middle and blue head. A colorcombo that looks quite pleasing but still screaming, a fly of contrasts. I tied up 10 of them and we all went to sleep.
Waking up early morning tuesday morning at 8 for breakfest and preparation the energy in the group is high, we are all hoping for a day of great fishing, me wanting my friends to hook into some blekinge pikes and my wife Molly to catch her first pike/fish on the fly. The great thing about fishing in this area at this time of year is that you never have to have really early mornings, the fish really become active at about 11 with the best fishing going on between 2 and 4 pm. We drove out from our cabins at about 10:30 heading about 5 km north on the peninsula to a bay that always holds good amount of fish. Me, Wojtek and Molly and went down into the water and started fishing of the south side of a small island and felt nothing. After mowing about 100m north to the north side of the island wojtek took his first pike, a small 55 cm pike spotted by Molly, he cast and it striked directly on the MCD, i ended up showing him how to grab a pike by the gills and Wojtek earned his first battlescars, 20 minutes later Camp owner Ulf and his son Mattis came down and started pulling up fish, withing an hour we had cought about 20 pikes between us with a couple good double and triple strikes. Thats the great thing about blekinge, the average size of the fish is not that big, about 60-85 cm but they are fat, and the sheere amount of fish is staggering. The bottom in bleking is covered with rock so wading can be a bit hazardos, and both me and molly experienced that as she ripped her waders, and i ended up ripping my waders five minutes later, so it was just to go up on shore and whatch the spectacle unfold. Ulf, Mattis and Wojtek moved to the other side of the bay and then thing really got crazy. Wojtek caught 3 fish on his first 4 casts and it really did not matter where people where casting in that area, fish where striking, and only on the MCD and Ulf's Papegoja pattern which is also very striking colorwise. The day ended about an hour later with a total tally of about 70 fish, which in itself was an ok day, if we would have had conditions that where a tad better we would have probably caught in exess of 100 fish, all in on day. We all headed back for dinner and called it a day, but me and Wojteks fingers still itched so we decided to head back to fish the last hour of daylight and it was a good decicion as we ended up catching another 7 fish, with 2 double strikes. Needless to say we all fell asleep with a big smile on our faces that night.
Waking up the next morning to the taps of rain against the roof spelled the the promised weather would not come. We ate and drove out hitting a new area, winds and rain and especially the colder weather really destroyed the fishing, Wojtek being a person that can catch fish in a bathtub indoors ended up catching the first fish of the day. The rest of the day was sadly fishless and we ended up calling it a early evening as the pounding weather was relentless, the wind and raing was not a problem, but the lowet temperatures was what was really killing the fishing.
The last day was just as cold as the day before, but we all waded out into the same area as the first day and decided to fish as well as we could. My wife Molly was the first to hook into a fish, her first pike and fish on a flyrod, after a fight lasting a couple of seconds the fish jumped off but that was enough, shaking out of the adrenaline rush she had a big smile on her face and said, ”Im wet, Im cold, My waders are leaking, now i hooked into a fish, now i know that i can hook into fish” she left the water with a big smile on her face hiding under a blanket in the car reading a book while we continued!
From the other side of the bay we heard Wojtek screaming, he hooked into a nice fish, and landed it! But I was on the other side of the bay, and Arek our great photographer was standing next to me and we wanted a picture of this nice fish.
Watching Wojtek wade the 300m over the bay holding the pike under water, the water being close to freezing you saw the strain in his face, hearing him saying that he lost the feeling in his fingers. I took the fish from him when he arrived to the other side and let him warm his fingers for a bit before we took pictures of that beautyfull fish. This moment that was the end of our little fishing trip made me come to two conclusions about the fishing we do. Number one: when fishing for articles, always have a net with you, becouse dragging a fish 300 m through ice cold water is a very easy way to loose your fingers. Number two: that no matter how cold, miserable, wet and tired we are while out fishing, we as flyfisherman are crazy enough to plan the next day of fishing while we are complaining about the one we are experiencing. Now that is true love.
Flies and rigs and gear
Using tube flies and tube fly rigs for pike flyfishing is a good way to really raise your chances of catching fish. As one tube fly can by using the tube fly system be made into many different flies that can be used for many different situations. The interchagable hooks, stinger or no stinger; can really be a gamechanger in ruff situations, feeling strikes but not hooking up? Swap rigs to a stinger rig. Need to go a bit deeper or want your fly to have a jigging effect? Add a cone to the leader! Having an assortment of flies in diferrent sizes and rigs in in different combinations and cones takes very little room but gives you an endless variation for flies for an endless variation of situations. The tube flies we use in the blekinge area are fairly basic color wize, different variations of black and brown, with an odd green and gold thrown in there work wonders. As the water is so clear natural colors work best, but in the cold water flies that have stronger colors can trigger the pike to strike out of pure aggression instead of out of hunger, so having a couple of them on hand will raise the chances for fish. The gear used is fairly basic as well, rods ranging from 7wts to 10wts depending on what size of flies you want to cast. The flies for the blekinge archipelago should be fairly small and flies in the 15-20cm range are perfect. I use my ”normal” pike setup which consists of a Sage Pike 10wt Rod, Redington Behemoth 7/8 Rell and a Rio Pike/Musky Floating line. The shallow depths that we fish at in this area make floating lines perfect as you want to fish the fly just under the surface when the fish are active and about a meter down when they are hugging the bottom. So anything else than a floating line would be a hassle as you would snag the bottom. Being used to wading might be good as some of the places here can be very muddy and hard to wade, most of us have taken a bath here (i did it twice in february), thats just a part of it, but flyfishing for pike on these big wadable saltflats, being able to sightfish on pike during calm sunny days makes it totally worth it, worldclass fishing at a worldclass price in a worldclass area. Does not get better than this, so if you want to have alot of fun, have the chance to catch ridiculus amounts of pike on the fly with the chance of a big one everyknow and then Blekinge is the place for you, and thats why pike flyfisherman in scandinavia just keep coming back year after year after year.
Info about Sandhamn Marine:
fishing license: free as fishing in the ocean is cost free
Housing: renting a cabin at sandhamn marine is quite cheap and will set you back about 20 euros per person and night
Guiding: Booking a guide is easy and hassle free and can be done when booking your stay
Best period: september up to when the ice sets/ from the melting of the ice up to the spawn in mid april