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First published February 1st 2002 - More than 12 years ago
On bite tippets for pike flies
Stiff piano wire has definite advantages over other sorts of pike shock and bite tippets.
It will mean less frustration from accidentally lost pike, and also less pike swimming around with a broken off fly or lure lodged somewhere in their mouth (or worse...). And while a single hook left in a pike's mouth or digestive tract (usually from cutting the hook or line when a pike has swallowed too deep -- not uncommon when fishing with live or dead bait) usually presents no real problem for the fish, a complete fly or lure will.
What then are the options for bite tippets? There are several. Some people swear by heavy, hard mono, such as 30 lbs or heavier Mason or Amnesia. Personally I do not really trust heavy mono enough for pike fishing, unless with 'tiny' flies for small pike. Besides, I do not find it stiff enough to act as a bite tippet.
A popular alternative are the different incarnations of soft, multistrand steel wire. Some types have a plastic coating, some are made of a Kevlar/steel combination, and some are just multistrand steel.
Again, I am not a big fan of them.
Many Dutch pike fliers use spinning wires, bite tippets that are made of single strand stainless steel piano wire, usually 0.5 or 0.7 mm in diameter, and about 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) in length.
Single strand wire is excellent for the purpose of preventing pike demolishing your line or leader. It is stiff enough for general fishing and is easily remodeled after mishaps that leave the bite tippet less than straight (such as hangups or fights of really huge pike). Besides, even after much bending and straightening, they will loose practically nothing of their strength, they don't kink and crinkle, and they are easily attached at the water's edge.
This, however, is precisely their weak point in my opinion -- they usually rely on a swivel snap at the fly/lure end for attachment to the hook. Most snaps out there aren't particularly reliable; I don't really care to remember how many fish I lost due to snaps bending, breaking, or just simply opening during a fight with or landing of a pike. Besides, you always carry one spare spinning wire too few when fishing. Therefore some years ago, I opted for integral bite tippets on all my pike flies, after reading a statement to that effect by noted Dutch pike specialist Ad Swier.
Integral bite tippets adopt all the pros of spinning wire tippets, while doing away with weak links and availability problems. Their only drawback, a minor one as far as I'm concerned, is that all your flies have these lengths of steel wire attached, which tend to get in the way when storing/transporting them. Usually the fly/wire combination can be hinged at the wire to hook attachment point, and thus folded, the combination will fit in most boxes or wallets suitable for pike flies, unless you make your wires extremely long.
It is my experience that a normal pike fly, with a hook at least 4/0, and 20-25 cm (8-10") integral wire tippet will fit most anything, and will be long enough to clear the line of any pike's teeth.
Begin by cutting a 40 cm (16") length of wire from your stock. Use the tip end of the needlenose pliers to make a small loop in one end, about 10 cm from the end of the wire, then do the same on the other end with the base of the needlenose pliers, to make a larger loop. Slip the larger loop on the eye of the fly, grab the loop with the standard pliers and make at least five full, touching wraps with the tag end of the wire around the standing end of the wire. Use the fingers of the hand not holding the pliers to make the wraps. You'll soon find out why the tag end has to be as long as it is... Then grab the small loop at the other end of the wire (the loop that will become the eye for attaching your leader) with the pliers and make five full wraps with the tag end. Clip the tags at both wraps with the wire cutters. Ready. I usually do not bother deburring or otherwise dressing the cut ends of the tags, since it is my experience that they rarely, if ever, present a problem, but if you feel safer when the sharp end are fully out of the way, you can dress them with a hook hone or file.