Pike, Perch and... Pikeperch! Zander complete the trio of our native predatory fish that can be caught with a fly. We spoke with Steffen Schulz about the fascination of Pikeperch fishing and again received valuable tips & tricks from him.
adh-fishing: Hi Steffen! The pike has been a popular target fish for the fly for many, many years. And the perch is also becoming more and more popular among fly-fishers. A zander caught in a fly, on the other hand, is seen less frequently. Why do you think that is so?
Steffen Schulz: This actually depends on two things: Firstly, in classic zander habitats such as rivers with currents, such as the Rhine, it is rather difficult to get at the zander without hooks, as the direct wire as in spin fishing can hardly be given. Secondly, you need to know in which still water you can expect to encounter zander at depths of two to 6, maximum 8 m, when and where. It is generally difficult to get zander in stillwater. Not everyone has a turbid river with little or no current at their doorstep.
adh-fishing: The zander can be caught very effectively with spinning equipment in rivers and still waters. Before your time as a passionate fly fisherman, you also used to use it a lot. Which experiences help you today to outwit the zander with the fly?
Steffen Schulz: I am helped by the certainty that the loooooongly guided bait is usually better to catch, especially big zander love it. Nothing is slower, quieter and more seductive than a streamer.
adh-fishing: When fishing for pike and perch, the fly often has the edge. How does it look with zander? Are there any advantages for us fly fishermen here?
Steffen Schulz: When fishing with classic lures, the sinking phase is often the moment when zander strike. The same applies to hardbaits. And a streamer is predestined for exactly this. It can be offered very slowly. I actually get all zander bites if I don't do anything for 2, 3 or more seconds after stripping.
adh-fishing: On your Instagram account we see many zander that you caught from the Bellyboat. What do you look for when you are looking for a spot for targeted zander fishing with the Belly?
Steffen Schulz: I like to fish on edges rich in structure, on overhanging trees, under which we have 2m or more that cast a lot of shade. Here you can only find an ideal position with a belly boat. I take care not to drift a bit and concentrate fully on the lead. This is exhausting - but important! You can catch a pike or a perch even if you don't focus all the time on the streamer. With zander this doesn't really work at all. Fishing is very exhausting, concentration must always be at 110 percent :)
adh-fishing: Zander are often found in the deep. Do you see a problem for the fly here?
Steffen Schulz: Absolutely. That's exactly what limits the choice of waters. I don't like to fish at night, there are many deep waters where you could fish more. In spring the zander are in the shallow, so between March and April before they spawn. But then many waters have their "beloved" closed season.
adh-fishing: What does your current setup for zander fishing look like? Rod, reel, line and leader.
Steffen Schulz: 8-weight Hardy Zephrus or HBX with a MTX-S in 7000, a Cortland Compact Sink Type 3, plus a 0.40 Stroft Fuorocarbon and a thin titanium braid tip, steel or 0.80 Fluorocarbon. I like to fish both. The general advantages and disadvantages are well known. If I have few contacts and pike are present I like to use coated steel.
adh-fishing: We already know your preferences for certain pike and perch streamers. Are there any peculiarities in the flies for zander? Or do you help yourself in your other boxes? For example, what about jigs or very heavily weighted patterns?
Steffen Schulz: Since I fully rely on long descent phases, I do not use weighted streamers. My absolute favourite fly is a perch imitation made of baitfish fibre, about 18cm in total. Simple pattern and it catches like the devil. Extremely soft material, which also plays when not doing anything - and it is UV-active.
adh-fishing: The zander occurs in different waters. You like to fish for it on the big lakes in Holland. What are your tactics there?
Steffen Schulz: I use the echo sounder and the live-mapping function a lot to look for microstructures on edges and for baitfish on exactly these structures. At resting places you have to really annoy the fish but this is exactly where you pierce with the fly just long enough for them to bite. Feeding places are naturally more fun. There is a lot to search and to try. Spots from my spin fishing years help, because I know at least where to attack. Open your eyes where other anglers are fishing, it won't do any harm and of course you won't have to exchange your experiences. Important: Even if you want to make distance, zander want a slow lead. That's hard and annoying when you're looking for new spots.
adh-fishing: What about pike-perch fishing in the river? Are there any special features that need to be taken into account? For example, time of day, depth etc. ?
Steffen Schulz: My rivers are murky and slow running, resembling lakes. I have no experience in strong currents, they are too strenuous and tiring for me. I know from friends that it works best on rivers in the morning and in the evening when you don't have to poke around in the pools, where you only get stuck in the groyne boiler anyway. In the active phases you can fish flat on the stone pack. It's worth it. It's just that it's hard to catch big zander in a targeted manner.
adh-fishing: The Zander is not always found at the same spots throughout the year. Where do you see the biggest differences between spring, summer, autumn and winter fishing?
Steffen Schulz: June is the best month. After the spawning season Pikeperch give everything, often biting all day long. Spring is also worth it. Autumn and winter are months where you have more success on shallow waters, as the zander simply can't get away to get to the point.
adh-fishing: To catch a big Zander with a fly is something very special. Are there any special tips to crack the 80cm mark?
Steffen Schulz: No, there isn't. You just have to keep fishing :)
adh-fishing: What was your personal highlight in zander fishing?
Steffen Schulz: That was June 2019, where I was allowed to catch a 96 cm Zander. A weak but definite bite followed by a brutal drill with this wonderful "stair down head kick". The Zander is the only predator where I am consistently happy about EVERY size, so I was able to experience unbelievable highlights. Small pike and perch can be a pain in the neck if you are looking for a big one. Zander, I simply love them all, because it is still a delicate fish and there is still a lot to learn with the fly. The one who cracks the code in open water has access to masses of big zander. In deep lakes they just like to be there.
adh-fishing: Thank you very much for the interview, Steffen and good luck with the Zander in the future!