Flyfishing for pollack – a how to guide for a guaranteed catch

Fly fishing for pollack in the Norwegian archipelago comes far behind sea run brown trout, unfortunately. For me they’re a hidden treasure, often found in far greater numbers than other fish and the medium to large fish give a very impressive fight. For example all of the 6.6lb+ (3kg+) fish I have caught, have almost ripped the #10 fly rod from my hands and had multiple reel screaming runs of 20-30m down to their kelp ridden safe havens, taking 10-15min to land.

A pollack being released back to where it came.

A pollack being released back to where it came.

Now I have caught many smaller pollack (1-3lbs) through the years and a few larger ones but hadn’t really invested my time to really tap into the potential of this resource before last autumn, and soon realised what I had been missing.

My first larger pollack.

My first larger pollack.

After some hours discussing the possibilities with a very experienced local sportsfisherman Per-Willy who regularly targets pollack, I merged my experiences with his and developed my techniques further. The results speak for themselves and I would like to share below what I have learnt so far.

The tackle

So where do we start, well first we have to be kitted out correctly. Apart from plenty to eat, drink and weather correct clothes, we need the right flies, lines, reels and rods.

Personally I use fly rods that tackle the heavy, fast sinking tungsten fly lines. So 8’6″ – 9′ rods rated for #8-#11 but a #10 i a great choice. Not only to tackle the tungsten line and heavy flies, but enough backbone to press these steam trains up from their kelp strewn living quarters.

Reels should be large enough to house a plenty of backing and a line that matches your rod. Also a reel with a good and smooth drag system that can stop these long and heavy runs of the pollack. A drag system that’s sealed to keep that saltwater that rusts your reel out.

‘T’ lines e.g. tungsten lines in form of shorter (8m-9m) shooting heads or a full line with a shorter head to get those flies down to the fish through heavy currents. I really enjoy casting a full line and chose a Airflo Depthfinder Big Game which sinks about 50cm per second. I’ve actually gotten my fly stuck on the bottom at 30m!

Leaders need to be strong and abrasive resistant. Not too long that they impede the sinking or casting of the fly nor too short that the great eyesight of those big-eyed pollack see the fly line. I found that in most instances a 0.40-0.45mm fluorocarbon leader of 1.5-2m sufficient. This depending on the size of the fish and the severity of underwater structures. You really don’t want to be hooking up a great big pollack and then the leader breaking leaving you with your prize and a fish swimming around with a big fish in it’s mouth or even worse it’s throat.

Flies can be kept very simple. The good good Bob Clouser Minnow is a safe bet (click on ‘Bob Clouser Minnow for a YouTube tying film by the man himself). Easy to tie, robust and effective. Sometimes you’ll need large flies to get through the smaller pollack and coalfish so that the larger fish get a look in. Then other days they will only be interested in smaller flies. So I have a selection of sizes from 2-3/0 but 1/0 is a great allrounder. Now either chartreuse and pink/orange is my favourite colour, they absolutely love it. Otherwise black and white a safe bet too. Other days you have to work through all black, white and yellow, white and blue, white and orange/pink before you can entice them.

A boat. Fishing from the shore is obviously the cheaper and most practical option for most, but a boat increases your opportunities massively. You can quickly move from spot to spot in a fraction of the time it would by foot or car. Then there’s the ability of being able to fish marks and areas that are otherwise unreachable from land. You also have the advantage of being in open water when fighting fish so the risk of losing them is lower.

In all honesty something that has shown to be my most important piece of equipment is my Raymarine Dragonfly Pro 7 fishfinder/GPS. This was chosen due to it’s relative low price in comparison to it’s functions and screen size, but there are many good options out there. With this I can find the fish, at which depth they are feeding and the large fish from the small. This makes my fishing far more effective saving time fishing places which are either empty of fish or are just hosting the smaller chaps. Not only that, but I can mark off all my top spots on the GPS so I can find them easily again.

Fishing spots

Simply put; open water, aggressive shelves from deep to shallower areas, currents and kelp. To find good spots I use a combination of resources which compose of online sea charts, books and local knowledge. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve used staring at online nautical maps of my area, finding those perfect shelves. But my goodness has it paid off. If you’re looking for quick fire, typical pollack holding areas, you won’t go far wrong by making a b-line for water under bridges, jetties or ferry piers.

Fishing Techniques

Techniques differ slightly from shore to boat. If we first look at fishing from the shore then it’s the typical cast that fly out, and fish at different depths until you find the fish. Then you just keep fishing at that depth. So we cast out and count to for example 5, then 10 on the next cast, then 15, etc until you find the fish.

Retrieves vary from day to day. A slow retrieve is typically a slow one metre pull with a 2-3s pause then a pull etc. A fast retrieve is a rod under your arm and a two handed rolly polly retrieve.

When you get that bite DO NOT STRIKE! You’ll pull the fly out of the pollack’s mouth.

Don't trout strike!

Don’t trout strike!

So now we’re out on the water in our trusty boat. Here we can use the fish finder/GPS to our advantage. Basically drive to your pre-found spots and look for fish


Now you’ve gotten almost everything you need to know to catch your dream pollack. Please respect mother nature, weather and the beautiful nature we live in, and be careful out there. Have fun and do share your catches, I’d love to see them!

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