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Fly Fishing Muskie: What's Old and What's New?

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January 23, 2012

Fly Fishing Muskie: What's Old and What's New?

By John Merwin

One of the hot “new” things in flyfishing is chasing muskies with a fly rod. I highlight the word “new” because, as I’ll show you shortly, there’s nothing really new about it. First, though, as to the musky in the photo. Back in June of 1998, I fished some Wisconsin musky rivers with Scott Bestul (our Whitetails columnist and Whitetails 365 blogger) and guide Ron Gehrke. That state has some 711 musky lakes, most of which are pounded hard by musky fanatics fishing from larger boats.

But Wisconsin also has some 1,700 miles of rivers also containing muskies, many of which aren’t accessible to larger boats and thus less pressured. Bestul and Gehrke had wisely figured out that some of these rivers could be floated in a small jonboat and that such conditions could be ideal for flyfishing.

So on one 8-hour float trip, we rose eight muskies and landed four. Two came on hardware, but the two largest--both 36 inchers--came on streamer flies. A week after our trip, another of Gehrke’s clients fly-caught a 51-incher on the same water. That sort of thing obviously doesn’t happen every day, but even now that possibility gets me pretty excited.

As to the “new” part of musky flyfishing, I offer a second photo. This old black-and-white image comes from my 1925 copy of the book “Muskellunge Fishing” by Ben Robinson. The photo also originally appeared in Field & Stream. It shows a 30-pound muskie taken by a guy flyfishing Wisconsin’s St. Croix River. The fly rod is bamboo.

Each new generation of anglers, it seems, is constantly discovering things new to them. But when is comes to fishing in general--and flyfishing, in particular--there’s really not much that’s truly new in or on the water.

 

Comments (19)

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from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Well said John.

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

What is old is if you want to fly fish for Muskie you had better be very good at casting a big rod, #8wt. at the least, and be able to throw very big flies...ain't easy. And that doesn't address the hook set, playing, and landing a muskie

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Got a chuckle at the local fly shop this summer talking about muskie fishing on the fly. The guy was telling me a story about a big muskie breaking the 10 wt off at the handle. I didn't say anything but it wasn't the muskie that broke the rod.

Have hooked and landed a lot of pike on the fly but am still searching for my first muskie. Not an easy task in Ohio.

Sayfu, I find my 8wt TLS too small for muskie flies.

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from the_green_angler wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Amen

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from weedless97 wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

It's always cool to see things like that. The used to catch Bluefin in England with bamboo rods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fezzant wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

If it swims, you can bet somebody has caught it on a fly.

I would love to go after muskie and pike on the fly. Not many oppotunities for that here (although there are a few). Someday... someday...

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from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

The dry fly was a new innovation in the noble sport of "Fysshynge wyth an angyl"

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from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

The dry fly was a new innovation in the noble sport of "Fysshynge wyth an angyl"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry for double posting, the internet crapped on me.

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from rdorman wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

didn't know...i wonder why it is considered "new" when it is at least that old?

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Buckhunter..I did say AT LEAST an 8wt.

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from fliphuntr14 wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I have thrown everything i can think of at muskies i have seen rising near the end of the day on a flowage that turns into a river just below a damn. i have 5 wt fly rod and have been using rabbit furs to make leach in the last month, going to try a few different flys and colors this spring/ summer. A muskie guide from the area (northern wisconsin) says he keeps a fly rod handy for fish he raises with buck tails. says the fly gets the negative fish to bite and works more than most people think. he swore by the white leaches for northern and has a fly that looks alot like a minnow tied with large feathers with a fire tiger pattern and many of his flys match his lures. The thought of catching such a predatory fish on a fly sends chills down my spine

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Get equipped right, and go for the big tug with a big fly. My GAWD! To get a muskie to chase an offering with enough calories in it you need a big fly, and a 5wt don't get it! Rabbit fur when wet? ...gets very heavy, and why Buckhunter says an 8wt is too light. You must be standing in the water at the top of the dam, and trolling that thing down river.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sayfu, an 8wt will suffice, to help with the big flies, you just need a few more feet of rod, that is all....Switch rod and overhead casting for me all the way this year.

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

An 8wt works but your day will go much easier with a 10wt. With an 8wt you use your first and second false cast just to dry out the fly. Add any amount of wind to the equation and your day has just became tougher.

With that said, I do recall throwing some awful big flies to pike with an 8 1/2 foot Diawa 5 wt. in the 80's. That Diawa was a hell of a fly rod. Regret selling it everytime I think about it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

You're Diawa must have been a stiffo biffo, and you musta worked like hell to cast the fly...not my deal anymore. I want the rod to do the work, not wear myself out. And a 9 fter is fine with me. And koldkut...single hand, airiolize (sp?) a switch rod. Can be tough on one's elbow, and ackward to cast conventionally. I spey cast those rods. And Buckhunter..you DRY out the musky fly? You dry fly fish for them? I want my rabbit fur soakin wet, or any musky fly I have ever seen. Big Slappin (sp?), wet fly, water soakin up hackles that break the surface.

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from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I got to play with a 12' Scott model at Colorado Skies. Theo had a skagit head attached to a shooting head and single handed it would bang 'em out. I'm still young enough to give it a go, and I bet I spend more time with a switch rod in hand than shorter more traditional single handers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sayfu, My old diawa was a 2x4 with a cork grip.

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

What I thought. I still have one of those. Wears me out thinking about trying to bend one of those. Koldkut. Not many anglers want to traditionally cast a switch rod....very, very few. They buy them to spey cast with.

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Post a Comment

from weedless97 wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

It's always cool to see things like that. The used to catch Bluefin in England with bamboo rods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Well said John.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

What is old is if you want to fly fish for Muskie you had better be very good at casting a big rod, #8wt. at the least, and be able to throw very big flies...ain't easy. And that doesn't address the hook set, playing, and landing a muskie

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Got a chuckle at the local fly shop this summer talking about muskie fishing on the fly. The guy was telling me a story about a big muskie breaking the 10 wt off at the handle. I didn't say anything but it wasn't the muskie that broke the rod.

Have hooked and landed a lot of pike on the fly but am still searching for my first muskie. Not an easy task in Ohio.

Sayfu, I find my 8wt TLS too small for muskie flies.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from the_green_angler wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Amen

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fezzant wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

If it swims, you can bet somebody has caught it on a fly.

I would love to go after muskie and pike on the fly. Not many oppotunities for that here (although there are a few). Someday... someday...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

The dry fly was a new innovation in the noble sport of "Fysshynge wyth an angyl"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

The dry fly was a new innovation in the noble sport of "Fysshynge wyth an angyl"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry for double posting, the internet crapped on me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rdorman wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

didn't know...i wonder why it is considered "new" when it is at least that old?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Buckhunter..I did say AT LEAST an 8wt.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I have thrown everything i can think of at muskies i have seen rising near the end of the day on a flowage that turns into a river just below a damn. i have 5 wt fly rod and have been using rabbit furs to make leach in the last month, going to try a few different flys and colors this spring/ summer. A muskie guide from the area (northern wisconsin) says he keeps a fly rod handy for fish he raises with buck tails. says the fly gets the negative fish to bite and works more than most people think. he swore by the white leaches for northern and has a fly that looks alot like a minnow tied with large feathers with a fire tiger pattern and many of his flys match his lures. The thought of catching such a predatory fish on a fly sends chills down my spine

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Get equipped right, and go for the big tug with a big fly. My GAWD! To get a muskie to chase an offering with enough calories in it you need a big fly, and a 5wt don't get it! Rabbit fur when wet? ...gets very heavy, and why Buckhunter says an 8wt is too light. You must be standing in the water at the top of the dam, and trolling that thing down river.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sayfu, an 8wt will suffice, to help with the big flies, you just need a few more feet of rod, that is all....Switch rod and overhead casting for me all the way this year.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

An 8wt works but your day will go much easier with a 10wt. With an 8wt you use your first and second false cast just to dry out the fly. Add any amount of wind to the equation and your day has just became tougher.

With that said, I do recall throwing some awful big flies to pike with an 8 1/2 foot Diawa 5 wt. in the 80's. That Diawa was a hell of a fly rod. Regret selling it everytime I think about it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

You're Diawa must have been a stiffo biffo, and you musta worked like hell to cast the fly...not my deal anymore. I want the rod to do the work, not wear myself out. And a 9 fter is fine with me. And koldkut...single hand, airiolize (sp?) a switch rod. Can be tough on one's elbow, and ackward to cast conventionally. I spey cast those rods. And Buckhunter..you DRY out the musky fly? You dry fly fish for them? I want my rabbit fur soakin wet, or any musky fly I have ever seen. Big Slappin (sp?), wet fly, water soakin up hackles that break the surface.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I got to play with a 12' Scott model at Colorado Skies. Theo had a skagit head attached to a shooting head and single handed it would bang 'em out. I'm still young enough to give it a go, and I bet I spend more time with a switch rod in hand than shorter more traditional single handers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sayfu, My old diawa was a 2x4 with a cork grip.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

What I thought. I still have one of those. Wears me out thinking about trying to bend one of those. Koldkut. Not many anglers want to traditionally cast a switch rod....very, very few. They buy them to spey cast with.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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