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.