Catching a muskie on a fly is one of fishing’s ultimate challenges. No matter where you go, it’s never easy. Muskies in rivers tend to be more predictable. Just like trout, they post up in eddies, deep holes, slow seams, and current breaks—right where you think they should. Chasing them in still water, however, pre-sents different problems. Not only can the fish be more difficult to find, but they can also be more discerning, and less likely to react the way that a river fish might if it’s afraid the current will carry a meal away. So if you’re committed to hitting a muskie on the lake this season with fly tackle, these pointers will up your odds for success.
1. Wait it Out
Did you have a muskie follow your fly from a distance? Did one swing and miss at the figure eight? It takes some willpower, but note the spot and move on. Lake fish don’t often stray far from where you moved them the first time. Rather than bombard the fish into lockjaw, come back an hour or two later, change flies, and try again.
2. Put Out the Vibe
Flies with plenty of bucktail move a lot of water and therefore put out stronger vibrations. This is a big plus in lakes where muskies have time to study their food. Tapered bodies and long tails also let a fly “breathe” on the pause, which means they maintain some action at rest. That subtle movement can turn a follow into a strike.
3. Make Room for a View
Anglers have a bad habit of watching their fly come all the way back to the boat. Instead, keep your eyes trained 5 or 6 feet behind the fly. This is where a tracking muskie is likely to be, and the sooner you see the fish, the sooner you can adjust your cadence and speed to coax the fish into biting. Likewise, muskies can follow underneath a fly, so make sure to occasionally glance deeper.
4. Hit the Slopes
Cover a variety of depths. Although the fish can be holding at any point in the water column, it’s smart to position yourself to cast to shallow weeds, then bring the fly over deeper weeds. Generally speaking, the transitional edge from shallow to deep is often where the majority of the fish will lurk.
5. Set the Salad Bar
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, if you can find weedbeds, there’s a good chance you’re going to find muskies. Of all available lake structure, muskies most prefer tall weeds, such as milfoil or hydrilla, that grow in areas with some depth. Weeds attract the forage fish these predators eat and offer concealment for an ambush attack.
_Illustrations by Mike Sudal _