Not to brag but I have never intentionally caught a muskie on a fly rod. And time will tell if that might be the smartest thing I have ever done.
I have caught several smallish to medium-sized ones unintentionally while targeting other species, but I have never actually tried to do so. Those few were by accident, rather than design. In fact, on most of those occasions, I tried unsuccessfully to get my fly away from the fish before it bit.
That is because I know that muskie are not a fly angler’s friend. They can break a rod tip and chew up, destroy, and spit out a fly that took you 15 minutes to build. Oh, and they cut a six-dollar leader with the shake of a head. As you might expect of a fish that snacks on ducklings, they are just not nice.
Worse still, among anglers they are known as the fish of a thousand casts, which presents a different set of problems. Have you seen how long it takes for a fly angler to make one long cast?
Who has the time?
Then there is the fly issue. Muskie flies are expensive and difficult to cast. They are easily influenced by wind and are tied on huge hooks – the kind that you don’t want to pass by your ears on forward and back casts, hundreds of times a morning.
All this is to suggest that it takes a special kind of crazy to want to use fly fishing gear to intentionally target muskie.
That’s why this Saturday, when the season opens, I will be there with fly rod in hand.
Maybe it’s all this social isolation talking, but this year I believe I have finally achieved a special kind of crazy. Some of you might be surprised by this – you probably thought this achievement happened years ago.
In many ways it makes perfect sense. I have a good muskie lake nearby and quite a few opportunities within easy reach, so why not?
Between you and me, I consider this is a win-win situation. If I hook even one this year, it will be a win. Then again, if these big toothy predators avoid me entirely, that’s not so bad either.
In preparation for this season, I have accumulated a big box full of muskie flies that I have tied over the last two years. A muskie fly is like any other fly, except that rather than imitating an insect or a tiny baitfish, they imitate 8- to 14-inch, muskie-sized prey. They are the kind of flies that would cause people to look at you funny should you walk into an emergency room with one hanging from your ear – especially if it is also attached to a muskie.
I recognize that I have a lot to learn about fly fishing for muskie. This year, my main strategy will be pretending I am fly fishing for something else, since that has always worked well for me in the past. I will avoid dressing in duckling colours too.
I’m also developing a fly that looks like a person’s foot, because I know one person and have heard of at least two more who have had their feet bitten by muskies. Once I get the bunion and toenail problem settled, that fly will be ready for field testing.
See? Special kind of crazy.