The morning came quick again today. Last night we indulged at the Blue Bayou restaurant. Once again George looked after us like I can’t explain. The food and was incredible and we had lots of fun. On a normal day getting up would have been slow but instead I bounced from bed an hour earlier than I needed. The reason was, I dreamt about catching a musky the size Larry did yesterday. Before I knew it I was casting from the front of Bill Sherer’s pontoon boat.
We went to a different stretch of the same beautiful river as yesterday. I don’t know for sure, but we were probably twenty or so miles further upstream. It was another nice day. The temps were unseasonably warm and we had plenty of sun. Bill and I definitely feared that today was too nice for good musky fishing but luckily some clouds rolled in by mid morning.
As far as fishing goes, there was some action right out of the gates. I had several aggressive northern pike scarf up my fly and missed two respectable unknown fish. One, Bill was almost sure was a good musky. I never saw this actual fish but he definitely pushed some water. Like the musky that ate my fly last night, I never felt anything but Bill saw him eat the fly and I should have hooked him. I was definitely screwing up the musky hook set. That’s when I took a deep breath and asked Bill to go over the hooking method with me.
The way Bill explains it; muskies have a habit of charging towards you when they eat your fly, like many fish. Usually that’s ok because when most fish grab a fly they turn away then you feel them and hook them. But musky often keep charging your direction and you don’t feel them. That’s the problem. Unless you strip set at the speed of light you don’t make sufficient hook-driving contact. The trick, strip set and drill them with a hard side sweep of the rod. This adjustment would help incredibly.
At 11 AM this trip was still fishless. Bill couldn’t believe it. I was surprised too, but assumed “Hey, this is musky fishing”. About then I nailed two pike. Then at Bills lunch hole I missed a fun pike of about 30 inches. I made note of his location and after lunch I waded up to where I missed him and nailed him. The bite was on and my technique was better.
After I released the pike we were back in the pontoon boat. It wasn’t two casts and I hooked up again. We didn’t see anything because I was dredging down deep below a nice riffle but there was some weight there and the fight was much different. There was strong power and although this fish didn’t run, I had trouble raising him to our view. After a couple minutes of fighting him deep, I raised him and Bill netted my first musky of the trip - a gorgeous respectable musky on the fly. We were stoked!
We were catching pike and now our first musky was on the boards. Most importantly the skunk was out of the boat. I went on to land about five more pike and another musky. This would be a memorable day. My second musky was no slouch either; he was a musky you dream about. I was casting and relaxing, just shooting the bull with Bill. I was catching the occasional pike and of course, I missed another musky. But things were good. Then as I stripped my 8” fly towards me from a rickety old dock I saw a face. It was like a famous old musky painting. All I could really make out were the eyes and the white lips. At this point the mouth was closed and his eyes were after my fly. Then on my next strip all I saw was white and when the white mouth closed I stripped and struck with all my might and it was game on.
I can tell you from experience, muskies and pike fight far differently. A pike of this size would have put a hurt on me, but this fish was incredible. But the fight didn’t start that way. The musky hardly fought at all in the first minute. I literally stripped him to me. But he was simply coming over to see what the problem was.
“Don’t look him in the eye!” Bill shouted.
It was too late. This was my first big musky. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. But when our eyes met I knew exactly why Bill told me not to look him in the eye. The anger in this fish’s eye was scary. What I did was challenge the fabled giant and now it was game on. This muskellunge had smoking power. I was using my 10-weight with my Ross Momentum LT - one of my burly saltwater reels and the drag was tight. That made no difference. The massive musky tore upstream then down. My Momentum drag was humming and the line crackled as it left. My 10-weight was horseshoed and I was nervous as hell. I rarely get nervous but I’ve dreamt of this moment since I was a young boy reading old fishing magazines.
This musky toyed with me for over five minutes before I finally gained control. Then on the first sweep Bill filled his gargantuan musky net with musky. I landed my first big musky on the fly!
This spectacular musky made my day, my trip and may possibly be the best musky of my life. They don’t come easy with the fly rod. But the truth is, even though it’s a magnificent fish, they get a lot bigger. Tomorrow Bill is taking me to his big musky spot. Looks like I won’t be sleeping again. . . .