On our past ice fishing adventures to Wisconsin the last day usually involves a few hours of fishing then an afternoon pub crawl throughout the Manitowish chain. We play pool, watch sports and just have an incredibly fun time at good old Wisconsin bars. But this years last day was different. Instead of a pub crawl, all of us wanted to musky fish as late as we could.
Last night we wined and dined at Smokey’s, so yes, the morning came fast. It was a cold, gray, windy morning completely opposite of the previous two days. But Bill Sherer and I were on new water in his flats boat sneaking up on muskies before most of Wisconsin moved. At first I was surprised Bill exchanged his pontoon boat for his flats boat because it barely even fit on this river. The river was beautiful like the other, but tiny. The difference was we were headed upstream and would end in a lake. The big boat was to get us around on the lake. Easy enough, using his electric trolling motor, Bill slowly propelled me upstream while I pounded every piece of structure from sunken trees, docks, boats, and rocks and even dredged some troughs. To our delight, it took less then ten minutes for our first exciting moment.
I was looking ahead casting with meaning to every fishy location I could reach. I was feeling confident. I was ready to see that ever so imprinted image in my brain of a musky behind my fly – almost snarling from the tea colored water with glowing angry eyes. Then Bill shouted “there’s one!” At first I didn’t know where he was talking. I looked behind my fly but there wasn’t one. This fish he spotted was close, real close. Ten feet off to the side of the boat was a poof of mud, similar to what several feeding common carp would leave after being spooked. However, this fish wasn’t spooked. He had just nailed some baitfish and stirred the bottom. I dropped my fly just past the mud and stripped the imitation through it. Nothing. Then on my second attempt a 36” musky burst from the mud like some monster and swallowed up my fly.
Just like yesterday the musky took off and showed his incredible strength. The difference was this river was shallower than the last couple days. Instead of dredging a Streamer Express line on my 10-weight, I was using my intermediate line on my 8-weight. This musky schooled me for some length of time. But persistence, concentration and a strong hook held my end of the skirmish long enough, and soon Bill filled his net with my second big musky of the trip. A great start to the day.
Things didn’t slow down much from there. Bill took me upstream for nearly a mile. The river opened up and gradually turned to a lake. I caught two more musky and some pike. These two muskies barely count. They were babies. But the coloring on these jewels was worth seeing. They each had very pretty barring and spotted tails. They were stunning to be honest. I can only hope they go on to live a long musky life.
After lunch we fished the lake itself but for some reason we caught nothing there. Perhaps the musky were deep or perhaps it was just the midday thing and they weren’t eating. We fished Bills hot spots there until about 2 PM then motored back to the river. Sure enough the musky were still there. As we worked our way back to the truck I picked up two more musky including a nice 32 incher – certainly he’s still a baby but a quality fly rod fish nonetheless. We ended at 3 PM and with a total of five musky – a fly fishing miracle. We could have fished till dark and possibly caught even more but tonight is our final night and festivities are big on the last night.
We concluded our fabulous long weekend with our nightly feast at the famous Little Bohemia Lodge restaurant. Every year we reserve the back room where in 1934 gangster John Dillinger and his gang had an epic shoot out with the FBI. The bullet holes are still in the windows and the story of the gangs escape is unreal. We celebrated our fantastic musky fishing that between all of us included landing a total of 15, and Rick, my fellow fly fisherman, landed only one but it was a 47” beast!
This was fantastic musky fishing and a great visit amongst friends. My thanks to George who makes this wonderful weekend happen and John McGraw who hosts us at the Chippewa Retreat Resort. This place is paradise. If musky on the fly is what you’re after contact Bill Sherer at the We Tie it Fly Shop and stay comfortable at the Retreat. I can’t wait to get back next October!