October 19, 2012
George booked Rick and I with the same two muskellunge fly fishing guides we had last year, Bill Sherer and John Coolidge. This was fantastic news. Rick and I hit it off with these guys and they really know their stuff. You could easily call Bill one of the pioneers of fly fishing for muskie and it only takes a few minutes before you admire his knowledge of this fabled fish. Bill is the owner of We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.
As for where Bill took me today, I honestly don’t know. Certainly I have an idea but I respect his hush-hush spots and would never return on my own nor tell another angler where we were. What I can tell you is that like most muskie waters, the place was beyond gorgeous. Some folks don’t believe places without mountains can be so beautiful, but for me the dense forest of the Great Northwoods is spectacular, especially the tamaracks glowing everywhere you look.
While Bill ran a shuttle for our float with his wife, I geared up. For muskie you need a big fly rod. I rigged my 10-weight Ross RX with my F1 reel and a Scientific Anglers Streamer Express 300 grain fly line. The stout rod and saltwater quality reel will handle a 20lb musky if I have the good fortune of hooking one and the sinking line helps drag my 8” streamer to the depths where large muskie live. Last, you must have about 12” of 30lb wire shock tippet at the end of your heavy leader or the toothy muskie or his cousin the Northern pike will bite you off.
When Bill returned we pushed off and on my third cast I saw the first muskie. Last year I learned there’s knack to induce a strike. I slowed down my fly, hesitated and then made a vigorous strip. Wham – the first muskie was on! Moments later I landed and a 25” muskie toddler.
Not a bad way to start considering last year on Day 1 I got skunked. Since that first day I’ve learned what it takes to get a muskie to eat a fly and I’m better at hooking them. Like all big fish, I strip set rather than raise my rod like with a dry fly for trout. But even so, muskies glide towards you after they take the fly instead of turning. So not only do you have to make several long fast hook settings strips, but you need to sweep your rod much further than the normal jab.
The morning continued to provide excellent action. However, despite the improvements in my tactics, I added a few more muskie screw ups to my resume. The next muskie I landed was this handsomely barred 33".
After that last muskie, the fishing shut off. Other then spooking a beast from a sunken tree, we never had a single muskie look at my fly again today. We tried a variety of different colored flies and fly sizes but nothing. When the muskie bite is off – it’s off.
When I got home to Chippewa Retreat I met up with Rick. He and John saw several muskies while fishing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but never landed one. However they hooked a giant that shattered one of John’s 10-weight fly rods. It’s back at it bright and early tomorrow.