Musky on fly [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Musky on fly

10-18-2012, 12:19 PM
Wondering if anyone has fished for musky on the fly rod and would be willing to share some tips? The challenge and preparation required to take these fish has them charging to the top of my must catch species list. I've found a good list of potential spots, which also happens to be in the middle of steelhead alley, that I hope to visit this fall or early next spring. Anyone out there a guru of NE musky hunting?

10-22-2012, 07:49 AM
What types of advice do you need? I was right on it until you mentioned the NE. I just got back last night from two weeks of muskie fly fishing, but that was in Minnesota. I'm heading up this Saturday for another week of it in Wisconsin. If you require area specific information, I really can't help. However, if you need general tackle and rigging information, I've got lots of opinions on that!

10-23-2012, 07:43 AM
JR Spey,

I'm always willing to travel, it's one of my favorite things about fishing. I've researched a bunch of places within driving distance so that I can use my boat and DIY, therefore getting in more trips for less money, but I'd be willing to travel and hire a guide as well.

For specifics, I'm looking for more general information specific to musky such as fly choice, size, time of year, depth of water, leader construction, line choice, retrieves, structure to target, etc. I'd also like to hear how folks are using their electronics to find fish and/or structure.

10-23-2012, 08:36 AM
Let's take them one at a time in your order:

Fly choice: Beufords, Hang Time, Fly with the Dragon Tattoo, and several versions of Rainy's Marlin flies. The key points are that it has to be big and it has to move a lot of water to be effective. A lot of muskie flies don't even really have names. They are just creations of the tyer or guide. Most of the flies I use are 5/0 and somewhere between 8" and 13" long.

I only seriously pursue muskies in the fall. In my area that's mid-October until the end of the season in late November. Occasionally, I've pursued muskies during their post spawn in early June, but it doesn't compare to fishing in fall.

I fish only rivers and depth of water can be anywhere from 2' to sometimes as much as 12'. 95% of the time I'm in less than five feet of water. I've tried fishing lakes with a fly, but the struggle to get deep enough just doesn't make it nearly as enjoyable as river fishing. I now leave the lakes to the gear guys and have never regretted it.

I'm changing my leaders once again. I had a huge fish bite through 80# Seaguar fluorocarbon last week. This is after having another good sized fish bite through 60# FC last October. I'm either going to go back to TygerWire, switch to Mason NyloStrand, or work out the knot issues with titanium wire. My leaders are rarely more than four feet long. Doing the figure eight and fiddle faddle is much easier with a short leader. The bite tippet usually starts off at about 2' of that. Since I do not use a snap the wire gets shorter with each fly change. The rest of my leader is Maxima Chameleon.

My preferred line right now is the Rio Outbound Short with an intermediate tip. I also use the Teeny TST400 which has an intermediate head and finally I use a floating Rio OBS to throw Pole Dancers and other floaters.

My retrieve rarely varies. It is a long hard pull of about 18" and a long pause to let the end of the fly vibrate in the current. Every single retrieve is followed by a figure eight if the water is three feet deep or more or with some fiddle faddle if it's not that deep. Better than half of your activity will come while doing this. I know, I didn't believe it either, but I've found that it's true.

I target every rock, log, seam, and trough I can find. On the rivers I fish that's just about everywhere. In rivers, there is no need for electronics. In fact, when I fish out of my jet sled I don't even turn on the finder. I probably spend more time in a driftboat pursuing muskies than anything else. Almost all the structure is very easy to see.

The location that takes its muskie season very seriously is northern Wisconsin and central to northern Minnesota. That's where I spend my time. I'm heading up again this Saturday to try the Hayward area of Wisconsin. Certainly muskie fishing is a better kept secret in other areas, like Tennessee and Virginia. It's religion in MN and WI, though.

Let me know if this has created other questions. As you can tell, I love to discuss 'ski's.

10-23-2012, 03:36 PM
Wow JR, GREAT stuff. The closest musky haunt for me happens to be a river, the Great Chazy across Lake Champlain about 1 1/2 hours away. It is stocked semi annually with Chautauqua strain musky from the hatchery on Chautauqua Lake to suplement a natural producing population. In VT our F&W dept started a restoration program from the same hatchery on the Missisquoi River. I have high hopes for what can happen in a few years.

Can you explain the Fiddle Faddle? I have not come across that term yet. I have heard some fly anglers saying it is better to use a big oval rather than a figure eight because of the length of the leader. Your approach with a shorter leader sounds like a sensible work around. Are you able to use a slim beauty to tie the wire to the mono or are you using a different knot?

10-23-2012, 04:39 PM
Fiddle faddle is actually my term. The technique was shown to me by Lucky Porter of Musky Country Outfitters, but it didn't have a name. It essentially means spending from 60-90 seconds moving the fly around on or near the surface after the retrieve is to the leader knot. The idea is to get as much movement as possible for the fly, including reversing direction and letting it sink straight down at least once. It works well when in shallow water where a true figure eight is not terribly practical. I hooked one fish on the fiddle faddle this year, and had another strike but miss. I also had one last year where the fish opened his mouth to let the fly drop into it when I let it sink straight down, what I call the death spiral. I got so excited I pulled the fly away from him before his mouth closed on it. I like the change of direction that comes with a true figure eight. The key is to have wide loops in your figure eight so that no slack is created and to change the depth during the figure eight. It's also important to have your line hand on the fighting butt of the rod with the line in it so that you have the ability to strip strike. The same is true of the fiddle faddle. I caught myself once or twice sticking my line hand in my pocket to receive the benefits of the hand warmer placed in it only to realize that I had no way to strip strike if a fish would hit. The short leader works well with both the fiddle faddle and the actual figure eight.

I have used the slim beauty to connect wire to mono (and FC to mono.) However, I've come to prefer a double uni-knot when on the water as it's much easier to tie. The slim beauty is fine when I'm sitting at a desk tying leaders, but I've found it hard to tie when your hands are freezing which is most of the time when muskie fishing. One of the guides I fish with uses Stu Apte's improved blood knot, but even that is harder to tie in cold weather than a double uni (sometimes called a back-to-back uni.) The slim beauty is clearly the slimmest of those knots, but all three are very strong when tied correctly.

10-24-2012, 08:08 AM
I tied up a bunch of bite tippet using FC and 20lb chameleon. I got the idea from a youtube video from the fly shop in Hayward. I don't recall the name of the shop. I think I will tie some with wire as well after this exchange. I connect them to my leader using a perfection loop on each end so I won't have to tie the bite tippet on the water as explained in the video. That being said, this is my first year going after musky so nothing has been proven to work or not work yet.

One more question, have you tried using any of the shorter 2 hand rods to overhead cast for musky? I know Beulah used to make a 10.5' switch. The 11' surf rods in either the 7/8 or 8/9 seem like they would be a big help with casting heavy grain lines and big flies all day and also with the figure 8 and with any luck the fight.

My plan is to stay local at first and then begin to branch out towards western NY. The St Lawrence tribs, Upper Niagara, Allegheny River and lakes like Chautauqua and Waneta are all within driving distance. There are some more remote lakes in Maine that hold musky along with the St John River. Lake St Clair is about 11 hours as well and could be a trip in the future with some extra time off.

Like steelhead and tarpon fishing, the hardest part about this endeavor is trying to find people to fish with who are willing to cast all day with no guarantee of even getting a strike.

Thanks for passing your knowledge along and I look forward to your reports.

10-24-2012, 03:15 PM
The fly shop with the video is the Hayward Flyfishing Company. I know Larry Mann and Wendy Williamson well, especially Larry. I figured that was where you got the idea to use a slim beauty. He does a good job on that video showing us how to tie it. My leader is quite a bit like his, but is only 4' or a bit longer rather than his 7' ones.

I often use two handed surf rods for muskies. The best is the Beulah Surf as you noted. To cast the really big flies that I use I tend to fish the 9/10 Surf. I also carry a 10' 10 weight Jim Teeny rod made by TFO and often also use that as a two-handed rod. Since I normally fish with the Scandinavian technique when speyfishing I'm used to just gently grabbing the knob of the bottom grip rather that meathooking the bottom grip with the entire hand. That means that just grabbing the knob on the fighting butt of a single hander works quite well for me. I have rotator cuff issues and using the double-handed rods is a God-send. Actually the longer rod makes the figure eight more of a challenge, especially in the water depth we're often fishing. I often just resort to the fiddle faddle unless we're in at least five feet of water or I have a fish following the fly.

I'm old enough to have been collecting Social Security for awhile and have a list of medical conditions that would have you thinking I'm a hypochondriac if I were to list them here. I have to take regular breaks when I muskie fish (actually I have to for most of my fishing) but I love it enough that fishing just 6 hours out of an 8 hour day is fine by me. I ice my shoulder down when I get back, and I have a portable e-stimm that I use on my shoulders, knees, and right elbow. I also see a physical therapist weekly when I'm in town and have for twelve years. I just consider it part of my fishing expenses.

I've heard great things about muskies on the St. John's and there's a shop in Fredericton that supports that fishery, including providing at least one knowledgeable guide. Lake St. Clair is really intimidating for flyfishing. I drove by Mille Lacs in Minnesota a week ago and that's pretty much the same. Both are relatively shallow for lakes that large, but you'd still end up spending a lot of effort to get deep. The belief is that the big fish are in lakes, but after spending almost two weeks on the Upper Mississippi near Brainerd I'd say that about half the fish we moved were over 40" and one of the ones landed was just under 50". You may not land an all tackle record on a river, but you'll catch lots of large fish on the best rivers and will enjoy doing so with floating lines and sinktips.

If you decide to tackle the St. John's some day and need a fishing partner, shoot me a PM well before going, and I might be tempted to head out that way.

10-25-2012, 08:31 AM
Will do Jim and thanks again for the info. I've got some buddies in Maine who are musky crazy right now as well. They just got back from Hayward and fished with Brad Bohen. Lots of smaller fish with one good one at about 42". Good guys and fly anglers a level above myself. Great tiers as well and I've been lucky enough to have them send me a bunch of their musky innovations for my start up kit. I'll be over that way a bunch next year and will keep you in the loop about the St Johns.

I just received the Robert Tomes book in the mail. It was on my porch when I got home. I'll be absorbing as much of it as I can and trying those techniques on my local waters. I'll let you know how I do.

Keep in touch about any more trips you take. I'd love to hear reports and things learned along the way.



11-10-2012, 06:08 PM
Keep in touch about any more trips you take. I'd love to hear reports and things learned along the way.



I just got back from a two week trip with the first week fishing for muskies in Hayward, WI and the second fishing for steelhead on the Muskegon in Michigan. I spent the entire muskie time with Lucky Porter of Musky Country Outfitters and found out right away that he had lost several fish due to bite-offs on FC, also. I was prepared to do battle with him over this, but he had also switched back to wire. I'm going to spend the winter figuring out an effective way of rigging with titanium wire. The knots used, for the most part, don't close down with ti and look awful even though I've been assured they're plenty strong. I managed to land a 40", 42", and 45" 'ski during the week, with the 45 incher coming while swinging flies (steelhead or salmon style swinging) in pocketwater. I would have never guessed a fish that big would be in water like that as it was a legitimate Class I rapids. I also had a few smaller (sub-40") fish and a bunch of follows and missed strikes. I used the Beulah Surf rod roughly half the time and truly feel that it has tremendous potential for that type of fishing. I spent most of the time fishing beufords, the name of a Brad Bohen muskie fly. Due to the low water we spent most of the time fishing a single beuford. They're also fished in double and triple versions which are considerably bigger and more wind resistant.

11-12-2012, 01:50 PM
Great report, thank you. Seems you were in the footsteps of a couple of friends of mine from Maine, or vice versa. They were in WI musky fishing with Hayward Fly Fishing Co a couple of weeks ago and just got back this weekend from a few days fishing the Muskegon with Kevin Feenstra. I couldn't make the trip with them this year but caught my first steelhead on a spey rod fishing with Kevin's group a few years back. He's got some great unique patterns.

I've been in contact with the biologist responsible for the musky restoration program here in VT. Got some good information but we are a few years out from having good sized musky approaching the 40" mark. Still excited for the future though. Note taken on the wire versus FC.

I've got the 8/9 Beulah, actually borrowing from friend who says he bought it from you. Hoping to give a try this weekend.