Thursday, October 3, 2013

What I Learned In Musky Country

I guess I've been home now from the Hayward trip for over a month now, and it's given me a few weeks to think about the time that I spent with Musky Country Outfitters and to come up with a short list of things that I learned while hanging out with guide Brad Bohen. 

In short, Hayward lives and breathes musky.  The grocery stores, banks, bars, corner markets, diners, sport shops, coffee shops, hotels and motels, and just about every business in the area has some sort of reference to the musky.  Conversations at the breakfast diner start with musky fishing and the night ends at any one of the obscure lakeside bars in the woods still talking about them.  I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere else where one fish holds everyone's concentration, for both the residents and those who are visiting, like musky does in Hayward.  Nearly everyone around is a freak for musky and it's a pretty damn neat thing to experience.

Any trip like this should come with reasonable expectations and as the Hayward trip approached, my mindset was really just to have a good time and give it my best shot.  I might come home without catching a musky.  I had come to terms with that since August is kind of a crapshoot when it comes to musky and I figured that I would be just as happy chasing smallmouth in the rivers if nothing else.  In the end I caught a couple musky, a few smalljaws, and was beyond stoked with the experience. 

One of the many things that I never bet on during a fly fishing trip is the weather.  Of all times for it to happen, a freak weather system brought days with temps in the high 90's and thunderstorms a couple of nights that laid down over eight inches of rain.  This push of water kept us from fishing a few choice places but there were more than enough other rivers that stayed clear that kept us busy for three days.

Anytime that I've spent time with Brad Bohen, he's been more or less a vagabond traveling the southeast all winter long during his off season.  His attitude has always been way laid back and way chill.  I found that fly fishing guide Brad Bohen is a far different person.  Guide Brad Bohen is on the water for days in a row and his objective when he wakes up is to find a musky that will eat a fly for one of his clients...or himself on a rare day off.  Brad has put Hayward on the map for fly anglers and spent years behind the oars and vise to unlock this unique fishery of rivers and lakes of all sizes that all seem to connect someway somehow.

During this trip I was able to crash at Brad's place, that he's dubbed "The Musky Lab", and our mornings started early with coffee.  I tried to keep T.F.M. going with a post or two and sending a note home to my wife and children while Brad would pick up his iPad to checking email, river flows, make a few phone calls, and then we'd gather up our gear and were off with high hopes of a musky being lifted out of the water at some point during that day.

In the boat Brad gave solid advice on where to cast, how to adjust the retrieve or change the sweep angle of the figure eight under the boat.  I learned a lot while on the water with him.  Brad's been doing this long enough to know that a musky can burst of the dark waters at any time and he does a good job reminding you that it can happen at any moment.  Essentially, never give up and always be ready.

Needless to say, my definition of a large fly has been totally rewritten after this trip.  A "small" fly for musky is six to eight inches long.  A "large" musky fly is twelve to fourteen inches to even longer, and they really do require specialized fly lines to lay these flies out cast after cast.  You'll still be tired at the end of the day but the right fly, matched with the right outfit, helps a lot. 

Big sticks are the norm for fly fishing for musky and a full day in the front of the boat will wear you down.  Days on the water involve constant casting, stripping, sweeping figure eights under the boat, and doing that same routine over and over and over and over some more.  Musky aren't called the fish of a 10,000 casts for nothing.  Your arm will ache and a beer never looked so good at the end of the day.  I went home with a couple new blisters and a few aches and pains but with satisfaction feeling that I earned every fish I caught.

Through the week I fished almost entirely with the Epic 990 and Steffen Brothers 8/9 weight matched with a couple different fly lines.  It reinforced the idea in my head that a glass rod can be a real advantage when casting big flies since the fly rod will do a lot of the work for you when you're using the right fly line to make it all come together.  A word though that you do have to relax and lengthen your casting stroke and of course let the fly rod take over to unleash it's power.

Fighting a large musky on glass is an experience that I won't soon forget and it was really neat to see the Epic 990 doubled over with a head thrashing 40 inch musky on the other end.  Big glass gave me excellent leverage to turn and control that large fish and I'm even more convinced heavy weight glass has a place in fishing for apex predator fish like musky.

Three days of tough fishing matched with tough weather or not, it's hard to beat days riding shotgun in one of Brad's vintage Land Cruisers, with the Towee Rivermaster bouncing along behind, dropping into various rivers looking for a few of Hayward's bruiser musky.  I had a steller time and hope to return at some point to visit a few of the places we didn't get to see this trip.

For more on this trip check out these dispatches...



Check out the Flickr album for the full gallery of images.

Check out the Musky Country Outfitters website for more information and follow what Brad's up to on the Facebook page as well.


Unknown said...

Very cool!

Middlemac said...

That's "musky poetry," pal! Great read and wild pics. Thanks!!