Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beating the Odds with Muskie

Dave Van Vliet joined ChiFly earlier this year. He took a leap of faith leaving behind Stevens Point Wisconsin and dove headfirst into the fray of the big city.   For those of you who have met David, you might have picked up on the fact that he has a thing for Muskie fishing.  He also writes about it as well.  Enjoy his first post here

Beating the Odds with Muskie

One o’clock in the morning and I’m walking out of a gas station with a few more hours of driving ahead of me before I reach my apartment in Chicago. Beef jerky, a few “roller” dogs, and a large cup of coffee for the thermos. The coffee was only for an emergency if I started to doze off, and evidently I wouldn’t even need it because I was riding the high of boating a forty plus inch Muskie on a fly! The eat, fight, landing, and holding the fish played over and over in my head the whole way home. I never even turned on the radio. They’re the perfect quarry for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers alike who pursue fish on fly. 

            Our story begins by waking up around nine or ten and meeting Central Wisconsin Muskie Sharpie Dan Boggs, who runs the Flying Musky Guide Company. He still holds the title and best jokes ever told in a drift boat, and when things get slow he pulls them out. Anyways, we’d be fishing a river in the state of Wisconsin. Not going to say where or even which river, but she’s a dandy and full of Musky. 

            I haven’t fished Musky in a about a month, so my excitement was through the roof. We put in and motored up a series of boulders just downstream from a spillway adjacent to a deep bank. This spot would be categorized as a “Bad Neighborhood” or a likely spot for a Muskie to be living. We anchored up and began to beat the runs and pocket water. We were also stretching out and pounding the deep, undercut bank past the boulders. To ensure success I wanted to work every inch and seam of this spot. We didn’t move anything, I even replicated a Muskrat by throwing my house cat sized fly up on the bank, then jerking it off the bank plopping it into the water and stripping it fast to trigger a strike. Despite our hard work, we didn’t see anything here, a common theme of Muskie hunting. We were basically building up our karma for the next spot. We pulled up anchor and rowed down through a section of skinny water, around a bend, and upstream to another spillway. This spot doesn’t get hit by anglers very often, and getting anything but a drift boat or canoe is up in there is risky business. 

            This spot almost looks too good to be true, so much good looking water to pick apart. The spot held everything from wood, to big boulders which created back eddies with slack water you could fit my Dodge Durango into. If there ever was a list of top ten most dangerous areas for a baitfish, this would top it.

Anyone who fishes Wisconsin frequently knows that the water has an amber color to it, meaning you gotta focus when looking for creeping Muskies behind your fly. I was working a boulder strewn bank when I heard Dan yell, “There’s one!” I jerked my head around to see him aggressively stripping his fly up into a figure eight. The only indication I could tell that there was fish chasing his fly was a large white scar across its’ back. I didn’t move a muscle while Dan worked the fish, and by its body language it was hot. As soon as it was there it was gone, in an instant. I couldn’t quit tell what went wrong. Dan stuck his rod deep into the water during the eight and kept the fly moving quickly. Eh, who knows they’re Muskie, and this spot was too good to dwell on an almost heist. 

            We moved several other smaller fish right up tight to the dam but no nothing would eat. Questions were beginning to mumble between the two of us as to what we were doing wrong. After realizing that we were over thinking the situation, we stuck to our guns and kept on fishing, casting and dancing our flies through bad neighborhoods hoping for an eat. 

            We decided to the leave the holy water and head down stream. We rowed up to a spot where the current rips flows around a bend after coming off of a deep bank. Right on the bend there’s two dead falls that provide excellent looking cover. We’ve caught Muskie here in the past so it was worth our time. We worked the deep bank and then anchored parallel to the wood and fished it hard. As I was finishing a figure eight when I pulled my fly out of the water when out from under the boat swam out a Muskie. GOODNESS GRACIOUS!!! I yelled and the fish was literally right under my feet. The fish was easily mid forties….just how I like them. 

            After another almost eat, we rolled the dice, got off the water and headed to another section of the river that was equally as good. I know the age old theme is to never leave fish to find fish, but we only had one day to fish, and without having the opportunity to save the next spot for tomorrow, we packed up shop and headed out. The spot would be a dam below a large flowage, and not to jinx our luck, but Dan and I scored here every time last time fall when all the big females pushed up the dam to feed before the winter. 

            We rowed up river to the dam on the opposite side from the launch positioning in a big eddy adjacent to the main flow. I am not lying when I say this, but Dan moved a Muskie on his first cast! At this point in the day it was kinda more of a tease than anything. At the same time it kept our spirits up and our eyes focused. 

            Throughout the rest of the evening we continued to move fish in the same general area. Our theory was that at dark one of these fish was going to eat, right as the sun goes down its about to go down. 

            The witching hour was upon us, that magical hour right before dark when the boogie man was going eat one of our flies. I cast up against one of the pillars of the dam and WHOOOSHH! The surface erupted around my fly and my rod doubled over. I strip set hard and even managed to get a few more solid strips into the fish before it dove deep and bulldogged hard under the boat. Evidently what often happens with fighting Muskies is that you try to land them as fast as possible. Nobody ever fights muskies as if they are smallmouth bass or trout. The reason is that people spend so much time and effort chasing them that once you finally hook one, you automatically want to land it as fast as possible to finally hold it and see it.

            The same thought process applied here as well, and before the fight even started, it was over. Frantically trying to get that fish into the net and breathing heavily the whole time.  Let me tell you, when we finally got her int the net I sat back and breathed a sigh of relief. 

We had been beating the water all day and my forearms were on fire. We beat the odds as we could only fish one day because I had to go to work the next.  If you want to put the odds in your favor you must plan to fish at least three or four days. I've seen clients fish five days in a row without seeing anything. It happens, but that day we hit pay dirt, and the it made the drive back to Chicago a little less exhausting. 

Thanks for reading, tight lines!