This past July, United Women on the Fly is teamed up with Jackie Van Dyke and Musky Country Outfitters for an exclusive warm water immersion retreat, one on one instruction with professional river Musky guides and action packed fishing sessions. Thank you to Jackie for the event write-up. Jackie is hosting another UWOTF Women’s Musky trip 9/5 – 9/8/19. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
After a few seasons of fly fishing for Musky, I noticed that there were not many women’s trips being offered for this warm water species. I knew there were dedicated female anglers that would love a chance at these fish in a beautiful northwoods setting. I am so thankful for the support of UWOTF. The friendships that were formed on the water are truly something special.
Six anglers from all ages, backgrounds and experience levels came to the Hayward area, (affectionately called musky country) in July. Our lodge was about three hours from the Minneapolis area. It was located right on Musky water, easy to find from Hayward and with a wrap around deck and open kitchen, Ghost Creek Lodge served us perfectly. We fished with outfitter Brad Bohen, two time Musky on the fly world record holder. Brad owns Musky Country Outfitters and Primo Tail, an online fly and fly materials business. Our other guides were Don Larson of Pond Monster Guide Service, Westfork Jason, and Dan Boggs, Certified Casting Instructor and owner of The Flying Musky Guide Company.
As people arrived and got settled in, it was apparent that we were all excited and happy to be on this adventure. I shared some of my knowledge and expectations when targeting this often elusive species. I was pleased to hear much of it reinforced by our outfitter Brad at breakfast in the lodge kitchen. (See I do listen to my guides!!!) One sentiment that echoed all weekend is that this kind of fly fishing is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Resilience is key!
After our pep talk, we armed ourselves with layers, sunscreen and boat snacks then hopped into the trucks with our guides. We were prepared for whatever the weather would bring as only thunder would get us off the water. Light jackets, long sleeve shirts, pants, hats, buffs, gloves or stripping guards were our best friends over the three days. We had three drift boats with three guides and fished three different stretches of water each day. Our guides had readied our rods and reels and they have their preferences as to fly line and flies. Our guides were all local and they live and breathe these waters. As Brad put it, “In Musky fly fishing, we rarely(1-2 times out of every 100 catches) ever put a fish onto the reel. Typical fights are close quarters, Muskies are not ‘runners’ and the angler fights the fish by stripping in and utilizing hand pressure using the rod hand as the break/drag.”
Guides were always ready to answer any questions or sharpen hooks, check lines and do any tweaking that needed to be done. Lunch provided an excellent time for comedic relief, a brief dip in the water to cool off if necessary and gave us the chance to revel in the beauty of the northwoods. The river was spectacular and showed off for us during our July visit. Anglers saw White-tailed deer drinking from shallow pools, Beavers working, Sturgeon jumping, Eagles soaring and Herons fishing, plenty of Turtles sunbathing and even a family of Otters playing. In Musky Country it is possible to fish lakes and rivers all in the same day. Fast water, slow water, shallows, deep pools and even rapids. It is all fair game in this fishery.
We arranged to meet at the end of the first day at a local pizza place to share stories from our day on the water. There were so many laughs, fish stories and wildlife sightings that everyone had a great first day on the water. We all cheered in celebration over a first Musky on the fly! More stories were shared over wine back at the lodge before it was time for ibuprofen and sleep.
The next morning we were fueled by our successes as a team and the opportunities that await us. We enjoyed hearty laughs and gave each other encouragement over coffee then quickly packed our boat bags, ready to get at it again. We fished with the same outfitter the entire trip but shared guides. We all fished with a different guide than we had fished with the previous day and we fished on different types of water. Swapping out boats gave us a chance to learn subtle style differences, casting techniques, allowed us to read new water and offered anglers a fresh supply of guide jokes!
Methodical casting can often bring the angler into sort of a meditative state but balancing that sense of calm while relentlessly searching the water for a Musky follow requires intense concentration and resilience. One can’t help but be filled with growing anticipation as the opportunity for the water to explode at any moment occurs with each and every cast and subsequent figure eight.
Although we casted for hours on end, there was never a dull moment for our team. Many participants were able to catch their first Wisconsin smallmouth bass, first northern pike and three participants landed their first muskie on the fly. I specify landed, as we learned that just because you have a bite doesn’t mean it’s in the net! These fish are extreme fighters and have gotten to be the size that they are by effectively evading predators in and out of the water. Some fish swipe at the fly only to miss it completely. Some fish swipe at the tail of the fly and are not hooked. Then there are the Musky that appear out of nowhere and make the water explode right before your very eyes and you stand in shock wondering what the heck just happened!
This all fuels the fire and makes the hunt that much more intensely personal.
We are going again in 2020, I hope that you will join us!
Jackie Van Dyke