Musky Fly Fishing 101: How To Catch Musky On The Fly

You’re a fisherman from another dimension, a dimension not only of conventional heavy baits and big blades, but of sucker rigs and trolling. Now you’re going to take a journey into a wondrous new world whose boundaries are that of the imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop? The Musky Fly Fishing Zone!

The answer is easy: You enter the Musky Fly Fishing Zone.

For many newcomers to the sport of predator fishing, landing your first musky is a life-altering event, the start of an obsession with the crazy world of musky hunting. Down the rabbit hole, the angler goes. But what happens when you have caught hundreds of musky in your lifetime, when you’ve spent every spare dollar on new musky baits, rods, and reels, when you’ve caught your first topwater, quit using the live baits and finally captured that fifty-inch fish of a lifetime? What’s is your next challenge in the musky game?

More and more conventional musky anglers have been picking up their phones and calling musky fly fishing wackos like myself, looking to spice up their musky angling life. It’s a growing part of my business and I truly enjoy being a portal into this new sport. If you’re someone who has spent a lot of time chasing the elusive “fish of ten thousand casts,” knows their regular haunts and can now find them with confidence, congratulations! You’re already way ahead of most fly fishermen who have never chased a musky before.

Musky Fly Fishing
Pretty flies catch pretty fish

What You Will Need To Get Started

It seems the major obstacle that many have when contemplating going over to the fly world is being overwhelmed with gear options. Don’t be fooled. Musky fly-fishing is a blue collar sport. No trout snobbery or gear geeks here. Just keep it simple.

Rod – First, buy a 10 weight fly for like a St. Croix, which are manufactured in my home town of Park Falls, Wisconsin.

Reel – Second, don’t get suckered into buying a fancy overpriced reel. Musky rarely rip line off so a snazzy drag system is an overkill. As long as the reel holds the line you’re good to go. Remember: this is hand-to-hand combat. You’re literally stripping the line and fish back to the boat not reeling them in. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Line – Third, you will need a fly line. Start with a 10wt floating line that’s easy to cast. I rock the scientific Anglers Titan Taper for my beginner clients. Then grab four feet of 80 lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon for the leader.

Flies – Lastly and most importantly, you will need a fly. Luckily Today there are a lot of great fly-tiers who sell their patterns online and in fly shops. Pick one you can throw for eight hours, one that’s big enough to turn heads but small enough to spare your rotator cuff.

Musky Fly Fishing
A loop knot is good way to give your fly free range of motion

I tie baits that mimic the exact forage these magnificent beasts are eating throughout the season. If you want to take it to the next level, start tying your own baits. Begin with a good hook like Gamakatsu and simple materials like bucktail and flash. Next move to more complex flies that have specific action tied into them. There is no shortage of tying tutorials available on the internet.

Musky Fly Fishing

Once you have the above-mentioned gear, start casting and retrieving the fly. Again the Internet is a good resource. But nothing can compare with hiring a pro for day or two to get dialed in. Once you can cast 30-40 feet or so, get that fly swimming in your favorite musky hole, just make sure to figure eight that fly at the end of every retrieve like in the conventional musky fishing world. In fact, I tell all of my clients that figure eight is 50% of the cast. It’s that important. When that big girl eats, hit her with a “strip set,” and DO NOT LIFT YOUR ROD. Remember this mantra “lift em lose em” Strip that fly line back hard with the rod aimed down straight at the fish and hold tight. Congratulations you’ve just entered a whole new dimension, one you may never want to leave.

Special Thanks to our friend Wink, from Wink’s Flies And Guiding for guest writing this article. Check out Wink’s Instagram to stay posted on his Northwoods Fly Fishing adventures.

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