After celebrating the marriage of one of our good buds, 3 friends and I made the journey to Northern Wisconsin on Sunday evening to get a couple good days of musky fishing in. With over 840 lbs of human in the drift boat, we set out early Monday morning for a “slow” drift on a section of Class A musky river.
Conditions were not necessarily favorable as the previous week saw a bit of a cold snap, followed by a decent southern wind bringing warmer temps into play for our two day excursion. We had air temps above 65 on Monday and reaching 75 on Tuesday with water temps at 59 and 62 degrees respectively. The cloud cover was minimal but there was a slight haze to the sunny sky reminding us of devastating wildfires raging in the West. We had a small breeze of 3-5mph on Monday, followed by 15mph gusts on Tuesday.
Our target, as it usually is, was strictly musky. On the water early Monday, we spent most of the morning establishing a pattern. We had one angler throwing articulated natural colored Big Foot and Loch Ness Minnow flies with intermediate line and the other fishing a much faster presentation with similar flies. We worked every inch of water including our B and C spots to make sure we wouldn’t miss a single fish.
By 11am we had no action on articulated flies or aggressive lures, but we were rounding a bend to great musky holding water. Given no action on the smaller stuff, I switched to a much bigger double Big Foot pattern in a custom color variation very similar to our Light Sucker color. Because of the burnt orange head and green/white body this fly was quickly dubbed “The Irishman”. On the first cast to a submerged logjam we had our first musky follow, a mid 30 inch fish, came to about 10 ft from the boat before gliding back into the abyss. As it usually does, this little bit of musky movement brightened our spirits and centered our focus for the remainder of the afternoon.
At 2:45pm we were greeted by our next musky encounter. Fishing the same fly as before and again to another logjam near deep water we had a very decent fish swipe and miss about 20 feet from the boat. This looked to be a nice fish so we decided to wait it out for 15 min and try again. That particular musky did not show his face again.
At this point in the trip it started to become clear that the optimal presentation was this big natural colored articulated fly stripped very slowly to make sure it had enough time to hang. All fish were triggered on the pause. Right around 4pm, a nice 16in smallie destroyed the fly coming out from under a deep logjam. Little did we know at the time, but this would be the only fish landed for the two day trip.
We floated the rest of the way to the take out and got off the water just after dark. A long day with only a smallie to show for it, but we now had a few addresses to revisit the next day.
Monday night found us with a healthy supply of beer and bourbon which brought about a slower start to our day on Tuesday. We were motivated given the fish we saw the day before, but also had tempered expectations given the forecast was 75 degrees, clear skies, and 15mph winds.
On the water around 9:30am, we started out fishing the same setup as the day before, but now both anglers were casting the same color and presentation given the pattern we established the day before.
Within an hour of being on the water we had our day’s first encounter with a musky. Again on a logjam near a bend, the angler in back had a mid 30s fish strike his fly. Unable to connect on the strip-set the fish got off but the angler kept fishing it to the boat. The fish came right back and struck again but was unable to get a solid hookset. We commiserated for a bit and then decided to keep moving in hopes the action would just be getting started.
Around midday we floated into another bend with a logjam… I put a perfect cast right under the overhanging tree and far enough upstream that it could drift into the logjam. All four of us watched as the fly hit the water. On the first strip, the water blew up as a very large fish came out from under the logjam to destroy the fly. We all took witness to how large this fish was, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get hooks in. Given the incredible size of this fish we decided to hang out in that spot for about 20 min. On the first cast back, a brownish gold aura started to appear right below the fly as it came back to the boat. As the fly got closer to the boat the aura started to take the shape of a large musky. As he inched his nose closer to the fly I began my figure 8 downstream. This action got him to strike immediately and we were hooked up! Given how close he was to the boat I was only able to get one good strip-set in and as it would prove that would not be enough. Before I could even yell “Get the Net!” the fish was off. Devastation.
We floated the rest of the way back, stopping a few times at bends with logjams. We had one more follow right at the boat but again no hookup.
Overall, it was a great two day trip with some old friends. We moved a total of 7 musky, boated 0, and caught one #notamusky. All fish were moved on a Double Big Foot with a custom color - The Irishman. We did have some solace in the fact that we saw and briefly hooked up with the largest fish this musky fool has ever seen. Back to the vise I go to try and avoid the nightmares that will follow. I’ll be back for her soon!
P.S. Stay tuned for the “Irishman” color variation to be added to the website in the coming weeks!