I don’t get out much for musky these days. Before I moved south of where I grew up, I fished musky constantly. On gear. It taught me a ton but I never brought a fish to hand. I’ve had monster fish boat side about to be netted only to bust off. I’ve fallen to my knees in a boat, frustrated beyond belief, but I kept chasing them. I’ve caught big pike. I dig pike. Last year my friend Jordan mentioned heading up to Wisconsin to float some rivers for esox masquinongy. We did it again this year and damn it was good. There aren’t many places I’ve been to that have as much pull on me as the northern parts of Wisconsin. That place does something to you.
Jordan and I met up at our cabin on Monday and drove straight over to some wadeable water. Jordan hooked a hammerhandle while I sat on rock in the middle of a creek with severe stomach pains. Just a tip for long ass road trips. Don’t eat an entire bag of soft Werthers candy and drink Snapple all day without eating. It’s not smart. I am not a smart man. It got dark so we went to the bar.
Tuesday saw rain and a high of 43 degrees. We moved a bunch of fish that day. One microski and a pike to the boat. That pike… People hate on pike but I respect any fish with tenacity. I cast and he nailed the fly. He missed. I cast back and he hit. We did this dance five times. He finally found hook on the fifth attempt. He never moved off his spot. He didn’t follow the fly at all. You have to respect that kind of dumb. Later that day we played vehicle hopscotch and went back to the bar to warm up and dry off. At the cabin that night we had an epic tying night. The table looked like an explosion of bucktail and hackles. I live for nights like that.
On Wednesday morning it was still drizzling. We’d got a lot of water judging by the bottom of the boat. The good thing is the river we were floating has enough room for that water. We put in and a handful of casts into the float, I hooked and landed my best musky yet. It measured at 37″. I finally got into the 3 foot club. I was pretty lit up after that. The high you get off actually landing a musky is unbeatable. I have yet to find a fish in freshwater to match them. Smallies are my passion and I personally feel pound for pound fight better than any freshwater fish. The musky is a whole other monster. It’s that predator look, that streamlined killing machine full of teeth. It’s the smell. You don’t forget that smell. Sweet victory after hundreds and thousands of casts. It’s all worth it.
We moved a bunch more fish throughout the day. I hooked into a much bigger fish right before lunch. I saw it’s head and side. It was big. I put the hammer down on it. I came unbuttoned. That’s musky fishing. Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar eats you. I’m still replaying what I did wrong and I know I didn’t do anything wrong. It just popped out. I’d blame barbless hooks but that rod was bent double and I never fish barbed hooks so I’m pretty good at playing a fish. Hell, Jordan left barbs on a fly and still came unbuttoned. Damn those hard jaws. Go back to casting and try to forget about that fish that could have been the fish. I’m still thinking about that one fish. Not the one I landed, but the one I didn’t. It’s gonna haunt me until next year. I’m sure next year there will be another fish to haunt my dreams. There’s something romantic about that I guess.
Thursday morning found me staring at frozen musky flies and I realized I was seeing my breath. It’s easy to forget how far north you are and how close to winter we are. We floated a different river that day. Last year we moved a bunch of fish on it. We had high hopes. The only thing high was the water. High and fast. It’s a fairly short float, especially when it’s cooking like that, so we floated it twice to make a full day out of it. Not a single sign of life. Nothing but bald eagles delivering a healthy dose of freedom. We fished hard too. Really hard. Like you have to fish when you fish for musky. We got blanked. It was a nice reminder that we were fishing for musky. That other river spoiled us and we ate humble pie.
I had planned to stay and fish and party Friday with Patterson from MPLS Fly but I decided to be a good husband and get home to accompany my wife to a party she’d wanted me to go to. Every once in awhile you gotta put the fly rod down and focus on the person who makes life awesome. My wife had no clue I was coming home so when she got off work that day and walked in the house I scared the shit out of her. That was awesome. She’ll pay me back, I’m sure.
So the second annual musky trip ends on a positive note. I landed a nice fish and I scored husband points that will be promptly spent on future trips. Big thanks to my homie Jordan for the good times. I haven’t talked to him since I left, cell service being non-existent up there and all, but I’m sure he’s stuck a nice fish since my departure.