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    Pat Stout

      Musky: The Best and Worst Fly Fishing Decision You’ll Make
      By: Native’s Fly Shop Nathan Rees

      Musky: The best and worst fly fishing decision you’ll make. Author: Nathan Rees They say musky may be the fish of 10,000 cast but what you also don’t hear is they can be the fish of 10,000 dollars!

      Only kidding of course. Just like with all fish species and hobbies you can dive as deep down the rabbit hole as you’d like. Musky fishing can be affordable and done on a budget or you can make it as complex and expensive as you’d like.

      Having chased these fish for 20 years I’d like to lay out a few things I’ve learned over the many seasons on the water searching for them.

      We will start off with the gear.

      1. Rod and Reel: When diving into the sport look for a solid rod with a nice tip that can allow for a sturdy figure 8 ( a technique I will explain in a little while). Pair the rod with a reel that falls within your budget. In the many years fishing for these fish I have never once used my reel to land one. For the most part all they do is act as a line holder.

      2. Line: look for a good intermediate sink or sink tip line in the 300-500 grain weight depending on the depth and current speed of the water you will be fishing. Shallower water go on the lighter end and deeper go a little heavier. 350-400 grain seems to be the sweet spot for most. I prefer a lighter line as they tend to give my flies the action I prefer.

      3. Flies: fly selection can be situational/seasonal. That being said flies in my box range anywhere from 6” to 20+”. When starting out I always recommend a good single Buford style fly and a fly with some articulation. That happy medium for most of my flies falls in the 10-12” range. There are so many good fly tiers and patterns out there that it really is tough to go wrong. Just look for something with some buck tail, feathers, and flash and you should be golden.

      4. Miscellaneous: I recommend a good solid net (look into Catch Cam Nets), a nice set of long needle nose pliers, jaw spreaders, and Knipex bolt cutters for those times when the fish get hooked deep and that’s the only option for a safe release.

      Now that we got the basics of gear out of the way we can take a look at habitat/structure to target when you’re out on the water. Below are a few of the areas I tend to focus on in the rivers and lakes of Appalachia:

      • In lakes I will target standing timber, lay downs, rocky banks with chunk rock or boulders along them, weed beds, main lake points, deeper channels with access to shallow water, and depending on time of the year and forage base sometimes it pays off to follow the bait whether that’s shallow or deep (it varies seasonally)

      • In our rivers and streams I tend to focus on all forms of timber and lay downs whether it’s shallow or deep. We also like to target mid river humps and sand bars. However with that being said most river/stream fish seem to come from the outside bending bank where the most current and flow channelizes the water making it deeper and a great place for a musky to lay awaiting the opportunity to ambush.

      Finally I’d like to wrap up with a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped put some fish in the net.

      • Always figure 8 ( rod tip slightly in the water and make a 8 or infinity sign with the fly) after every cast or at the very minimum throw in a big half circle to see if you have something trialing the fly.

      • If you get a fish to “follow” changing depth from shallow too deep with your figure 8 can often help trigger a strike.

      • Roll casting your fly when it gets hung up and using the weight of your sink tip to get it unstuck is an invaluable tip. It has saved me blowing out structure and spots many of times and it has also resulted in some wild reaction strikes from fish.

      • Strip set don’t set with your rod. Strip set. Strip set. Strip set. Oh yeah and strip set. And if I didn’t mention it make sure you strip set when you get one to finally eat!

      • And last but not least keep some ibuprofen in the boat because double hauling big flies all day ain’t easy or for the faint of heart!

      Now if I haven’t scared you off. The rewards of landing a musky on the fly are well worth the effort. The stories, the pictures, the memories, and the time spent on the water with good people more than make up for the long days of only moving a fish or two.

      From everyone here at Natives Fly Shop/Ascent Fly Fishing we hope to see you all out there on the water chasing the fish of 10,000 casts and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask us! We’d be more than willing to help out.

      Pat Stout

        Let me add one photo of my friend, Steve, who picked up this nice fat muskie on 8 lb test while fishing for walleye at Merritt. It was over 50 inches long! Can u imagine one of those on a fly rod, lol?

        The 2nd photo is just one of the pike I have caught at the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge fly fishing[photo courtesy Bill Hays]

        Obviously, the point is the area offers some world class diversity to fish for. If you haven’t tried it, you may want to consider looking in to it. In years when the river flows are 400-835 cfs, the fishing on a fly rod at Merritt can be fruitful , especially for Pike, Musky, Channel catfish, walleye and other species.

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