With fall rolling into the driftless, the browns are getting more aggressive. They’re crushing streamers and putting on the feedbag, preparing for the spawn and the colder months to come. Usually this time of year, you can’t drag me away from the trout streams, but this year has been a little bit different. Having seen pictures of giant, nasty muskies with 12” articulated streamers hanging out of their gaping jaws got me thinking. I have a few local rivers nearby that hold musky, so I hopped on YouTube and searched for an easy to tie musky pattern. After about an hour and a half (I’m a painfully slow tier) I looked down and saw the finished product in the jaws of my Renzetti. An 8” long, grotesque amalgamation of bucktail, marabou, UV polar chenille, and enough flashabou to mimic an entire school of baitfish. All things considered, it didn’t look half bad.
The weekend came around, and after an early morning of missing easy shots at cruising wood duck, I decided it was time to cast for the elusive silvery green freshwater unicorn. I arrived to a fairly well known local spot where I had heard of some recent success. I rigged up my 8 weight with some intermediate sink tip line, a steel leader, and my freshly tied musky streamer – my only musky streamer. While walking down to the river, I noticed another fly angler stripping a big fly. It looked like he knew what he was doing, and I figured I must be in the right spot. I dipped the fly in and swam it back and forth a few times to see how it would look in the water. To my surprise, it looked great! Swimming on the strip and flaring when stopped, I thought to myself “hey, I might actually have a chance here!” I stripped some line out and made a cast into the tannic brown river. On my second cast, I snagged something solid on the bottom. I tugged one way, then the next, to no avail. I walked upstream past the snag, still nothing. After 5 minutes of wrestling with it, I had to break off. I was not happy. All that work tying the massive streamer, just to lose it on the SECOND cast! I walked back to my car, dejected, thinking I would just go to a trout stream and try to salvage my afternoon with a few fish. As I was packing up, the other fly fisherman I had seen earlier was walking back to his car, which was parked next to mine. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly started talking fishing. He had a couple follows, and landed one nice pike. While chatting, I thought I had seen him somewhere before – then it hit me. He was Ryan Frick, a local fly tier and great fisherman who developed the “Frick’s Fix”, a great little streamer that catches just about anything that swims – especially trout. I told him I knew who he was, and he was excited that I fished his pattern and had tons of luck with it. After learning that I broke off my only musky fly, he immediately went to his fly box in his trunk. He gave me three excellent looking musky streamers and two handfuls of his “Frick’s Fix” streamers. He also gave me a wealth of advice on musky and how to hook them. To say I was grateful is an understatement. As way of thanks, I gave him a few of my favorite big trout streamers. We agreed to meet up and fish sometime, and he was on his way. With renewed energy and excitement I headed back down to the river. My third cast hit the water, strip…strip…BOOM! Something big crushed my fly. I strip-set the hell out of it and the fight was on. The fish booked straight up-river and I did all I could to keep up. About 30 seconds into the fight and it was all over. The fish was gone. My heart was racing and I knew that I had just lost a musky, and a sizable one at that. Another two hours of casting yielded no fish.
The fly fishing community has always been one that is willing to help out their own. I witnessed this first-hand the other day, and am still blown away by the kindness of a complete stranger who shared my passion. My advice to everyone would be to help out your fellow anglers. If they need flies and you have extras, give them some flies. If they are getting skunked and you know what the fish are eating, let them know! I’m now bound and determined to land a musky on the fly, and I think the advice and flies Ryan gave me will get me my first musky.