Thing to remember about musky and pike is they're big predators that will not hesitate to eat big prey. I've witnessed in person on a number of occasions ducklings getting picked off by pike. I've also had musky come up and whack my guests' bass while on the line!
A 6-12" fly is nothing for a pike to eat. The idea of the pattern I tie is to represent a big, easy meal but something you can still cast. I don't dare go after pike unless I have a 9wt in hand and wire bite tippet. A new product I tried out last year is called Knot-2-Kinky. It's fantastic stuff! It stretches but is ultra thin, never kinks, and just goes on forever it seems. It's a nickel-titanium alloy. I tie the wire to a 77250-BL Mustad swivel and then to a section of 15lb mono which is then loop-to-loop to my fly line. At the wire-to-fly connection you can either tie the leader to a snap or direct to the fly. The idea with tying to a snap is you can change flies without cutting and re-tying your wire, which shortens your wire leader everytime you switch.
Great posts folks! The Washington DFW stocks tiger muskies into seven lakes in the state: Mayfield Lake (Lewis Co.), Merwin Reservoir (Cowlitz Co.), Lake Tapps (Pierce Co.), Evergreen Reservoir (Grant Co.), Silver Lake and Newman Lake (Spokane Co.) and Curlew Lake (Ferry Co.).
Merwin should be the closest but I've no reports or knowledge of it's fishery. Newman Lake in Spokane has some bruisers in it!
Didgeridoo - love those flys you posted. Always looking for ways to bulk up a fly without adding weight, especially after they get wet and I agree with your missile assessment!
I have caught a lot of Tiger Muskies in the last couple of years on flies and a bunch of Northerns a long time ago on flies. Over the years I have come up with a style that works very well for me.
First I don't put a lot of time thinking where a Muskie might be holding or what they might be doing. Muskies are ambush fish and therefore hang out where they can be sneaky. My main concern while I am casting is to make myself the bait fish.
Bait fish don't dart all over the place in a constant state of panic or they would never get to eat. Many magazine articles say fly fishermen have to constantly strip the fly to get Muskies to attack. I don't follow that at all.
I tie a pretty simple fly about 9" long using a lot of Maribou, reverse tied buck tail and synthetics most of the time on tubes. This fly will hang in the water for quite a long time.
The way I work the fly is to use, what I was taught a million years ago, a Bluegill craw. I take in very small amounts of line in a twitching motion wrapping line back and forth with my left fingers. ( I'm sure there is a name for the procedure). I watch my fly constantly. I'm now a minnow feeding or just enjoying life in the sun. This carefree swimming seems to attract Muskies and it will do so from deep water as well as shallow. Easy pickings I guess. Anyway sooner or later I will get interest and then I think what a minnow must feel and pick up the pace, a little at first and then speed up if I still have the Muskies attention. The strike is inevitable.
A lot of times I can't always see my fly due to the time of day or dirty water. In those cases I will operate my fly the very same way with the very slow twitch. Half way back to the boat I will assume that I have a customer and start the frantic retrieve.
As far as hook sets go I always use a salt water style set which takes a lot to get use to but will increase landing percentages greatly. Just keep your rod pointed to the fly and pull the line hard upon a strike. Lifting your rod as in a trout set will not get the hook in a tough Muskie jaw.
Sounds great. Love to hear more. Making your fly look alive is much of the battle. You only have to have a big fish spook once from you stripping your fly directly to him instead of away as a natural baitfish would do, to learn this lesson. Love the nuance of meandering that fly along as a baitfish and then fleeing as the big boy approaches.
Here's a bit of Musky Lore possibly based in research: (circa 1984/85) "MINNESOTA MUSKIES TOUGH TO CATCH • According to a recent study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the muskellunge is the hardest fish to catch in the state. It takes about 10000 casts to land one muskie, or one hundred angler hours." Sound familiar? They went on to say this was with legal Muskies which were in the 30 or 36 inch range depending on where you fished in the state. Soon after writers were telling us about the fish of 10,000 casts. (F&S Magazine.)
Speaking of that, keep in mind they were speaking of just the true Muskies which have three sub divisions last I checked. Ohio, Northern aka Tiger at one time*, and the Great Lakes Musky. Folks do get the Tiger, aka Barred, aka Northern Musky mixed up with the Musky, Pike Hybrid also called the Tiger Musky. There are several studies out there that show the Tiger (hybrid) is not nearly so daunting.
Chuck, Muskie fishing can be tough if for no other reason that there are fewer fish sincethey are the top preditor. Blowing my own horn, I caught last year 31 Muskies on flies and that was during 22 trips. Fish of a thousand cast? Not always.
Good points EDW! And on flys yet. Recent survey showed that catching adult Tigers, using all methods, the catch rate was about 1 adult per every 36 fishing hours. Extrapolating from the above at 10,000 per 100 hrs, that would mean about 3,000 casts per fish. Im betting that a top notch Tiger fly angler would be able to match that if not better it as you've likely done. They, the researchers, say that 10 percent of the anglers catch 90% of the fish. I am sure that these days, with the info sharing capabilities of the net, that folks are catching on a lot quicker on how to catch Muskys or Tigers but as you said they are top dawg and due to numbers if nothing else they will always remain a top level challenge.
Here's a thought for all. Since so much is made of the 10,000 casts, and even though it may be less for an accomplished angler, how about making it a bit easier? When asked about search/teasing patterns used for covering a lot of water quickly a good many of top Tiger/Musky/Pike anglers said, "big Inline Spinners!" (such as a Mepps Musky Killer in the largest size) Throwing one of these with a big spinning or a casting outfit is faster and easier and covers a lot more distance, than slinging that ten weight all afternoon. Once you've located a big one via a follow, a swirl, a strike, or even a catch you've gained valuable knowledge and now know where he and perhaps they live in that lake or stream.
Down on Baja you'll see a very similar scenario as a spin caster throws a big hookless lure out to draw in the fish and when the Roosterfish comes for it, and gets within casting distance the fly angler throws his fly to the fish, and the lure is snatched away quickly. (Baja) A similar thing is done for boat fly fishing for Marlin or Sails We used to service the reels of one of the top ten billfish fly anglers in the tourny world and he said much the same about these big billfish as they are teased up by a spread of lures, and then brought in even closer with a fellow casting a big teaser and then as that is snatched away and the boat is thrown out of gear, the fly caster casts his fly to the "lit up," billfish and hangs on!
I just read an article on Colorado where a fellow disagrees with the Inline Spinners as his take on Colorado Muskies and Pike is that they are conditioned to feeding on trout so big trout shaped lures work best for finding them. Which ever method you use, one thing is for sure, a spinning or casting outfit is a handy thing to carry along when after Esox!
Quite a nice website with dozens of Pike and Musky Flies with how to, easy to follow directions on tying them. What's your favorite fly, what are you primarily targeting, how do you tie and fish it? Is anyone using a fly that incorporates a spinner or blade, etc?
I'm definitely going to tie a few of those in various sizes from about 6 inches up.
Another Tip! In early season I prefer smaller flies due to the many smaller minnows, or young of the year that are found in the spring, etc, moving to the bigger flies as two things occur. One is that with warming waters the Tiger and other Esox predator's appetite increases dramatically and two the minnows are getting bigger quickly. Another good tip is a take off of the one above but instead of using a Spinning or casting rod to tease, and locate the fish, use your 7 or 8 weight and smaller flies instead of your nine and ten weight rods and those big ones. You will not wear your arm out as quickly and plus with those smaller flies you might even get a bass or two to hit as well. keeping things lively.
Lastly, years back fishing Newman Lake near Spokane, I kept getting nice solid hits on my nine inch Dark Purple worm while fishing for bass. Upon setting the hook, the line would go slack and I'd reel in nothing but the end of my line where the lure had been cut off. Another fellow fishing there then told me of the Tigers in that lake and since them I've wanted to try my big bass fly that I came up a few years while fishing the Stick Marsh and other huge bass haunts in Florida.
The fly is a big one but very light weight and easy to cast with anything from a seven weight on up. It's simple and easy to tie as you use a 3/0-5/0 weed guard hook with a shaved rabbit strip tail of the color you like. I prefer the deep purple or black and do leave the rabbit fur at the tail end for a paddle effect. I then Palmer a shalappen feather on the shank of that hook with my favorite colors being black and purple also. The shaved strip is alive in the water and it looks very snakey coming through the water. I've had good luck with them tied in lengths from 6 to 12 inches.
Thanks to the few of you who participated in this discussion. I appreciate your ideas and enjoyed talking Esox with you.