Musky on the fly has to do with mindset as much as anything. Dedication, skill, and knowledge all meet at the musky mindset. How we cover the water, what flies we use, how we tie our flies, and what we consider big all change with a musky mindset. In this podcast, Chris Willen helps us fine-tune this mindset and shares his approach to muskies. Chris’s own approach and mindset are grounded in flexibility and attention to detail, and he’ll help you get started or improve your musky game no matter who you are. So, read the details below and sit back and get ready to change your musky mindset with Chris Willen.
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KEY TAKEAWAYS: MUSKY ON THE FLY AND A MUSKY MINDSET
BASICS OF A MUSKY MINDSET AND APPROACH
- Knowing each individual fishery is hugely important. When you fish each body of water, hit key spots as outlined below, and let any musky you move or see guide you in how you focus your attention.
- Flexibility is critical to be consistently successful with musky.
- Patterning fish becomes difficult because of the inherently lower numbers of fish. Because of this, we can have a game plan, but we should always try extreme differences on any given day.
- At the same time, if we are seeing muskies in lakes or in rivers with electronics or otherwise in one particular piece of structure and/or cover like weedbeds or solid cover (rocks, wood, etc.), then start looking for this particular piece of cover.
- Let the conditions drive your initial game plan: if the water is high, check the banks; if the water is low, concentrate on the deeper stretches of the river, etc.
- Dams are very good spots to check for fish, and you can start here. Then, you can use the fish’s reactions and location to help you out further down the river.
- Muskies, particularly big ones, will be territorial, so you can often find the same fish holding his spot in the river many times throughout the year.
- Try to eliminate poor water (too shallow or with too high a gradient). However, look for that one spot within the poor water that might be just big enough to hold a musky.
- Once you have identified some of the best spots within a stretch of river, you may concentrate your efforts on these spots. The float should be an A-to-Z float, not an A-to-B float.
- Work the spot with multiple different casts and flies. Don’t be afraid to fish through the spot multiple times with multiple different presentations.
- Chris likes to target prime pieces of water during a “bite window.” This normally occurs during particular phases of the moon (majors, minors, etc.).
- Try to approach musky fishing from the mindset of “I learned something about this piece of water,” not “I didn’t catch a musky.”
- Dedication and fishing hard are keys to putting muskies in the boat consistently.
- Also, focusing, particularly when you are at key points, is huge, since you don’t want to blow the one shot you have.
SEASONAL MOVEMENTS FOR MUSKY ON THE FLY
- Late winter/early spring, target staging areas where you will find muskies staging before the spawn (creek mouths, etc.).
- After the spawn, you can target fish in smaller creeks and near these areas.
- Summer, oxygen-producing areas hold more fish (below rapids/riffles).
- Fall, the fish are feeding heavily to build reserves for the winter, including to produce their eggs for the spring. Focus on prime eating zones: eddies, behind logs, behind rocks, in the deeper pools, and in the couch water.
- Fishing deeper can be very effective in the fall. The angler in the back of the boat often has a better chance of getting the musky at this time of year.
MUSKY ON THE FLY AND FLY SELECTION
- Flies need to have “motion without movement.”
- For fly selection, start off with the basic forage fish within the river as a basis for proportion and size.
- Size and how much water the fly is pushing are hugely important for musky.
- Chris has a very flexible approach to fly selection and presentation. Don’t get stuck in one mindset on a given day. Since we’re fishing prime pieces of water, we should use multiple different flies and presentations.
SEVEN IMPORTANT FLIES
- B1G Foosa
- Optimus Swine
- Big bucktail style pattern (Game changer, T-Bone musky fly etc.)
- Double Nickel
- Brad Bowen’s Buford Musky Fly
- Brad Bowen’s Optic Minnow Style Fly with epoxy
- Brad Bowen’s River Pig (weighted)
FIGURE EIGHT AND READING FISH
- Adjust your figure eight approach to the musky’s moods.
- If the fish comes in fast and aggressive, move the fly faster to keep that fish excited.
- If the fish comes in slow and methodical, try to tease the fish with the fly, etc.
- Get the fly deep by putting the rod tip into the water. Chris will actually put his rod and hand into the water at times.
- Make sure to do big turns on your figure eight since musky can’t turn their body sufficiently on narrow turns.
- Also, play with the plane of the figure eight. This means coming up high and then shooting the fly down, or vice versa, during the figure eight motion.
- Depth and speed are huge triggers on the figure eight. Normally, you need to change these on all of your turns.
- If you don’t see a fish, do at least two turns, but do three if you can.
LINKS AND RESOURCES FOR THE PODCAST
Chris on Facebook
Caney Fork River System in Tennessee
Mike Schultz at Schultz Outfitters
Todd Gregory Hardly Strictly Musky Tournament
Solunar Theory (Moon Phases)
Musky on the fly is often about extremes: huge flies, huge hooks, huge teeth, huge fish, huge stretches of fishless hours, and so on. Each musky on the fly or otherwise is a trophy in itself. In this way, we need to set ourselves up to catch that one fish. Remember that your next cast could be to a fish that might make you wet yourself a little, and this will help keep you in a musky mindset. If you have any questions about musky or Chris Willen, feel free to leave comments below or contact Chris directly.