Bill Turner with a fly-caught musky

The Author With A Fly-Caught Musky
The Author with Fly-caught Musky

Guest Blogger: Bill Turner

Muskies, considered the fish of 10,000 casts by gear anglers, are a lot like the “not gonna happen” girl (or guy) in high school.  Add the challenge of catching one on a fly to the mix and you have an obsessive quest that falls squarely between masochism and insanity.  Disclaimers out of the way, here are 10 observations that will improve your odds of catching your first musky on a fly.

1)  Get deeper in the water column.  Deeper as in 24-30′  350-450 grain sink tips.

2)  If you get a follow (as happens often), DO NOT stop or slow down your retrieve.  If anything, speed it up!

3) Always do a figure 8 at the end of your retrieve.  Better yet, do a plunge 8 by going deep on one side and shallow on the other.  Changes in retrieve direction and depth trigger musky strikes!

4) In moving water, look for areas with no or minimal current (inside bends, downstream points on islands, eddies, etc.).

5) Pay special attention to springs and feeder creek confluences offering a different water temperature than the river you’re fishing.

6) Vary the cadence of your retrieve when stripping musky streamers.

7) Resist the testosterone-drenched temptation to use an 11/12 fly reel.  A 7/8 reel on a 9- or 10-weight rod will allow you to sling those giant streamers all day.  Muskies brawl right in their kitchens where you hook them; they don’t run far (unless you hook a 60-incher) and you don’t need backing and a big drag to handle them.  If you’re good enough to hook a 60-incher, you don’t need my advice anyway.

8) If you get a follow but can’t close the deal with a strike, throw back to the same spot with a smaller, darker fly that goes deeper.

9) Fish smaller profile flies in the Spring and large profiles in the Fall.

10) Always strip-strike a musky; sweep the rod only if the fish has grabbed your fly and swam straight toward you.

My learning curve was shortened considerably by fishing with the oracle, musky fly guide Bill Sherer in Boulder Junction, WI, to whom credit for several of these observations goes.   Good luck with your quest for a fly-caught musky!


  1. Fly fishing for Esox, what fun. My only encounter with Musky (and it was intentional) resulted from a four mile slog on a crudely marked (unofficial) trail into Shoepack Lake in Voygeur National Park. Shoepack is an isolated lake on the Kabetogama Peninsula that holds only Yellow Perch and Musky (the Shoepack strain). You don’t hike into Shoepack for the perch. Using an 8 wgt with sinking line and red/white deceivers we boated two 30” muskies in four hours of fishing from a canoe. My first and only Muskies. Bill’s advice sounds right on (except for that part about 10,000 casts). I wish I had more opportunities to try it out.

  2. Tip Number 8 is my favorite. However, if you notice it to be a bigger muskie trailing I tend to go bigger on fly. My thinking being that the fish will view the now bigger fish (fly) coming through its territory as an even easier meal. Thanks for the muskie tips. 🙂 Cheers

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