The plan was to catch fish. Isn’t that always the plan? Jordan hit me up from Alaska. He was heading home from a season of guiding and was going to be kicking it around northern Wisconsin being a bum and getting fishy. I was just a little bit envious of his position in life. He had a cabin near a nice river, he had his drift boat with him, he knew there were fish in the rivers, all I had to do was get there.
I told friends about the trip. Flies came in from Matt, James, and Tom. I prepped gear, tied flies, stared at google maps of the local rivers, day dreamed about my first musky on a fly, and finally the day was here. The Chevy was packed and I shot off down the predawn highway with visions of musky in my head. I rolled into some little town in northern Wisconsin that didn’t have cell service 9 hours later. The thought that no one could bug me was nice. The thought that I couldn’t call anyone in an emergency was a weird one. You kind of take that for granted these days.
Within an hour of me arriving we were on the water. Within 100 yards of the launch I had a hot follow from a nice fish. Another follow and a pike later I was thinking I’d fallen into toothy critter nirvana. To see two musky and land a pike in an hour was ridiculous. We fished hard that night til dark and I can’t remember if we saw more fish but I was giddy. We ended the day at some bar that forgot about us for two hours. I guess we just blend in so well. Sunday morning saw us breaking ice off the oars before a ten hour float. We saw a few fish and Jordan landed his best musky to date. We ended the night at a nicer bar with Spotted Cow on tap (it’s the shit) before heading back to camp to repair the flies that the fish seemed keyed in on and tie a few more like them.
On Monday I decided it’d be my last full day in that beautiful country. My wife hadn’t been feeling great and I felt guilty being on a fishing trip. Hurting from the past two days of fishing, I worked my ass off for a musky on Monday. I’d had a dream the night before we boated 6 fish. I’m not a superstitious man, I’m a big fan of logic, but this seemed like a sign from the fish gods. Not long into the trip I had a musky come in hot on my fly as I was lifting it to cast. Head out of the water, I put the fly back down and did a figure eight hoping it would come back. No bueno.
I boated my first musky on a fly rod not long after. That felt amazing. The fish smashed a fly I’d tied. That made it even sweeter. I felt like a weight was lifted and I could relax. It wasn’t long before I boated two micros right after one another. Three fish in the boat. Jordan landed a musky right after. Four fish in the boat. A few hours later another micro took my fly and I didn’t set. I was tired and feeling lazy. The fish shook off. That fish would have made five in the boat. Six was starting to look like an impossibility at this point. A few hours later I boated another micro. Five in the boat.
We never hit the magic sixth fish. It was my fault; I was lazy. Blame it on big-fish-itis. I am. I was so keyed in on wanting to land a musky in the high 30s or more that I forgot a key element in the musky equation. A musky is a musky. We worked our asses off for every fish we boated. Make no mistake, musky fishing is work. It’s not dainty casting. You’re hucking flies that hold water, are air resistant, and the sink tip line you need to get down adds to the work of getting the fly in the air. Your hands will hurt. They might swell up. My stripping hand pointer finger is still swollen. My casting hand thumb is wrecked. But in all honestly, the very second you hook into and land a musky all of that is forgotten. There is no better drug than fishing and musky fishing just might be the crack of the freshwater fishing world.
I wanted to extend a huge thanks to my homie Jordan. This was honestly one of the most enjoyable trips I’ve ever been on. Thank you for helping me breaking that musky curse.
*some of the shots with me in them are Jordan’s. Credit where credit is due.