Muskie is a nickname for muskellunge, a freshwater game fish native to the northern United States and Canada, and largest member of the pike family. It is often called the "fish of 10,000 casts" because of the challenge it presents even the most experienced anglers. To catch one on a fly might require an angler to venture considerably beyond the 10,000 cast threshold.
The muskie's body is elongated and cylindrical, sometimes growing to a length of 5 feet. Dark vertical stripes cover its lighter flanks, which can be green, brown or grayish in color. Sometimes flank markings are absent, in which case the fish is often referred to as a "clear" muskie.
The Great Lakes region (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan), as well as Canada are popular places to pursue muskie on the fly, but muskellunge are widely distributed in reservoirs, large lakes and rivers around the United States. Local muskellunge guide services can be helpful in directing anglers to specific bodies of water where muskies will strike a fly.
Going after muskie on the fly requires stout equipment such as 9-, 10- and 11-weight rods, the sort of gear normally associated with saltwater fly fishing. Strong fishing line in the range of 20-pound test is necessary to deliver the fly properly, with a length of wire added as a bite guard to keep the fish from cutting the line with its sharp teeth.
The fly is retrieved in a stripping motion with one hand on the rod (and a finger on the fly line), and the other hand pulling the fly line though in short lengths. Experienced muskie anglers know never to give up on a cast as fish will routinely follow the fly and strike right next to the boat or shore.
Robert Tomes, author of "Muskie on the Fly," explains that flies 8 to 15 inches long are typically used in muskie fly fishing. He suggests these flies should match the color of the forage fish present in the body of water you are fishing.
Article Written By Paul Weidknecht
Paul Weidknecht’s non-fiction has appeared in "Outdoor Life," "Yale Anglers' Journal," "Fur-Fish-Game," "Snowy Egret," and elsewhere. His fiction has appeared in "Clapboard House," "Potomac Review" online, "Stone's Throw" magazine, "The Oklahoma Review," and "Freight Train" magazine. He lives in northwest New Jersey. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Muhlenberg College.