Thursday, September 8, 2011

THE CALM BEFORE THE BITE ~ The WI-MN Diaries (Part 3, Sept 3-4, 2011)

   Prime Musky season is quickly approaching.  The sun is warm but the wind is crisp and delightful.  The green of the trees and weeds are just past their prime.  The grass no longer grows at a lawnmower-burn-out pace.  Fall is nearly here & two nights past, I dreamt of Musky follows. 
   In honor of Labor Day weekend, a good buddy and I worked-out our casting arms with 10wts on Wisconsin’s Flambeau and Chippewa Rivers.  On Saturday, we’d planned the Flambeau float with a mid-afternoon stoppage for meals and rest.  Then, back to Musky water before dusk, to allow our eyes & other senses to adjust to the waning light, while continuing to fly fish into the night.  However, too little discipline (or too much passion) birthed 12-hours of casting and rowing, accompanied by fatigue and empty bellies.  Soon it was 830pm, darkening, with a waning moon and only one small light to guide our casting, rowing, fly changing… potential fish landing.  Dang!  Our fun and earnest hunt for the apex predator kept us from realistically and smartly exploring these creatures’ night-time habits.  We headed back to camp after loading the pontoon on the trailer.  I truly hope for another post-afternoon opportunity.  24-hrs on the fly/night fishing for Musky is on my bucket list, for good or bad, sane or crazy reasons. 
   Did I mention my buddy landed a Musky?  It was small enough that he didn’t want a photo to commemorate his first WI Musky on the fly.  However, I noted he sat back in the pontoon with a satisfied look about himself and his primary focus then appeared to be setting me up on good Musky water.  Now that’s a mighty fine friend.  He also fished successfully with an 8wt landing Smallies.  I kept to the 10wt and ended up dry, as far as Muskies go.
   Sunday greeted us with rain and a late start.   Throughout the day, the skies would cloud over and it would rain.  Then, after an indeterminate amount of time wearing hood-covered hats, we’d look up from our fishing and note the skies were blue yet again.  Hoods on, hoods off.  We’d also broken out the waders; another sure sign fall was on the way.  All in all, however, it was a lovely day. 
   No Muskies landed on Sunday.  However, at the start of the float, in deep, fast water I had a ~40” Musky follow my fly.  Figure 8 but no take.  Yet, the line was shooting out beautifully, the fly was hitting the targets, & I had a follow.  I was stoked!  The only fish landed Sunday on the Chippewa was a Smallie on a Musky fly.  We tried a variety of flies, but the Musky, the Musky follow, and the little Smallie with a Musky appetite all came on the ‘Supercharger’.  This fly is a Jared Ehlers creation; a quick tie which presents with a large profile and excellent action in the water along with a nice ease of casting. .  The photo shown is a Supercharger but with an added orange marabou collar.
   The weather patterns varied throughout the weekend so how did that really affect the fishing?  After our final day of Musky hunting, we stopped in at Wannigan’s in the town of Winter for broasted chicken.  Greg, the owner whose business is next to a popular take-out spot on the Chip, told us that the fishing seemed to have been slow this year, attributing it to the hot summer temps.  So I’ve been wondering, what has Midwestern Musky fishing really been like this year; a typical year, slower than usual, or ???  And, will this year's spring and summer weather have any effect on the upcoming Fall Bite?
   I’ve decided to take these questions to the folks who have been fishing for Musky as much as I wish I could.  I’ve e-mailed Midwestern Musky guides, and also fly shop owners who cater to those who crave the pursuit of toothy critters.  Of course, the hope is for a good response.  (UPDATE:  The Fall Preview post, including the anglers' responses, is posted on my general posting (or Home) page. It will remain there until the end of November.  After that time, I will move it to the 'Featured Article' page. -Thanks, Twitch. 9/22/11)

   As for my predictions:  I believe the Musky Bite was slow this season & that their prey did not flourish due to the same suboptimal weather conditions.  If so, the Musky were able to feed adequately, but their typical body mass for this time of year is on the low side of normal.  With that in mind, Esox will have enough stored energy to aggressively pursue their forage base and will do so.  They will instinctively understanding the need to play catch-up in order to have the stored energy reserves available to survive the winter and be ready to spawn in spring.  To get to the point, I predict the Musky will behave like dogs left alone in meat markets and the fly angler will simply need to locate those markets.

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