I don’t remember if it was that day or in a thank-you email, but I’d promised Brad Bohen of Hayward’s Musky Country Outfitters, that I would tie him a musky fly. I doubt he remembers that but I keep my promises. The first flies I’d learned to tie were from Brad’s Hang Time recipe. Other patterns I’d tied were based on others’ recipes. Most of my musky to date have been landed with a cool color combination of Brad’s Hang Time, but why send a guy a fly of a pattern he’d created?
So, with Oct 2009 simply a pleasant memory, in Sept 2012 I tied my first original musky fly. I also hired Brad again. The recent musky bite had been slow, but he put me on great water. I had a couple of strikes & a couple of follows! He instructed & managed the boat exceedingly well. In short, he did a great job while I casted fairly well, but didn’t ‘fish’ as well. There is a difference. I learned a lot to improve my skill and that, honestly, was my main goal. And, while I did take my first prototype of that musky fly along, I didn’t fish it. At that time it was nameless & I was skeptical of its potential.
So what did the man teach me? Well, I learned when someone tells you to do something during the figure 8 on a musky follow --that everyone else tells you not to do for trout and bass fishing-- certain phrases, such as ‘strip in to the leader!’, become ‘strip in to the kajhyr!’ during the disconnect. So, the musky simply swims away. The guide, on the other hand, is reaching for your rod, firmly telling you he’s got something to show you. It was not his palm and I did not end up wet. So, I am now a pro at the figure 8. And if the musky should swim away, I agreed not to cast fly after the musky but to keep stirring the fly. Brad also counseled me about how a good partnership between rod and line make less work for the angler. My rod was underlined & I’d developed some bad habits which I am correcting. I learned how a buoyant fly and a sinking line can work well to increase the action of the fly. I learned that Brad has nice legs. I learned more about musky haunts and when to set the hook (the musky were soft-striking that day).
I also learned it’s much more uncomfortable to car-camp the night after a guide has learned you cast better with the left arm & he is also excellent at positioning the boat. I learned the guide does not care if you cast 3 times in 8.5 hours with your weaker arm on less productive water, but he will order you to use your stronger left arm on that 4th cast because you have just entered productive water. A good guide will do that. That night when you finally drop to sleep, nestled on a pillow & laid out ‘just so’ over your front and rear suv seats, some unhelpfully helpful person knocks on your window to see if you are alright, and your sore left arm makes a punch toward the glass… it reinforces the importance of the guide's 2 false-cast per cast rule when you're fishing in the Musky Capital of the World.
I’ve also fished with Brad & others a few times over the years, not as a client, but as a friend. One does not grill their friends about their musky ways. It is not polite. And, for quite a while, I’ve had a ‘feeling’ that I would boat a large musky when Brad was also in the boat. I’m happy to say that I have a rare opportunity to hit the water again (in November) as Brad’s client. A grilling may be in order! Or maybe it is just time to put into action what I’ve learned in September & days past; fly fishing for musky in water so unlike my home water. Maybe it is time to grow from being the student on the fly to also being the fisher on the fly. I do hope my ‘feeling’ becomes a reality & we boat a big, toothy musky. But whether Brad is there physically or not on the day I hook into that large Esox, I suspect his presence will still be felt.
Oh, and one more thing: For a couple of years, I’d decided my first original musky fly would be called, ‘Forage’. However, I’m going with BB’s Forage. I’m year's late sending him the promised fly, I landed my first Esox with him, and he’s shared his musky addiction very well with me. Heck, I think the guy deserves a fly named in his honor. On November 2nd, maybe I’ll learn if my fly lives up to his musky-on-the-fly record-holding reputation!