Sunday, June 3, 2018

2 Days at Musky Immersion Camp: The WI-MN Diaries continued

Fighting the fly.
Musky Camp Facts:  They can put you on to musky, but only you can stop your trout setting; names of rivers are changed or forgotten to ensure there will be musky to attack flies of future musky campees; there may or may not be s'mores, but do not expect to ever get hungry at camp (unless it is to fish for musky); this camp ain't for bed/boat-wetting kiddies; it's not just the camp leaders that are allowed to enjoy Adult Beverages while telling scary tales of toothy critters around a campfire. Sometimes the Camp Boss acts a little crusty, but he's been doing this so long he's become half-musky! Listen up when he gives pointers, and your odds of mugging for pictures with one of the big toothy girls will increase.

Brad Bohen is the head of Musky Country Outfitters (MCO), based out of Winter, WI. While Brad (BB) has been guiding clients to musky and mentoring younger guides for years, he is also the creator of the Buford, a fly largely made of bucktail that is the most well-known and likely still the most prolifically fished fly for musky.

Brad was also the Camp Boss, the dreams-to-reality guy who is making a musky immersion camp come to life. Classified as human hamsters by BB, we are also known as: Russ the comedian (or Russell the Love Muscle, First-Cast Russ); the ever-smiling and adventuresome Mike and Kelly, a white-water canoeing couple; the water acrobat Brian Bergeson, another fly-tier extraordinaire who lies awake at night thinking about fish; Cory, who taught his son Nick to fish and now that son, a guide, is teaching Cory to fly fish; TFO rep Patrick, our Chronic Fatigue Superhero who also managed to musky fish before breakfast, after supper, then during the day when everyone else fished; and me (Last-Cast Lisa, Twitch), skillful strip-setter of logs and rocks whose vocabulary is reduced to "Son-of-a-bitch!" when boffing a musky strike.

The musky immersion 3-day test camp was based at MCO headquarters on the outskirts of Winter on the Flambeau River. During the online invite, I'd communicated to BB that I may only be able to do 2-2.5 days as my lesser-known nickname is Queen of Tendinitis and five days of pike fishing was preceding musky camp. BB still extended the welcome. Ultimately, I headed out after 2 days of musky fishing, not getting to partake in some of the unique offerings of this immersion camp. Other than fishing for musky in a drift boat, a skiff, and on foot, those who wanted to could have the opportunity to row a drift boat, to have casting lessons, and polish their fly-tying skills, possibly even using some of BB's Primo Tail line of material.  

Lunch on the river.
What my time in camp did offer was lodging, all breakfasts and lunches, and most suppers also provided by MCO. I musky hunted by skiff and on foot (AKA musky golf). I could use the guide's or my rods or trial a TFO-supplied rod. I used both my flies and guide flies. Most importantly, Brad, with his guide crew, provided a strong guiding experience. While I have fished for Northwoods Wisco musky many times, the MCO crew still managed to put me on unfamiliar waters, in a beautiful environment, in consistently strong musky habitat.

With some misgivings, I had elected to leave camp without the smell of musky on my hands. However, while wade fishing "Falling Down River" on my final day, I'd had a strong follow on a Brian Bergeson fly and had also missed a musky strike on my own fly not 6 feet from me. Son of a bitch!! The sweet and young Austin was my primary guide on that most memorable day. While not having Brad's years of guiding experience, Austin still had a strong familiarity with the river and its finned inhabitants, and he displayed a natural ability to communicate succinctly where and how he wanted me to fish particular stretches of water. He was attentive and polite, but innately knew when to let me do my own thing for a while. Overall, I was impressed with Brad's young crew, also including Jeff and Nick. While I smiled at the 20-something young mens' usual fly-fishing-dude banter, these guys were simply polite and nice --the kind of enthusiastic people it makes you feel good to hire. We were also photographed and interviewed by Brad's bro, Keaton, who was doing some PR work for Brad during the camp.

Austin, left, Russ, and Brian.
By fishing that day with my fellow human hamsters, Brian and Russ, the day was already guaranteed to be fun. They were more about getting me into fish than wanting musky for themselves, and their selflessness and generosity made the day much more memorable.  Brian often fished behind us or would poke around in side channels, finding musky on the path less traveled. While Russ severely limited his fishing (he really wanted to see others get into fish), his pheromones were so fishy, he caught 2 more musky that day within 45 minutes of each other, and the first one came to his first cast on the inside bend of a large hole.

The first day, Russ and I had gone fishing with BB on the "SW Fork of the NE WhatsItsName River". The water was fishy, really fishy. But there were a few special stretches where you'd turn and look and turn look and turn and look again, and simply not see water that a musky would shun. The musky snubbed me here, but they loved Russ. His stripping skills enticed three musky to the fly and the gal he got in the boat was in her 40's and angry. It was a musky that thrilled us all. Russ' happy musky dance was, if not a thrill, at least entertaining.

I know that the MCO crew had also gotten Kelly into a nice musky, and there was a picture on day 3 of her husband Mike mugging with a musky. I also believe that Pat had gotten into musky and smb, and Cory had a strike from a bigger musky. While I don't know the official Esox masquinongy tally, they visited every angler attending the MCO camp. Fly anglers left camp tired but happy, well-fed, having made new friends, and with great stories to tell. I bet when we were kids none of us ever knew that an adult camp could be so much more fun

Let the musky fest begin!

Russ keeping his cool.

Wisconsin river musky getting pissed.

Brad nets the musky for Russ.

Russ's laser focus gives way to a brief happy dance!

Russ and a Wisconsin Northwoods musky.

Final pictures prior to a safe release.

A much-deserved manshake between friends.

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