Late season Musky fly fishing is one of the most challenging situations an angler can pursue with fly equipment. As fishing conditions deteriorate, the potential for hooking a trophy class Musky steadily improves. The heaviest Muskies, adult females, are bulking up for the Spring spawn and feed actively as the water temps drop. Freezing temperatures, minimal sunlight, and frozen snowy boat launches makes for dangerous conditions to launch, unpleasant conditions for gear anglers to troll their plugs, and miserable conditions for fly fishing.
Ice forms on the fish handling pad as Joe makes his way to his fishing destination.
Standing alone on the platform of my 12’ aluminum boat, there is a twisted satisfaction watching a gear angler bundled up in his ski mask and winter gloves making a trolling pass near me. My rod tip is pointed at the water, and my guides are coated in a solid layer of ice, as a tungsten loaded fly line drags my fly deep into the muddy current. After a long pause between strips, I slowly pull fifteen inches of fly line coated in wet ice crystals across my index and middle fingers, and watch the layer of slushy ice pile up between my fingers and cork. I haven’t seen any sign of life today in this freezing brown water. As my anchor holds my boat in place, a thin sheet of translucent ice bumps into my boat and cracks apart.
Every slow pull of line over my fingers for the five hours that I have been on the water today has resulted in ice forming against my fingers, and with the December sunlight cresting the hillside, it’s getting colder. Although it would be nice to wear gloves, I want to be able to feel what my fly is doing. My fly moves slowly along the bottom, occasionally hooking a leaf or twig in the depths, causing a slight change in resistance. The gear angler is spreading rock salt to get traction on the frozen launch surface, and I’m alone on the water when the final rays of sun slip away.
I slowly pull another length of line across my fingers, and as I finish the strip, I feel a touch of increased resistance, like my fly hooked onto another leaf. My left hand reaches to pull the fly again, and the light and consistent thump of a musky fly moving through the water is absent. As the slack line pulls through my fingers, a bolt of electric adrenaline surges from head to toe through my body. The tick I felt at the end of the previous strip was the feeling of a Musky sliding forward eating my fly. My line hand extends back to recover slack as I rotate my torso. Ice shatters from the guides as my rod bends down to the cork under the weight of an adult Musky.
A late-season trophy Musky caught on the T&T Exocett Predator fly rod. Interactions with a fish of this size are few and far between. Joe takes every precaution while handling her to ensure the survival of this big female so she can continue to thrive in her home waters.
To learn more about the Exocett Predator and how these rods were designed specifically for chasing musky, pike and other predators click the link here: Exocett Predator