Still, I wonder what Al would think about fishermen trying to catch those elusive fish with a fly rod. What did those poor souls do to deserve such a cruel destiny?
Luke Swanson not only accepts that challenge, but has made it a career. He is finishing his fourth year as a full-time multi-species guide. Fishing Mille Lacs, Gull and a handful of smaller lakes during the winter and then hit the Mississippi River when the sea bass season opens in May. However, once October arrives, its focus changes to musk.
Swanson said that the entire month of October is productive for the musks of the river, but fishing generally improves as the water temperature continues to drop.
"The first half of October can be great," Swanson said, "but the second half is even better. I keep fishing until mid-November, even later if the river remains free of ice. We may only have two or three shots. a day at the end of the season, but they are generally the biggest and heaviest fish we fish all year long. "
Follow the fools
From spring to early fall, musks spread across much of the river. As water temperatures begin to fall, usually in early October, the fish begin to move into the deep holes where they will spend the winter.
"The fish do not move immediately to deep water when they reach these areas," Swanson said. “Usually, they are placed nearby in places that offer coverage and loose water. Large whirlpools or log jams that block the current and attract baitfish are privileged places. Sometimes they will even stay in a stable race if the current is not too fast. "
As the water temperature continues to drop, the fish begin to fall into the wintering holes, Swanson said. Musks that are actively feeding are usually found at the head of the hole, where the bottom begins to fall, or at the bottom of the pool where the water begins to become shallow again. Inactive fish are often kept in the middle of the hole until they are ready to feed again.
"High water generally means a faster current, forcing fish to stay behind current breaks and in whirlpools," Swanson added. “These conditions make precision casting more important, but they also concentrate fish in easily recognizable areas. Regardless of the current speed, the muskies will continue to hold near the wintering areas. ”
Swanson said the daily movement of the fish has as much to do with the location of the red horse sprouts as the current speed or water temperature.
"If you find the fools, the muskies will be there," Swanson said. “They may not be feeding, but they will be close. It's almost as if they were taking care of the offspring, watching the school until they are ready to eat. "
Slow fish, fast fight
Once it identifies an area to fish, Swanson uses an arc drag engine to slow its drift downstream. He has discovered that the ideal speed is about half as fast as the bubbles that move on the surface. If you see a particularly attractive place, keep the boat still to give your customers time to completely dissect the area.
"Clients usually launch towards the riverbank, while I place the boat at a medium launch distance," Swanson said. “However, sometimes we focus on the main channel of the river when we aim at the fall of a canal or a large group. Good control of the ship is essential for a good presentation. "
Swanson added that the best fall recuperators tend to be much slower than during the summer.
"After doing a cast, we allow the flight and sinking line to fall into the water column," Swanson said. “Throw the fly back with long, slow pulls and frequent pauses. That's when the strike occurs: 90% of the time they hit the break. Sometimes they throw themselves forward and engulf the fly so viciously that the line becomes loose. ”
If they don't bite, Swanson instructs customers to make a figure eight at the end of the cast. Once the fly is within the length of the boat's rod, the client dips the tip of the rod into the water and traces a large figure eight with the rod. This maneuver sometimes triggers an attack from a fish that followed the bait back to the boat.
"When a fish bites, squeeze the hook with your hand," Swanson added. “And if a fish eats the fly in a figure eight, it is vitally important to place the hook towards the fish's tail. Pull towards the head and you will take the fly out of its mouth. "
Once the fish is hooked, Swanson advocates relentless pressure to land the fish as quickly as possible.
"Keep the tip of the bar low and sideways," Swanson said. “Never fight a muskie with the tip of the rod high. In any way the fish swims, pull hard in the opposite direction. He swims to the right, you throw to the left. Try to move them back in the water. Muskies are fast and powerful, but they are not known for their resistance. "
Swanson uses an unconventional fishing rod that he developed along with custom rod builders at Thorne Bros in Blaine, Minnesota. It is built on a blank piece of medium-heavy baitcasting that has a relatively soft tip that quickly passes to a strong spine.
"The powerful middle section is vitally important to place the hook on a fish that follows a fly back to the boat," said Swanson. "I have used 10 and 12 peso fly rods, the same rods that saltwater fishermen use for powerful fish as permission and shad, but they are too soft to launch large flies and place hooks on the sides of the boat."
The medium-heavy model that Swanson prefers does not carry an official designation of line weight as factory-built bars, but believes that it is approximately the equivalent of a weight of 15.
Many trout fishermen have heard that the reel is only used to maintain the line and the backrest, but that is equally true for muskie fishing.
"I never fight with a fish on the reel," Swanson said. "The fish move too fast and you better use your hand to recover the line."
Swanson recommends that fishermen buy a reel at a reasonable price for a line of nine or 10 pesos and 100 yards of Dacron 30-pound test backing. Use the money saved to buy a better flight line.
Swanson prefers 450 to 500 grain sink tip lines that you customize by cutting off part of the tip. A loop at the end of the line is attached to five feet of 60 pound Maxima Ultragreen monofilament and 15 inches of 65-pound 49-wire cable. The cable ends in a Stay-Loc click used to hold the fly.
Big flies for big fish
Swanson developed the Pig Sticker fly to mimic the size and action of its favorite conventional lures: the Bull Dawg and the Medusa. The Pig Sticker is attached to a series of three wire stems ranging from 1 inch to 3½ inches. After tying the material, the stems are connected with split rings. Two 2/0 hooks are also attached to the rings, one behind the head section and one at the terminal end of the tail section.
Luke Swanson's pig sticker fly pattern is designed to mimic the size and swimming action of a Bull Dawg, a soft plastic lure that produces giant musks on the upper Midwest. When tied with a tungsten head, the fly has a tempting action; Without it, it moves provocatively from side to side during recovery. Photo courtesy of Luke Swanson.
"The modular design of Pig Sticker allows me to get more life out of my flies," said Swanson. “If a fish demolishes the tail section of a fly, I can easily attach a new one and continue fishing. Head and tail sections are more vulnerable. I have a central section that represents more than 35 musk. That's important when you spend 30 minutes tying a fly. "
Swanson added that larger flies are more productive during the fall. Most of their flies are 14-18 inches long, which provides the same type of suction profile that the muskies are looking for. However, most fly fishermen are intimidated by the idea of launching something so big.
"I teach new customers how to" load the water "by dropping the flight line into the water in its recoil," said Swanson. “The tension of the surface film loads the rod when the launching begins forward and the line is fired towards the target. You don't need multiple backcasts. "
Swanson said that most customers pick up the cadence quickly and can launch large flies with little effort.
"I fished with a 75-year-old Arizona woman who was in central Minnesota for a wedding," said Swanson. “He was an experienced trout fisherman but there was never fish with musk. I taught her how to load the water with the rod, and she was able to throw a Pig Tag all day. Best of all, it landed 45 inches during the last hour of our trip. "
For more information or to book a trip with Swanson, visit their website at http://www.livinthedreamguideservice.com/.
Landing and releasing muskies
Musk clovers are too valuable to be caught only once. Luke Swanson said having the right tools ready is a key to landing and releasing large fish safely. Photo courtesy of Luke Swanson.
Luke Swanson said the key to landing and releasing musk safely is to have all the necessary tools ready. That list includes a net with a large hoop and a deep bag, quality wire cutters that can easily cut your larger hooks and long pointed pliers to extract deeply wrapped hooks. He also recommends at least one glove to hold the fish for photos.
"When a client connects, I immediately grab the network," Swanson said. “I pick up the fish's head first at the first opportunity, whether it's been on the line for four seconds or two minutes. The longer the fight lasts, the more things can go wrong. "
With the fish in the net and the net still in the water, Swanson lifts his head and removes the hooks. Once your clients are ready to take photos, they lift the fish in the boat, take photos and return them to the net. Larger fish generally win a trip to the hit board for a measurement before being released.
"When releasing a muskie, hold the tail with one hand and hold the fish under the head with the other," said Swanson. “Point the fish towards the stream to allow water to flow over the gills. Don't pump the fish from side to side, just hold it until it recovers enough to start on its own. "