The musky is deemed the fish of 10,000 casts for a reason, there are far fewer musky than other species, they don’t feed constantly and their habits are relatively unknown. Honestly, if it took 10,000 casts I would quit. Anglers who catch more fish than most aren’t fishing the latest and greatest triple bladed whatever. They just put their baits around more fish. Location is the single greatest factor that will help you catch more muskies. I like to think of location in terms of seasonal progressions. Where were the fish and where are they going.
Spring Musky Fishing
Water Temperatures 50-60 Degrees (Rising)
Spring is typically associated with the spawn. You are either fishing before, during or after the spawn. Musky spawn between 50 and 60-degree water temperatures. They spawn in or near large, shallow, south facing bays. If you have a creek or river flowing into the system they will spawn there as well. Some fish will spawn in random locations but these fish tend to be harder to target. Knowing when and where fish spawn makes it easy to target them this time of year. If the water is 45 degrees, fish the outside mouth of the bay or river where musky will stage up waiting for the right conditions to push shallow. If the water is 62 degrees fish the vegetation in or near spawning areas. This is the time of year when everything wants to be shallow. Panfish are about to spawn which gives muskies plenty of feed in these larger shallow bays.
Early Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 60-70 Degrees (Rising)
On most bodies of water, the early summer period is still a relatively shallow water bite. Musky begin leaving the shallow bays once they are done spawning. Along with the forage they begin to spread on over shallow structure adjacent to these spawning area. Maybe the big rock point that runs out of the shallow bay. Or the weed hump just outside of the bay. Fishing 10 feet or less is a great game plan this time of year. Fish quickly as fish are typically very active in this time of year. Bucktails, jerk baits and topwaters rule this season on most lakes.
Mid-Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 70-80 Degrees (Rising)
Once summer progresses fish move out to main lake structure and typically utilize deeper depths. Forage has often moved out to the basin or is located on a deeper edge of the structure close to open water. This time of year you want to focus on the drop-off or edge of the structure. If you are fishing a hump that tops out at 5’ and has weeds out to 12 feet you want to put your boat in 15 feet to cover the outside edge of the structure. This is also a time of year that fish tend to utilize open water. They are out there because the feed is there. Whenever is come across large quantities of suspended bait in the summer I always give it go and fish the baitfish like I would structure.
Late Summer Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 75-65 Degrees (Dropping)
This time of year is typically kicked off by the first big cool down in late August or September. This drop in water temperature spurs a shallow water movement of muskies and bait. Once the water reaches these temperatures fish return to the very tops of bars, humps and points. I tend to fish anywhere from one to ten feet of water during this timeframe. These spots can be main lake areas or shallow shoreline structure. Fishing very fast is the name of the game. Bucktails and topwaters dominate this season as you need a presentation that can be fished fast and efficiently across shallow structure.
Early Fall Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 65-50 Degrees (Dropping)
This is likely one of the more challenging times of year to locate musky as they can be in a number of different locations. Most lakes also experience turnover during this timeframe which can further complicate the puzzle. Some fish will move to late fall locations which we will get to in a second. The remainder of the fish can still be found in or around large shallow water structure. When I am fishing this time frame I like to cover multiple zones at a time. This means I like to fish shallow structure that has a very steep edge leading to deep water. This allows my to cast to the edge of shallow water and work by bait to deep water. Most of the time we can eliminate a lot of slow tapering flats or bays this time of year as fish are about to move deep. Covering multiple zones will put your lures in front of more fish during this season.
Late Fall Musky Fishing
Water Temperature 50-40 Degrees (Dropping)
The late fall period is undoubtedly my favorite time of year to fish musky. The locations become extremely predictable however there is a catch. With the cold temperatures, muskies metabolism is slowed way down. For us that means we may know where these fish are but they might not eat that often. During this late fall period, fish utilize steep and deep structure. The fastest breaking portion of a piece of structure or any deep neckdowns are good places to start the search. We are no longer focusing on the top of the break. We are now targeting fish that are at the base of the break or somewhere on the deeper edge of the break line. It is easy to eliminate 90 percent of the lake during this season. During this timeframe, I will fish the same spot for multiple hours and wait for the fish to bite. If I am confident I am in the correct area I may spend an entire day fishing one large break line. Pay attention to where baitfish are present. If an area or spot seems void of life there is no need to spend much time there. Lure options are really pretty simple this time of year. Deep jerk baits, crankbaits or jigs are about the only lures capable of reaching the necessary depths. In some lakes, deep water might be 15 feet. In other lakes, the break might go out to 30. Deep is relative to the lake.
The latest and greatest lure would have been much cooler to talk about, a cure-all bait! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Put your bait in front of more fish and you will catch more fish. As musky angler, we often divert most of our attention to the new products and gear and forget about what truly puts more muskies in our boat!
Adam West was an American actor known primarily for his role as Batman in the 1960s ABC series of the same name. What you may not know about Adam West is that he enjoyed fly fishing. In what became his last piece of published writing, he managed to bring the two together in an homage to fly fishing, Batman, and the beauty, and absurdity, of life in general.
That piece of writing takes the form of a foreword, part of a collection of forewords in entertainment writer Jon Chattman’s Moving Foreword: Real Introductions to Totally Made Up Books.
LINK (via: Ben Bell Books)
Cape Cod, MA — It was another banner year kicking off the striped bass fly fishing season on Cape Cod. Now in its 8th year, the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament is the largest fly fishing tournament in the world.
This year’s event touted over 450 participants descending on Cape Cod for an action-packed weekend hosted by Boston based fly reel manufacturing company Cheeky Fishing. While many participants are there to duke it out for the title, others attend simply for the good times, great people, and of course, the party!
This year’s Cheeky Schoolie Tournament began on Friday night with the Costa Del Mar Kick Off Party. Food, music, and beverages were enjoyed by all, and some pretty epic prizes were handed out as well. Sunburned faces were prevalent, as many participants had spent the days leading up to the event pre-fishing.
Abbie Schuster, Cheeky Ambassador, and owner of Kismet Outfitters hosted the 3rd Annual Women’s Only Schoolie Tournament Meetup before the kickoff party. Close to 30 women attended and partook in casting lessons, knot tying, and tournament strategy discussion.
6:00 AM the next morning came quickly. The sun rose over the West Dennis Beach parking lot as Cheeky CEO Ted Upton summited the tourney truck to begin the Captain’s Meeting. A brief discussion of scoring and rules ensued, and the horn was sounded. With that, hundreds of cars rolled out of the parking lot and the 8th annual Cheeky Schoolie Tournament was underway.
For anyone following the tournament’s official hashtag, #CheekySchoolieTourney, it became clear early in the day that the bite was hot. Blues skies and warm temps didn’t hurt either. When all was said and done, 9,531 inches of striped bass were caught and released during the one-day competition.
By 2:30 pm the scores were in and participants were gathered at Swan River Restaurant for the awards ceremony, enjoying cold ones provided by Oskar Blues Brewery.
Team Jones took the title with 105.0”, followed closely by Team Deceiver in second place with 103.5” and Team Salty Beards with 103.0”. The big fish of the day checked in at 32.75”, caught by Team All Washed Up. A full leaderboard can be found by clicking here. After the podium finishers received their prizes, over $20,000 in gear was raffled off to the participants, including a particularly impressive mountain of Yeti Coolers.
While the prizes were impressive, there’s no doubt the most memorable moment of the tournament was the presentation of a $10,000 donation check to Stripers Forever, the tournament’s nonprofit striped bass conservation partner. The donation was made possible by all participants in attendance, as well as the generosity of the event’s sponsors. Representatives from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Sight Line Provisions, Patagonia, and Cheeky Fishing were all on hand to present the check.
The 2019 Cheeky Schoolie Tournament was made possible by all its participants as well as its fantastic sponsors. At the end of the day, giving back to the precious striped bass resource we all cherish is what it’s all about. Congratulations to all involved, and we’ll see you in 2020!
ABOUT: The 8th annual Cheeky Schoolie Tournament is a low barrier to entry, grass roots style event designed to encourage the interest and growth of saltwater fly fishing and to welcome our hard working schoolie stripers to their summer vacation home on Cape Cod, MA. The 2019 Tournament marked the 8th year for the annual event, which has become the largest fly fishing tournament in the world.
The Trump Administration has withdrawn the previous administration’s support for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Recently-appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has rescinded a letter of support that Obama-era Interior Secretary Sally Jewell wrote in 2016.
Matt Cox who is with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit formed to implement the dam removal agreement says rescinding Jewell’s letter has no legal effect.
LINK (via: KLCC)
Flylords: Who is Ben Herndon?
Ben: A sarcastic optimist based in North Idaho that likes good folks, wild places, and tasty beer.
Flylords: How long have you been shooting photos professionally for?
Ben: About 10 years, 6 of that as a side-hustle, and the last 4 full time.
Flylords: How have you seen the photo industry change with the rise of social media and accessibility to cameras?
Ben: The accessibility today is pretty rad, the fact that almost anyone can afford to get some sort of camera and go out and get after is pretty neat. It also raises the bar and keeps photographers from being stagnant. Social media is a mixed bag for me. It’s a powerful way to share imagery and underlying messages but it definitely can be narcissistic and a creative echochamber at times. Though I’m in no way innocent of using the outdoors to make a living, it’s hard to see places getting loved to death from of a steady, coiffed line of instabros trampling a shot with no respect for the importance of place. Lately, I’m pushing for a less-is-more approach keeping location info vague or nonexistent for most areas, especially the obscure ones. That probably will do nothing but it makes me feel a little better.
Flylords: Do you remember the first image you had published?
Ben: My first real license was in a Mountain Gear catalog via the good folks at my photo agency Tandem Stills & Motion (tandemstock.com). It’s this shot from a stormy day climbing area in Oregon.
Flylords: What is your favorite activity to shoot?
Ben: For stills, anything outdoors (preferably with an element of solitude) where I can kind of let the place drive the creativity. Adventure, recreation, conservation, history, absurd double exposure portraits, it’s all fun though. I definitely like to mix it up between more serious and less serious work.
For film, I gravitate towards kind of funky, fictional narrative stuff. A good example was a short film called Das Fischer from a couple years ago about a young German man’s trip to Idaho to learn to fly fish where he has a run in with a sort of douchey Hemingway character named Hildebrand Richwine.
You can check it out here:
Flylords: Would you rather shoot a photo of the trophy trout, or catch the trophy trout?
Ben: I definitely shoot way more than I fish but I hope to remedy that.
Flylords: Tell us a little about what your camera bag looks like?
Ben: Pretty basic most of the time. A good wide angle (16-35), a good telephoto (100-400), and a nice low-light fixed 50 mm. I’ll occasionally do some off-camera lighting but I’ve found simple is often best for getting good moments. I use Canon but all the major camera companies are making great gear these days.
Flylords: Can you give one tip for aspiring outdoor photographers?
Ben: Everyone is sort of making it up as they go. But I was told 10 years ago by photographer and friend, Ian Shive, to “Hold on to that day job as long as you can.” Which was good advice for me. Having a dependable job that I didn’t really like allowed me to get gear and be financially stable so I could pursue the gig I wanted without having to cater or scrape by. There’s really no “I’ve arrived” moment though and it’s always a lot of legwork to stay positive and relevant, so enjoy each day. Any time I get to be out with a camera trying to do make something appear out of light, exposure, and composition, that’s pretty damn cool.
Flylords: Do you have a favorite fly fishing image you have taken?
Ben: I like this one (above) from a shoot for The Conservation Fund in Wyoming last year.
Flylords: With a zillion grip and grin fish photos out there, how do you try and shoot creatively in a fly fishing setting?
Ben: It’s always hard to make something really unique but it helps to focus on the moments that bookend the netting of the fish. There’s more to the story than just landing lunkers. Though that never hurts…
Flylords: What is your favorite fish species?
Ben: Any native trout.
Flylords: Favorite Beer? Book? Movie?
Ben: Anything with an ABV above 6%. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin naval series. The Life Aquatic
Flylords: Have you ever had a near-death experience on a photo shoot?
Ben: A couple close calls with rock fall while doing some dumb rapells for climbing photos.
Flylords: What’s next?
Ben: I have to disappear for three days and do my taxes.
Be sure to check Ben out on Instagram at @donofhern.
Every May, a great migration to Cape Cod begins, hundreds of anglers hear the call of the Striped Bass and head east to intercept the annual run of Striped Bass as they make their way up the Atlantic Coast.
The Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, “is a low barrier to entry, grassroots style event designed to encourage the interest and growth of saltwater fly fishing and to welcome our hard working schoolie stripers to their summer vacation home on Cape Cod, MA. The 2019 Tournament marks the 8th year for the annual event, which has become the world’s largest fly fishing tournament.” This year the fish were in, in numbers and size with “9,531 inches of striped bass were caught and released during the one-day competition” according to the official Cheeky Fishing scoring.
- 105 Inches – Team Jones
- 103.5 Inches – Team Deceiver
- 103 Inches – Team Salty Beards
- 102.5 Inches – Time Flies
- 101.5 Inches – Prof. Peacoat and Barbor Boy
For all the tournament results check out Cheeky’s blog post, here.
Source: Cheeky Fishing.
You’re a fisherman from another dimension, a dimension not only of conventional heavy baits and big blades, but of sucker rigs and trolling. Now you’re going to take a journey into a wondrous new world whose boundaries are that of the imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop? The Musky Fly Fishing Zone!
The answer is easy: You enter the Musky Fly Fishing Zone.
For many newcomers to the sport of predator fishing, landing your first musky is a life-altering event, the start of an obsession with the crazy world of musky hunting. Down the rabbit hole, the angler goes. But what happens when you have caught hundreds of musky in your lifetime, when you’ve spent every spare dollar on new musky baits, rods, and reels, when you’ve caught your first topwater, quit using the live baits and finally captured that fifty-inch fish of a lifetime? What’s is your next challenge in the musky game?
More and more conventional musky anglers have been picking up their phones and calling musky fly fishing wackos like myself, looking to spice up their musky angling life. It’s a growing part of my business and I truly enjoy being a portal into this new sport. If you’re someone who has spent a lot of time chasing the elusive “fish of ten thousand casts,” knows their regular haunts and can now find them with confidence, congratulations! You’re already way ahead of most fly fishermen who have never chased a musky before.
What You Will Need To Get Started
It seems the major obstacle that many have when contemplating going over to the fly world is being overwhelmed with gear options. Don’t be fooled. Musky fly-fishing is a blue collar sport. No trout snobbery or gear geeks here. Just keep it simple.
Reel – Second, don’t get suckered into buying a fancy overpriced reel. Musky rarely rip line off so a snazzy drag system is an overkill. As long as the reel holds the line you’re good to go. Remember: this is hand-to-hand combat. You’re literally stripping the line and fish back to the boat not reeling them in. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Line – Third, you will need a fly line. Start with a 10wt floating line that’s easy to cast. I rock the scientific Anglers Titan Taper for my beginner clients. Then grab four feet of 80 lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon for the leader.
Flies – Lastly and most importantly, you will need a fly. Luckily Today there are a lot of great fly-tiers who sell their patterns online and in fly shops. Pick one you can throw for eight hours, one that’s big enough to turn heads but small enough to spare your rotator cuff.
I tie baits that mimic the exact forage these magnificent beasts are eating throughout the season. If you want to take it to the next level, start tying your own baits. Begin with a good hook like Gamakatsu and simple materials like bucktail and flash. Next move to more complex flies that have specific action tied into them. There is no shortage of tying tutorials available on the internet.
Once you have the above-mentioned gear, start casting and retrieving the fly. Again the Internet is a good resource. But nothing can compare with hiring a pro for day or two to get dialed in. Once you can cast 30-40 feet or so, get that fly swimming in your favorite musky hole, just make sure to figure eight that fly at the end of every retrieve like in the conventional musky fishing world. In fact, I tell all of my clients that figure eight is 50% of the cast. It’s that important. When that big girl eats, hit her with a “strip set,” and DO NOT LIFT YOUR ROD. Remember this mantra “lift em lose em” Strip that fly line back hard with the rod aimed down straight at the fish and hold tight. Congratulations you’ve just entered a whole new dimension, one you may never want to leave.
By Luke Stoner
“Fry guarders”, or bass protecting their newborn offspring, pose a unique opportunity for bass anglers. Immediately after bass finish spawning, they spend a select few hours or days protecting their fry before moving to their summer haunts. During this period bass are very catchable, but targeting fry guarders is different than fishing for spawning or pre-spawn bass.
Your tactics may be similar, but like many things in bass fishing, details are everything. The subtle differences between fishing for bass in the spawning phase, versus bass guarding fry, or bass feeding on spawning shad is what makes a consistently successful angler.
Understanding how to target bass protecting fry, such as what lures and presentations work best, will make you a better angler. We talked fry-guarding bass with professional anglers Matt Lee and Terry Scroggins to shorten your learning curve and help you catch more fish on your next trip.
(1 of 2) SCROGGINS SWEARS BY KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE
Team Toyota pro Terry Scroggins lives in Florida, where waves of bass pull up to spawn several months before the rest of the country. Scroggins spends a lot of time on the water in his native state when not competing in tournaments and has a plethora of experience on catching fry guarders and spawning bass.
Scroggins preaches keeping it simple when targeting fry guarders and uses a two-pronged approach he’s found fruitful whether he’s fishing around Florida in January or he’s competing in the northern states in late May.
While there are certainly windows of opportunity during the spawn and even pre-spawn when topwater lures can excel, they really begin to shine as bass begin guarding their young and transition to the post spawn phase.
“Unless I’m fishing around heavy grass, a popper type bait is the first lure I pick up if I know bass are guarding fry,” Scroggins said. “Usually, I want a topwater I can work slowly like a Rebel Pop-R. Fry guarders are pretty aggressive, but a lot of times they’ll just slap at a topwater moving quickly across their zone. With a frog, a prop bait or a Pop-R you can cover water while having the option of slowing down when you get around finicky bass.”
Bass guarding fry are acting off of their protective instinct rather than feeding when they bite your lure. Which is why Scroggins thinks topwater presentations are so effective for bass in this phase. A popper, even when worked slowly, makes quite the commotion around shallow cover. Bass see a topwater splashing in the vicinity of their young as a threat that needs to be eliminated.
Scroggins second go-to technique for fry guarders is a wacky-rigged worm like a 5-inch Yamamota Senko or one of his home-poured creations he calls The Kicker Tail. A wacky-rigged worm may account for catching more shallow bass around the spawning phase than any other rig the last five years. Bass can’t stand a finesse worm or Senko slowly undulating as it sinks in front of them.
“If you know the exact area a ball of fry is hanging out there are few baits better than a wacky-rigged worm,” Scroggins admits. “I use this set up as a follow up bait if I have a fish miss my topwater, but I’ll also pitch it around good looking bushes, docks and other shallow structure. Most of the time I’ll go weightless with this rig but you can also add a nail weight to the head of the worm to create a Neko rig.”
Scroggins uses a No. 2 Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Hook and exclusively uses a spinning rod setup with 6 to 8-pound HI-SEAS Flourocarbon for this presentation.
(2 of 2) LEE’S TOP PICKS
Matt Lee considers fry guarders to be extremely similar to bedding bass in that each fish has its own unique mood. Relatively speaking, most fry guarders are willing to bite quickly, while others may let you look at them for hours without ever committing to a lure.
“To combat this randomness I’ve got a handful of baits I am most confident with,” Lee said. “I know one of these three baits will work with the aggressive ones, but I also have supreme confidence they’ll fool the tricky ones.”
Similar to Scroggins, a topwater was among Lee’s first choices. Alternating between a Strike King Sexy Frog or a KVD Splash Popper based on the abundance of aquatic vegetation, Lee agrees a topwater should be in your arsenal when covering water focusing on fry guarders. A 3/16-ounce Owner Flashy Swimmer with a 3/0 hook is another lure Lee covers water with for fry guarding bass.
“I like covering water this time of year and the Flashy Swimmer gets the fishes’ attention,” Lee said. “I don’t think it’s something they see a lot and I’ve caught a ton of fish on it. I put a 3 to 4-inch Strike King Rage Swimmer on it and start running down the bank. I like the small size simply because fry guarders are reacting out of instinct. When they see a small little swimbait coming through their area they can’t help themselves.”
Lee also values the option to change the Flashy Swimmer provides. Noting that some fish react well to a white or shad colored swimbait, while other days they’ll be more aggressive towards a bluegill pattern. With this setup all Lee has to do is swap out swimbait colors and he gives the bass a completely different look.
Fishing pressure affects bass in all phases, and fry guarders are no different. Lee lives near and regularly guides on Lake Guntersville during his off-season and is all too familiar with heavy fishing pressure. Experience has taught Lee that fry like to be around some type of shallow cover for added protection, and he believes increased fishing pressure pushes bass and fry alike even tighter to cover.
“Heavily pressured fry guarders will hold super tight to something like dock pilings or a weed line,” Lee said. “If I’m not getting bites covering water, I’ll go back through and pick whatever cover available apart with a drop shot. I’ve been able to catch a lot of bass guarding fry with a drop shot that wouldn’t touch a jig or Texas rig pitched to the exact same spots.”
Lee rigs different soft plastics on his drop shot based on the scenario but believes most finesse style worms work perfectly. He keeps his drop shot leader length short anytime he is fishing shallow with this rig and is a huge fan of a 3/0 Owner Cover Shot Hook for this presentation. Citing the bait keeper being imperative so he can Texas rig his lure on the drop shot, which makes his rig weedless.
Bass guarding fry can be tricked into biting with a plethora of lures, but this short list from Lee and Scroggins have proven to be some of the most effective. As bass finish spawning or you see schools of fry swimming around the shallows, give these presentations a try. They have caught fry guarding bass from southern Texas to New York and will help you catch more fishing, too.