Once in a New Moon...TR
My first musky trip with a fly rod was four years ago...almost to the day. I headed down South to spend a couple of days fishing one of the three lakes in the state of Missouri that have a thriving population of these fish with a buddy. This friend (actually more of an acquaintance from a local fishing board) didn't fly fish but did have a boat and a desire to catch one of these fish, albeit with a gear rod. We made two trips that Fall to a large reservoir known for its musky, him chucking bucktails with a baitcaster and me attempting to cast some ugly, extra large flies that I tied for the occasion. If memory serves me we saw exactly one musky on those two weekend trips, a follower on his bucktail. I got zero love on the fly...
Those two trips were enough to diminish the interest my newfound friend had in chasing musky, I never heard from him again after the last unsuccessful outing. While still determined to catch one of these Northern denizens transplanted in the South, my lack of a boat created a short hiatus in the hunt. Jump forward to a couple of years ago and I got another chance when a fellow Drakian invited me on a day trip to a small lake in the northern part of the state. We didn't catch any fish that day either, but I did have a fish follow my fly back to the boat. That alone was enough to give me the itch I've been trying to scratch ever since. There've been several fishless trips made each Fall after that , until last year when I landed my first fish on that same lake where I got my first follow. You guys that do this shit know what happened then, I've been eaten up with catching another one ever since!
My first two trips of this year were in September, both day trips to that same lake in Northern Missouri. The first trip we didn't move a fish but the very next weekend we went back and moved two fish... still no eats.
I'd been trying to get one of my best fishing buddies to drive up for a multi-day trip with me for awhile. He was into the idea of fly fishing for musky almost as much as I was but the 9 hour drive for him as opposed to 3 1/2 for me was a small obstacle. As we all do, I kept an eye on the weather, watching for that perfect window. Last week I gave him a call and laid it on thick...a weekend with cool temperatures and a 100% chance of rain all three days. And to top it all off I told him, the new moon is on the 8th creating a primetime window for our trip. Now, I've never watched a moon phase in my life before, but when you're chasing a fish as elusive as musky you reach for anything you can to give yourself hope. Hope equals better casts and focus after 8 hours on the water without seeing a fish. Believing it's going to happen is half the battle!
I headed north Friday about 7:00 am, the plan being to meet up at the boat ramp around noon on our first day. A little traveling music to match the weather and before you know it I was pulling up to the lake.
Just as predicted, mother nature was pissing on us from the moment we backed the boat off the trailer.
After loading up all the gear and parking the truck in the completely empty lot we tied on a couple of flies, pulled out my map and made a plan for the day.
It didn't take long for us to realize that this might just be a special trip. On the very first point we hit...On my third cast... I had a fish blow up like I've never witnessed before. I was at the end of my retrieve and just starting a figure eight when a fish launched himself at the fly. He missed the fly completely, but in doing so came out of the water and catapulted himself ass over head and splashed down mere feet from the boat. Pretty sure I pissed myself and my hands were shaking for the next 15 minutes. Once we recovered from the initial shock it was game on, we were so jacked at this point that throwing a tube sock on a 10 weight felt like child's play.
We fished for six hours and ended up having the kind of day we could only dream of...three fish hooked and lost during battle, two eats that just never felt a hook, several follows and one fish landed.
While a little dejected that we let so many opportunities slip through our fingers, you couldn't have wiped the smiles off our faces with a bench grinder that evening at the ramp. Even the thought of setting up camp in the dark, with the sky dumping on us, didn't dampen our spirits. This stoke wasn't going to die easily!
We set up camp and got a hot meal started first thing. Dinner the first night was beer boiled brats grilled on the mini egg.
That evening we sat under the awning on the truck, trying to stay semi-dry, discussing what we did wrong today and what we could do different tomorrow. Honestly, we didn't have a fucking clue...
After falling asleep to a steady downpour we woke up Saturday morning to an encore. Gear was thrown under the truck heater vents for some quick drying out and then after a pot of coffee and a breakfast sandwich we were making the 10 minute drive back to the lake.
We had the same heavy overcast with a steady rain.
We had the same empty parking lot at the boat ramp.
And despite both of us knowing that the chance of having a repeat of Friday's fishing was akin to winning the lottery...that's exactly what happened.
I still have a hard time believing it myself, but we put 5 fish in the boat on Saturday. I'm still so jacked up sitting here now (Monday afternoon) that I feel like I could write an entire story on each fish and how the whole scene unfolded from eat to net. But I'll spare you, I know I've written a book already, I just can't help wanting to tell someone the story.
One of the fish came up boatside during a figure eight and sipped a Buford like a trout would a size 18 mayfly...and then all hell broke loose.
Two of the fish jumped during the fight, both clearing the water like I can imagine a tarpon might do. I can still picture Those fish in my mind, lit up a fluorescent green hue, head shaking, water droplets flying through the air.
Another one ate just like I've seen brown trout do to a streamer many times, the fly no more than hit the water before the fish moved from a log and just annihilated it. No time for a single strip of the fly.
Those 5 fish on Saturday were by far one of the most rewarding days on the water that I've ever been a part of. I've had my share of good days, undeserved as they are, but most of them pale in comparison.
Honestly , the only problem we had was handling the fish. Even after stopping at Wally World Friday night and buying a pair of rubber coated gloves we just couldn't get the grip down. Neither of us wanted to slip our hands inside the gillplate, not necessarily for us but the last thing we wanted was to hurt one of those beautiful fish. A couple fish made their way back into the water without a Kodak moment, unintentionally. Our brown trout grip-n-grin methods just didn't transfer over to the musky world. Needless to say, we learned a lot about musky fishing in those three days.
Back at camp that night we celebrated our success with a couple of big rib-eyes on the grill and several adult beverages.
We were wet to the core, sore from using muscles we didn't even know we had hucking those 10 weights and mentally wore out from the overdose of adrenalin running through our systems after an unbelievable day. Still, we sat under the awning until we couldn't stay awake any longer re-living each fish as we told stories of what we had been a part of that day. I dreamt of muskies that night.
Sunday morning we woke to a repeat performance from mother nature, with just a little thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. Everything we owned was wet and covered in mud from the constant deluge of the last two days so taking down camp was just a matter of throwing all the shit in the truck as is and dealing with it at home.
By 7:30 we were back at the (empty) boat ramp unloading in the rain once again.
We gave our best effort until noon when a torrential downpour and gusty North wind finally drove us off the lake. We were forced to come back down to earth on the final day. Four hours fishing...One eat...One fish in the net. Still , the smiles persisted.
So... I just had a seven musky weekend, I can't quit thinking about it and I'm pretty damn sure I won't ever be able to look at a trout the same way in this lifetime. I'm not sure, but my question to you is...Will I ever be right again?