How to Fly Fish for Muskies
Updated: Jan 6
Muskies are the fish of 10,000 casts. They are notoriously hard to catch without the right conditions or timing. The population density of a body of water alone can be enough to ensure you spend 12 hours of hard fishing without ever seeing one follow your bait. So if muskies are hard to catch with conventional gear, then what do you need to learn how to fly fish for muskies?
Fly fishing for muskies requires a heavy fly rod (10, 11, 12 weight) and a large arbor reel. Muskie flies are typically bigger (4-18 inches) and are cast in similar spots as conventional muskie tackle. Fly fishing for muskies from shore or boat will be most productive if using a figure-eight at the end of every cast.
Where to Fly Fish for Muskie
Muskie fishing is more like hunting than fishing. You really need to do your homework on what body of water has a decent population of muskies. Use the internet to find stocking reports, recent fishing reports, or other DNR data to make sure you aren’t going to go spend a day simply washing your flies. Next, you need to find some key areas of your water that may hold muskies. Typically 90% of the fish are in 10% of the body of water. Rock piles, saddles, weed beds, drops, and even open water are all places you can find muskies, however, you may find it easier to start with shallow water (15 feet or less) structures such as the rocks and weeds.
When to Fly Fish for Muskie
Muskies can be fooled into eating at almost any time of the day or night, however, they do seem to feed in windows or small periods of time seemingly correlated to solar lunar events. But for those of you just getting started, you can save yourself a lot of headache by just going early morning and sunset which are the two classic feeding periods of most predatory game fish.
Muskie Fishing Technique
One of the biggest aspects of muskie fishing regardless of the type of fishing gear you choose is the end of every cast. Muskies are notorious for following a bait at various points of retrieval and not attacking or striking the bait or lure. For this reason, a specific bite triggering technique is recommended after every single cast that has started to be synonymous with the sport of muskie fishing: the figure-eight.
A figure-eight is the act of extending the rod tip into the water at the end of your retrieve and proceed to short line swim your bait in the path of an “eight” or oval right at your feet. This is a staple in muskie fishing and you should be doing it on every single cast. It can be done from the shore or in a boat, and with every lure you cast. Practice it early and often if you want to increase your chances of catching a muskie.
Muskie Fly Fishing Setup
The gear you will need to get started will be much lighter and compact than a boat full of conventional gear, but you will earn your stripes and sore shoulders chucking chickens all day. Below is a quick gear list to get you pointed in the right direction.
Muskie Fly Rod
10, 11, or 12 weight
Our Recommendation: Orvis 10-Weight Muskie Fly Rod
Muskie Fly Reel
A large arbor with good disc drag
Our Recommendation: Orvis 10-Weight Muskie Fly Reel
Muskie Fly Line
Cold water weight forward pike style fly line will do just fine in the matching weight as your rod (10, 11, or 12)
Our Recommendation: Orvis Hydros Intermediate Sink Tip
Muskie Fly Line Leader
3 feet of 40 lbs mono tied with a loop to loop connections,
connected to 18 inches of tie-able titanium leader
and a heavy-duty fast-snap (swivel connector to quickly change flies without re-tying)
Start with a couple of basics and slowly build your collection.
topwater popper of some sort
small streamer (4-6 inches long)
medium-sized streamer (7-10 inches long)
large streamer (12+ inches long)
Color is going to depend on the body of water you are fishing, but generally white, black, or fire tiger do well almost anywhere.
Our Recommendation: Nightmare Musky Flies
Muskie Fly Fishing Tools
How to Cast Muskie Flies
Experiment with casting in open areas out on the water with minimal weeds and surrounding obstructions like trees or bushes. Casting muskie flies can be tricky and you will want to practice. However, if you want to practice while you fish, here are a few tips to help make it easier to learn.
Keep the wind at your back or blowing the direction of your dominant hand.
It may be easier to “backcast” a big fly when you can’t reposition yourself with a more helpful wind direction.
If you have access to a boat it can be much easier to cast and retrieve without obstruction.
It is also easier to reposition yourself to have a favorable wind direction for casting when fishing from a boat versus the shore.
Muskie fishing can be hard and fly fishing can be frustrating but if you put the time in it can be a very effective and rewarding way to catch the fish of 10,000 casts. Don’t forget to experiment and see what makes the fish react when you cast and retrieve your flies. Change up your retrieval speed, water column depth, or fly size and see what works. Most importantly have fun learning something new and share your passion with other future anglers. Time on the water is a great tradition no matter what you choose to throw or target.