Muskie Hits and Misses

Alyssa has spent the past three years pursuing muskie on the fly. After many flossed fish, it only took one to reach the net to complete her mission. Sort of.

Three years ago I had the bright idea of pursuing, at all costs, a muskie on the fly.

Keep in mind that, at the time, I hadn’t even begun fly fishing when the decision was made to pick up an 11-weight rod and toss gargantuan muskie flies over my head. 100% green as a fly angler, I threw myself into a brand-new world of fishing.

There are a few things one should know before pursuing muskie on the fly. First thing, it is downright dumb to begin learning to fly fish with muskie and pike flies. That may be more obvious to most than it was to me.

With swollen hands, thrown shoulders, and raw stripping creases on my palms, I delved into fly fishing.

setting fly fishing hook

(Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Obsessed with landing a giant, I traveled across two provinces, three different time zones, and thousands of miles to another coast just to try to land my first muskie on the fly. What is it about anglers that makes us think the best fish are further away? Heck, all of my personal bests have come from the same bays I launch the boat in.

By the way, this was the second thing you should know—don’t assume the fish care at all how many miles you’ve put in to target them.

Thirdly, muskie are a challenging fish—to say the least—on gear, let alone fly. It is true what they say about fly fishing for them: it does give you a disadvantage. This is even truer if you’re an inexperienced fly angler such as myself.

Fourth thing, that disadvantage makes it SO worth the effort and heartache once you finally do get one to the net. And I can officially say, I know this to be true.

Fast forward three years from the time I made the utterly ridiculous decision to start to fly fishing just for the sake of my esox addiction—I’m in the Kawartha Lakes region, a short distance from my home base in central Ontario with—surprise, surprise—my good friend, Aaron Jolicoeur.

angler holding ontario muskie

(Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

We’re fishing a low-pressured lake with lots of fish, a lake Aaron has predicted many times would be the body of water I land my first muskie on.

Aaron fished gear for the better part of the day, but it wasn’t producing much either, so I decided to tough it out with my heavy fly to see if I could get at least a follow.

fly fisher casting

(Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Low and behold, I got a hit way out from the boat and I could tell this fish was big. It headed straight for the boat about 15 feet, then dove straight down into the weeds. This fish instinctively dove to the thick weed coverage knowing full well whatever had ahold of it couldn’t follow it through there. 

angler releasing ontario muskie

(Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Not even thirty seconds later my line goes slack. It’s gone. This is turning into Lac Seul all over again. Another fish flossed by my own hand. At this point, I believe I’m expected to just lose fish because I’m pretty good at that. 

“If I lose another fish today, throw me overboard,” was the statement I made to Aaron that morning. Certainly, glad it wasn’t followed through, but I would’ve deserved it. 

Each fish lost became easier to just move on from and keep fishing. Not even a swear word was mumbled. Well, maybe one.

We clip along at a charitable pace, feeling more like we are tournament fishing, my false casts become fewer and I’m impressed at my own efficiency. Before too long I had another snap at the fly, this time I went all out with a wild hook set, securing the furious hostile on the other end. Running parallel with the boat and then back towards the shore, I hand-strip it in realizing it’s much, much smaller than my last fish on.

Ask me if I cared. No matter how small this fish was, it was making it to the boat.

With just as much excitement as me, Aaron practically threw his rod down to leap for the net. A few exciting death rolls and jumps at the boat later, he was netted.

Three years of relief washed over me as I beamed at this tiny, tiny micro muskie with pure unfiltered joy. Had it been 40 inches, I may have even shed a tear.

releasing ontario muskie

(Photo credit: Aaron Jolicoeur)

Finally, my stars had aligned, and my dumb idea three years ago came together. Now to aim for the 50-inch club.

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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