This week's blog post comes to us from Norvise ambassador Mike Corrigan. Mike spent some time chasing the fish of 10,000 casts during the pandemic and he shares his experience here. This is a timely post as we just put up his video "Mike Corrigan ties the Comet Minnow" on our YouTube page. You can see the video by clicking HERE If you have not already you may want to subscribe to the new Norvise YouTube channel. we are posting 2 videos per week, this is a great resource for learning new techniques on the Norvise.
Since landing my first Musky a few years ago, I have been addicted to the maddening follows and the mayhem that ensues if the fish do commit. When able to spend a day on the water pursuing Muskies, I generally define success simply by the number of “follows”. Fish or no fish it is a day well spent just to be able to entice these predators. Interestingly, the smaller lakes that do have Musky here locally are generally devoid of other fly rod species; there are Musky and there is bait!
A year ago I decided to hire a guide and get serious about chasing Musky. Where I am living in central Canada there are a lot of Musky, but no guides that cater to fly anglers. As a former guide, all I was looking for was someone with the knowledge of the water and the habits of the fish. The lake the guide selected was absolutely perfect for fly fishing, it is a long narrow lake with lots of bays and as it turned out an abundance of fish; both Musky and Tiger Musky. Much to the guides surprise, we did very well that day, well enough for me to plan a trip back in 2020.
Over this past winter, with last years trip in mind, I contacted some buddies in at my local fly fishing club (Manitoba Fly Fishers Association) and it was very easy to fill the 5 other spots. The plan was to stay at a drive to lodge a few hours away, in the heart of Musky country, and give it a go. Four of the 5 others had never cast a fly to a Musky let alone seen one in person. With expectations tempered for the “fish of ten thousand casts”, and warnings from the lodge owners that Musky on a fly was a tough go, we hatched a plan. Fly fishers, it seems, are certainly the eternal optimists.
Between that December 2019 fishing pact with the group and the whole world being turned upside down with the COVID issue things were touch and go. The trip was on then off then back on, then delayed. Our assigned week was moved 3 weeks past the season opener, but we did have the plan finally come together with the original 6. The 4 newbies hired the guide I had used the previous year for a day; splitting the morning and afternoon session so all had a chance to learn the way of the Musky.
The fly patterns we used were small compared to the ones that are touted as a requirement to catch Musky. The fly I refer to as my “Goldfish” accounted for my 40” and 41” fish plus numerous other smaller ones. We didn’t throw flies any longer than about 5”. The Musky were also keyed into top water and large 1” square poppers did the trick. As an aside, I do fish Musky from a pontoon boat on some of the smaller local lakes. I have observed, on several occasions, that during the Hexigenia hatch the Musky will slurp these easy prey like a Trout. So, it is not all about the top predator only eating baitfish. Apparently, Musky like to change up their food source as well.
For the duration of the trip we all fished barbless hooks. It is not a local requirement but it is just the way we fish. Most of the Musky we landed did not require any hook removal whatsoever. With their nasty sets of teeth we reasoned that they bite down on the fly and their teeth get tangled in the material that we dressed the fly with. Once they feel the net they seemed to open their mouths and the fly “self-released”.
One morning we had a rain delay and I went through leader building with the Knot2Kinky wire. It is amazing stuff to use once you get comfortable with the knots. As most anglers know a normal store bought leader would be good for one toothy fish and then it is finished.
During the week we noticed some rather odd Musky behavior. We had several fish put their noses literally on the gas motor as we were using the electric to maneuver the boat along the shoreline. We also had a 40” plus fish follow us along the side of the boat (within a rod length) for several hundred feet of shoreline; we literally cast over its head into the likely holding water. It seemed they may be programmed that a release of a tired Walleye might happen? For most of the week we would follow up a cast with a large oval pattern with the rod tip, often seeing Musky appear from the depths. We would drop the rod tip well within the water column, so the fly would have a downward movement followed by raising the rod tip and subsequent ascent of the fly. This technique would end up producing several fish including my largest. Figure 8’s aren’t impossible with a fly, but they are more difficult.
The week really was one for the memory banks and it was a trip of a lifetime for most. We have plans for 2021 already in place and we may do some exploring to some neighbouring lakes as well. Like I say this part of Canada is Musky Central and there are lakes available with the 50” plus brutes, but I am still “baby stepping” my way up to them after landing some of the hawgs on this trip.
Check out the summary of Norvise Ambassador Mike Corrigan's recent trip to western Manitoba to chase this great species, the Tiger Trout.
Where I live in the central part of Canada, we are blessed with a seemingly endless number of species that can be caught on a fly. Two years ago I landed 20 different freshwater species locally (to go with an additional 10 saltwater varieties).
Spring 2019 is late in Canada this year, most spawners are still "busy" as I write. The Pike are a few weeks late and the Smallies are still on their nests.
So, for an early season fix we headed off to the western part of Manitoba for one of my favorite species to target; the beautiful Tiger Trout. Tigers are a sterile hybrid, a cross between a Brook Trout and a Brown Trout. The province of Manitoba introduced Tigers to a lake 10-15 years ago and they have been a favorite for anglers from all over Canada and the USA. As seen in the pictures below. they have a vermiculited camo back and the white tipped fins of the Brookie. In the Fall they go through a mock spawn and get the orange bellies. Tigers grow quickly and reach an incredible 28"; my largest is 24". Tigers are incredible fighters and the best part......they take top water flies!
I fished with a relative newbie on this particular trip, who had never landed a Trout on a fly before. We also entered something called the Bug Chucker Cup; an annual 4 lake tournament based out of the town of Roblin, MB. Back in January 2019 we hatched a plan, during a -40C cold spell, in Winnipeg to enter the fun event. As I mentioned the season was late and we were hoping for the best.......
I still use my river boat for the lakes, powered by a 55 Minn Kota. The flat bottom and spacious interior make for a comfortable day.
We fished 4 different lakes on the trip, with the Tigers being our main focus. On day one my partner got into his first fish and literally had his new Orvis rod almost ripped from his hands. These are very strong and very aggressive fish. We both missed fish that day, and the Tigers won round #1.
We fished a lake nearby to our hotel the next morning before setting out to try round #2 with the Tigers. (Below are a few shots of the Rainbow and Brown Trout typical of the other lakes).
Arriving at the Tiger Trout launch at 6 pm we saw a still water fishing school just finishing up. After comparing notes, we targeted a portion of the lake the group had not tried. This time of year the sun is up until 10 or 11 pm, so we had lots of daylight ahead of us. Tigers, with their Brown trout genes, become less wary as the sun gets lower in the sky. They will hit most anything that is thrown within the ring of their rise; so that was to be the game. Find a rise, find a feeding fish! We both had my Foam Mouse on (Topo Gigio, for those old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan show). You can see the evidence in the corner of the Tigers mouth. We landed several fish to 19".
So, the day came for the tournament. Our first venue would be an afternoon session, on a Brown Trout lake which we had pre fished the day before and had caught 6 fish to 20". This day, however, we would be shut out! The second venue saw us back at the Tiger lake for the evening session, which was perfect. Without hesitation we tied on Topo Gigio! My partner landed an 18" Tiger and I a 22" beauty. After day #1 we were near, or at the top, of the leader board!
Day #2 was spent on two Rainbow/Brown Trout lakes and we ended up doing a lot of casting but no catching. The fish were deep because of the cooler waters. As a note, earlier in our pre fishing time period we woke up to ice in my boat, after an evening rain storm, to start one of the days.......ice in late May!
The post tournament banquet and social was first class. A total of 13 teams were entered in the tournament and we finished out of the top 3, but my partner did get his casting tuned up and he did land fish, so all in all a very successful outing. Thanks to Roger for his camera work!
So all in all we came, we saw, and we tamed the Tigers. Now we need some heat to get the Muskies to get their spawning done. It will be season opener in a week. On to the next species......
What a great story and even better pictures! Thank you Mike for sharing this with us. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim