Featured Photo: Football Brown

Featured Photo: Football Brown

Sunday, February 11, 2024

From the Rower's Seat

Musky fishing is always a team sport. There is a TON of hard work involved and everyone has a part to play. I have been obsessed from time to time with fishing for muskellunge. Unfortunately I have also found myself not getting out as much as I would like due to other obligations during what I consider musky season. Thus, when a couple of buddies had an epic couple of days back in January, it got me fired up to get back out there. 

My original goal had been to spend quite a few days on the musky streams this winter. In fact, I set myself two specific goals for this winter. First, catch a musky as it has been a while since I have personally caught one (despite lots in my boat from friends and clients), and second, catch a big brown trout on the Clinch on a streamer. My favorite musky system has several different sections that I like to fish with more begging to be explored. The only way to explore them is to simply get out there and spend time on the water. When it got to early February and I still hadn't made any musky trips happen yet this winter, I knew it was time to make a change.

Musky Fly Fishing in Tennessee

I checked in with my buddies Pat and Chris and a plan was made. We would float a favorite section with more than enough water to fish in a day. Between us, we had rods ranging from 7 through 11 weight. The heavier rods were for "real" musky flies, and the lighter rods were for when our arms got tired and we needed to throw smaller stuff. I've seen plenty of musky caught on 3-6 inch flies, so I know it can be done even if the big stuff is more exciting.

We all met up at the takeout first thing and piled all the gear into my truck and boat. Soon, we were headed up to the put in. After a quick pause at the top of the ramp to unbuckle boat straps and rig the anchor, I backed the boat down and it was quickly launched. Parking the truck didn't take long, and soon I was at the oars maneuvering Pat and Chris into position to fish the first narrow pool.

Floating a Small Musky River in Tennessee

We drifted slowly down the river. Several incredible looking holes slid by without any excitement. Then we turned the corner into a big pool that has always looked fishing but never produced. With excitement running high, we got a couple of good casts into some structure and.....promptly hung a log. Oh well, that is streamer fishing. As I was backing in to free the fly, Pat suddenly spoke up excitedly, "There's a musky!" Sure enough, I had finally seen a musky in this pool that just looks too good to not have a fish. We interacted with this fish for a while, getting a couple of half hearted follows, but something clearly wasn't right with our presentation. We changed flies and otherwise worked the fish, but with so far to go in our float, we didn't have time to seriously target this fish. 

Before long, we were drifting on down the river looking for the next fish. It didn't take long. We were entering the major feeding period based on the solunar fishing tables. In the next couple of hours, we moved several great fish. At one point, I had yielded the oars to one of the other guys. As I was doing a figure eight over a deep pot, a fish came out of nowhere and worked through the eights with me for several passes before just disappearing. We backed up and got a slightly less enthusiastic response before coming to the same conclusion that we did on the first encounter: we simply had too far to go to play too long with any one fish. 

Not long after, I switched back onto the oars. Our number of encounters was excellent by musky fishing standards, but we were still looking for that first eat. On our first encounter, I had remembered a fly that I wanted to experiment with and quickly rigged it up. I had kept it sitting to the side and waiting for another opportunity to try it. That moment would come soon. 

Video of My Musky on the Fly in Tennessee

Want to see some awesome footage from this musky? Check out the video my buddy Chris put up on YouTube HERE. While you are there, please give him a follow! Now, for the full story below...

Catching a Tennessee Musky on the Fly

We were coming into yet another amazing looking hole (aren't they all?!?!) when Pat again announced, "There's a musky!" The fish slid off of a shallower sand bottom and slunk into the deep pool. Musky often will "soft spook," meaning they will be uncomfortable with the boat in shallow water or otherwise, but will also lay down nearby and even interact with you again if you are careful. I slowly maneuvered the boat back up until we could clearly see the fish laying on the bottom and then slipped the anchor down ever so slowly. Then the guys started going through both flies and presentations. By the time they were running out of ideas, I was ready to reach for my rod with the experimental fly. Asking permission to target the fish, the guys readily agreed, and I stood at the edge of the middle of the boat where I could see the fish. 

On the first cast, the fish quickly engaged with my fly. Bingo! Sure enough, it followed all the way back to the boat and then seemingly ate. When I set, there was nothing there. I slammed the fly back in the water. Last winter, I was fishing with my buddy Jeff when he had something similar happen. Getting the fly immediately back in the water gave us a second opportunity and he landed the fish. Remembering that moment, I got the fly in front of the fish as quick as I could. Sure enough, the fish seemed to be looking for the fly still. Immediately, the fish turned, put its nose right on the fly before the gills flared and it hammered my fly. Game on!

The excitement in the boat reached fever pitch as I worked the fish back and forth. The guys were excitedly taking turns running video and waiting with the net depending on which end of the boat the fish was on. Finally, after several almost there net attempts, we slid the fish into the net. With several whoops and hollers, we moved the boat over to a shallow spot where I could properly spend time getting the fish healthy and back in the pool it came from. After taping the fish out at just under 40" (a new personal best), I cradled it in the water for a while before it suddenly jetted. 


Tennessee river musky on the fly
Photo courtesy Pat Tully ©2024

Releasing a fly caught musky in Tennessee
Photo courtesy Pat Tully ©2024


Our Day of Musky Fishing 

Goal number one for the winter season accomplished, I jumped back on the oars for a large portion of the day. The agreement early had been that whoever got a fish would be rowing. I was more than happy to spend the rest of the day on the oars. Only when it started to get late and we had a long ways ago did I ask for help on the oars. We took turns to get on down the river. The day ended with ten encounters, 9 follows, and one landed fish. Not a bad day of musky fishing.

Even with the winter fishing season winding down, I'm hoping to get back out there sometime soon. In the meantime, I'll be out on the Clinch looking for that other goal for my winter season...

Video of My Musky on the Fly in Tennessee

Want to see some awesome footage from this musky? Check out the video my buddy Chris put up on YouTube HERE. While you are there, please give him a follow!



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