Welcome to Panfish

Part Twenty-six

Walleyes On The Fly

By Randy Fratzker

I know, I know, most of you know that I took a few days off and went up to Minnesota walleye fishing. And you also knew that all 80+ fish were caught on spinning gear because the darn things were in strong current and down about 15 to 20 feet. And you probably thought I was going to lie you all and change the gear to fly fishing gear and the jigs and sonics to flies of one sort or another. Sorry, I just couldn't do that. I could have, but I won't. Especially when I went out this afternoon and caught a couple of nice ones in the river in front of the house!

It's the first week of November, it's been down right cold around here at night, dipping into the high 20's, heavy gray cloud cover and day time temps only in the mid 30's. That's always a good sign that the walleye's are probably in their fall feeding frenzy. Past experience seems to be that the worse the weather is, the better the walleye's bite. By mid-afternoon I needed a break from a deck building project I've been working on so I grabbed my trusty 8wt and a few streamers and headed for the water. The wind was out of the north, blowing straight into my face at about 10 mph. Cold and damp. It wouldn't be long before I'd be headed back to the house for a hot cup of what ever I could find.

I tied on one of my old stand by flies, a #8 Clouser, tied in bass colors. They're almost always good for a few small mouth or crappies. Nada, zilch, cast after cast, same thing. Time to try something else, a Dark Spruce didn't produce either. I looked along the shoreline and noticed a large school of minnows heading for the rocks. A Light Spruce would come close to matching them nicely! (See, once in a while I do follow the "rules") I tied one on, about a #6 I figured, from the size of the minnows. Started casting without much happening. Then it dawned on me, I've got a sinking fly with a sinking tipped line, but I'm too cranked up to wait long enough for the line to go much more than a couple of feet under the surface....duh, guess I'm not using the spinning gear any more!

OK, time to relax and let the line and fly do what they're supposed to do. Sink. At 3 inches per second, 4 seconds per foot, letting it just set there till it got to the 6 foot level seemed like an eternity. Keeping the rod tip low to the water, the fly slowly drifted down along the shoreline and I started the retrieve. Slow, with a few "jittering" pulls. Suddenly, there was a slight pull from the other end of the line. I swept the rod to the left, away from the shore to set the hook. It was promptly pulled back and the fish headed down stream and out to deeper water. I lifted the tip high to bring the fish under control, but as yet, it was still controlling me. Finally, I got my hand under the reel and palmed it to a strained stop. Then, just as suddenly, the fish headed straight back at me! I started hauling line in as fast as I could until I caught up with the fish. As yet, I didn't know what I had. It hadn't surfaced or jumped so it could have been any number of kinds of fish, which is why I love this river so much!

About five minutes into the tug of war the fish gave out and I brought it in. A nice 4+ pound walleye! Beautifully colored, and lots of sharp teeth. "Not too bad", I thought as I unhooked him and turned him loose. I caught several more in the next half hour, smaller than the first, but just as feisty. I know I'll be back down tomorrow afternoon, the weather is supposed to be unchanged for the next 5 days.....normal for us upper Midwesterners this time of year. Maybe even keep a few to "taste test" against the ones from Minnesota. At least the water is still open and as long as it is, I'll keep fishing it! (Hey, I'll keep fishing it even after it's frozen too, it's just that the flies seem to bounce on the ice and cutting a hole big enough for fly fishing is a lot of work!)~Randy Fratzke

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