What Fly Should I Throw For Fall Muskies?

Notice the heads for weight, bulk in the body, and the long feathers and tinsel for size.
     A common question among fly anglers this time of year is "What fly should I throw for fall musky?"  Transitioning into fall isn't just something that conventional musky anglers have to deal with.  Every fall hundreds of musky on the fly anglers are faced with the very real truth that what worked this summer isn't working anymore.  In fact I was wrestling with this same issue while guiding earlier this week on Lake Wingra.  No matter what I threw at them the fish didn't seem to respond.  I bet I tied on fifteen flies that morning until I got a fish to finally follow.  Once that musky swung (and missed) I started to put it all together.  
     Conventional anglers this time of year make some changes to their lure selections.  First thing they do is go BIG.  Seriously big, one pound bulldawgs, big double 12 showgirls, the big baits are known to trigger fish so that what's they throw.  The second thing that most anglers do is to start tossing subsurface glide baits.  Big slow moving baits that stay down and usually have some sort of wobble that says "Eat Me" when they aren't moving.  Think Phantoms and Hellhounds many times with a small soft plastic to make them even more irresistible to the fish of 10,000 casts.
     So what can we take away from this information to help us when we're chucking a pile of feathers at this amazing fish?  First thing is you have to throw your big patterns.  For me this means fly patterns that require the use of a 12 weight rod and reel.  Another thing you need to consider is that it's time to start using intermediate or full sink fly lines.  I like the Depth Charge from Orvis, my buddies seem to gravitate towards the Pike and Musky lines offered by Rio.  Regardless of your brand preference you need to make the switch to help get these big flies deeper in the water column.
Acrylic heads or hoods add weight.
     Of course the whole point of this post was supposed to be "Which fly should I throw for fall muskies?"  Well truth be told I don't really concern myself with which fly pattern specifically, as much as how the fly should perform in the water.  You want to throw a fly that obviously has some size to it.  You also want a fly that has a lot of bulk, preferably tied from materials that will pulsate or move even when the fly isn't in motion.  This movement could be from bunny strips, tinsel, even from a series of articulations.   It doesn't matter how it moves, but it needs to move.  Fall musky fishing isn't a speed game like spring streamers or summer topwater patterns.  Fall is low and slow so you've got to make the adjustment when out on the water.  If I'm not being clear enough let me offer up some ideas on how to choose fall musky patterns.
     The way that I choose my fall fly patterns is to break the fly into 3 sections mentally.  First it needs to have some kind of weight in the head that helps the fly dive or swing from side to side on the retrieve.  Second, it needs to have some serious bulk just behind the head so that it moves water and causes the fly to do that pulsing thing I mentioned earlier.  The final 3rd of the fly needs to be large amounts of flowing material that helps to not only make the fly look big, but that will add movement when the fly is stripped, stopped, or changes direction.
     For those of you that have stuck around this long let me give you a few patterns to check out.  Try throwing the Montauk Monster, Bergeson's Demon, or my favorite fall pattern the Muskie Killer.  Each of these flies work great in the fall because they are big, fish slow, and have lots of movement.  Toss a couple of these in your fly box and you're guaranteed to see a fish.  I said see a fish, not catch a fish.  After all we're still talking muskies.
One of Madison's finest being released to fight another day.
     Tight Lines.

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