Archive for the ‘Boats’ Category

Musky on the Fly   1 comment

Last weekend I got to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I began fly fishing. A Musky on the fly.

Stephen Rose and I headed up north to Hayward Friday afternoon and after a long but pleasant drive we ended up at the Boulder Lodge.


Boulder Lodge near Clam Lake, WI

Boulder Lodge near Clam Lake, WI – Click the image to go to their website.


What’s great about camping at this place is they have a nice bar and grill, so camp meals are as easy as throwing ten or twenty dollars on the table and digging in. It’s also on Ghost Lake, as sparsely populated, tamarack-lined northern lake filled with Musky and Walley. You can rent a boat for the day and have at it if that’s your pleasure.

Saturday morning we met up with our guide, Brad Bohen. If you haven’t heard of Brad Bohen, you haven’t been paying attention to the art of pursuing Musky with fly gear. Brad grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin and spent a lot of time visiting a local fly shop there, learning to tie flies and getting after Trout, Bass, and other species with his fly rod. Summers offered him the chance to get up north where he chased Musky with traditional spinning gear. He learned to captain a drift boat in Montana, spending his college years in Bozeman. All of these experiences have added up to a man who knows how to get fish to chase whatever you’re throwing.


Brad Bohen with a toothy beast. Click the pic to go to MCO's website (and book a guided trip with Brad for chrissake's).

Brad Bohen with a toothy beast. Click the pic to go to MCO’s website (and book a guided trip with Brad for chrissake’s).


We stopped in Clam Lake for some breakfast at the Elkhorn Lodge, so named because Clam Lake is home to Wisconsin’s biggest Elk herd, one-hundred and eighty of them. And you can see signs of Elk everywhere. Literally. There are signs along Hwy 77 with blinking yellow lights warning you that there are lots of Elk around and that you’d be best served slowing down a bit so you don’t end up with one through your windshield.

Brad told us a story of working upriver with two clients one day and hearing Elk bugling up ahead. “How cool” everyone thought, that there were Elk nearby. They rounded a bend and heard the sound of antlers cracking together. “Wow, there are a couple of bulls fighting” everyone thought. Then they rounded another bend and into view came these two fully antlered rutting bull Elk, sparring with each other right in the river while a dozen cow Elk watched nearby. Incredible.

After breakfast with headed out to Brad’s truck, towing a sweet Towee Skiff. How cool is Brad’s rig?!


Brad Bohen's '88 Land Cruiser pulling a Towee Rivermaster Skiff. Click to go to the Towee website. Copyright Towee Boats.

Brad Bohen’s ’88 Land Cruiser pulling a Towee Rivermaster Skiff. Click to go to the Towee website. Copyright Towee Boats.


We headed off and Brad gave us a rundown of the plan for the day. Well, there really wasn’t a plan aside from “We’re gonna go to a boat landing and put in the boat and head up river and fish a lake or two, and we’ll drift the river for a while and see if we can run into any toothy monsters.” I paraphrased, but that’s about the jist of it.

And that’s just what we did. Except it wasn’t like we were just anywhere, we were exactly “nowhere”, for all intents and purposes. It felt like we were in Alaska, basically, motoring (with a jet outboard – Coolup a winding river bounded on all sides by reeds and bogs and forest, and starkly planted in what felt like wilderness. It was really something. I hope you get to experience it someday.

Musky fishing, as everyone has heard, takes a lot of patience. Trout fishing is fast-action in comparison. With trout you can have off days, sure. But once you get the hang of it, and learn where to fish and what to look for, chances are pretty good that after an hour or two you’ll find some fish.

Musky fishing is all about prospecting. The stretch of river we fished, which was described by Brad as some of the finest Musky water in the world, contained, in his estimation, around a dozen Musky per mile. Compare that with estimates of trout density in Wisconsin’s Driftless trout streams, commonly described as having 1,000 trout per mile.

That should give you some perspective.

Brad uses nine and ten weight fly rods that are nine feet long, and he throws flies that look more like Stephen Tyler hairpieces than insects. They’re made to mimic baitfish or small mammals or ducklings. Stephen and I hucked these flies for and hour, then two, in lakes, among lily-pads, riverbends, hidy holes, while Brad rowed and coached and talked of amusing and inconceivable anecdotes of guide-trips past.

And then, a big toothy maw rose from the deep tanin-stained waters to decimate Stephen Rose’s fly, mere feet from the boat. Stephen did a good job setting the hook, not with a trout set (lifting the rod tip) but with a quick backward tug of the line with his left hand. These fish have mouths made of tooth and bone, and to keep one on your line, a fierce hook set is required.

With Brad’s help, Stephen landed his first fly-caught Musky and was on the board!


Stephen Rose and Brad Bohen with Stephen's Musky, caught on a fly.

Stephen Rose and Brad Bohen with Stephen’s Musky, caught on a fly.


We drifted downriver a bit longer and then took the boat out and headed downstream to bigger water.

In Northern Wisconsin boat landings are sometimes suspect. The boat landing Brad used to put his boat in the water that afternoon could better be described as a series of steps about five feet wide, with bushes and signs on either side, terminating in a large, half-submerged boulder strategically placed to wreck your boat as you lower it from your trailer into the water. Below is a picture showing the general look of the place.


Nice Boat Landing!

Nice Boat Landing!


As he was preparing the boat for launch Brad was telling us how the highway department had put in a nice brand new bridge just downstream (upper right corner of the photo) two years earlier (right over a set of rapids), and why hadn’t they included a reasonable boat landing in the project. I was looking around thinking to myself “there isn’t a boat landing, as far as I can see.” But Brad started backing his boat up toward a gap between two bushes with a boulder at the bottom and I thought to myself, “Our day of fishing will be over soon, after Brad destroys his boat in a few minutes.”

Well, he didn’t destroy his boat. In fact it was an artful jig he danced, getting the boat in the water without batting an eye. It’s like he’d done it many times before. City slicker me should have known better than to be concerned.

We tooled upriver with jet outboard humming along and Brad positioned us in all the likely places. After a while, after fishing in a very likely spot for a spell, the water surrounding my fly exploded. I set the hook and pulled the fish in. A pike.

Only after I found out it was a pike did I feel even the slightest bit of disappointment. It was a predatory fish that looked a lot like a Musky. The take was all kinds of pissed off. There were plenty of teeth. It made my heart race. So I was happy to have had some action, but that happiness was tempered with the fact that I hadn’t caught a Musky.


Tom and Brad with Pike.

Tom and Brad with Pike.


We fished enjoyably for an hour more, maybe two, and then it was time to get back on the road. Brad was heading out of town but offered to set us up with two rods to use for the evening and into Sunday if we were inclined. Yes, we were.

Back at the campground we said our farewells with promises to keep in touch and fish again together sometime. Thanks a bunch, Brad. It was a super cool outing and I’ll never forget it!

Later that evening, after a great dinner at the Angry Minnow in Hayward, Stephen and I went back to the Boulder Lodge and decided to fish the creek below Ghost Lake. We did everything Brad had taught us that day, and look how it worked out…


Tom's first Musky, caught on a fly.

Tom’s first Musky, caught on a fly.


Summer!   Leave a comment

I live in a neighborhood that borders Lake Wingra, and this summer we’ve taken full advantage of that. We joined Wingra Boats and now have access to all of their canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and stand-up paddle boards.

My buddy and neighbor Stephen Rose has also joined up (he made me do it, actually) and yesterday he took his sons and I took two of mine “down to the lake”, as we say, for some fun in the water. The boys handle the kayaks beautifully, and even though it was windy, Stephen took out a stand-up paddle board. As you can see from the pics, these things make great play platforms. In a word, they are Awesome!

Hope you enjoy the photographs…


Shepard loves the lake!

Shepard loves the lake!


Good times on Lake Wingra

Good times on Lake Wingra


It's summer! Woo Hooo!

It’s summer! Woo Hooo!


Bode, Joe, Heron, and Stephen on Lake Wingra

Bode, Joe, Heron, and Stephen on Lake Wingra


Fun Factor: Off the chart.

Fun Factor: Off the chart.


There's a happy young man.

There’s a happy young man.


I'm pretty sure this guy has gills somewhere.

I’m pretty sure this guy has gills somewhere.


S.U.P on Lake Wingra

S.U.P on Lake Wingra



Madison Lake Fishing on the Fly   2 comments

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to get out on my local lake, Lake Wingra, in Madison. The lake is across the street from my humble abode.

I have a “boat” in the “marina” there. I use quotes here because, while both of those nouns within the quotes are true, the sight of either may not make you green with envy (but, as the local joke goes, swimming in the water would probably make you green).

I have a twelve foot long flat-bottomed rowboat acquired two years ago for free from a guy who had it leaning up against his barn since about 1981. I patched it up, replaced the wood seats and transom, and put a coat of paint on it, and it serves me very well, enabling me to get anywhere on Lake Wingra in about 10 minutes using my 38-lb-thrust Minkota trolling motor (also given to me by the farmer).

The marina is dreadfully shallow, even for a boat with a flat bottom, and it looks more like a lily pad water garden that it does a proper place to navigate a boat. The local boat house rental place owns and operates the marina and a couple of years ago they had the whole thing dredged so their rental customers could take boats in and out of the marina without trouble. When I say they had the whole thing dredged I actually mean everything except the area around where people store their own boats. We are left to deal with water depths of anywhere from twelve to twentyfour inches and choked with thick-stemmed lily pads.

Oh Well. I have a boat on a lake and I can go from my front door to my favorite fishing spot in about fifteen minutes, and that includes the walk. It could be worse. A lot worse.


Madison - A city surrounded by water

Madison - A city surrounded by water



So, as I was saying, I went out yesterday evening at about six o’clock with my ten-year-old dog and my three-year-old son, both of whom are excellent companions and friends of mine, always up for just about any adventure. I’m in the mode, now that autumn, and then winter, are on the horizon, that I’m looking to get fishing in just about whenever I can. It will be cold soon, you know? So out we went, crossing from the north shore to the south shore of the lake, over to that spot where the bluegills are always hungry.

I rigged up the fly rod as we motored across and by the time we were in the vicinity I was ready to throw that bug out to those waiting fishes.

There were fish rising everywhere, slurping bugs off the top of the water, and somehow you think those big ripples in the water that are made when fish rise can only be made by pretty big fish. By the look of it there are nothing but twenty-inch largemouth bass in the lake.

About every third cast I had a fish on. A bluegill, of course. And they weren’t large, either.

But once I did get something larger on, probably a ten-inch largemouth, and I decided to ask my son to help me reel it in.

Well, a three-year-old doesn’t turn a fly reel crank very quickly, and the fish dove for the weeds and stayed put. Some gentle pulling, followed by forceful yanking did not produce a fish, but instead produced a fly with a broken hook. I feel better about that than I do thinking about a fish swimming around with a full fly or lure stuck in its mouth.

Then the sun was setting and my wonderful son was yawning, so we headed back across the lake to the north shore, struggling to plow through the weeds in the marina. Boat tied up, dog and kid safely back on terra firma, and back home for bedtime. Another great fishing experience.

Posted September 1, 2011 by troutseeker in Boats, Fly Fishing, Kids, Lake Wingra, Wisconsin

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McKenzie River Drift Boat   1 comment

I am looking into building a McKenzie River-style drift boat for use next summer. Here’s a good look at this type of boat.

Isn’t that a good-looking design? Spira International sells plans for around $50. Here’s the one that catches my eye.

McKenzie Drift Boat

McKenzie Drift Boat

I would use this boat on the Wisconsin River to fish for smallies, and on big rivers up in Northern Wisconsin and the U.P. I’d even take it out west to float the beautiful stretches found in the mountains.

Posted November 17, 2010 by troutseeker in Boats

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