3 Great Musky Flies for Canada

Featured in Musky Hunter Magazine, June/July 2022

If you haven’t already read last month’s article on pre-spawn Musky, make sure to check it out. Understanding pre-spawn habits and how Musky behavior changes as the season progresses is paramount for being successful as a Musky angler (and even more so with a fly rod). Knowing where to find fish after ice out and the type of forage fish are keying in on are two of the most important considerations to start with when breaking down your fishery.

Once you understand where they’re feeding, what they’re eating, and how that changes from pre-spawn through summer and fall, next is deciding what flies to use. Oversimplifying, don’t be afraid to fish small flies after ice out and fast. Patterns in the 5- to 7- inch range are a great place to start. You want flies that turn, glide, jig, and/or swim erratically. Don’t be afraid to upsize either, especially if you’ve located a mega or if your smaller offering seemed to result in a neutral follow. Fly color is a distant third consideration after action and size, so fish what you have confidence in to stay focused.

As a reminder, stripping as fast as you can with a fly rod isn’t going to approach the retrieve rates of traditional baitcasting reels. Mix it up and retrieve slower in some situations, but we’re trying to trigger eats from an apex predator, and it’s unnatural for a prey species to make it easy for our quarry.

Now that we’ve established some general guidelines, let’s talk about a few favorite patterns for Musky on the fly in Canada.

The Smoker: John Cooper

The Smoker is an evolution of the classic Buford with twin rabbit strip tails. This fly catches big fish from early through late season pretty much everywhere, in both stillwater and current. For tying your own, start with a short shank and a short regular tie in of bucktail. We usually cut a regular rabbit strip in half for this pattern. Your favorite limp flash comes next. One more tie in of bucktail (this time, reverse tied) completes the rear shank of this pattern. My favorite hook for this fly is a 4/0 Kona Big Game Carnivore (BGC). Once you connect your shank to the front hook, reverse ties and a brush or Buford head finish this one off. This fly ends up being in the 8” to 9” range on the hardware arrangement above, though can also be downsized.

 3 Great Musky Flies for Canada | The Smoker | Musky Town


This Canadian 49” Musky ate Jeremy Boulier’s black and gold Smoker before a quick pic and safe release.

The Bucktail Game Changer: Marlon Prince

            Made up of 4-5 28mm shanks and a 40 mm front shank, Marlon’s take on Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer platform wears a 6/0 Kona Big Game Hunter (BGH) or treble (split ringed in between the front two shanks). The tail section gets a bunch of shorter schlappen. The rest of the fly is relatively straightforward. Just make sure to use a good support brush before building your taper with bucktail and topping each section off with a touch of flash. The reverse bucktail tie ins on each shank get progressively longer until the final long bulkhead tie in shortens back down into the head taper. The hardware configuration above ends up coming in at 8-10 inches, but this pattern can also be downsized with either shorter shanks or by reducing how many shanks you use.

 3 Great Musky Flies for Canada | Bucktail Changer | Musky Town

Marlon Prince of Saint Johnny Sox in New Brunswick has great success on this fly all year long.

The Musky Slider: Evan Gillis

            Evan Gillis has his own take on a glide style baitfish fly. These are tied on a 6/0 front Partridge Universal Predator X and rear 4/0 Partridge Attitude Extra, though any long-shanked, wide gapped hooks will do. These are usually tied on the longer side, but can also be shortened. The first bucktail clump is tied in regular, followed by two Whiting Schlappen feathers, then a reverse bucktail tie in, two more Whiting Schlappen feathers (1/2 as long this time), then build your profile with reverse ties from there. The most important parts of this pattern are a rattle on the top of the front hook with reverse tied Squimpish or Sparkle Blend to complete the head before gluing on your eyes.

3 Great Musky Flies for Canada | Musky Slider | Musky Town

Evan Gillis caught this healthy Canadian Musky on his Musky Slider pattern.

As with all Musky Flies, make sure to start sparse and build density toward the head. Check out Musky Town’s Tying With The Pros fly tying video series for more helpful tutorials, tying tips, fishing intel, and more!