Muskie on the Fly
Author: Robert S. Tomes
Reviewed by Bob Petti Muskie - the Muskellunge - Esox masquinongy - is a fish of dreams, fantasies, and tall tales. They are bigger, stronger, and meaner than a northern pike, and the fact that they are far less common makes them the holy grail of warmwater fishermen. Anyone who has fished warm water would love to hook a muskie at some point, and those lucky anglers who have done so are eager to share their stories. A friend of mine at work would delight in bringing in photos of her husband holding a gigantic muskellunge taken from the Susquehanna River in some secret location, fish that were almost as big as he was. My Dad told me stories of muskellunge he caught up north when he was a boy. Everyone has a story - or knows of a story. It's a fish that generates as much myth and lore as experiences.
I read Musky on the Fly more from a voyeuristic perspective than from a shared understanding of the topic. People come to understand their limits in life and I knew it would be highly unlikely to ever have the opportunity or means to fish for trophy muskies like these. What's the old saying? I was allowed to live vicariously through the eyes of someone else, and for that I am ever indebted to Robert Tomes. I've caught just about every game fish available to anglers in New York State, and even a few in far off locales, but I've never gone muskie fishing. I'd like that to change someday.
So the book. It's massive, as are all the books in the "Masters on the Fly" series (see others here and here.). I would like to commend the publisher, Thomas Pero, for allowing these authors to present their stories and knowledge in the most spectacular way possible in printed media, with text accompanied by countless color photographs, helpful graphics and drawings, and eye catching artwork. It seems as no expense was spared. So Mr Pero - thank you. You give these authors a chance to share their life's work in what can only be a dream come true for each of them.
The book follows the same basic premise as the other books in the series, with an in depth biology lesson on the muskellunge and the environments where they thrive, plenty of how-to's and where-to's, but underneath it all is the common understanding that fly fishing for these fish is not a casual affair. It takes special gear, special flies, and certainly special techniques to give an angler a chance at hooking one of these fish. One simply doesn't approach muskie fishing in a casual manner. At least those who hope for success.
It is impossible for me to pick nits with this book. First of all, I'm not a muskie angler, and for me to comment on Mr Tomes choice of flies or angling techniques would be silly. I take his word as fact, simple as that. The man speaks with authority and has the trophy photographs to back it up. I have fished for Northern Pike plenty, but that is like saying I've played softball in my backyard so I'm qualified to comment on Mariano Rivera's deadly cutter. Let's just say that Mr Tomes knows what he's doing.
As I've mentioned already, the presentation of the information is outstanding. Topics that are difficult to express in words are supported by excellent line drawings or graphics. Where there is description of habitat, there are photographs. The presentation of the flies themselves is stunning. The flies are huge - measured in inches. The size of the hooks used isn't as critical as much as the fact that they are big, strong, and sharp. Think tarpon hooks dressed with most of a saddle and half a hank of flashabou, designed both to attract the attention of a big fish and also have a modicum of castability. It would have been an injustice for those big flies to be presented in the common "three flies per page" format we see in so many fly fishing texts. That is fine with trout flies, where a 2x2 box is plenty big enough to show off a #16 dry fly, but a fly that is 8 inches long deserves a photograph that is - well - 8 inches long. And so it is here. Again - no expense was spared. Every topic in the book has a format that is designed to maximize information exchange.
Like I said, I'm not going to try to find things to criticize in the book. I'm simply not qualified, but at the same time the presentation and information simply feels complete. It's all here, from teaching you how to deal with the inevitable heart stopping follows, to offering some advice on where to go and who to go with (and why anyone would ever want to be a muskie guide to begin with). It's an outstanding book in every way, and I humbly offer it my highest recommendation.