Written by Dan Donovan, owner of Musky Fool
The Original Musky Fly Shop

As I sit down to write this in the midst of another musky season I pose to myself…how many muskies have been landed on Winston rods? How many big ones?!

As a gentleman who arrived at fly fishing in one of the most unlikely ways…via muskellunge…it’s a natural question I suppose. Winston rods, at least here in musky country are revered, yet not typically tools we consider for the job. With all the rigamarole, fish breaking rods in figure 8s, casting treble hooks and egg sinkers (can I even say those words here?!??!) it’s no wonder the musky fly anglers aren’t running towards the green tubes for their next green dragon adventure. 


So honestly, when Jenn, my wife/fishing partner/business partner and I started fishing the Winston Alpha+ 10wt this season, we thought we were at least going to become best friends with the Winston warranty department. And at best, have some fun on some small musky water getting this new green rod BENT. We really were a little skeptical. 



But you know there is something odd about musky fly fishing. Something under the cover that makes it very different from anything else. You can’t really pattern these fish. And in lieu of that you are left to simply look at the statistical odds and do whatever you can to stack them in your favor on any given day. 



Musky fly fishing is really the part of our sport where the greatest skill you can have is stamina – both mental and physical. It really sucks sometimes and there is no hack or work around. No short cuts or hot flies. Yes, you really just need to keep casting and figure 8ing. And no, you don’t automatically catch one after 10,000 casts. 



We have and continue to try all the things that make it easier. Oftentimes that can even feel fruitless as the only constant is, win or lose, you are going to take a few punches.



If your stripping hand doesn’t ache you are not working your fly vigorously enough. If your casting arm does pulse every time you load the rod you probably should be out there longer. If you haven’t seen a fish during the day you should stay out all night. If you remain mentally stable and nice to strangers after a couple days on the water, then you’re probably are an alien. Needless to say, if we can find anything that makes it easier, even 5 or 10%, we take it and run with it. This game of inches demands it. 



At the same time, its almost as if the beatdown these fish give us is the reason we love them so much. The challenge, the unknown. Some of the best looking days produce no fish and some of the most random days have gold at the end of the rainbow. For some people, this type 2 fun, is exactly what the doctor ordered. We call them Musky Fools.



On a seemingly unimportant and nonchalant early fall day, a couple of said Musky Fools decided to take a little musky float down a river harboring native Wisconsin Muskellunge. At this point Jenn had put several Muskies on the 10wt alpha but nothing over 40” for the season.



Yet she was so impressed she pretty much told me the rod was hers and that I should find my own… We were still waiting to see what this thing would do as the flies and fish got bigger as the season progressed.



So Jenn and I (and Olive, our chocolate lab) headed out for a beautiful day on the river. Typically when Olive makes the cut that’s me subconsciously stating that today is NOT going to be the day. Well, as is often the case in musky country, the fish didn’t care and after about 20 min Jenn was bent to the cork on her personal best musky.


Products Used: 

R.L Winston Alpha+ 10wt – when we needed it to perform most it did its job and then some. This incredible stick makes casting musky flies feel less like hucking a wet sock and more like a hot knife through butter. Especially with the powerful butt section that you feel load up and sling shot your fly across the abyss, saving you shoulders and arms to fight another day. 


ABOUT Dan and Jenn Donovan

Musky Fool Fly Fishing Co. was founded in Wisconsin by husband and wife, Dan and Jenn Donovan. Originally, the first one-stop online shop for all things musky on the fly, Musky Fool has quickly grown to a full-service fly shop and platform for the warmwater fly angler. Their mission is to protect the native trophy waters they call home.