Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Angler Interview- Brad Bohen

Brad Bohen with a big girl!
I would imagine that more than a few of the folks who read my blog know that I am a musky nut (among other things) so it was natural that I would end up getting in touch with Brad Bohen of Musky Country Outfitters. Brad is a total musky nut that has been guiding muskies on the fly for a while now and has been VERY successful with it. If you haven't seen the trailer to Zero to Hero you really need to check it out! 

Brad and I have been talking all year and we had hoped to get together for a nice long outing on some of my rivers this August but scheduling conflicts have prevented that... but we definitely will be hitting some water together before too long!

How did you get into fly fishing?

Drew, first of all thanks for the cross-pollination project;)  We are both super passionate fly anglers.  I'm honored to have you consider my opinions worth posting.  Thanks for having me.  I got into fly fishing early in my angling days at age nine.  I was already a rabid angler at that point and one day at a winter time sportsmans expo I saw Steve Rajeff casting at the Scientific Anglers booth.

I was taken instantly by watching him dance that line out above our heads.  My father enrolled me in a fly tying class that same winter and from there it has taken me all over the country and now back to Upper Wisco where I get to truly live my passion.  I just turned I have been at it for a fair spell now;)

What is it about the fly rod that makes it your tool of choice when chasing the big dawgs?

The fly rod became my musky hunting weapon of choice about eleven years ago.  I had fished musky with gear for a couple of decades and even did some guiding for gear clients back when I lived in Afton on the St. Croix.  After I finally caught my first musky on the fly after more than a year of trial and lots of error I was fully hooked.  Last season I had 161 musky landed on a fly in my boat.

Fly rods are flat out deadly in the right hands.  I really recommend a good, balanced 10 weight set up for this game.  Time on the water with a 10 weight will bring out the best caster in you...

I have often thought that muskies were suckers for flies- the natural movement of materials, the variety of presentations, things are a bit more subtle. What is your take on that?

Proof of the power of feather and fur!

I have put the flies up time and again against gear and live bait presentations.  I get to fish with a wide range of anglers from all over the map...and I travel to fish a great deal myself.  I know that flies will outfish everything else most days.  I'm not boasting just putting out facts.  Sure the live bait has it's times as does a prop style top-water or a walk-the-dog stick bait...gear and conventional tackle and techniques produce do doubt.  But for my money I go with the hair, feather, flash of one of my predator patterns.  Certainly the fly will take pressured fish is a new look but it goes far beyond that.  I could keep you busy for a week answering this question.  Lets just say that I'm a firm believer in the power of the fly to get it done with the top predator fish.

What is the craziest thing that a musky has done when you or a client has had it on?  

Man that is a tough one...the adrenilane induced episodes that a musky attack prouces are strange...some individules get overcome with emotion...buck fever it is know as up here...and they do the silliest things.  I once had a man start quacking like a duck...he was overcome...he acted like that for 10 minutes then sat down and composed himself.  It was very funny.  After that he did not want to fish for musky anylonger.  He stuck with bass for the remainder of the day.

I know that I have had many heartbreaking moments with big ‘skies. Tell me about a couple of yours… the most painful ones please…
This is one client fish that didn't get away!

Oh got to bring up the hauntings that the big fish stick us with huh?  Last season I had a client tie into a 40# class fish in a rapids.  He was over 80 years old but a tough angler...been all over and boated 150# tarpon...but that big musky whipped him.  At one point he looked back at me and said"What do I do?"  I yelled - "Hang on for all you are worth Ronnie"...and I tried to row it out of the rocks...but that big fish swam into the boulders and got wrapped...and it was game over...that one hurt.  The season before I had my number one client Derek Kuehl out...we were with the then owner of Boulder Lodge Mark was again fall...again Chippewa River...Derek has caught many, many big fish on a fly.  He lives in Hayward and he gets out at prime time more than any other angler.  He is a total addict....anyway D has the chops and I enjoy fishing him...that day he hooked the single biggest musky I have seen anywhere...tough break it took deep and downstream of the boat...again I was in a rapids and holding with a strong backstroke on the eddy line...D got excited as we knew he stuck a big one...never before had I seen a big rod bend so deep...unquestionally a huge fish...and he lifted it up on a snubbed line...he should have given some line...let the fish was hooked up in the top of the mouth in the short rakers...tough spot...and when it got to the surface it shook and the fly came just sat there...we all got a good was HUGE...over 55" for sure...maybe 57"?  Heavy...heavy beast of a fish...haunts me does every time I fish...I wonder will I ever see another to match that one?

If you were talking to someone that is just getting started with musky on the fly, what would your best piece of advice be? 
Brad heading to some sweet water rigged and ready!

Hire a guide...go to learn technique and rigging...if you want to come up to speed quickly.  Fish the fish with gear some to get a feel for the species...get a few under the belt so to speak.  Or can go from the get go with the fly gear certainly but I think the best anglers come from some gear fishing background.  The musky is unlike anything else...what they put you difficult at times to get a strike from...spending time on the water is must be out there a great deal...then you have to keep you fly in the water...seems simple...but too many anglers cast too much...they start thinking of casting again before the current presentation is even close to being completed.  To me I live for the last five feet of every cast.  I do not want it to end...learn to keep it deep at the boat...the top half of the rod should be in the water and you stir the soup pot over and over...until you are sure nothing is lurking...remember musky can travel over thirty feet in under one second...a blink of an eye...that is what it takes...and that is what you are out there working hard for...hours and hours and sometimes days of effort...bam!  Deal sealed...zero2hero and all that...

I certainly have my own leader rigs that I use with toothy critters and my musky rigs are a bit different than my pike rigs. Are you willing to share what your terminal tackle looks like?  

Mine is a simple set up...lots of trial and error when I was first starting out.  Everyone should find their own system that works for them mind you.  You have to be responsible and confident for your own system...but I have no problem sharing mine...100% Seaguar Flourocarbon.  On a 10 weight I nail knot 24" of 50# and to that I attach via a uni-to-uni connection a 24" section of 40#...this piece I put a large perfection loop on the end...then I loop-to-loop or the handshake connection with the fly and 18" bite guard of 60# or 80# flouro that is open loop knotted to the fly...very simple and easy to change flies...I keep at least 10 or more patterns rigged with bite guards always...we will get the odd cut off...we deal with is part of the game...something about using hand tied knots and no wire keeps it pure...or thats what we tell ourselves!  Ha!  No fault in wire if that is your I said everyone needs to fish their own system to be responsible and confident.

I know musky are your primary game, but what else do you target on your home waters? I would imagine you get some other fish when you target muskies too (I have slammed some huge smallies myself).  
A client this year with a bruiser smallie!

Oh yes...all the predator fish are welcome...smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike and the odd channel cat are the other common predators.  I enjoy all these species...and we will at times get side tracked for a short spell with each of them...hey, good fishing is good fishing eh?  But we always return to the musky hunt...we are sickos;)

Zero to Hero has been a huge success- I know that there was a whole lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ at the local showing of the Fly Fishing Film Festival during your segment. How are you dealing with your new found fishing fame and all the travel time you got in earlier this year?   

I'm keep a low profile...I prefer to let the fish do the talking.  I really enjoyed that experience of making the film and then touring around this past winter with the F3T gang.  I'd love to do another film...the right one...and look forward to more of that.  But I live to be on the water with the Tribe...and everything else is just windown dressing.  The fame opens doors and provides opportunity.  For that I'm thankful.  I'm just a regular jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other.  All I have done is allow my passion to guide me and the way I choose to live.  If folks are interested in that I'm tickled!  I am very proud of the moive and think it will is a great snap shot of a beautiful time and place in angling history.  Robert Thompson made a very accurate and real film...he got it right.  To be a part of that was personally very rewarding.

Seems like this year has been pretty awesome for muskies already… got any lines on any real brutes? Or are you collecting addresses for the fall bite?  

Lots of address collecting!  Ha!!  I'm THE MUSKY PIMP Drew...I gots a little black book filthy with addresses;)  But we have been knocking em pretty good this season.  Having three top guides in one outfit here at Musky Country Outfitters is really of us is on the water all the time...lots of cross-pollination...lots of war room talks...Porter, Fischer and two other crazies - Musky Intern Erik Thue and Fly Tier Chris Willen are all part of the squad up here.  All we do is focus on the place which we call The Musky Lab is really remarkable...a dedicated musky fly fishing headquarters...beat lab and portal to the musky side...we will end of boating over 300 musky this season I predict.  That is a great deal of data we are I said my little black book is THICK Drew;)

I know you were chasing muskies on bamboo… how has that been going?  
Awesome fish! Even more awesome on grass!

That is my new deal...I got a fat 40"er on the 'boo awhile back...simple pleasure...really cool!  Made my entire season...on foot...wet wading...big swirl...great battle...right to my feet the way I like it...:)  Everything else is gravy now...great place to be eh?

It is hard enough for me dealing with winter in Vermont and having limited angling opportunities. How the hell do you deal with winter in Wisconsin?  

I leave! (BEST answer EVER- DP)

So your world record fish was pretty incredible and the story is awesome. What was the best part of that whole experience- the fish or the company? 

over 100 inches of musky in the boat!
Man it has to be both...I keep tight with my angling pal Derek Kuehl who shared in that double catch -Thunder and Lightening on a Clear Day...the guide Tom Greenup is still around the area...we have went our own ways but I still talk to Tom every now and then.  That catch was a remarkable one and the three of us will have that to remember and share all our living days.  I still remember it all vividly!  Wow what a moment...when we finally boated both fish and put the tape to the big gal!  Thrilling and to have successfully released both - they are still out there;)

Do you consider your dog to be part of your critical musky gear? (I can’t bring our dog along- a toy poodle is definitely in the “bait” category- yea, lay it on me about that- but she is a great dog!)  

Yup...Penny is my best fishing bud.  It's HER boat by the way.  I'm just the unit with the thumbs;)

Blood is part of musky fishing. What was the worst bloodletting event you have dealt with? 

Brad and Penny

I have musky scars on every finger and knuckle and then some.  It's part of the game as you say.  I think bogas are fine if you are a pussy as are gloves. safe.  I'm stupid and tough though.  Call it macho or what have you.  I like to grab onto those beasts on my own terms and let em know who is boss...I caught you bitch!  Now submit!  I have some nerve damage in a couple of knuckles and generally have a fresh wound or two if I'm living right.  I'm no role don't try my moves at home kids;)

What kind of gear do you keep in your bag of tricks? Anything that you would suggest to noobs? (I definitely have a few things that I want to have around when I am after big fish with big teeth).  

Hmmmm, bag of tricks?  My bag of tricks is simple...I live near great musky water, fish every chance I get with the best anglers in the sport and despite being a bit touched in the head manage to catch a few yawning every now and then.  I'm only fussy about the flies I fish.  Only Primo Tail for me!

We both tie some big ass flies for big ass fish. I think the most critical part of the entire fly is the hook. I know when I started out I used some crappy hooks that were barely sharp enough to sink into butter let alone musky jaws. What are your favorite hooks?  

Owner and Gammy are killer irons...the B10S stinger is the bomb and has proven to us it is top shelf.

Has anyone stepped up and asked to produce Brad Bohen signature flies yet or are you on your own? 

Available soon (I will put up the link as soon as it is ready!)
I have my own brand about to launch called Primo Tail.  We have been working on it for five seasons...the first four patterns - Beauford, Hang Time Optic Minnow, Sponge Bob and the River Pig are a complete selection of top to bottom predator killers in their own right.  All are tied right here in Musky Country by musky anglers.  No short cuts.  No doubts.  Primo Tail...uncompromising from start to finish.  We collect all our own bucktail and take it raw to finish.  We'll be adding materials and other items later this fall.  New patterns will be introduced periodically.  I'm counting on the brand to be a big hit.  I think it will.  At least the fish tell us it is!

I have seen some pretty weird things happen on rivers and lakes in both Vermont and New York. What kind of oddness have you run into?  

Every day is odd in my life Drew...I'm a freak what can I say?  The other day I was naked and getting sexy with my girlfriend on a beach.  Hey it was hot and we were all alone or so we thought!  Around the corner on this little inlet stream comes a boat with a guide and two clients.  SORRY!  Wow, that was sort of embarassing but fun at the same time.  I live life to the fullest.  I'm happy.

If you were able to fish anywhere in the world for any species of fish, where would you go and what would you target?  

Alta River Norway....Duke of Roxbury beat for the big gytefish...Atlantics like Ernest Schweibert wrote about in the classic Night of the Gytefish.  That hands down would be my pick.  But there is so much out there I want to do.  I hope my angling allows me to travel and fish around the globe in the future.  I have never had a Passport but am obtaining one.  Until now I have really enjoyed exploring the good old USA.  And I still have a great deal to sample here at home.  That has been my creed to myself.  Fully take in that which is close to home first.  Travel after.  I'd love to do Cuba.  Just made a fun new Mate in a fellow named Stu from New Zealand...I suspect we will go over there and have a visit soon.  We are old sign shooters from way back we are!

So when am I going to have a chance to put you in a boat with me and what do you want to catch?  I hope you can deal with standing up in a canoe (I know it is not the luxury accommodations of your drift boats).   
Soon to be seen in Vermont! MCA meets MCO!

Soon Drew!  I wish we had our collective shit together more and we could follow through this August with our musky trip in VT.  But we both have busy lives keeping our guide business up and running and all the other plates that must be spinning in order to make it happen.  Soon and I would really like a bowfin!  Hey Thanks Again for the interest and the opportunity to answer some questions.  It has been a pleasure!


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