- Muskoka Lake Fishing Fun for walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass
- Single-blade spinner rigs fool big and little fish…when presented in the “fish zone.”
- How-to, what-to, when-to with expert angler, Andy Wilbur, sharing one of his secrets.
By Forrest Fisher
You know, the older we get, the more we forget! I discovered this last week during a fun fishing trip with good friends to Muskoka Lake in our nearby north, about 100 miles above Toronto.
For many years now, about a dozen outdoor buddies have banded together to make this trip up north because there seems to be an uncommon mutual interest in the outdoors, in the peace and enjoyment of special fishing moments and evening round table campfires.
Add clear starlight skies after dark with an occasional streaking meteorite (a good luck shooting star), the northern lights on some nights, and never-ending conversations about guns, bows, new equipment, new outdoor seasons, and anything else that pertains to the outdoors…and you get it. All the ingredients of a great trip and lots of relaxing fun happen during these away-from-home sessions.
There was a new addition to the band of Muskoka fishing brothers this year. His name was Andy Wilbur. He lives in Central New York, and he had successful heart surgery just two weeks ago.
Understanding that, he wanted to make the trip anyway because he had always turned down previous invitations, and maybe, just maybe, this was a special year for a “big fish”. There is always that story-tale thought!
It turned out to be more than that for the big-hearted new guy. Andy readied his 17-foot Lund moored at the dock and walked up to where the group was still unpacking to ask, “Does anyone want to join me for a few first casts while I check out my boat?” A quick answer came from 12-year old Zack Buresch, “Can I go?”
So Zack and his dad, Karl, a marine infantry veteran, both jumped in the boat and off they went.
About 30 minutes later, we could see the trio returning to the dock. We walked down to help Andy get the boat retied safely and to make sure he didn’t do anything silly after his hospital event. “How did you do?” asked Craig Sauers. “Any good?” Zack hopped vertically about 3 feet straight up and onto the dock, grinning, and said, “I caught my first walleye with Mister Andy!! Look, here it is!”
The fish was 23-inches long, golden yellow in color, a prize all by itself, but that was not all. There were two more on the stringer! The boys caught three beautiful walleye in 30 minutes on a waterway where walleye are known to exist but are rarely caught with any consistency.
After the excitement went into a brief rest mode, everyone wanted to know how, what, where, and all the details.
Chris Sauers asked, “Were you electric motor trolling Andy?”
“Nope, just casting from my anchored boat,” he answered with a whitebeard grin. “Andy just showed us some new magic boys,” Karl said, “I think you might want to see how Andy fishes!” Zack was still beaming.
Andy explained his new old trick for catching walleye here was just as simple as his open water boat. He used an unassuming spinner and worm rig with just a few beads and a single-snelled hook, threaded a half-nightcrawler onto that hook and then cast the line out. In front of the rig, a few split-shots that are heavy enough to take the rig down to the bottom in 20 feet of water or so. Then he simply reeled it back very slowly. Spinner flash, worm scent, color from the beads…..wham! Fish on!
One-fish luck can happen to anyone, but three fish in short order is a demonstration of something more than luck.
There it was, “Andy Magic.” Maybe this was why Andy finally made the trip this year. He had some unique fish-catching charm to share that would change how the “band of Muskoka brothers” fish for all time.
Andy mentioned that he had brought his spinner parts just in case he needed to make some more. Needless to say, there was a spinner/worm rig-making seminar on the kitchen table in the cabin five minutes later. All 12 guys (a big place) were rigged up with at least one. Young Zack had a few extra!
Andy shared with everyone that there is nothing more special to him than watching a youngster hook his fish on a rig that he can tie. “There is captivating charm and bonding magic with the fish when you catch ’em on lures you make,” Andy says. His words hit an exclusive memory chord with me.
The whole experience took me back in a time warp to a time when my dad, who just recently passed away, showed me how to make fishing lures for the first time. A new lane was opened in my mind. This experience with Andy had opened up a direct link I forgot about when I was a kid, to a time when dad was passing on his local fishing lore.
When dad always taught us to save money because we didn’t have too much of that. He knew I loved to fish (he taught me), so he took me aside one day and brought a fishing lure components catalog to my side. The Herter’s catalog was my favorite (I still have a 1953 version), but Netcraft was a close second. With that, he shared the details of how to make a spinner and worm lure. Not a fancy spinner/worm rig like we use on open Lake Erie today, but a straightforward rig, like what Andy was using.
At Muskoka, the blades we used mainly were smaller size 1 Colorado blades, most were silver in color, but copper, gold and painted red/white spinner blades worked too. Just like dad taught me, Andy showed us to slip a clevis into the tiny hole located at one end of the blade first, then slip the line through the clevis, add four or five small beads and tie on a size 4 hook bait-keeper hook, where we threaded a small worm for bait.
Dad would say, “You just need to use enough beads so that when the beads are strung onto a leader, they take about as much space as the blade is long plus a little. That way, the blade doesn’t hit the hook where you put a small worm, and it will turn OK when you cast it out and reel it back.” Andy sounded just like dad. Then he would say, “You can use any color beads you want, but red or green always seem to work well.”
Andy said these very same words like it was 55 years ago, at least as I remember it all. Magical, mystical, extraordinary, the conversation brought all those things.
The trip was simply outstanding, the boys enjoyed moments to never forget, and a massive release of sharing went on. No boasting or bragging, that would not be the way for anyone in this humble group of likable outdoor friends. Just fish tales, simple humor, a few practical jokes, and a lot of fun in the outdoors. It doesn’t get any better! The Canadian beverages were pretty good too!
That wasn’t all. On the last night of the stay, another old friend joined us to fish. Young eight-year-old Alex Denz, joined Andy and Chris in the now-infamous “Andy walleye boat.” Alex hooked into a whopper 23-inch walleye on the simple rig as sunset turned to nightfall.
“Yes!” said Alex, “this is the best day of my life! I love walleye fishing, but I could never catch one! Now I caught one! Yes! Thank you, Mister Chris and Mister Andy!”
Fishing is so much fun! Congrats Alex! Andy presented Alex with the spinner rig with which he caught his first walleye. A wall-hang prize and treasure for the youngster!
The whole experience of “going back to simplicity” made me think about how things have changed here on Lake Erie. Tackle shops sell spinner and worm rigs now that feature photo-prism blades with unique beads that cost seven dollars these days! Wow! In a bad economy, some things never change, like the rising cost of lures. Not sure the high-priced spinner/worm lures work any better than existing Lake Erie models out there for half the price.
However, one word to the wise. Even the half-cost models are complicated. What if we all went back to tying our own simple one-spinner blade rigs with a few beads and only one hook? The blade turns at about a half-mile per hour! Fish attractor? Yes. Right color? Yes, we can make them any color.
Right size? We’re going to find out!!
Do you know what I’m doing today? It’s time to get simple and see if these simple rigs, which can also be used effectively in a very slow drift, work up here for hard-to-catch Lake Erie walleye.
We finished the Muskoka trip with lots of walleye for our every other day fish fry up there. We caught walleye like never before in a lake where walleye are only caught once in a great while. There is a new old lure in Muskoka town today!
You might want to try it in Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes and other places too.
The “Andy magic rig” really works that well!