Walleye on the Fly

Here in the midwest Walleyes are one of the most sought after gamefish for sport, and as a food source. They’re the Minnesota state fish, and one that just about everyone here knows. There is a huge industry based around them, and they’re an important staple of the culture.

However despite their popularity, there hasn’t been a community that targets them fly fishing. There are a number of different methods to catch them, but I myself have never heard of another angler attempting to fly fish for them. This could be for a number of reasons; because they can be hard to target for a large part of the open water season, or even when they can be found in large numbers they tend to be in deeper water. It may also solely be the fact that there aren’t that many people that fly fish in the area. Either way, whether or not it was possible, this past spring I set out to make it happen.

The second weekend in May is the big fishing opener in Minnesota, when the season for the majority of gamefish species opens up. This is considered one of the biggest fishing weekends of the year by most, as populations of anglers from across the state are all out on the water. Not only does fishing open at this time, but usually walleye fishing tends to be very good as fish remain in shallow water to feed after their spawn. On this weekend for the past twelve years or so I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Red Lake in northern Minnesota, one of the best walleye fisheries in the state. Normally I’d jig or fish a slip bobber rig here, but this last year I decided to try and dedicate my time to throwing a fly to see if I could make anything happen.

On Red Lake particularly this time of year, fish tend to be up in pretty shallow water (between 4 & 12 feet), so there wasn’t much need to get down super far. The first thing I’ll address is yes, I used a switch rod for this trip to overhead cast because having that extra two feet on a rod really helps achieve more distance with less effort. When the name of the game is covering as much water as possible, this really helps (and fighting fish on an 11’ rod is a lot of fun too). For a line I chose a floater paired with a 10’ Sink 3 tapered tip (Airflo Poly Leaders, RIO Versileader), which with a weighted fly and a long leader was able to get it down just off the bottom. This setup would end up getting done what I needed it to do and more.

Saturday morning and afternoon started off pretty slow, there didn’t seem to be much going on for anyone. But as the day progressed and the wind started to die a little bit, the fishing picked up. By the end of the evening we’d managed just over 100 fish for the day between four people in the boat, with my pink and white clouser producing about a quarter of those.

I was extremely happy with the results of this trip, and had a lot of fun learning a new way to target a fish I’ve been chasing my whole life. Its something I’ll certainly be doing again now that I know it’s possible, and I proved to myself it can be done. The more you know right?


Grant’s Gear List for this Trip:

Loop Opti NXT 11’ 7/8wt

Hatch Finatic Gen 2 7+

Rio Avid Trout 8wt floater with Rio Intouch Replacement Tip, 10’ 8wt Sink 3

Roughly 11 foot Premium flouro leader, I tied this myself. (12” 20lb>Albright knot to 4’ of 1x (12.9lb)>Blood knot to 6’ of 2x(10.9lb))

Size 4 pink & white clouser minnow

Simms  Jacket

Costa Permit 580P Green Mirror sunglasses

Patagonia Fitz Roy Trout Trucker