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Getting Primed: An Interview with Matthew Grajewski of Adaptive Fly
This interview was done previously in 2017 on my In Pursuit of Trout website. I think this interview is incredibly relevant now as Matt Grajewski is one of many leading the new wave of streamer junkies into the realm of musky flies. It's amazing to see how far Matthew has gone both in design and his creation of Adaptive Fly. He's done live fly tying events, podcasts, and more in recent months. So I wanted to share his thoughts on some fly tying design questions, and what it takes to pursue muskies on the fly. Enjoy!


PRIME: What would you say to someone who wants to start tying musky flies? Any words of encouragement, practical advice, any scared straight tactics?
 
MATT: I think the main thing someone who wants to get into tying and fishing muskie fies, is to consider the action of the fly. Muskies don’t feed often, so triggering them is difficult. The fly needs to have a triggering action. Everything that goes into the fly should consider profile and action. A fly that swims straight usually won’t get the job done.





P: Similarly, what would you say to someone that wants to fly fish for muskies? What does it take? Is it more mental or physical?
 
M: Its both really, but I would say it takes more mental strength. If you tie flies that won’t exhaust you both casting and fishing them, then its really about mentally staying in the game. Eats are usually few and far between. If you are surprised by a fish, that opportunity could be over in a second or two. If you are just retrieving your fly and not fishing it because you’re mentally exhausted, you might as well call it a day. Its a difficult thing to believe there is a muskie behind your fly on every cast, but that is how you should approach it. Even when you haven’t seen one for hours or days. Take a break if you need to take time to reset mentally. Don’t waste a possible opportunity.





P: What makes or breaks a well designed musky fly? What are the common problems?
 
M: The most common problem I see is too much material. A fly will reach a point of diminishing return if you make it too large, or add too much material. Muskie fishing is a lot of casting and retrieving practice. You must be able to cast it for hours on end, and you must be able to “fish” it. In my opinion, I will take action over pushing water any day. It is difficult to truly push water in the way double bladed bucktails or pounders do. Why muskies absolutely use their lateral lines to detect prey, they are also quite visual. The visual aspect is what I key in on. In my experience, this is easier to achieve over the course of an eight hour day of fishing. Fishing flies with giant heads or a lot of materials take more energy to fish as they are harder to cast and retrieve. It is also more difficult to achieve a triggering action. Not impossible, but more difficult. A lot of ways to approach it. This is just my preference and how I’ve had success.





P: How would you describe your design process? Do you like to sketch out flies before sitting down to tie, or is something already burned in your mind- a profile, a material, a color scheme, or maybe a problem to solve in a specific scenario?
 
M: I have sketched them before, but ideas typically get burned into my brain. It could be a color scheme, a profile, an action, or all of the above. Those ideas come from a variety of places. Seeing another tier’s fly, something that happened on a previous outing, or thinking about upcoming water conditions. Other times its completely random. Especially during a sleepless night.





P: What what point does a fly go from "cool- I like this" to people hounding you for orders? What is your revision process like? How much can any one original design change?
 
M: I usually know the first time I fish the fly if it will get eaten. If it swims the way I want, its only a matter of time. If it doesn’t swim, then its back to the drawing board. Sometimes the idea gets scrapped all together when I don’t like how it looks in the water altogether. Its more or less a feeling based on experience. I am lucky enough to have two experienced muskie fisherman as brothers, so I have more testers. They are the same way. First time its coming back to the boat…”oh this is getting eaten.” Or, “I don’t like it. Its not kicking enough” and off it comes.





P: GBGH- is it a fly or a mentality?
 
M: A mentality for sure. You have to be willing to stick to your guns as long as it takes. GBGH is more “go big and go hard”. Going big is chasing muskie on a fly, and you have to put in the time and effort. Probably the biggest challenge for a freshwater fly fisherman.





P: You and Nick Granato (partner from Fly Obsession) wrote a piece called "Streamer Architecture" back in 2013. It was a tremendous help to me as I was tying big flies like crazy. I had the bug, but the designs lacked specific purpose- I was tying flies to tie flies- and that is okay, but when it comes to thinking about pattern development- that article really gave me focus. It gave me a list of questions to answer. One question really stood out- "What water conditions do I want to fish this fly in"- that is brilliant. For the average angler, he has his box of flies- and regardless what water condition he faces, he's going to throw one of those flies- for one inconsequential reason or another. Tell me more about this concept- how do you round out a box facing this task?
 
M: Think about where the fish will be, and how will you get a fly they can see into the strike zone. This could fishing a weighted fly to reach depth in high water river conditions, a dark fly to be fished in low visibility water conditions, or fly that really pauses during post frontal conditions...just to name a few examples. I always make sure I have flies that can be fished in any part of the water column I think the fish will be in, and whatever mood they may be in. Do I need to fish a fly that swims well with quick erractic strips because the fish are aggressive, or do I want fly that fishes will on long strips with long pauses because they are passive? Do I want a dark fly for low visibility water, or natural colors in clearer water? You should always carry at least a few flies for every possible water condition and fish mood.




You can find Matthew Grajewski's flies for sale through his website, Adaptive Fly linked below. You should also follow him on Instagram. 

Adaptive Fly Website: HERE 
Instagram: Adaptive Fly




If you enjoyed this interview and would like to see more musky fly tyers interviewed, let me know in the comments below with your suggestions. Thank you!

Daniel Podobed

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