This is a bonus interview that I couldn’t get up in 2016 with everything going on. Matt Grajewski is one half of the website Fly Obsession, and is another incredible fly fisherman and fly designer from Michigan.
First off- thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I have been a big fan of your work for a long time now. Being obsessed the last few years on big trout streamers, I get pretty geeked out looking at what you come up with. The musky stuff is absolutely insane.
What would you say to someone who wants to start tying musky flies? Any words of encouragement, practical advice, any scared straight tactics?
I think the main thing someone who wants to get into tying and fishing muskie flies, 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.
What makes or breaks a well designed musky fly? What are the common problems?
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 buck-tails 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.
Similarly, what would you say to someone that wants to fly fish for muskies? What does it take? Is it more mental or physical?
It’s 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 it’s 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.
How did the formation of Fly Obsession push the two of you as far as fly design is concerned- what type of working relationship do you two have?
Nick and I are like brothers from another mother. Our approach to fishing and tying is like talking to the mirror. Still, Nick’s approach to color and use of certain materials definitely inspired and pushed me as a tier. No doubt about that.
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?
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.
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?
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.
More about Fly Obsession- what would you like to see happen with the platform? Any branding thoughts? I know the two of you live pretty hectic lives in between custom orders.
I would like to see Nick and I have more free time. Life has put a lot more on our plate and FO has sat on the back burner. I would love to update the platform and provide more content. We have kicked around the idea of guest contributors to help fill the gap and provide variety.
GBGH (Go Big or Go Home)- is it a fly or a mentality?
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.
You guys 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?
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 erratic 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.
Matt- you seem to be pretty focused on fly fishing for muskies right now. Do you still chase big browns around? Which is more difficult to target consistently- monster browns or monster muskies? Why?
I haven’t fished for big browns in a few years. Mostly due to the proximity in which those waters are to where I live. Those waters are further than muskie waters. I’m sure I will still get after them here and there.
While big browns (2’ or bigger) are definitely difficult to catch, muskies are still tougher in most fisheries. It really comes down to two things, numbers and metabolism. Muskies, by nature’s design, are a low density fish with slow metabolisms. This way they can’t wipe out other species. Big browns are typically low density as well in most rivers, but most waters can still support more big browns than muskies. And an adult muskie typically goes longer periods of time without feeding.
Are you guys doing any tying shows or fishing shows this year?
The only thing I have on my schedule right now is Bar Flies with Schultz Outfitters on March 22nd. I will hopefully be tying at my brother’s booth (Musk-E Fly Fishing Adventures) at the Midwest Tying Expo.
What is in store for 2017 and beyond for each of you? Any aspirations fly fishing/life/ other?
2017 will be an interesting year for me. As many know, I’m still adapting to an above knee amputation of my left leg earlier this year. It has definitely given me a different approach to life and fishing. 2017 will definitely be a wild card year for me.
Fly Obsession is one of favorite websites to reference. The design aspect and the tutorials for a predator noob- are truly appreciated. For a relatively small, understated website- it packs a TON of relevant content. With the catalog of patterns you both have- have you entertained the idea on collaborating on a tying book? You could probably print money if you did.
We have discussed what ways can produce more content. Not sure that would ever mean a book or not. Unfortunately, we both don’t have the time to produce the content we would like, as often as we would like. Thankfully there are a number of other great tiers putting out great stuff, as well.
Matt Grajewski- Thank you for taking the time for this interview. I can’t imagine the challenges you have been faced with but I am extremely impressed with how you have responded to meet these challenges as you continue to produce some of the best flies out there right now. There aren’t many tyers I can name that have a better mind when it comes to applying a color palette to a pattern than you. You have come up with some incredibly unique one off flies. Before I wrap up this post, here are a few more flies that I couldn’t help but post. Pure inspiration- enjoy!
Alright- well I hoped you enjoyed this bonus interview from 2016. You can follow more of Matt’s work through the following links, and please- get in touch with him for some incredible one off orders. Trout, Musky- whatever- he’ll tie you up a trophy box.
Facebook: Fly Obsession
Website: Fly Obsession: http://flyobsession.com/
Documentary: The Brothers Brown: Buy it HERE , trailer below.