Hayward, Wisconsin is the Muskie center of the universe. It is one of the few places on earth where you can catch a muskie on a fly. The Chippewa Flowage runs through the Hayward area creating a series of lakes and river flows that ultimately join the Flambeau River and meet the Mississippi. The total length of the Chippewa is just short of 200 miles. The Chippewa Flowage is where Louie Spray caught the nearly 70 lb world record muskie in 1949.
Hayward has the Freshwater Hall of Fame and Museum, which is really terrific.
Robert Tomes and I spent most of our time on the Flambeau and Chippewa Rivers fishing with Joe Flater and Don Larson. These guys know the water and without their expertise, I question if we would have been so lucky. Joe Flater (Musky Joe) is one friendly, tough son of a bitch, and he’s been fishing muskies since he was a kid. As owner of Flater's Resort, he hunts, traps, shoots, fishes, and is the land. He genuinely smiles a lot and I swear the guy could eat a live ferret. Go fish with him and you will find muskies.
Don Larson, (The Pond Monster) has been fly fishing for muskies and chasing women just about forever. He’s sixty-something and can kick your ass. The man works out nearly every day for an hour and a half starting at 4:30 in the morning. He has 40 acres and lives alone in a huge log house on the Chippewa in the North Woods about 30 minutes out of town. In my estimation, he has one of the greatest back yards on earth, with the river, elk, bears and huge muskies as neighbors. He knows the river and has a personal relationship with the fish. They know the Pond Monster. He catches them all the time. And then he lets them go. I asked Don why he works out so hard in the morning. He said he needs to in order to row his drift boat and then he added. “I know older folks who are afraid to go outside because they might slip and hurt themselves. What’s the use in being alive at this age if you’re afraid to live?” Don Larson lives.