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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Fly Fishing in Cuba Part II

Days four and five made the trip for me.  I fished exclusively for tarpon on those days and those fish are the ones that will get me back to Cuba.  Lordy they were so wonderful!  During the entire trip everywhere we fished was stunningly beautiful; it seemed even more beautiful on days four and five.  Perhaps I was influenced by the fish, perhaps not.










The guide would pole us across the tarpon flats and call out fish.  We would cast and immediately start stripping as fast as we possibly could.  If you reached forward and missed grabbing the line for the next strip the tarpon immediately turned away.  The gloves made feeling the line more difficult so I had to look down at the line to make sure I grabbed the line for the next hard strip.  It was intense and so exciting.  The line goes tight when they take the fly and the guide keeps yelling, "Keep Stripping, Keep Stripping!"  When the fish took off we did a strip set with our line hand, pinned the line against the rod with our rod hand, and then strip set with our rod hand.  Every single fish jumped on the hook set.  It was truly incredible fishing.





Day six was the cloudiest and the most windy.  At one point my guide said, "El relampagos es peligroso."  I believe I got the Spanish correct, either way, he meant the lightening is dangerous.  It was in the distance but moving our way.  We all had to cut the last day short.  I hooked 4 barracuda before we got back.  They are a bad ass looking fish and made the 10th species I caught.  




The accommodations on the ship were adequate.  The staff was friendly and always very, very helpful.  They really helped make the trip special.  The guides bent over backwards to get us in to fish and to make sure we were all enjoying our day.  


The guides



The deck hand, the hostess, and the captain.  


A very pleasant surprise was how good the food was.  We had fresh lobster as part of our dinner every evening.  





I booked this trip through Fly Water.  The staff there was helpful through every step of the process; I will definitely book another trip with them.  Our host was Blake Merwin of Gig Harbor Fly Shop.  Blake was also great and I would go on another trip with him.  


Blake on the left talking with Scott, one of the other anglers.  


  For the gear whores out there here's a picture for you.




Overall this was a trip I thoroughly enjoyed and would do again.  


Friday, July 21, 2017

Fly Fishing in Cuba Part I

In the summer of 1959 I was still 8 years old.  I caught my first limit of trout that summer.  At that time, for a person under 16, the limit was 8 fish.  My dad let me wander out of his sight to fish.  We were fishing a river and I didn't get two fish from the same spot.  I had to move and keep casting.  It actually took some hours to get all 8 fish. For me, at that point in my life, it was the trip of a lifetime! I had such a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

I remember the first time I caught and released 40 trout in one trip on the Cle Elum River.  I fished four days and caught almost all of the fish on dry flies.  I believe I was 20 years old.  It was the trip of a lifetime.

I remember the first time I caught and released 40 trout in one day, the first time I caught and released 50 trout in one day, and the first time I caught 80 trout in one day.  Those were trips of a lifetime.  Twice, in the 70's I caught and released over 100 trout in a day.  All of these days were on the same Western Washington river.  Those days were also trips of a lifetime.  They are wonderful memories to me; I will always cherish them.

I remember catching my first carp in 2004; now that was the trip of a lifetime!  Seeing that fish turn to the fly and seeing him jump straight up when I set the hook changed my life.  I mean my fishing life of course.  Well, I guess my overall life was changed too.  I never looked back.

This spring I traveled to Cuba to fish.  It was a live aboard trip; we stayed on a ship for 7 days and headed out on skiffs each morning to fish.  As you can see I have been incredibly blessed.  I caught 8 trout in 1959 when I was just 8 years old.  Those 8 fish in the summer of 1959 are hard to top, and yes, I'm serious.  My trip to Cuba was very, very special.  It was quite an adventure for this older guy.  It was also the trip of a lifetime.  I think it was even better than my first limit of trout.  

We flew from Seattle to Los Angles, had a two and a half hour layover and then flew to Havana.  Some of us arrived a day early to see a few sights but we were all there primarily to fish.











The second day we were up at 4:00 AM and met in the hotel lobby at 4:30.  The shuttle picked us up and drove us 3 hours to the ship.  We spent three more hours traveling on the ship to the anchoring point.  Where we finally stopped was isolated and stunningly beautiful.  We put our things in our rooms, had lunch and started gearing up.












That first afternoon of fishing was slow for all of us because we weren't seeing any fish in the flats.  It was disappointing; I felt fortunate to get one bonefish.



The second day the sky was clear most of the time and we were seeing fish.  I released several bonefish and felt good about that.  I also caught a tarpon on day two and that was very exciting for me!








The third day for me was the multi-species day.  Over the course of the trip I caught 10 species.  (Including snagging the guide.)  Okay fine, I'm not counting the guide in my 10 species.  I caught 10 species of fish. (Plus snagging the guide)  It was a great day of fishing, catching, and discovery.



A Blue Runner





A Mutton Snapper

More on days four, five, and six, along with more Cuba pictures coming soon.  










Sunday, May 21, 2017

Starting the 2017 Season

Thanks Kevin, Sam, Jessica, and Jeff for asking why I have been lazy prodding me to get back to the blog.  Here you go.

Starting the 2017 season near the end of May?  Well hell yes!  I'm talking about the carp season of course.  Normally I would have started sooner but it has been cold this year so the beginning of the season has been delayed.  Oh, and one more thing, I was distracted, or completely unavailable. Unavailable........because....................... I went fishing in Cuba.  What an adventure that was for this old guy!  More on that in another post coming soon.

My first fish of the day, and of the season, was a fully scaled mirror; I sure liked that.  It was nice to hook up just minutes after starting.  I thanked the carp for taking my fly.  The first fish being a mirror boded well for the day, for the season, and I think perhaps for all of my life.  Black Betty tricked this wonderful fish.  (I only fish the red tail version anymore.)




We don't see that many mirrors on the Columbia so my friends and I covet them.  If I see more than one fish and I can tell one of them is a mirror I will cast to the mirror.  Much of the time I can't tell if the fish is a mirror or a common until after they slosh or until I get them near me.

Well heck, my second fish was a mirror too.  He was nice and chunky and had almost no scales on his sides.  In this picture I have lifted him up with my left hand and am trying to use the camera with my right hand.  For an old guy like me, that's multi-tasking and it ain't easy.  



 




This same fish had two rows of scales down his back.  He looked a linear mirror with the scale lines moved up on top.






The "hog of the day" award goes to this next fish.  Lets pretend the reason you don't see the whole fish is because he was too big to fit in the picture rather than me not setting up the camera correctly.  Either way he's a porker.



I saw and caught fish in spurts.  I had a good number of shots and had three fish to the net within the first hour.  That makes me feel way more clever than I actually am.  I kept stalking and then didn't see a single fish for an hour and a half.  After that I got two shots and didn't connect.  I kept moving and started seeing fish again about 30 minutes later.  I put several more in the net and thanked the Good Lord for a wonderful day.

#blackbetty, #carplodge, #carponthefly, #flyfishingforcarp, #mirrorcarp




Sunday, August 28, 2016

Some Days Are Just So Good! Not All of Them, But Some of Them...

All days of fly fishing for carp are good days, even the ones when I don't catch fish.  Some days are heavenly; some days, not so much.

The Columbia is a monstrous, long, wide river.  While there are carp all over the river there is a lot of the river that has no access or no shallow water.  Even spots that I have fished many, many times don't always have carp.  There could be carp in a particular spot but the water could be murky or the wind could be howling, or both.  Conditions can be adverse and sometimes downright terrible.  Then there are those days when the water is clear, the wind is mild but the fish are ever so bored with my flies. Oh Lordy, they can turn away from flies with indifference and disgust.  Conditions can be perfect but the damn fish just don't seem to know it!  That's carp fishing.

Recently I fished three consecutive days; it was a trip I had been planning and savoring for weeks.  Anticipation was high.  On the first day, the wind was blowing straight at the shore so it was churning up the bottom leaving the water with no visibility.  It was blowing so hard that I had difficulty keeping my balance. Ninety minutes was all I could take before I decided I had had enough.  Lets see...I didn't make any casts so that means I didn't catch any fish.

Conditions were grim again on the second day.  I went to a different spot hoping to find clearer water.  I wouldn't exactly call what I found, "clearer"; it was more like, "ever so slightly less muddy".  Since I didn't make a single cast the day before I felt just getting one shot would be a victory today.  I waded around as slowly as I could trying to peer through the muddy water.  Finally, in some water that wasn't even up to my knees I saw a tailing fish.  Well, I didn't see the whole fish in the murky water; all I could see was the top of his tail.  I dropped Black Betty in front of him.  I don't know who was more surprised when I set the hook--the fish or me; I think it was me.  That was my one presentation for the day.  After less than 3 hours I knew it was hopeless and so I headed back to the Carp Lodge.

Here is a gray sky, murky water, windy day, fish:



I'm such a nice guy; how could conditions be awful again on the third day?  Well they were.  I walked around in muddy water and sulked.  The muddy water wasn't enough though; on the third day it was completely overcast.  Talk about, "NOT a chance!"  Not one cast and not one damn fish!  I went back to the Carp Lodge, I sulked, and I drank some beer.

In three days of fishing I made a total of one presentation; that was it.  It was disappointing; I swear it was enough to make me want to take up golf or bowling or horseshoes, or even croquet; hell, I don't know, anything would be less frustrating than those three days!

Some days, not most by any means, things just come together when I'm fly fishing for carp.  The water is clear, or mostly clear anyway.  The sky is that wonderful, beautiful shade of nothing, but, blue!  There is a light wind.  I see carp feeding and cruising where I decided to fish.  Oh, and one more thing, the carp take my fly.  Those days are heavenly.  Yes, they are heavenly!

Two weeks after those three memorably disappointing days, I decided croquet didn't really sound that interesting after all.  I fished two days.  No clouds, light wind, and almost clear water--well now, that's what I'm talkin' about.  Oh yeah!

I didn't get the first fish I cast to but I saw a fish fairly soon and that was such an improvement from the the last trip.  The second fish didn't want my fly either.  The third fish made me smile; of course I smiled, he took my damn fly!  And away we went...I hooked 11 and got 9 to the net.  I thought back to two weeks ago; I forgave the river for being muddy, I forgave the wind for blowing too hard, and I forgave the devil clouds for covering the sun.

Eight hour days of fishing are a thing of the past for me.  Five to six hours of wading and I have had enough.  Nine fish to the net in 5 1/2 hours sure as hell makes me happy!

Most of the second day I was fishing Mr. P.'s Carp Carrot; the fish thought it looked yummy.










The next day conditions were great again.  Golf or horseshoes?  What the hell was I thinking?!   I could only think about spotting fish, stalking carefully, making good presentations, and getting hookups.  I must have been doing most of it at least passably well because in 5 hours I had 10 hookups and put 8 in the net.  Lordy, I love carp fishing!

The fish I caught ranged from 8 to 20 pounds.  One of the highlights of these two days was that I got two gorgeous mirrors which were both over 18 pounds.










Monday, July 18, 2016

A Decisive Turn to the Fly

Yikes, I haven't made a post for a year.  You would think I gave up fishing.  Perish the thought!  I will fish until the end of my days or until my aging body will not allow me to.

I have fished a lot these past 12 months; in particular these last two and a half months.  In March I even fished for tarpon in Puerto Rico.  I would post a picture...but ammm.....hmmmm.....there is the little problem of not getting any of them to the boat.  Just imagine the tarpon; I still do...

A good number of fat trout were nice enough to take my fly in the late winter and early spring.  I sure appreciated them getting me through those short, cloudy days.

In his 1835 poem, "Locksley Hall" Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, "...In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove; In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."  Yeah, yeah, yeah, great poem and all Al, but I gotta tell you, in the spring this "young" man's fancy turns to thoughts of carp fishing.  Yes indeed!  I'm in love all year long with my wife but in the spring and summer I'm thinking about tailing carp, good casts, well placed flies, visual takes, and screaming reels.  Oh hell yes baby!  

Caught on April 7, this was my first carp of the season; that's the earliest I have ever fished for them.




    The weather was surprisingly mild; I sure appreciated some willing carp taking a size 8 Black Betty--at the beginning of April no less.



    Most carp I catch in the PNW take the fly very subtly; kind of like they can hardly be bothered. There is an exception for everything and this carp sure was.  He made a decisive turn for the fly.  The original video is HD and is much more clear than the E Blogger optimized version.  You can see a clearer version on my Instagram account--@JimPankiewicz  


  



There will be additional posts coming again more regularly.  











Saturday, June 13, 2015

Catfish on the Fly

Many years ago when I made my first cast to a tailing carp how was I to know what doors that would open in the future?

Nearing the end of a good day of carp fishing I was slowly wading back in the direction of my Carpwagon but still keeping an eye out for another shot.  The silhouette of a fish came into view; I thought it was a funny looking carp but he was big so I was immediately in the hunter's mode.  As I eased closer to the fish I thought damn, that carp has a big head.  A bit closer and I realized that carp was a catfish.  Well, I've never caught a catfish; I had no idea if one would take a fly or not.  I just acted like he was a carp and put the Chocolate Cherry in front of him.  Go figure; I made one cast to that ugly handsome sucker and he took the fly.  What a surprise!  I'm one for one; I'm battin' 1000 on catfish.

This first picture shows the fly in the right side of his mouth.






He is sloshing in this picture.



He just finished sloshing and has the leader under the other whisker.  This picture gives some perspective to his length.




Handsome? Beautiful? Ugly? Exotic?  What do you think?  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wanna be a Baller--Shot Caller...

I wanna be a baller, a shot caller...you know, a carp fishin' baller...

It is such great fun to catch carp that are over 15 pounds!  Posting pictures of those carp is easy; it makes me feel like a bad-ass; a baller.  Well, as much of a bad-ass or a baller as a 64 year old guy can be anyway.  Here is the thing about posting pictures of big carp--it gives the impression that all, or at least most, of the carp I catch are that size.  It just ain't so.  On a recent trip to the Columbia River the smallest fish I caught was 14 1/2 pounds; that was because I didn't cast to fish that appeared to be smaller than 15 pounds.  (Except for one)

Something that is much too easily taken for granted is that I have to be seeing 15-20 pound fish to catch 15-20 pound fish.  The Columbia is the only water I fish where I have that opportunity regularly.  I fish other water for carp, and on some of that water I don't expect to get a single shot at a 15 pound fish let alone a 20.  On one particular body of  water I have caught fish to 17 pounds but haven't done that for a few years; it's pretty rare.  I adjust my expectations knowing that there is a good chance I won't get a fish over 10 pounds.  By comparison to the carp in the Columbia these fish are small; I know that and I still return several times each season.

I use the same flies but lighter leader.  These 5-8 pound fish  make me smile; they are immensely satisfying.  They are unforgiving when I make a bad cast just like a fish two or three times their size.  I have asked them out loud, "Come on, how can you be so picky?"  It takes every bit as much skill to catch these fish as it does to catch their larger brothers and sisters.






Five to eight pound fish like Black Betty just like their big, fat brothers and sisters do over on the Columbia River.  

I'm acknowledging how much I enjoy the days when I catch these fish; alas I think it may confirm I'm not such a baller after all.