Search This Blog


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.   

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What a Slut!

It was familiar water for me on this day; I had been there many times.  The sky was hazy, not cloudy; it made for acceptable visibility.  Seeing only a couple fish the first 30-40 minutes got me wondering about my prospects for the day.  Both fish were over 15 pounds so that was encouraging.  The first fish that took my fly was just over 18 pounds; that was simply wonderful!  She reminded me of everything that I love about carp fishing--stalking fish that are big, smart, and wary.  Add to that, detecting the take visually and you have the ideal sportfish.

Because I was not seeing that many fish but also because I was seeing a high incidence of fish over 15 pounds I just randomly decided to see if I could keep myself from casting to anything less than a fish that appeared to be 15 pounds or better.  There have been days, just a few really, when I have caught so many large fish that I just can't be bothered fishing for the 8-9 pounders.  Please know that is nowhere near normal.  This day it wasn't that I was catching so many fish; it was just that I wanted to see if I could keep myself from casting to 8-9 pound fish even if I wasn't seeing large fish.  I wondered how long I would go without getting at least a shot at a large fish before I decided that this wasn't really a fun game after all.  I wanted to test my discipline.

Temptation called me several times, I was "strong", I resisted the 8 pound fish.  It wasn't totally easy because 8-9 pounders were most of what I was seeing.  Enough large fish were taking my fly that I "held up".

Six hours of wading is typically enough for me particularly when I am on the move the whole time and that includes getting back to my truck.  On the way back to my truck I had the fly in the hookkeeper since I don't typically see many fish on the return.  

Near the truck a fish was moving across the shallows.  She appeared to be about 8 pounds; she was clearly a linear mirror.  Instantly focused, I took the fly off the hookkeeper, peeled out line, and laid out a good cast in front of that beauty.  She approached, turned to her right when she saw the fly and then just calmly swam away.  Spontaneously, I said out loud, "What a slut!"  

Nearly 6 hours of fishing without casting to a single 8-9 pounder and as soon as I saw a mirror I caved in.  What can I say?  I love all carp but since mirrors are unusual here they are more appealing to me.  Being unusual makes them kind of exotic.  I particularly like the fully scaled ones and the linear ones.  That Jezebel mirror carp made me give in to temptation; yes, at that moment I was reduced to being nothing more than a "mirror carp slut" without a thing to show for it.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My River Was Calling Out to Me

Katy and I walked yesterday near ponds and channels in central Washington.  We were enjoying the nice day and looking for birds. In the process of looking for birds we heard splashing in shallow water; it is such a familiar sound to me.  A carp was clearly feeding, others were looking for love.  It's April for criminy sake; what are carp doing spawning already!?  

Unseasonably warm weather has gotten me out carp fishing sooner than I ever have in 12 seasons. On Sunday of this week a mirror became my first stillwater carp of the year.  Any mirror makes my face smile.  This one was fully scaled with unusually bright yellow on his belly.   I got to see him turn to the Chocolate Cherry; what a nice way to start the year.  Other carp were kind enough to take the fly that day also.  

Consecutive warm days in the spring are to carp fishing what a freshet is to coastal salmon or steelhead fishing.  A freshet brings staging, migratory fish into their natal streams; warm, spring days bring carp into the shallow water.  

Two warm days after the stillwater trip the call from my river was gaining volume.  During the winter it whispers to me; it reminds me of fish from seasons past and tempts me with visions of captures to come.  It calls me when I'm sleeping, it calls me when I'm driving, it calls me when I'm working.  To the point of distraction it had been calling me for weeks; a little more loudly and a little more insistently each day.  Tuesday was the day I answered my river's call.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lessons From the Carp Lodge: Episode #6--Adapting to Different Conditions--Dropping the Fly

Most of the carp I catch are 25-40 feet away.  There are times when murky water, cloudy skies, and hard wind conspire to keep from seeing carp until I am very close to them.  There are also times when carp feed on emerging damsels just under weed patches.  All of these conditions require that I adapt my techniques and get very close to carp to present the fly to them.  Watch this video in HD and on the full screen so you can see the fish.  Enjoy.