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Monday, August 27, 2012

Jackass Flats

Twenty-five or thirty years ago, when I was younger and better looking, I could crash through brush to get to water and think nothing of it.  Today, I can try to, "think nothing of it," but when I get stuck in the brush or when I fall then I wish I had "thought something of it".  I wonder, "What the hell am I doing?!"

The Columbia River is over 1,200 miles long.  It  drains through 7 US states and one Canadian province.  A person could Carp fish for a lifetime and never see the whole river.  I live in Washington and fish seamlessly between Washington and Oregon.  A person can drive east on the freeway from Portland for three hours and be paralleling the river the entire time.  You can do the same thing on the Washington side and because the river is so wide it is like you are fishing two different rivers.  It actually takes years to explore just this water and in doing this you would still only have seen a small fraction of the river.   I also fish water near the Carp Lodge which is hours away from the water I just mentioned.   The Columbia is just plain big!  Damn big!  That said, while I do have some places that I frequent, I still love to explore new spots.  There is just so much river to explore.

On Friday I went looking for new water to fish.  I parked my Carpwagon and started walking toward the river.  More precisely, I started walking toward the trees and brush.  I could not see the river through the trees; I knew it was out there though.   Somewhere.  In short order I was walking through a Washington jungle.  Since no other dang fools intrepid anglers had walked here and since no deer walk here there isn't anything resembling a trail.  After just a few minutes I wasn't really walking; I was climbing over and through thick weeds, brush, and tree branches.  The rod had to be broken down to four pieces.  Several times I thought I was nearing the river only to see that there was more brush ahead.  After about 45 minutes I thought if I didn't turn back I wouldn't be able to get back.  I rested for a few minutes and continued.

I had been struggling through the brush for over an hour before I came to the river.  I would love to say that it was a wonderful sight.  The river is always a wonderful site of course but at that moment it was a disappointment.  The wind had been blowing hard all night and coming straight at the shore.  That churned things up so that the water looked liked a latte.  The wind had also blown a lot of weeds, logs, algae, and human garbage into the shore.  Standing in water up to my knees I could not see my boots.  That means I couldn't see fish either.  All that work to get through the trees only to find water that was unfishable.  What a drag; what a total drag!



I had fished near this spot years ago but not at this spot exactly.  With all the effort it took to get in there I knew that only a jackass would walk through that jungle.  Jackass Flats seemed to be the perfect name for this spot.

I had parked my Carpwagon at 9:25.  I began fishing  just after 11:00.  Good grief.  Stalking Carp in muddy water means moving very slowly hoping to see a tailing fish before he sees me.  It was so muddy I had almost no chance of seeing a fish.

When I walk for over an hour and don't even see a fleeing fish let alone a tailing fish I start to lose my mental edge or my concentration.  Its not that I'm bored I'm just not as engaged as when I'm seeing fish; particularly tailing fish.  I stayed in particularly shallow water to help increase my chances of seeing a fish.  It was after 12:00 before I saw one.  He was even tailing.  He allowed me two casts, a good one and a bad one, before he ambled away.  It was after 1:00 when I saw a couple cruisers.  I didn't see them and they didn't see me until they were less than a rod's length away.  I felt like it was time to go home.  I was getting discouraged and yes, I was getting bored.

The wind had stopped and the sun was out so at least the walk was pleasant.  At about 2:00 I realized I was beginning to be able to see my boots.  The silt was settling.  I had made a grand total of two casts at that point.  I could say I was stalking Carp but if someone was watching me they would say that guy is just sort of aimlessly wandering around in the river at Jackass Flats.

Something happens to me when I see a tailing Carp.  I imagine it happens to anyone who takes fly fishing for Carp seriously.   I am focused on the fish at the exclusion of virtually all else.  I'm alert, I'm engaged, I'm riveted.  I am a hunter.  I am a predator.  At that moment nothing else matters.

A tailing Carp came into view.  I would love to say I made a perfect cast and he took the fly.  The first two casts were about as close to perfect as they could be.  The third cast was not perfect; it was more like right on top of the fish.  They don't like that.  Gone.

At least I was awake now and suddenly quite hopeful again.  Very soon another tailer came into view.  That wonderful, beautiful, amazing, animal turned to the Chocolate Cherry on the second cast!  Lordy, I love Carp fishing!  I had parked my Carpwagon at 9:25.  My first fish of the day posed for a five shot photo session that started at 2:23; a mere 5 hours later.














Visibility makes such a difference!  It is usually the devil clouds that thwart me when it comes to visibility but the muddy water was the problem during most of the day.  In the next 90 minutes two more Carp took the Chocolate Cherry.



video

There are days when I see a tailing fish every 10 minutes or even more often.  There are days when I walk for 6 hours and only get a few shots.  There are days (very few) when I never get to make a cast.  There are days when catching 3 Carp seems very satisfying.  There are days when catching 3 Carp is a disappointment.  (I know it shouldn't be.)  There are days when I catch 3 Carp and I feel like I caught 15.  Well 10 anyway.

On this day at Jackass Flats 3 Carp turned out to be wonderfully satisfying.  I felt extremely fortunate.  Heck, I felt extremely fortunate to not be stuck in the jungle.

By 4:00 my legs were finished fishing.  My sore hip was yelping at me hard.  During the aimless wandering part of the day I had walked down the river for 45 minutes.  I could see a better opening in the trees.  I made sure I finished at this point so that I didn't have to walk through the jungle to get back to my Carpwagon.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Even a Blind Squirrel Can Find a Nut

Using all of their sensing apparatus I think that Carp are extremely perceptive.  I hate it when I snag any fish.  I particularly hate it if I snag a Carp when I thought he took the fly.  Sometimes I think they get near the fly and either because of me moving the fly, the fish's own movement, or both, the dang Carp gets snagged.  Sometimes, not often, I think they go for the fly and miss it.  In the process they may take a second stab and eat the fly, they make take that second shot and get snagged, or they may just swim away.  

I came up on this fish tailing seriously in shallow water.  He was at a 90 degree angle to me which I really like.  His mouth was to the left.  I cast the fly out past and in front of him.  Stripping it towards his dinner plate he reacted on the first cast.  He missed the darn fly.  Normally I would think he made the fly as a fake so he didn't take it but since he went right back to eating his late afternoon lunch I cast to him again.  I made virtually an identical cast and stripped the fly the same way.  It all played out the same way.  It looked like he went for the fly but he didn't take it.  He didn't flee; he just got back down to business.   He allowed me a third shot at him and he finally took the Chocolate Cherry.  


That is the Carp's barbule hanging over the fly.  





As I reeled the fish in I could see that he had no eye on the left side of his face.  It didn't look like it had been damaged by an accident or a bird; it just looked like he never had it in the first place.  No wonder he lost track of the fly the first two times.

  






How on earth did this fish avoid predation when it was small?  It took three tries but this half blind Carp still found the Chocolate Cherry.  It is a cool testament to survival.  What an amazing animal!  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fat Carp, Natty Ice, Hot Dogs, and Good Company

I need to start out by saying that I  I was dang lucky to even have my rod at all for the second day of fishing in the Carp-ocalypse. The first day we had gone from the northern part of Banks Lake all the way back to Desert Aire to look for big Carp. We fished near there. Well, more accurately we walked all over heck looking for fish and didn't find any until the last 20 minutes. When we took the boat out of the water I started to break my rod down to put back in the case. It's only a mile from the boat launch to the Carp Lodge and it is all on a 25 mph road so Travis told me I didn't need to break down the rod. He just set it in the boat next to his.  It was such a short ride I thought, "What the heck?..."  When we got to the Carp Lodge my rod wasn't in the boat.  The boat launch was very busy so if it had fallen out there it was likely crushed from the parade of trailers.  We started driving back to the boat launch watching for the rod in the road so that we didn't drive over it.  Fairly soon we saw a guy standing by the side of the road with my rod.  He was reeling in.  The fly had caught on a PFD and the PFD had blown out of the boat.  Now I ain't sayin' Travis is a crazy driver; I ain't sayin' nothin' of the sort.  That PFD just flew out because it is windy in central WA.  (Picture a little winky face thing here.)  The guy gave me the rod and I continued to reel in the line until I got to the PFD.  I have had some Carp take me way the heck into the backing but never as far as that PFD did.  Here is a picture Travis took when I was just about to finish reeling in the PFD.  Amazingly the rod was not damaged.  There is just a tiny nick on the handle of the reel.  I really got lucky on that one!  I think I used up all my luck for the Carp-ocalypse on getting back my rod.  There was no spare luck left for catching fish those first two days.



Travis, I want to catch a Carp that takes me into the backing as far as your PFD did.  





The tournament ended on Sunday afternoon.  Travis stayed at the Carp Lodge Sunday night; we were planning to fish again on Monday.  Now here's poor Travis; he comes to the Carp Lodge a suave, sophisticated redneck.  Next thing you know I got him sittin' on the patio, wearin' our Got Backing? shirts,  drinkin' Natty Ice, and eatin' hot dogs.  Travis, I'm so sorry man, I lowered your standards.  I'll try to make it up to you.

Monday morning we headed to a different part of the river.  Travis has dubbed the spot "Hard Luck Flats".  We were definitely seeing fish but almost all of them were sunbathing.  I cast to a slow cruiser that turned to the fly.  I really thought he thumped it good.  I didn't realize until I got the fish to the net that what had happened was that the fish was snagged in the face.  I hate that.  I didn't take any pictures of that fish.

Shortly after noon a Carp finally picked up my Salt and Pepper pattern.  I got him to the net.  It was my first fish in three days!  I want to say Blaaaaa! but I was grateful for the hookup.  In terms of size he was a pretty ordinary Columbia River Carp.  He was nice enough to eat my fly so that makes him special.




Travis and I were fishing water that was easy to wade but just slightly difficult to see in.  A porker came into my view.  It was tailing!  Oh my...  I made just two casts to her.  She took the Salt and Pepper; I set the hook and in short order the backing was heading down the river.  Lordy, it was wonderful!  After netting the fish Travis was nice enough to pause and take this picture while I balanced her on my knee.  She weighed 23 pounds.




I looooove Carp fishing!






I got one more fish to pick up the Salt and Pepper.  He was tailing.  The move to the fly was decisive and clear.  The fly wasn't in his pretty lips it was stuck down in his mouth a ways.





The last fish has been set back in the water and is getting ready to swim away. 


























I was trying to get a picture of Travis here with the Pelicans flying by just before we waded out to fish.  Those are the wings of a pelican showing behind his hat.  











This is Travis totally engaged in stalking a Carp.  No wonder it is so frustrating and so rewarding all at the same time.

Travis, it was a pleasure to fish with you.  I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.  I wish to heck you had gotten some hookups.  Hard Luck Flats is a good name for that place!  Next time, next time...

I know you are fishing today and I hope you are knockin' the heck out of 'em!









Friday, August 17, 2012

Carp-ocalypse Feedback

I fished in the Carp-ocalypse last weekend.  The "Got Backing?" team consisted of myself, David Nakamoto, John Montana, and Travis, aka the Trashfisher.  I need to say right out of the blocks I didn't catch a single dang Carp during those two days.  Not one.  I have a few fun pictures from the Carp-ocalypse that I will post but if you are looking for fish porn then just skip this post and wait for the next one.  I caught a major phattie the day after the tournament when Travis and I were fishing.  Travis was nice enough to take a photo.  For now, let's talk about the tournament.


Leland hanging out the first day of the Carp-ocalypse.  



In the beginning I was a little concerned with the whole idea of a Carp fishing tournament.  Leland from Bellevue Orvis first contacted me a few months ago.  He took me out to lunch; what a nice guy.  We talked about the tournament and about me doing a Carp on the fly presentation at his shop.  After talking with Leland the idea of the tournament grew on me.  Leland, I just wish you had told me I would not see a tailing fish until the afternoon of the second day.  I still would have come but I just wish you had told me.  How could you leave that detail out?  Oh well...

Tournament participants reported to the upper part of Banks Lake at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning.  Good Lord, that's early for Carp fishing!  It was for the best though.


Some of the guys gathering just before leaving the first day of fishing.  

One of the things that I think was brilliant about this tournament was that Orvis gave prizes for the smallest fish.  That really set a fun and positive tone from the start.  Adam and Leland, that was nicely played, very nicely played.  

There was a prize for the most total inches of fish.  The "Got Backin?" team split into two groups the first day.  John and David fished Banks Lake and Travis and I headed way the heck back down the road to the Columbia River.  (That would be almost three hours back down the bleeping road!!)  We really thought that between the two of us we would catch enough big fish in the Columbia that first day to secure the prize for the most fish.  Travis and I thought we would chase small fish the second day.  

Travis and I fished familiar water on Saturday.  We were sure we would at least see some fat, tailing fish if not a whole lot.  Heck, we didn't even see any small, sunbathers for hours.  Travis had his Carp Machine boat.  While we thought we could get to some somewhat secluded water the truth was that it was Saturday and there were a lot of tow boats and jet skis around.  Carp just don't do well at all with commotion.  They get nervous, they get self-conscious, and they just get gone!  


Here is Travis looking for just one solitary fish that first day. 

I have seen and fished a lot of the Columbia.  I say that recognizing that there is WAY more river that I haven't ever seen than I have seen.  In 9 seasons of Carp fishing I would say the most beautiful flat on the river is where Travis and I went.  It was still beautiful as heck; it just didn't have any fish waiting for us.  



We had to report back to the check- in spot by 6:00 PM.  Given how far Travis and I had traveled we had to be on the road again by 3:00 PM to make it back on time.  I saw my first fish at 2:40.  It was a slow fleeing fish.  Even though it was fleeing slowly it was still a zero percent target.  In desperation I still made a couple casts.  We both saw a few fish that those last 20 minutes but not a one of them was even a passable target let alone a good one.  No fish for Travis and I the first day.  I believe John caught one near the end of the first day.  


When we got back to the park very few of the guys had caught a fish.  Honestly, it was kind of grim.  The conversation was enjoyable and so was the beer.  






These guys deserve to catch some Carp on the fly!  I believe their names are Dan and Leon.  I hope I have that right.  They came to my seminar.  They have been trying to catch Carp and have not succeeded so far.   They fished the whole darn tournament and never grumbled a bit about getting blanked.  They have the persistence that it takes to make it happen.  I am rooting for these guys big time!  


The second day we had to check back in by 3:00 PM so there was no heading back to the river for Travis and I.  We went to Barker Canyon and didn't see a single fish.  Near the end of the day we went to a spot I call Mosquito Flats.  Yes, there are a hell of a lot of mosquitoes there.  Travis got geared up before me and headed down the lake.  I headed up the lake to the part where the mosquitoes are and continued past.  Thankfully they don't follow you after a certain point.   With just about an hour or so to go in the day I finally saw a tailing fish.  He did not want my fly.  I did a good deal of wading and saw a cruiser that was barely moving.  I was very close to him.  I put the fly in front of him.  I saw his pretty Carp lips open and he sucked in the fly.  Well, he was faster than I was, or may slower; I lifted the rod and the fly just came out of his mouth.  I don't know if he ejected it or if I set too soon.  Either way there was no hook up.  I saw one more tailing fish who like the last one did not want my fly.  That was it for me and Travis.   We got blanked in two days of fishing.  We made so few casts I'm not sure we actually fished but that is the way Carp fishing is.

On the second day I believe John got four fish dropping the fly in front of some tailers.  As a result of that he won some of the cool prizes.  David also put a fish in the net and won a prize. Great job John and David!  Between the two of them the won the team prize for the "Got Backing?" team.  I feel silly that I won a prize and I didn't catch a fish.  Oh well...


John collecting some loot.




Here is David collecting some too.  

John and David were just not to be denied.  

In terms of prizes I think the coolest thing was that a guy who had never caught a Carp before won a high end Orvis rod for catching the smallest Carp.  His name is Mike Gamby.  Yes!  I loved this.






Most of the Carp-ocalypse participants.  

I would like to thank the Native Fish Society, the  Portland and Bellevue Orvis stores,  Idylwilde, and  Ninkasi Brewing for sponsoring the tournament.  It ended up being a good time and I will do it next year. Leland, I want to catch some fish next year.  Do you think you could arrange that please?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Carp-ocalypse and Trolls, or, You Are A Six Foot Party Sub!

Orvis is hosting the first Carp-ocalypse at Banks Lake this weekend.  It promises to be a fun event.  There are some great prizes awarded for a good variety of criteria.  There is even a high end rod for the smallest fish.  Dang, I got a shot at winnin' somethin'; I'm likin' that!   There is a prize for the largest fish but the prize hasn't been published yet.  Here are the prizes so far.  (Notice the Helios rod I am going to win.)

Smallest Carp- First Prize     9 foot 8wt Helios rod
                        Second Prize     9 foot 8 weight Access rod

Ugliest Carp- First Prize     IV Hydros Large Arbor reel
                     Second Prize     IV Access Mid Arbor reel

Team Prize-     Guided Oregon Coast Steelhead trip for 4 with Castaway Guide Service

If you haven't registered you still can. Call Leland at the Bellevue store or Adam at the Portland store to get signed up.  

From what I have been told that are people coming from 4 different states.  Very cool!   I'm looking forward to meeting all of you and swapping lies stories.  It should be a great time.

I don't want to start talkin' any smack here or makin' comments about Oregon, California, Arizona, or Idaho or wherever.  Where is Arizona anyway?  Is it by Oklahoma?  Just askin'.  I do think that there are a couple good natured and helpful warnings that are in order here.  

First of all, I plan to catch the smallest fish so just forget about you doin' that.  Sorry, it just ain't happenin' for you.  I'm hangin' with John Montana and Trashfisher for the weekend and one of them will surely catch the largest fish so that may just leave the ugliest fish for you.  Notice please that I didn't say that it was me who is going to catch the largest fish; I'll be robbin' the cradle and bringing home that Helios rod.  I will let you look at it if you like.

If you already Carp fish wherever you live then you likely have a good idea how to do it.  I imagine you got snakes where you live.  I don't mean in public office; I mean the kind that crawl on rocks and on the ground. You probably already know to not put your hands places you can't see.  Rattlesnakes can be places like that.  You already knew that.  Check yourself for ticks at the end of the day if you walk through brush.  You already knew that too.  If you are from California I know you get to see a lot of crazy stuff but I bet none of you have the trolls that we do here in Washington.  Not even in California.  

You may not have taken my warning seriously about who is catching the smallest fish and who is catching the largest fish but you definitely should take this warning seriously.  Here in Washington we have trolls that live under our bridges.  If you fish near a bridge walk around it; DO NOT go under it.  You think I'm makin' this stuff up don't you.  Okay fine, check this out.


Now do you believe me?  I have not personally seen Troll #17 but I have seen his sign and I know better than to go look for him.  Sure, it would be fun to get his picture but I know he would look at me like I was a cheeseburger and if he was hungry I would be four bite cheeseburger and that would be that.

Still think I'm shinin' you on.  Fine, suit yourself.  Check this monster out.  That's the real thing.  That's the troll hisself and yes, that is a real Volkswagon in his mitt.  That gives you some size perspective now doesn't it.


You go messin' with this bad boy and you ain't no cheeseburger you're a 6 foot party sub and a one bite party sub at that!  Snakes?  Yeah, yeah, yeah; watch out for them.  Ticks?  Yeah, yeah, yeah; check yourself at the end of the day.  Trolls?  You don't got em where you live and we do got em so you better be dang careful when you see a bridge!  

I'm looking forward to meeting all of you brave Carp anglers this weekend.  It will be a great time.