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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Carp Parts--Mouths and Lips

About this time in 2011, I thought about doing a series of blog posts  all on “Carp parts”.  The idea was to have mostly pictures and very little text.  You know Carp parts—tails, scales, fins, eyes, mouths, faces, heads, gill plates, and dead ones.  I thought of it as soft porn; never showing the whole fish.  I had Carp fished for 5 years before I started blogging so I had a lot of pictures to go back through.  I got very involved with producing Carp on the fly video back in 2011 so this project got put on hold.  I picked it up again a few weeks ago.  I now also have a post on “rods” and one on “roads and trails” that I have rough drafted.  You’re wondering if I work--you know like at a real job.  Yes, I do; quite a lot actually.   

I set a few rules for myself in this “Carp Parts” series.  1.  No pictures of an entire fish.  2.  No pictures of my face or any of my friend's faces.   3.  No cropped or rotated pictures.   4.  Only pictures I have taken. 

One of the videos I created and produced in 2011 was for my Carp on the fly seminar.  The task devoured time like a summer wildfire pushed by high wind through a dry forest.  In that seminar one of the first things I show are several pictures of the mouths of other fish and then I show pictures of Carp mouths.  People who have only fished for Trout and Salmonids think that Carp have funny, or even ugly mouths.  For the seminar I figure let’s not ignore how a Carp's mouth looks; let’s celebrate them!  When I caught my first Carp, as excited as I was, I thought the mouth on that sucker looked pretty dang weird.  Ammmm…I don’t think that anymore.  I love them big rubbery lips!  Dang, they, are, purdy!  

In preparing this series I encountered a few simple dilemmas.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to start this series with tails or mouths.  I’m going with mouths and will work back towards the tail.   I’m not sure if I will have a separate post for “faces” and “heads”.  I’m still thinking about that. I have several pictures of an entire fish where I really like the tail.  I decided against including pictures of the whole fish or cropping the picture.  The second picture in this post is one of my favorites.  It could go in the "Mouths and Lips" post or it could go in the "Eyes" post.  I decided against using the same picture in two posts.  I decided it was okay to use a shot of the same fish as long as it was a different picture.  (I know, I  know, you thinking I was kidding about having a job; I really do and I really do work a lot.)  

I would totally understand if you look at this post and think, “That is way too damn many Carp lips!”  Yeah, maybe it is. At this moment I am at the Carp Lodge.  I believe I could drive a short ways to the river and find a few Carp.  I think I might even get one or two to take my fly.  I like fishing for lots of different species; I like Carp best of all.

It is the winter; I choose not to Carp fish now and I feel very good about that.  It really helps me to savor the past year and to look forward to the coming season.  The waiting is good for my heart.  The soft Carp porn helps get me in the mood for next season.  Seriously.  The intensity of Carp fishing during the season is more enjoyable if I take things more slowly now.

The "Carp Parts" series is a celebration of these magnificent game fish!

This is one, efficient, food intake system.  

One of my favorite Carp lips picture

A thick lipped Montana Carp

 Another thick lipped Montana Carp.  This one took a dry fly.  

Another favorite Carp mouth picture.  This one is from the Columbia River. 

 I wonder if this is the pharyngeal tooth?  

It seems like this Carp has almost no lips compared to some of these other ones.

I like how the barbules get emphasized in this picture.  

 This Carp sucked up the Carrot and tried to swallow it.  

True, they are rubbery lips, but the lips of a predator nevertheless.

 Thick lips, but this one didn't come from Montana.  He lived in Oregon.  

A stillwater Carp.  I have often wondered if the environment effects how big and how thick their pretty lips get.  The bottom of this lake is all soft mud.

 This  Carp's mouth makes him look old and sad.  When I released him he felt glad and very young again.

One of Gregg Martin's Eggs is in the mouth of this Carp. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CarpPro Issue 2

Issue 2 of CarpPro magazine has hit the virtual newsstand!    Even if you fly fish exclusively like I do there is still some fascinating information in the magazine about Carp and tactics.  Check it out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Even a Trout Can Still Make Make Me Shake

As a child I was so excited to fish I would run to the river from the car. 

Years passed and I was no longer a child; I was driving my own car.  I still ran to the river sometimes.  I was keyed up to fish and I could get even more keyed up when I caught a nice fish.  

In 1974 I spent 5 days fishing in the Ketchum, Idaho area with a friend, Jim Driscoll.  We fished different water each day.  I almost drown in the Big Wood River on the fourth day.  It was the only time I had the experience of “seeing my whole life pass in front of me.”  The fifth day we fished fabled Silver Creek.  It was my first experience with a float tube.  The depth and speed of the creek were such that I could put my feet down and easily stop to make some casts.  Pick my feet up and the slow current moved me to the next spot.  This was only my third season of fly fishing; a 14 inch trout was still a big deal to me. 

Half way into the day I put my feet down to cast to a rising fish.  Anticipation was high.  The fiberglass rod delivered the line smoothly; the adult mayfly pattern drifted over the spot where the trout had risen.  While it has been 40 years since that moment, the memory of the take has stayed with me.  It was one of the few trout to take me into the backing up to that point.  I was shaking as I played that fish to the net.  I owned a Minolta 35 mm SLR camera but since it wasn't  with me the fish didn't even pose for a picture.  I admired him for a bit, thanked him, and turned the net over to send him on his way.  I was still shaking quite a bit. 

My tippet was now frayed and I needed to pee so I got out of the creek.  I managed to take care of the first job okay with shaking hands but I could not get a new tippet tied on.  I had to stand for a while and settle down before I could change the leader—all because of an 18 inch trout hooked on a dry fly. 

In February 1978 I caught my first Steelhead, a 6 pound hen, on a Corky and yarn.  I shook just a little.  In June of 1978 I caught my first Steelhead on a fly in the Kalama River.  It was a 9 pound hen and I shook a good deal. 

In the ensuing years, four species of Pacific Salmon, many species of Trout, some species of Char, Grayling, and my beloved Carp, have been tricked by my flies.  Some of them made me shake. 

Today, at age 62, a fish can still make me tremble but not as easily as when I was in my 20’s.  In part it is that I have caught many fish since that day on Silver Creek.   It is more than that though.     

What does it take to get me to shake now?  A 20 pound Carp?  An 8 pound Humpy? A 20 pound Chum?  A 5 pound Trout?  A 30 pound Chinook?  Each of those fish identified only by weight and species are great fish but they are not enough to get me to tremble.  A smaller fish of any of those species can get me to shake if the circumstances are right.  In fact the circumstances and the totality of the experience have become more important than the size of the fish alone. 

A 20 pound Carp in and of itself will not get me to shake.    I may have dropped the fly in front of the fish which is not as exciting as casting to them.  The fish might be a big slug that didn't fight that well.  That doesn't usually happen but it can happen.  The water may not be open enough for the Carp to get up and run hard.  The swim may be plain looking or even unattractive.  Of course I would like to think that everywhere I catch Carp is perfect and beautiful.  Let’s be honest here, many places are wonderful but not all of them. 

A five pound Trout can take the fly off the surface but he may also be lethargic and generally lacking in enthusiasm.  I have hooked many Salmon in the high teens and low twenties; they rarely make me tremble at all.  Lots of things have to come together these days to get me to tremble when I hook a fish.  

Last week I enjoyed some solitary fishing.  An hour had passed with only one refusal of my dry fly.  Normally I would hold out a good deal longer before changing to a wet fly; on this day I decided to make the switch at the end of that hour.  I blind cast for another hour and a half with no hookups.  Moving down river I saw a Trout feeding.  He was making “sub-surface rises”.  He would take something high enough  in the water column that the disturbance would make rings on the water but the fish never actually broke the surface.  It was enough to give his position away and to let me know he was having a late breakfast.  Nothing about the “sub-surface rises” gave me any indication of how big the fish might be. 

On my second cast there was a “sub-surface rise” and the line went tight.  The hook set sent the fish immediately out of his holding area and down the river.  A couple jumps gave away the serious size on this Trout; it was no effort for him to get into the backing. 

By the time the fish was near to me I was shaking some.  The day was beautiful and the setting was pleasing. No one else was in sight.  I had spotted a feeding fish; I had cast to him and got to see evidence of the take. He ran in to the backing.  He was fat.  As he ran down the river he created an important element of doubt that adds a lot to my excitement.  I wasn't sure I would be able to hold him and get him turned.   I knew this may be my only fish of the day and I wanted to get him in the net and take his picture.  All of these things contributed to my trembling. 

I use the Measure Net when I am fishing for Trout.  The Measure Net is great for immediately telling how long a fish is but the bag is shallow.  The first time I reached out to net this fish it ran again.  I really didn't  have him on his side yet.  Some more time against the pressure of the rod finally got him turned.  Within reach I slipped the net in front of him and lifted him up out of the water.  He was over 24 inches and he was quite thick.  What a beautiful fish!  He was in the net a maximum of three seconds when he flopped leaving his tail was on the bottom of the bag and his head was pointing straight up.  He flopped again and he was out of the net and in the water.  I stayed calm thinking I would just play him back in and net him again.  The short fall had broken the tippet.  My fat fish swam away with my fly in his mouth.  No one was there to hear me swear. 

I recalled a time when I was about 11 or 12 years old and was frustrated with snags on two consecutive casts so I threw my rod in the river.  Fortunately for me it wasn't very far in the river and I was able to retrieve it.  I’m 62 now so after my fish flopped out of the net and swam away the urge to throw my rod in the river was not strong enough to get me to actually do it. 

I knew this may be my only fish of the day.  Turning away from the river I looked up at the sky and took a few deep breaths.  I mumbled to myself, “Get over it”.  My trembling calmed quickly; I tied on a new tippet and fly.   

I have no idea why I caught more fish.  For the first two and a half hours I had not had a hook up; heck I hadn't  even had a strike.  In the next 3 hours I had numerous strikes and 6 more hookups with 5 making it to the net.  I don’t know why I started catching fish and I don’t know why the fish were all big.  I wish I did.  Maybe the fish gods thought I was trembling before them so they rewarded me.  Who knows…I do know that I am glad that even a Trout can still make  me to shake.  

One fish that was 24 inches was silver like a Steelhead just out of the salt.  

Another one that was also 24 inches had the beautiful, classic rainbow coloration on its side and gill plates.  

And a couple others that took my fly.