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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

History of Mr. P.'s Carp Carrot (And Some Variations)

A plate of carrots

I first tied my Carp Carrot in the spring of 2005. At the time I was experimenting with different materials and patterns to entice Carp to take. A trout fly that I tie, has yellow pheasant rump in it so I already had a couple rump patches on hand. Way back in the 70’s we tied nymphs with wool bodies. I have several colors on small cards left from those far away days; among them is orange.

While nothing is cast in concrete when it comes to fly fishing for Carp, it did seem to me at the time, that darker patterns were working better than lighter ones. Trying all kinds of different flies for Carp has both pleased me and frustrated me. My presentations to Carp have included Trout flies and even Salmon flies. At least some of the time the Carp have responded well to trout flies but bright, flashy, Salmon flies have been a total bust. The Trout fly in which I use the yellow pheasant rump is one of my favorite half dozen. Well for trout it is anyway. It’s not a common fly but it is certainly used by others and is easy to tie. I was just sure the Carp would love it as much as Trout do. I have given that fly some serious effort and have not hooked a single Carp with it. Not even one! I swear one time I thought a nice size Carp had turned on the fly and I said, “Finally!” Well he turned on it alright but I think all that really happened was that he positioned himself to defecate on my fly, look back at me over his shoulder, and swim off with disdain.

In early 2005 I was weighting my Carp flies with lead wire wraps. I was varying the weight from 10 wraps of .020 to 15 wraps of .035. I keep a pretty extensive fishing journal and have for decades. I also keep a fly tying journal. It helps my muddled, middle age head remember how to do things, particularly if I have not done it for a year or two. In my tying journal I can read that in 2005 I was using Tiemco model 5262 in size 6 and 8 for my first Carp Carrots. Those first ones were heavy, having 15 wraps of .035 lead.

The above fly is tied on a #6, 5263. It has 15 wraps of .035 lead wire. This is one of my earliest Carrots.

It would be during that summer that I began using beads and dumbbell eyes.  I was also dubbing the fly with orange rabbit fur.  Sometimes I would dub over the dumbbell eyes right up to the head.  I don't know that dubbing works better than wool; the wool is just quicker to tie with.  I also experimented with tying variations with partridge legs and a partridge beard rather than wrapping the hackle.  (Still thinking of a name for that bug)

Unlike the Salmon Flies, and the Trout fly the Carp pooped on, they liked the Carrot right away. I don’t know why. I have ideas and theories, which change from month to month, but still, I really don’t know why they like it so well. They do though. The darn fish responded well the first time I presented them with it. During those first few trips where I was using my Carrot more and more, there were times when the body would partially slip off the wire wrap, particularly when it was the .035 wire. That caused me to begin trying bead head flies and then the dumbbell eyes. I was used to lead, dumbbell eyes from fishing Clousers in the saltwater. I really didn’t know if the dumbbell eyes would put the Carp off. At least so far, they seem to not be scaring the fish. With bead heads or with the dumbbells I can wrap the bodies much more tightly so there isn’t any slipping.

Since those early versions I have tied the fly as small as size 12 on a 5262 hook. I had a bad experience, grrrrr…, one day with size 12, 5262 Carrots. I straightened the hook on three consecutive fish. I wrote an article about it for the NACA magazine. From that point on I began using Tiemco 3769 for the smaller size hooks. It is heavier wire and holds fat Carp just fine.

The above fly is tied on a #10 5262.

This fly is tied on a #12 5262
I have moved away from using this hook in these small sizes.

#6 3769 with black dumbbell eyes, brighter yarn, and orange thread

I have also tried a variety of rubber legs on my Carp Carrots. I’ve used black, white, and variegated. The orange and black legs pictured are tarantula legs. I also use what are called juicy legs. I have some tiers use the slang, “silly legs” for the variegated color products. I have tied the legs short, medium and long. At this point if I am going to use legs I don’t like them to be too short. The verdict is out at this point on whether particularly long legs are helpful, neutral, or problematic. I don’t experience short strikes with Carp like I do with other species. The pick it up or they don’t. The can eject a fake very, very quickly and I don’t know if long legs tells them to hold it in or to blow it out. I’ll have to keep field testing.

#6, 3769 with medium length white rubber legs, darker yarn color, bead head, and black thread

#6, 3769, longer black legs, brighter colored yarn, bead head, and black thread

#6, 3769, tarantula legs, darker yarn, bead head, black thread.

I have tried some bright, glass beads on my Carrots. These, at least so far, don’t seem to produce any advantage though I am continuing to experiment.

The first Carrots I tied were with wool bodies. The fly produced such pleasantly surprising results that I went out and bought a ball of yarn at the fabric store that was basically the same color as the wool I was using. Two years later I bought another ball of yarn that was brighter orange than my original Carrots. Once the fly is wet I don’t think it makes any difference whether it is the brighter orange or the duller version. In fact I tie most of my Carrots with the more subdued color simply because the material is slightly easier to work with than the brighter color. The darker yarn is a bit easier to work with.

I have also tied the “Carrot” in other colors. I don’t know exactly how I can call something that is green, black, red, tan, or pink a Carrot. Nothing seems to work as well as orange.

I do tie some unweighted versions in small sizes that I fish in very calm, shallow water when I am casting to particularly skittish fish.

No one fly will work for Carp all the time. This is my "go to" Carp fly. The fish seem to be more willing to move to this fly than to others. There are still days when the Carp don't want my Carrots and I have to give them something else.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Walkin' the Dogs and Forgiveness

Sometimes a fishing report has everything to do with fishing. You know, things like who you fished with, what species you were chasing, what day it was, where you went, what the weather was like, what flies you used, what line, what weight leader, taking pictures, and of course, how many fish you caught.

Sometimes it is partly about fishing. Other things intrude. Humphhh...Yes they do; sometimes other things intrude. Sometimes you see interesting things and sometimes other things happen. Yes, sometimes other things happen on a fishing trip besides fishing.

Here is a short fishing report about fishing:
I went fishing yesterday. That was Friday. For Chums. The weather was rainy and cold. Tied to a 15 pound tippet, Christmas Trees and Marabou Clousers were the flies I used. A St. Croix Legend Elite (Salt Water) 10 weight was my stick for the day. Three fish only were hooked in the mouth; the snagged ones don't count. I ran into my friend Gary on the water. Took a few pictures. Got cold.

There, that's it; that's my fishing report.

Well hell, that doesn't work. Yesteday was one of those days when other stuff intruded. Okay, I got a few pictures of a beaver.

But that's not the only thing. My beautiful, St. Croix Legend Elite 10 weight, didnt' have a good day. Neither did the reel. Neither was the beaver for that matter.

I write some other blogs. One of them is a personal or inspirational blog. Its not about fishing but yesterday's post was about the demise of my rod and reel. The story in that blog is not told from the perspective of a fishing report; its more from the perspective of a life experience. You can read the story here:


It's in the post called Forgiveness: Part II

Friday, November 6, 2009

Who Let the Dogs Out?!!

It's November; I'm sure there are still Carp in the water out there somewhere, but not many in the flats. And even if there were, spotting them would be dang difficult what with the thunder, lightening, total cloud cover, hail, hard winds, and pouring rain we are having right now. While Carp are my favorite fish to catch on the fly, I am thankful that this is terrible Carp fishing weather. It helps me to enjoy other fishing opportunities.

Here in Washington State we are on the east side of the Pacific Ocean. Being on the west coast of the United States, it is weird to think of ourselves as being on the east side of anything. In Washington we commonly say that there are five species of Pacific Salmon. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife shows five species on their webpage. There are actually seven species of Pacific Salmon two of which are only found on the west side of the ocean, in Asia. The other five species are found on both sides.

In Washington the salmon we have are: Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Chum (Dog), Sockeye (Red), and Pink (Humpie). All of these fish die shortly after migrating to fresh water and spawning.

Our Pacific Salmon undergo dramatic changes as they go into their spawning cycle. The Chums take on calico coloration.
They also get some serious teeth that look like dog teeth. Hence the slang, Dog Salmon.

Yesterday I got out for some Chum fishing. Its close to home, the fish are big and they will take a fly. All those are good things. Fishing a river that I first sampled in the middle 70's, I tried a new section. Overall, it was a good day. One of the things that is frustrating about Chum fishing is the number of fish that you snag. When the fish are in the river there are often quite a few of them together. Swinging a fly and dead drifting can both be effective techniques.

The Coho also run this time of year. They are more highly prized than the Chums. They are MUCH more difficult to catch on a fly; at least here in Washington. I was also fishing for Coho but I realize that is more like dreaming than fishing.

I got a Chum to hand about 10 minutes after stepping in the river. The fly was in the corner of his mouth so I count that one as caught. The next several fish I hooked were all snagged. Grrrr... I just don't like that. If they are tail snagged or belly snagged, they are difficult to get in and it just isn't satisfying at all. I got a few fish to hand that had my fly inside their mouths.

My best fish of the day took the fly, danced on the water, and charged down the river. He took me a good ways into the backing. I followed him and got him right to my feet. As I as reaching for the camera to get his picture he flopped and scurried back in the river. It was okay.

Good Chum fishing really only lasts for a few weeks. Being able to fly fish for them is heavily dependent on the river conditions.

The days are getting shorter. The weather is nasty. So are a Chum's teeth. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fishing with Michael

We're getting towards the end of Pink Salmon season. The fish, the males in particular, have taken on a different look. The humps are more pronounced definitely showing why Pinks are also called Humpies.

My son, Michael, was able to get out with me. He got into some fish and that pleases me no end.

I have wondered what would happen if a thousand fish, heck, even just a couple dozen fish, with teeth like this decided they didn't want me in the river with them. I wonder, would Simms take a warranty claim for teeth holes in my waders?

Morning dew:

This was a great season of Humpie fishing; there were tons of fish and the weather was unseasonably warm and pleasant. Oh yeah, there was that thing about "giving" my camera to some guy I've never met but I'm over it now. Life is good.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A new camera to replace the one I LEFT at the river

Getting towards the end of Humpy season with my dang, new camera...

Approaching the river I didn’t see any fish rolling. I knew there were still fish in the river but not in nearly the numbers as there had been in past weeks. This was a good opportunity for me to move and explore some new water. I moved farther up the river than I have in the past. The males definitely have their distinctive humps now; they are changing colors and are sporting their kypes (hooked jaws) and quickly growing teeth.

Pink Salmon can be distinguished by the large, oval spots on their backs and tail. (caudal fin).

Even though there were not nearly as many fish in the river there were still plenty of guys out trying. Moving away from them, albeit to less desirable holding water, gave me some pleasure. I got a some fish to hand that helped me baptize my new camera.

A female:

A male:

The Fall colors are beginning to show in the leaves. The air is getting colder. I am reminded that as I turn 59 in just a matter of days, I am very much in the Fall of my own life. I get colder my easily. Like the leaves I am experiencing changes; those that come with aging. Winter will come soon as will the winter of my life. I have often felt that Fall is the best season. I hope it is my best season of life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pink Fishing in the Freshwater

Pinks are one of the five species of Pacific Salmon here in Washington. They spawn in freshwater, migrate to saltwater, spend two years there gaining maturity, and then return to the freshwater to repeat the cycle. Here in Washington Pinks run in the odd years. As soon as Pinks enter freshwater to spawn they begin changing color. Part of the change that the males undergo is acquiring a significant hump on there backs; hence the name Humpies.

The past couple weeks, I had been to the freshwater 5 times. I had well over 100 pictures on the memory card in my camera. There were plenty of fish who posed for pictures. More important to me, I had taken about 15 pictures of fish underwater along with pictures of a deer, and some other scenery. Of those days, I had two good days of fishing where I reached a point where I was tired of catching fish. I was catching virtually all of my fish on my very simple Salmon Slammer.

Pausing after taking some underwater shots of a male with a major hump, I sat down on a log to eat my Clif Bar and savor a good day. Casually, I set the camera on the log next to me to dry the lens. I had caught enough fish that I was content to go home, or, to maybe fish for awhile more. Again, casually, I picked up my rod, put the chest pack back on, and walked over to the water and fished for another hour. I got a few more fish, paused, and gave thanks for such a good day. I headed for home.

After dinner, I wanted to show Katy some of the pictures I had taken. Looking in the chest pack I was so disappointed to find only an empty camera case. I looked in my truck, I looked in my jacket pockets, I looked again in the chest pack. I did it all again, knowing that may damn camera was still sitting on that log. Well, at least I hoped it was still on the log.

I got up very early the next morning to go “fish” for my camera. Somehow, I knew I was going to get skunked on this quest, but I still hoped. Pink fishing is not exactly a wilderness experience. When the Humpies run almost everyone is a fisherman. When the weather is nice then anyone who was still home comes out to fish. I was pretty sure someone else took my camera home but I had to go look. Sadly the log was empty. My camera being gone was a disappointment but so was the memory card. I lost all the pictures from 5 days of fishing, plus some pictures from a hike. Damn it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Simms StreamTread Vibram with Star Cleats: a Brief Field Test

I was anxious to see if the new generation of Vibram sole wading boot would stack up against felt. As a fair amount of the water I wade is challenging I was very concerned about Simms discontinuing felt soles. If you are 29 or 39 then not much of any wading is challenging for you. You believe you are a mountain goat and that you always will be. You may always be, but 30 years from now you won’t be quite the mountain goat you are today.

For me, its thirty years from back then, when I too believed I was a mountain goat. I probably never was, but either way, as I am only days away from being 59, I’m not quite as steady on my feet as I once was. I’m not clumsy or unable to fish anymore, it’s not like that; I’m just aware of being older than I used to be. Anything that will help me wade securely and comfortably adds to my overall safety, enjoyment of the day, and even success chasing fish.

On learning felt was to be discontinued by Simms, at first I thought I would just stockpile some felt sole boots in my garage. There were none to be had in my size by the time I began looking. I wanted to test the Vibram sole boots and the Star Cleats to see if they were at least a suitable replacement for felt and studded felt. If not then I was going to buy felt sole boots from Chota or some other brand before they were discontinued also.

I am planning to fish in Alaska next year and I have heard that felt is, or will be, banned there in 2010 or 2011. If that is going to be the case then I needed to be exploring options that would keep my middle-age butt dry and safe. Either that or I could just stay home. Nahhh… I’m not that old yet. I still want to make that trip to Alaska next year. Melissa and Nathan, I’m really looking forward to it!

I recognize clearly that the time I spent in the river shown in this video is a very small amount of time and doesn’t constitute a serious, extensive, field test. That will only come with a season of use. I wanted to test felt, plain StreamTread Vibram, studded felt, and the StreamTread Vibram with Star Cleats all at the same time. I wanted to make the comparison on the same water the same day. That way, even though it was brief, I wouldn’t experience any memory lapse of sorts about how one sole performed. I wanted the comparisons to be side by side.

I began the trial skeptical that the Vibram would even be a close second to felt. I had purchased an earlier version of Vibram sole wading boots some years ago and was quite disappointed with them. Coming into the comparison I admit my bias was that Simms was doing something that at least looked good for the environment, but really, they just wanted to reduce their SKU count. In talking to several dealers, a few of them had the same thoughts. I should point out that none of them who panned the boot had actually used it yet.

Again, my field test, or trial, was not extensive. I will need to test the Vibram soles with Star Cleats in more settings through different times of year. I guess I think of what I did as being like going to Road Runner or Jock and Jill to try on new running shoes. They let you go outside and run around for awhile to try the shoes. We all buy the shoe that feels the best to us and then we go run in it. Or in my case, walk quickly or shuffle pretty dang slowly. Through use, most of us continue liking the shoe that felt best when we tried them on. What I did was sort of try these different wading boots on in the river. My first impressions and some follow up are in the video.


My First "School Day" fishing

September 8, was the first day with students in Marysville. It was very weird for me to go fishing but in the end it was good. I have been busy with my new career and enjoying it. First period started at 7:20 for approximately the past 20 years. I wanted to catch a fish right at 7:20.

I dilly dallied after the alarm went off; at least for now I'm still getting up at 5:00 AM just as if I was going to get ready for school. I didn't make my first cast until 7:27. I guess that sort of makes me tardy on my first "school day" of fishing. Bad boy.

There was very little movement in the tide this day. I think that effected the fishing. Slower fishing couldn't possibly have anything to do with something I was or wasn't doing. I had didn't even get a dang strike until 9:45. I was ready to "go home sick" on my school day of fishing. I got a fish at exactly 10:20. That's when first lunch started so that was good. I released the fish and ate my lunch right on schedule.

In the next 2 1/2 hours I got more fish but I didn't have nearly the strikes that I had the week before.

I had some good pictures of fish and scenery from this trip but alas they are all gone. Where they went is for another post. The picture in this post is from last week.

My First "Workshop Day" on the Water

I had hoped to keep up with blogging each day I fished. Events have conspired against me; I must have a hard life. I have been busy with my new job and with other tasks. And I’ve gotten out fishing some too.

I was born in October. My mother took me to kindergarten when I was still four. I was so surprised when she left me there. I have been going to school every fall for the last 54 years. The school schedule is engrained in me.

As a real estate agent my schedule is very different. Well, I’m just going to have to do my best to deal with working weekends and fishing during the week.

Monday, August 31, was the first workshop day for teachers in my “old” school district. I wanted to fish on this day. Chasing Pink Salmon in the saltwater can be a lot of fun. It is often feast or famine. There were an extraordinary number of them this year. That doesn’t mean they will always take the fly but when they are jumping all over everywhere it sure feels like they ought to take the fly on every cast.

I got a nice fish on the third cast. That told me, at least I hoped it told me, I was going to catch fish all day long and that I wouldn’t have to wait more than 4 or 5 casts to get another hookup. Things don’t always work out that way. There are a lot of short strikes with Pinks and a fair number of them get off. I believe I had 11 to hand. I had one fish on that I never saw and I never really got him moving in the direction I wanted. I was chasing him down with the boat; I’m pretty sure it was a Coho or maybe even a King. Yikes that fish was strong!

A very notable part of the day was when I was fishing down from the launch point. I was anchored near the shore casting to schools of fish. Two boats came over to where I was. The smaller boat drove on the shore. The larger boat started putting out a net. At first they were heading straight out from shore. When they began to make the turn I started to wonder if they would circle the net around me. With all the open water I couldn’t believe I was going to get netted. I should have moved as soon as they got there but I really didn’t know what was going to happen. They closed me in eventually. I had to lift the motor and row across the darn net. Mark Simpson, from my fly club, has property near this spot. His wife watched me get netted. Mark rowed out to talk for a bit when I had the large fish on. It was a hot day and Mark was very nice to bring me a bottle of water.

I worked my way up the shoreline looking for schools of fish. About 2 hours later two more boats came. Lo and behold, just like the first two, they wanted to put their nets exactly where I was anchored. Go figure. I knew better this time. I just pulled up the anchor and moved away 500 yards. It was a beautiful day and a great way to spend what would have been a workshop day for me in my previous life.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A couple more days on new water

I got out for two more days of Carp fishing. I left home committed to trying new water no matter how many fish I was catching. (Or not catching) The first day I saw a shoal of sunbathers that had several fish well over 20#. Not a ONE of them had his nose down like he was the least bit hungry. Actually, I'm not sure they were even sunbathing. It was more like napping or comatose. I know those fish are bad targets but I had to cast to them since I had been stalking for an hour and hadn't seen a single tailing fish. I would love to say I cast so carefully and perfectly that I was able to selectively worked my way through the shoal and got three of them over 20# to take my fly. Well, I made a few casts, woke up a couple fish, they woke up all their shaolmates, and that was that. I walked for another 90 minutes and only saw three cruisers and that was my fun for the morning.

I headed up the river to try some more new water. Yikes, there were a lot of weeds where I stopped. I was seeing a few tailing fish but was cleaning my fly off on virtually every cast. Even my "totally excellent" casts were for naught because when I stripped the fly I was almost always pulling salad along with it.

I was able to get some hookups after lunch and that always makes me happy. One of the fish I had clearly turned to the fly. I set the hook and was pleased with myself. When I got him in he was hooked on the outside of the ridge on his pretty Carp lips. The outside is so close to the inside that I think I should be able to count this one. Its not like I hooked him on a fin or something. Plus, he turned to the fly. I know Carp tournament guidelines allow something like one inch from the mouth to still count the fish as a capture. You can see the Carp Woollie just on the outside of the lip in the underwater picture.

Another one was way up in the teens and took me a good ways into the backing. That's always fun.

The next day, once again, I made myself go to water I had never fished. There was one spot I have been eyeing for 5 years and I finally stopped there. Last year I came upon a spot like this where there are just way too many Carp. There were so many fish that the water gets cloudy and you can't see them until they begin a "Carp Exodus". The sky was overcast, so along with cloudy water, spotting tailing fish was almost impossible unless a tail came out of the water. Even then it was difficult to tell which way the fish was moving as soon as the tail went under. Most of the time I was blind casting to fish I knew were there but could not pinpoint exactly. I would spook one when the fly landed on it and it would take off. In a situation like this where there are too many Carp, when the first fish bolts everyone near it does also. It is as if the first fish says, "Hey let's get out of here, something just landed on me." Everyone nearby takes off and tells the other fish they pass, "Hey get out of here, someone says there's things falling on him." And in a matter of seconds the water boils with a Carp Exodus. I tried to get a picture of a good example but never did. Another time.

While I did get some fish to hand (I'm only counting the ones that had the fly inside their mouths.) it was not as satisfying as other days when I can sight fish. The fish I caught were ones where I could see the tail and the direction they were pointing but I had to wait to feel the strike rather than see it.
St. Croix Legend Elite 8 weight

A good two days all in all because I saw new water and did get some fish.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spider Dodging All Day

Fish On!

I tried some new water again. This day was characterized by lots and lots of "bleeping" spiders. I have seen this particular spider before but never in the massive quantities I saw today. At one point I saw 9 seperate webs, each with its own webmaster. I didn't even have to turn my head to take in all nine webs. The webs were thick and strong. Each web seemed to have at least one strand that was as thick as a piece of string. I tried walking through one to get to a different spot and before it broke it noticeably pulled a branch. It gave me the creeps that there were so many of them. I started to worry one would jump on me for a free ride and along the way it would bite me, poison me, or turn me into fishing troll.

Maybe life as a fishing troll wouldn't be all bad... I could fish every day and wherever I went people would get out of the way and let me have the water to myself. No, people would yell at me and throw rocks at me, they would tell me to stay away.

Little kids would say, "What is that daddy?"

Daddy would say, "It's a nasty fishing troll."

"What does it do daddy?"

"It just fishes all day and doesn't do much of anything else. Don't look at it; it's so ugly."

No, I don't think I want to be a fishing troll. I still want to kiss my wife so I'm glad I came home as me. At one point I saw something crawling on the brim of my hat. It was one of the dang troll makers so I brushed it off and it landed on a large rock.

I saw some cruising fish, a fair number of napping fish, and not many tailers. I got fish to hand and it helped keep my mind off of being carried away and poisoned.

I had one on that I am sure was over 20 pounds. I was able to play him for awhile but he went charging off into some rocks and seperated himself and the fly from me and everything else.

The Webmaster is Home.

Four Sentries

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Pink Salmon of the Year and Fighting Seals

I got out for a morning of Pink Salmon fishing. The tide was right, the wind was down, it was a good day. I got fish to hand but found myself competing with some more serious predators. These two seals were fighting. Well, I think they were fighting. One of them had the other by the neck and its neck was bleeding. I assumed they were fighting for the Salmon I was hoping to catch but maybe they were fighting for attention from a pretty girl seal. I don't think its mating season but either way the commotion did not attract fish.