Search This Blog

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Robert's Questions and a Few Answers

Caller two is Robert, from Minnesota. Go ahead caller:

"Really enjoy your blog Mr. P. I like the stories and the information and I like your humor. I really enjoy your photography too. I love the one of the reel and the fish underwater. Sounds like you mostly fish clear water and can see the fish you're casting to. Your underwater pictures make it look that way also. Is that true? Around here our water is cloudy. There are Carp feeding and what I see is a bubble column rising up from where they are. I cast to the bubble columns and catch fish but usually the fish are snagged and haven't taken the fly. It sounds like the fish are taking your fly and you can see them take it. Wish we had that here. Do you fish any water that is cloudy? What flies do you feel work well in muddy conditions? Any thoughts on detecting takes when you can't see the fish? Thanks."

Thanks for the email Robert. Some of the water I fish varies in clarity a great deal. The Columbia River can be very clear one day, somewhat clear the next day, and have almost no visibility another day. There is an old saying, "The best time to go fishing is when you can." For me that means that sometimes I go when the conditions aren't the best and I just deal with it. When I know conditions are going to be bad sometimes I choose to not go and wait for a better day.

I say these next things cautiously and respectfully. I much prefer to fish in conditions where I can sight fish. I wrote in my fishing journal in the 80's that "the take is the premier moment." It was true then and it is even more true for me now. Hunting and stalking Carp is riveting. Seeing them take is such a rush. If you live somewher where all of the water is cloudy all of the time then there isn't much you can do about that except drive a long ways to find clear water.

I live in Western Washington. Going away the best Carp fishing is on the other side of the state. I drive a minimum of three hours to get to various spots on the Columbia. It is a five hour drive for me to get to Banks Lake. There is another lake in Eastern Washington that I chase Carp in. I have been there probably 25 or 30 times. Being in that part of the state makes things a minimum of 3 hours and often more. I just take for granted now that I have to drive to find Carp in clear, or somewhat clear water. I ask this question respectfully because I know it can be easier said than done. Are you able to drive to find Carp in clear water? I think it is worth the time.

Each of the last four years I have fished different, new water that was completely cloudy. I understand this to be what they call brownlining. All four times I would say that the spots truly had too many Carp. I had a couple guys ask me how I could say that a spot had too many Carp. My best example is from three years ago. I was fishing the Columbia one day and this guy pulled into the area I was parked. He was a PUD lineman and he stopped for lunch. When I am asked what I am fishing for sometimes I say, "whatever bites", and sometimes I say, "Carp". It just depends on how I think the conversation will go. When this guy asked I smiled and said, "Carp." He immediately answered and said, "Do you want to know the best Carp lake in the whole world?" Well of course I did so I said, "yes". Wow, think of it, the best Carp lake in the whole world, right here in Washington. He said that it was called Cougar Lake and that it was filled with Carp. He even gave me directions. I went there the next day. The lake was as he said, just teeming with fish. I caught 13 Carp. Okay, I have done that in the past but I had never caught 13 Carp in 13 casts before. But here's the thing, it wasn't any fun at all. Twelve of the thirteen fish were snagged. Only one of them had picked up the fly. The fish that had eaten the fly really wasn't any more fun to catch than the other ones because I really couldn't tell if he had taken the fly until he was very close to me. Two of the fish were snagged below their lip but that is still a snag. I don't really count snagged fish as caught fish but more to the point snagging them takes the joy out of it.

A few weeks later I went back to Cougar Lake one more time with my son. I wondered, as you do, if the patterns we used, or possibly the techniques we used would make any difference in the very cloudy water conditions.

We tried a variety of flies. Something we both observed is that we had fewer snags on small flies but that is not some big revelation. The color of the fly didn't seem to make a difference nor did the pattern we chose. We tried casting into the fish and letting the fly sit for three or four minutes before we stripped. We tried slow hand twists or very short twitches. We both got just one fish to take the fly. We both snagged several fish and as I said, that is just no fun at all. We both got our fish on Chocolate Cherry Carp Woollies. That was of some small note but I am not likely to return to Cougar Lake because it is too difficult to keep from snagging the fish.

Cougar Lake had zero visibility. None at all. In some cases we were able to cast to bubble columns just like you talked about, Robert. Because the water was so cloudy we really couldn't tell which way the fish was moving or even pointing. I knew my fly had to be close to the fish when I put in next to or even right on top of the bubble column but there was no way to reliably detect a take. We caught some of the fish that were creating the bubbles but they were snagged; they had not sucked up the fly.

These last four years my experience in the other locations with very muddy water was much the same. In conditions where the water is totally muddy I would say that the fly doesn't make a lot of difference and neither does technique. A guy or gal is going to snag the majority of the fish caught and I think it is darn difficult to keep from snagging them.

All of that said, I think it is quite a different thing to fish water that is somewhat cloudy and has at least a small amount of visibility. It is a whole "nuther" game. If you have some visiblility, even a small amount, and you can at least see which way the fish's mouth is pointing, then I would suggest, Carp Carrots, SJW's, and Chocolate Cherry Carp Woollies. In water that is very cloudy but still has some visibility sometimes I can get so close to the fish that I can literally hold out the rod and just set the fly in front of them. I don't even need to make an actual cast; I just sort of let it drop in front of the fish. This method is sometimes referred to as dapping. Even this small amount of visibility puts much of the joy back into chasing Carp. As to technique in these conditions, if I think I have cast or dapped the fly onto the "Carp's plate" then I will let the fly sit for awhile. I tend to let a SJW sit longer than a Carrot or other fly. Slow, short strips seem to be even more important in these kind of conditions.

I hope there is some clear, or at least somewhat clear water you can drive to Robert. I believe that you will just be dazzled by the difference in the experience.

Gerhard, I am working on answers to your questions; I will finish in the next several days.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Klint's Questions and a Few Answers

These next three posts are in response to three readers who sent me email with Carp fishing questions and fly tying questions.

I am cutting and pasting your questions gentlemen.

"Caller one" is Klint, from here in Washington State. Go ahead caller:

"Mr P, thanks for the reply and the tips. I gathered some of this information from your blog, such as the best time to fish is during the warmer months and that spawning fish are difficult or nearly impossible to catch. The reason I have been going out anyway is because I just can't stop fishing. A day on the water with no catch is better than a day doing yard work. I almost took the day off work today to go back and poke around but the forecast of heavy cloud cover changed my mind. I also read that during the spawn fish are easier to spot so it is a good idea to get out and find where the fish are located (assuming they will be near the same location year round). Is the name of the game to remain mobile and hit different areas until you find fish? I guess what I am asking is if the fish are not on a portion of the flat do you move on to the next one? Do carp disperse over an entire flat or do they school and you just need to find the school which may be in one specific area of a flat? If you are not finding fish up shallow at a couple flats does it mean that it is likely that all fish are in deep water and you are going to be in for a tough day? If you are not seeing fish do you change up locations or just keep slowing down your walk? Hope I am not firing too many questions at you."

Some answers: In the beginning of our email, Klint, you said that you are new to Carp fishing and new to the Columbia River. You said that you had fished several areas one day and had not seen a tailing fish. It was May when you wrote me.

I am familiar with some of the spots you referenced but not all of them. Those spots with which I am familiar I have caught fish. As a starting point there are Carp all over the Columbia. For the Carp fly rod angler the issue is finding shallow water that you can get to. There is actually quite a lot of that too. Then of course you want shallow water where there are tailing fish.

You mentioned locating spots where you see fish spawning. They move into the shallows to spawn so it is helpful to see spots where they are spawning because you know they were there and may return when they are hungry. Still that is not necessarily the only or best measure of where you can catch a Carp. If you are scouting and not seeing fish a very tell tale sign of whether or not there have been feeding fish in the area is the pock marks in the bottom of the river. There are times you can see a single pock that is two feet in diamter and it was created by a single carp chowing down. There are times when you will see scores of 6 inch pocks and then you know Carp feed here. That said, they will also feed over rocky bottoms and there is no way to know if they have been around recently, or ever for that matter, except to catch them in the act of having lunch.

The water level of the Columbia can vary dramatically in a matter of a few hours particularly if you are around one of the many dams on the river. I would add here that there are a couple places that are near to where you were fishing where you need to be careful of the water levels because they can trap you, and one that is the most dangerous spot I have been to on the river. If the rising water traps you at that spot you will be lucky if you are able to swim to safety. If you see an island with a sign on it that warns you of sudden water level changes, stay OFF that island. I have pictures of it looking extremely harmless and inviting. Seven years ago I walked out to it when it looked so benign. I walked off before the water level started to change. This wasn't a matter of my good judgement; I was just tired. I had no idea how much the water level could change and how quickly it would happen. I have pictures of it with only the tops of the brush and trees sticking out of the water. That change happened in just a matter of an hour or two. I mention this for caution's sake but also because a flat that has fish today may have no water in it tomorrow. For the most part this is kind of fun to experience the changes but sometimes it is maddening.

Because the Carp are often on the move and because the water level changes, yes you should keep moving when you don't see fish. As to your walking speed, very slow is very good. The ideal day is one with blue sky, bright sun, clear water, and just a small amount of wind or no wind at all. You don't always get all of these conditions at the same time so you just deal with it. If the sky is cloudy and/or the water is cloudy then spotting tailing fish is difficult unless their tails are out of the water. When the sky or water are cloudy, or if they are both cloudy, walking slowly is like running--walk extremely slowly.

On any day if you don't see fish, keep moving. Fish may be all over a flat, there may not be a single one in a flat, they may be just in one corner. You just never know. You can walk through a flat in the morning and not see a fish and come back a few hours later and see a bunch of them or vice versa. I would add that if I have caught some fish on a particular stretch of river and then start the walk back to my truck, usually I don't see many fish at all on the return trip.

I will definitely keep moving through a flat or stretch of river even if I am not seeing fish. Sometimes it is a flat I have fished many times and have caught fish. Other times I am exploring new water. Either way, you still need to to keep walking. Sometimes moving means walking and sometimes it means getting back in your Carpwagon and moving to another parking spot. A simple summary would be to say, yes, keep moving.

Carp will form up in what is called a shoal (a group or school of them). If they are spread out over a big flat this is a ton of fun. If they are packed in and literally bumping each other, it is intoxicating to see them, but not as fun as a spread out group because sometimes one spooked fish will send the rest of them out into the deep water.

There will be times when you wade for an hour and don't see a fish and then come upon several feeding fish. There will be days when you go to a flat you have caught fish in and not see a single target. There will be days when you just get a couple shots and that's that. There will be days when most of what you see is a bunch of sunbathing/sleeping Carp. There will be days when you wade and see a fish every 50-100 yards.

Soon Klint, you will get your first Carp on the fly. You will be tempted to quit your job when that happens; don't do it, you need gas money. You will also be tempted to say the heck with yard work. Well, I'm not sure that's such a bad idea. We are entering the prime months for the Carp fly fishing on the Columbia. Stay with it. You can do it.

Robert and Gerhard, thanks for your email; I will answer your questions in the next several days.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sardinas for the Roosters

A Sardina that is finished being tied. It is ready for epoxy and eyes.

Lined up and ready to report for duty.

These flies are more traditional, tied, saltwater flies as opposed the the Squishy Fish. There are layers of Slinky Fiber, Krystal Flash, and Flashabou. Tying the fly is actually pretty simple; it's the dang glueing that is time consuming. Getting the eyes to sit nice and straight, particularly when they are the larger 3D ones, can be a bit challenging. A lot of my Sardinas are cross eyed. Oh well, the fish won't know the difference.

I tied 18 of these along with a number of other baitfish imitations. I used up a lot of Slinky Fiber, particularly white.

I have put the fly tying materials away and am packing for Mexico. I sure hope the Roosters like at least something I tied.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Squishy Fish

I'm getting ready for my trip to Mexico to chase Roosterfish. I'm discouraged by the number of people who tell me they have tried to catch them on the fly for four or five days and never had a fish. But I'm a fly fisherman; hope springs eternal. I tie some new flies and I think how can those fish refuse?

The Squishy Fish is the creation of Peter Hylander of Seattle Saltwater. I suppose anything that I tie for fishing is a fly. Well sort of. I feel like I am building these flies more than I am tying them. The doubling is a somewhat different use of the mylar than I have experienced with other baitfish imitiations. It's always good to learn new things.

I have tied a lot of tube flies for Salmon fishing. I like my tube fly vise from HMH.

Alas the pins are too short for this fly. I created a longer pin by cutting a piece out of the corner of a clothes hangar. I was kind of pleased with myself for problems solving.

The first step is to assemble the three sizes of tubing and the cone head. The cone head is epoxied to the tubing. If you tie this fly get that middle piece of tubing well into the first piece. It shouldn't stick out more than 1/8 inch when you are finished or the cone won't slide down far enough. When you insert the smallest piece of tubing into the middle piece its okay if the middle piece goes down inside the largest piece a bit since the space will be filled with epoxy. After the epoxy has dried the tail end needs to be melted so that there is something for the thread to butt up against. Holding it to a lighter and then pressing on a paint stick worked fine.

This is 10 inches of mylar slid over the tube. I have tied it very, very tightly so it won't slip in later steps. It is tied right up against the conehead.

After tying down the mylar near the cone a good coat of Softex is applied on the thread. It has to dry before moving on to the next step.

One side of the mylar is pushed back over the cone so that the finished Squishy Fish is actually double layered. This step ended up being much simpler than I anticipated. The mylar slides right back over the cone easily.

It is easier to tie off the tail if the Squishy Fish is turned around for this step.

Pushing the tail back towards the head gives the fly the shape of a fish. It is tied off just in front of the melted tubing.

The fly needs another application of Softex where the tail is tied off.

The entire fly is dipped in Softex. This step is messy. You need to wear rubber gloves and to have something for the drips to fall on. I didn't plan to make any drips but I sure did. A plastic garbage bag works nicely. After the fly drains which will take about 30 seconds it needs to wiped off with a paper towel. The blue shop towels which are just heavier paper towels work better. This step is really messy. That is a stream of Softex draining off the nose of the fly.

Cut open clothes hangars worked great for drying the flies. The green bag next to the Squishy Fish is my Carp weigh sling which was also drying out.

Notice the difference in the shape of the two flies that are nearest. The narrow one is a result of me not tying down the mylar firmly enough so it slipped forward.

The flies dried for four hours and then I was back in business. To give coloration I sprayed the backs with green paint. Rubber gloves were necessary again. A quick "psssst" is all it takes.

The went back up on the hangars to dry.

The last step is to apply the eyes. A slightly sticky back allows you to put them in place. The eyes need a coat of Softex over them to hold them in place.

Here is a squadron of Squishy Fish complete with eyes ready to fly across my garage.

How can those Roosters possibly deny me?