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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Beginning of the Season

During the first week of May I made my first trip Carp trip of the season to the Columbia River. I wrote a long blog post the following week and had it saved as a draft. On May 11, eBlogger had an outage. Grrrr... It was down for almost a day. From what I understand they were able to restore posts that had been published but not the drafts. There was a message that said they would be able to restore drafts and comments. There have been six efforts that have shown up trying to restore the draft. There is nothing in the posts so I had to start over. Dang it!!

I suppose on the second telling of this trip I could "remember" catching more fish on that first day than I "remember" from the initial telling.

Day One:

Wow, on the first day I didn't catch a fish under 20 pounds! That's so incredible. Okay fine, I didn't catch one under 20 pounds either. I still remember that, so here's the truth.

I had been very busy with home sales and was following up with some transactions that Tuesday morning so I left home later than I had planned. I didn't get to the river until after lunch. The sky was mostly cloudy, the river was high and off color. And the wind was blowing pretty hard too. I just had to remind myself of that old question and answer: "What is the best time to go fishing?" "When you can." I could go for a few days so I did.

I started with familiar water that is easy to wade particularly since the river was so high. I had walked for half an hour and finally saw my first Carp. The rod was in my right hand, there was some line out, and I had the fly pinched between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand. The fish was stationary. Without even thinking I just flicked the fly with my left hand toward the fish. It was a Cy Young award winning flick; the fly landed right on the Carp's dinner plate. I'm sure he could see it there. He sat there for a bit and slowly headed away. I saw two more fish in 90 minutes of walking. I spooked one as I got close to it and the other was a slow cruiser moving away from me. He was out of sight in just a second or two.

I decided to try some new water that I have been eyeing for a few years. I have fished downriver from this spot but never up river. The water upriver from this spot is decidely different than the downriver stretch. Downriver, the bottom of the river is firm and easy to wade. There are some shallows that Carp come in to so it has been a spot where I have experienced some success. From the road the upriver section appears to have some bays that look very interesting; it's just that the access down looks difficult. I suppose I should say dangerous.

Heading down the hill I was having second thoughts. For a long way back from what I guess I could call the river bank there was marsh. Thick cattails, both growing and matted down from the past year, covered a muddy and uneven "bottom". From the road I could see what I thought was the easiest way through the weeds. It took me over a half hour to get to a point where I realized I was not going to reach the river and that even if I did I wouldn't be able to stand and fish.

From where I was I could not see my truck or the road. I knew which way the road was so I turned and headed for my Carpwagon. Not able to retrace my steps I soon found myself really struggling as I continued to step through the matted down reeds and into deep mud. There were some points were one leg was all the way through the weeds and much of it was in the mud and the only thing that kept me from being totally stuck was that my butt didn't go through. I was caught a few times with my right leg through the reeds while I was squatted down with my left knee right in front of my nose.

It was a lot of effort to pull myself out; at one point I thought I would actually not be able to get back to the truck and would have to call 911. My legs were getting so tired and sore fighting with the mud that I could only take 10 or 12 steps and then I had to stop and rest.

It ended up being a day where I never actually made a cast to a fish. I made one throw and that was it. I was so glad to get out of that damn marsh that I pretty much forgot I got blanked.

Day Two:
Well now, day two just looked a whole lot different when I greeted it. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, AND the river had come down. It wasn't exactly clear but it wasn't as bad as the day before.

Familiar, SAFE, water beckoned me. In just a matter of minutes I saw a tailing fish; after four casts to him he knew the fly was a fake and he moved on. The next tailer didn't know the fly was a fake until I set the hook. When he made the familiar, subtle, but not seen for months head turn, I actually remembered what to do. Damn, I love fly fishing for Carp!

He fell for The Wild Thing. I plan to fish this fly a good deal this summer. I'm hoping that it is an improvement of the San Juan Worm but I'm not convinced it is yet. Lots of field testing will be required.

Several other fish including some tailers and some shoppers refused to pick up my fly. Concered that they were just not be ready for a fly as advanced and sophisticated as The Wild Thing. I switched to the venerable Carp Carrot. Bam. Bam. Bam! Nothing works all the time on every fish but they sure do like the Carrot.

I had shots at a good number of fish and a bunch of them cooperated.

I didn't want to take pictures of all of them; I just wanted to go catch another one. I realized that I was shaking some of the time after releasing a fish. I felt like I was 12 years old again. I think I might have been for about 5 hours. After taking me into the backing

one of the fish scraped the leader against some rocks. I was lucky to get that fish in. I didn’t even want to take time to change leader because I just wanted to go catch another Carp. I don’t bother with a tapered leader when I’m fishing for Carp. I go with about 6 feet of 12# for the butt section and then about 2 feet of tippet. Usually the tippet is 1X floro. It was good to change the leader because it gave me a chance, or made me, rest. Fresh leader, a new Carp Carrot, and tight knots; I was ready to start stalking again. It took over half an hour before I was into another fish and it was a nice one. It happened just as it should—the fish was tailing, I put the Carrot past him, and stripped it on to his dinner plate. He even picked it up on the first cast. Like I said, just as it should be. There I am, the fish is ripping out line, just as it should be, but wait, oh hell, the line goes slack. He was in open water so I didn’t think he had cut the leader on a rock. He broke me off sounds good but the “broken” end of leader had a pig tail on it which only means one thing. Arrhhh:...My knot slipped!! Dang it, dang it, dang it!

Day two was simply wonderful. What else is there to say? I brought 11 fish to hand that were all over 12 pounds with some of them in the high teens. Dang it I love catching Carp on the fly. I just love it. It's challenging, it's frustrating, and when it works it's just so much fun.

Day Three:
The weather isn't always cooperative, particularly in the spring. Heck, even in the summer the weather isn't always cooperative. Starting day three I knew getting blown off the river was not just a possibility but a probability.

My legs were still tired and sore from day one so I chose familiar water with easy wading. The river had come up again and the sky was overcast; conditions were more difficult than the day before. Sticking with the Carrot from the previous day the first few tailing fish I came across gave me no love. No love.

After close to an hour this fish turned on the Carrot just like he should and I felt "life is good".

After a couple hours and three fish to hand the wind just got to be more than I wanted to deal with.

The Carp Lodge is almost finished so I'm looking forward to a lot more of chasing Carp on the fly.