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Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Extraordinary Day!

On Thursday, Katy had a doctor's appointment back in town. She was going to drop me off at the river where I would have had to fish ALL DAYYY LONGGGG! Loyal, dedicated husband that I am, and damn fortunate I might add, I offered to drive Katy from the Carp Lodge to her doctor's appointment.

That meant that I fished yesterday which was Friday. It ended up being quite an extraordinary day. I left the Carp Lodge at a casual pace meaning I didn't start fishing until almost 11:00. I returned to my stillwater roots and am so glad I did. It was an exceptional day, simply exceptional. Lots of things go into saying a day of Carp fishing is extraordinary. Certainly catching a good number of fish is at or near the top of the list. It's not always at the top of the list though. Yesterday, I did catch so many Carp that I was weary of reeling them in. My wrists hurt and my left shoulder still hurts. (I have a hard life.)

For a day of Carp fishing to be truly exceptional I want lots of things. I want the opportunity to cast to tailers, grazers, and shoppers. I don't want them all to take. I want some of them to take and it is very important to me to see the take. "The Take is the Premier Moment." I also want clear sky, good visibility in the water, light wind, and warm temperatures. I want to catch a good mix of sizes and I want some of those fish to be large. I don't want to snag any fish and if I do I want them to get off right away.

With the exception of playing two snagged fish all the way to the boat, yesterday I had it all. Everything just came together. It was wonderful.

Still, something else happened to make Friday probably my most extraordinary day of Carp fishing ever. When I got back to The Carp Lodge yesterday evening, I sat down to look through my pictures. I couldn't find my camera. I looked everywhere and realized that somehow I had left the camera at the lake. I was disappointed because there were a lot of fishing pictures from the last few weeks, there were pictures of The Carp Lodge being finished, pictures of my son and his wife helping us assemble IKEA furniture, and pictures of my Mom at her 88 birthday party at our home. I wanted those darn pictures more than I wanted the camera.

Realizing that the camera was "at" the lake meant that Katy and I took a long drive this morning back to the lake to look for the camera. I hoped it would be laying there in the brush where I had collected my gear before putting in the truck. It was NOT there. There were some other boats on the lake. One of them came in pretty fast because he saw us walking near his truck. He wanted to know why we were so interested in his truck. I explained that I had lost my camera and had been parked exactly where he was the day before. I said I was looking on the ground for my wayward camera. He was suspicious of me and I must confess that I was suspicious that he had my camera. Thinking he might I gave him my cell phone number and told him that if he found it later in the day to give me a call. I offered to pay him for it.

Just like clockwork about 2:00 my cell phone rings from someone with a 509, (eastern Washington) area code. I am doing some real estate work over here but I have those numbers in my contact list. My comment to Katy as I picked up the phone was that it was the guys from this morning, they miraculously found my camera, and would sell it to me.

Answering my cell phone as I always do when I don't recognize the caller I said, "Hi, this is Jim." The caller said, "This is Mike; I have your camera." I said, "Oh, you're one of the guys I talked to this morning and you found my camera after I left." Mike said, "No I was just there a couple hours ago, I wasn't there this morning, and I found your camera in about a foot of water." I asked him how on earth he figured out it was my camera if we hadn't talked. He explained that he and his wife went through all of the pictures on the SD card, 341 of them, and one of the pictures was of the IKEA boxes in the garage of The Carp Lodge. We had the boxes delivered so every box had a label. He could read my name on one of the labels so he Googled it. He found my real estate web page which has my phone number, my Facebook page and this blog. I was speechless. He even offered to mail me the camera. Can you believe it?!! I still can't.

The camera is a Pentax Optio W80. It is not the newest, jazziest model out there but it works for me. It is also waterproof. The manufacturer advertised at the time I purchased it that it can be under 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes and still remain waterproof. They didn't say anything about how long it could be under one foot of water.

Katy and I drove to Mike's home; we spent most of the day in the truck. For Mike to have looked through my 341 pictures the card still had to be dry. The camera came on and it still takes pictures! The case stinks like lake mud and the spare battery is toast. But that darn camera sat in 12 inches of water for 22 hours. 22hours! And it still works.

Okay, I got to cast to tailers, grazers, and shoppers. Many of them did not take due to my bad casting or just because they are Carp and they don't like flies landing near them. Some of them did take, enough that I knew I could have caught at least a couple more but I was just too tired. I got to see them take and that is such a thrilling part of Carp fishing. The sky was clear, the water visibility was pretty good, there was only light wind, and it was a warm day. I got a good mix of sizes with three of them being under 10 pounds and three of them being over 17. The rest were mostly 12-15 pounds. I also got three Mirrors which is very unusual.

Oh, and did I mention that my camera sat in a foot of water for a day, some guy I never met found it, and then he found me of all things. Now that's an extraordinary day of fishing. You know, getting my camera back to me was a small thing in the grand scheme of things but it made it not just an extraordinary day of fishing but, on a simple level, an extraordinary day of life.

Oh, I did catch some fish yesterday and here are a few pictures. Pictures from my camera that spent a night in the lake.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finally, some tailing fish!

The previous two weeks I have stayed at the Carp Lodge for a few nights by myself. I have had work to to do here and I had some fishing to do too. Fishing the Columbia River has been challenging and very different this year. I'm very happy that I have caught some very nice Carp. Still, pitching, plopping, and dropping is not as fun as casting to feeding fish.

Katy and I came over late last night. There were so many bugs hitting my Carpwagon it sounded like it was raining.

I decided to revisit some of my stillwater Carp fishing roots this morning. It has been two years since I fished for Carp from my boat. I am so glad I did!

A tailing fish that is rooting around in the mud or the rocks is a prime target. A shopper can also be a very good target. I recently posted that "shopping" Carp are like my kids when they were teenages looking in the refrigerator or in the pantry to "see if there is anything good to eat." This next type of Carp behavior may seem like an "Internet distinction" and not something that actually happens but I believe it does. Shopping Carp can be caught because they are eating or getting ready to eat. I think some Carp are grazing, again like my kids when they were teenagers. They aren't throwing up a cloud of mud as they do what my friend Keith calls, "tailing violently." Grazers tail for a bit and then move and tail some more.

I am so glad I decided to try some of my old stillwater today! I saw a few spawning fish, a good number of sunbathers, AND I saw tailing fish! I saw shoppers and grazers also. What a relief to be making serious casts. It really felt so good.

I was able to get several fish well into the teens; seeing those fish turn on the fly was just so satisfying.

This was the best fighting fish of the day.

I caught fish on the Carp Carrot, Black Betty, and on a Chocolate Cherry Carp Woollie. I have enormous faith in the Carp Carrot but today it just didn't produce as well as Black Betty.

Katy has to go back into town to see a Dr. tomorrow. She is going to drop me off at the river on the way. She said she was worried I would have to fish all day and that if I wanted to leave I would be stuck. I guess I will just have to keep fishing. Even at my advanced age I think I can do it. I'm sure going to try.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pitching, Plopping, and Dropping: Part Deux

I wish I could say that I have been making 60 foot casts to tailing fish. And that my casts land perfectly on the Carp's dinner plate without disturbing her and then she turns on the fly just like it was part of her lunch.

I'm getting the fly on the dinner plate but it sure as heck ain't with 60 foot casts! Heck, virtually all the fish I have been catching have not even been with 25 foot casts. The water is still high and I am still pitching, plopping and dropping. Fishing water that is usually desert, sage brush, and trees has been the only way to get into fish the last few weeks.

I would much prefer to be casting to tailing fish and making longer casts but for now there is just too much water. Also, since I can wade for hours and not see a true tailing fish I am forced to pitch, plop and drop to sunbathers and slow cruisers. It isn't as fun as casting to tailing fish but catching fish is a whole lot more fun than not catching them so for now I pitch, plop and drop.

I have caught a number of fish in the high teens so I'm not complaining, I just miss the flats I am used to. I'm thinking it is time to return to some of my stillwater Carp roots at least for a day or two.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Small Fly, Big Fish

Okay, so I didn't frame this picture very well; I was in a hurry to get the fish back in the water. The fish actually has a complete head and a mouth. She used her mouth to pick up a small Carp Carrot. It was a beautiful day; some clouds, very low wind and some Carp that cooperated.

Sunbathing Carp are darn difficult to catch. Some of them seem like they are asleep. I have dangled a fly in front of them and even had the fly slip down the front of their noses and then have them act like they are completely unaware. Carp that have made my fly as a fake and or have made me for an intruder are impossible targets. The moment they accelerate even a bit to get away from the fly or from me they turned into "not a chance" fish. Fast cruisers are also almost impossible targets. Tailing fish are feeding and they are prime targets.

A slow cruiser will take the fly and it is a ton of fun to lead one and have them turn on the pattern. Some slow cruisers are just milling around in groups just passing Carp time with each other. Some slow cruisers are solitary but still not particularly interested in a fly or even real bugs for that matter. Some of them seem to be shopping. It reminds me of when my kids were teenagers and they would open the refrigerator or the pantry to "see if there was anything good to eat." We could ask them, "What would you like?" and they would say, "I don't know, I'm just looking for something good." Sometimes when the kids were looking they would end up not eating anything and sometimes I swear they would eat the equilivalent of two meals. I guess they found something good. A shopping Carp is like my teenagers. I think those Carp might keep shopping and not eat but they just might stop and eat a whole bunch. Those slow cruisers who are shopping can also be prime targets. Again, it is tons of fun to lead one and get it to pick up the fly.

The big girl in this picture was a shopper; whe was looking for "something good to eat." I cast the Carrot in her path and she picked it as if it was exactly what she was looking for. She came in at 19 1/2 pounds. Seeing the fish moving slowly in the shallows with brief pauses, casting, and clearly seeing the take, reinforced why I love fly fishing for Carp this time of year.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pitching, Plopping and Dropping

This has been such a different spring. There is a heck of a lot of water in the Columbia! Where the banks of the river are in some cases straight up and down, the river just moves (vertically) higher up the basalt cliffs. Where the bank is somewhat sloped, in some cases the river moves up the bank more horizontally. It just gets a lot wider. Where the banks are flat or where the space between banks just can't hold all the water then the river just starts to spill all over everywhere.

This has created some real challenges to the wading, fly rod, Carp angler. Naively I have gone to some of my usual haunts thinking the water will be "just a bit higher". Dear God, the water is so high I can't even get in the river.

The name of the game has become adaptability. Yes, adaptability. I have to look for fish where I have never seen them before. The reason I have never seen Carp in some of the places I have been catching them is because I have never seen water there.

I am literally walking in submerged desert, sage brush, other brush, and trees. I am finding Carp in some of these places but often in tight quarters. By tight quarters I mean they are holding and cruising near, or even in, all kinds of hazards.

In many cases the Carp I have been catching are very close to me. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had the rod in my right hand and the fly in my left hand. A fish would come in to view so close to me that I just sort of pitched the fly (like a shovel pass) towards the fish. In other cases the fish is so close I just hold out the rod and drop the fly in front of the fish. I have caught some fish with legitimate casts but not the majority recently. In some cases I have made some very short casts to fish that are just of reach for a drop. I'm not sure if the fly seems to plop more because it is so near me and I can hear it better or because it is hitting the water harder. I have not had as much chance to cast to fish lately as I have had pitching, plopping, and dropping to them. It works so I'm not complaining. I am ready for the water level to go down though.

I pitched a strike to this Carp and he hit it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who Ran Down the Road?

Which of these have I seen in the last 6 weeks?

A. The dog picked up the ball and ran down the road.

B. The driver picked up the hitchhiker and ran down the road.

C. The Carp picked up the Carrot and ran down the road.

D. All of the above.

"D" is the correct answer. The Columbia is higher than I have ever seen it since I have been fly fishing for Carp. I have fly fished since 1971 and have chased Carp on the fly since 2004. I was really only somewhat aware of the water level in the Columbia until I started frequenting it. There is so much water coming down that river, just so darn much water! The water is spilling into places it just doesn't usually go.

I caught this Carp in a wheel rut. He picked up the Carp Carrot and ran down the road. Literally, he ran down the road.

This is not a wheel rut that has been submerged for decades due to the damning of the river. This is a wheel rut that people drive on. Regularly.

The two lighter parts in this picture are the wheel ruts. I caught Carp on the Carrot and on a Rubber Leg Hare's Ear right on this road.

What a different, crazy, amazing, Carp season! I am fishing places I have parked my Carpwagon in seasons past. Having the water be so high is unsettling. We currently have some record snow pack. The prospect of rain on melting snow could mean some dangerous flooding in the weeks to come. I'm having fun looking for new places to Carp fish and looking differently at old places to find fish literally in fields and on roads.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gerhard's Flies

Carp Fishing and blogging have been fascinating to me because I hear from and communicate with people all over the country and even in other countries. I corresponded with a guy in France who inquired about the Carp Carrot.

Last year, in a fairly short period of time, I got a series of questions from three different anglers. I exchanged email with each of these fishermen and I answered each of them in blog posts. Gerhard, from Ontario, Canada, asked about variations of the Carp Carrot. Klint, from here in Washington State, asked about fishing the San Juan Worm. And Robert, from Minnesota, asked about fishing for Carp in dirty water and whether there were any flies that would work and how to keep from snagging the fish.

Gerhard and I have continued to correspond some. After I made my blog post about The Wild Thing Gerhard sent me some flies that he and his friends use for Steelhead. It is amazing to see the variations of existing flies that guys develop. There are lots of "Internet flies" out there that have never been in a fish's mouth but seeing flies that have been used effectively in another part of the country or world is always very interesting and just plain fun.

Gerhard's flies:

Gerhard, it took me too long to respond with this blog post. Thanks so much for sending these flies. I have tied you a dozen of The Wild Thing. I tied them in two hook sizes with different size beads. I have used both sizes and don't have a preference at this point. They are packaged up and I will take them to the post office tomorrow.

Our Carp season is delayed or at least disrupted here because of high water but things will settle down eventually. I will try your flies this summer and let you know how they produce. Thanks Gerhard.