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Monday, December 31, 2012

Who Says White Birds Can't Dance?

If this white bird can learn to dance, then what the heck, this here "middle age" white boy can sure learn some new water in 2013!  Yeah, Frostie, you inspire me man.

Wishing you many blessings in 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Last Taste

If I’m eating hot dogs for dinner, well then it’s a no brainer; the last mouthful has hot dog and bun in it and that will be the last taste. 

If steak (which we hardly ever eat) is accompanied by beans from the garden, rice pilaf, salad, and bread, then there are a lot of choices for the last taste.  More often than not I choose the bread. 

Even if we have stew for dinner there is still at least some choice as to what the last taste will be.  Do I save a solitary chunk of meat for the last bite?  How about a potato? Some carrot maybe?  A piece of celery perhaps?  Some of everything is too much.  Two items maybe, but not all four.  I prefer to have just one or two things be the last taste and I like to choose. 

As much as I like chocolate and as much as I like dessert of almost any kind, sometimes I won’t eat dessert because I don’t want to change the last taste from dinner.  Sometimes even when I am craving dessert I won’t eat it because I want the memory of the last taste from dinner more than I want dessert. 

Call it one of my sundry idiosyncrasies, call it ridiculous, call it whatever you want; I choose the last taste when I eat. 

I like to choose the last taste when I am fishing too.  Ideally, just at the time I am ready to call it a day I catch a whopper of a fish.  The take is perfect, the hookset engenders an acrobatic leap (from the fish not from me) the fish runs deep into the backing, she is fat and beautiful when cradled in the net.  After posing for a few quick pictures she returns to the river to tell her friends to be careful of the Carp Carrot.  The whole thing is a perfect last taste.

Like eating dinner, ideally I would like to pick the last taste for every Carp trip and I would like to choose the last taste on the final session of the season.  A large, tailing fish turns to the side to pick up the fly.  I set the hook and he is ripping out line.  I release him and end the season with that perfect memory.  Wouldn't that be nice?  Or would it? 
In the middle of the summer when the sun is high in the sky, the wind has diminished, and the Carp are actively feeding in the flats, I think that I only want to fish for Carp the whole darn year.   It seems like such a good idea in July.  I can’t do it though.  Eventually cold weather, poor visibility, and vacant flats, keep me from it.  It is more than that though.  If I fished for Carp for the whole year the season would have no last taste.  I don’t just want there to be a last taste, I need there to be a last taste for the Carp season.  It truly is better that way.  Then I can savor the process of remembering past trips and daydreaming about future trips. 

Fishing isn’t really like eating; it’s more like life.  I can choose the last taste of dinner but so often I can’t choose the last tastes in life. I don’t get to choose the weather in life or in fishing.  I don’t get to choose the “when” or the “how” of every goodbye.     

When it is “goodbye for now” I choose the last thing I say.  What about when it is “goodbye for good”?  Sometimes I don’t know when “goodbye for good” is.  Or when it was.  That can be simply disappointing or it can be painfully life changing.  Not being able to choose all of the goodbyes makes the “hellos” better; the ones I choose and the serendipitous ones.

So much of the time fishing is more like life than it is like dinner; I don’t get to choose how things go. 

Fishing for two days this past September, I made my last Carp trip of the season.  I had decided in advance that no matter how good or bad the fishing was, this trip would be the last taste for 2012.  I like choosing and savoring the last taste.  It gives me the feeling that I am in control probably more often than I really am. 

The sun was low in the sky.  Even with no devil clouds to be seen, spotting Carp was much more difficult than it had been in July.  The sun bounced off the lake all day.  Clear, calm water necessitated small flies.  While few and far between, tailing fish were still present.  Lightly weighted, size 12 Carp Carrots made some Carp happy.  Happy that is, until I set the hook.   Thursday, the first day of fishing, was quite satisfying; it really made me savor the anticipation of the second helping on Friday. 

Making the first cast to a tailing fish on Friday I was already thinking about how the day would finish.  I wanted to catch a fish on the last cast; I wanted to choose the last taste.  Like a transition in a video I wanted the summer to fade to fall with a take on the last cast.  Out loud, I wanted to actually say, “Goodbye and thank you” to that last Carp.  I wanted my winter fly tying day dreams to include that fish. 

Catching a Carp on the last cast of the season is really only going to happen if I catch a fish and then choose to stop at that moment.  In a way it is like choosing to not have dessert; I want the memory of the last taste of dinner more than I want the chocolate cake. 

Nearing what would be the end of the day I made casts to a couple cruisers; they did not take the small Carrot.  I suppose they could have recognized it as a fake but I chose to assume they weren’t hungry.  I was actually heading back to my Carpwagon when another cruising fish came into view.  I stripped out line and made a single cast.  This Carp apparently was hungry since he moved right to the Carrot.  God bless him!

I wanted a take to be my last taste for the session and my last taste for the 2012 season.  After releasing the Carp I clipped the fly off and broke down the rod; I chose to end my season with that fish.  It was one of the smallest Carp I caught the whole summer; a small bite for the last taste.  I said, “thank you” and “goodbye” to the fish and took a video of it. 

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It has been pouring rain for days.  A main arterial near my home has been closed because it has flooding water over it.  I worked today.  I smiled today.  I listened to Christmas music and I listened to Artie Shaw.  On this shortest of days I savor that last taste of the 2012 Carp season; that last taste that I was so fortunate to get to choose. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Help a Soldier

Through an email from J Stockard Fly Fishing I learned about a Christmas promotion they are doing called "Help a Soldier".  I opened the link, liked the idea, and did it immediately.  The promotion lasts until the end of this week.  If you buy $25 of fly tying materials for a soldier J Stockard will match that amount.  Pretty cool.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Carp Pro Magazine Fly Fishing Edition

The all fly fishing edition of Carp Pro magazine  just went live about 20 minutes ago.  Check it out.  Wow, there is some good stuff in there!  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Carp On The Fly Special Issue

(Click the picture to get a better view of the cover.)

Have you been bein' good?  I know most of you have been; not all of you but most of you.  Are you just not sure what to ask Santa to bring you on Christmas?  Got your eye on a new reel?  I do.  Maybe a rod?  wading boots, a pack, or a net perhaps?

Just when you thought you had hinted at everything you could possibly want here comes one more thing that is just totally cool!  The December issue of USCARPPRO magazine comes out on Saturday and it is devoted entirely to Carp on the Fly!  WooHoo!  Get this, you don't even have to ask Santa to bring you this.  Watch here for a link to the magazine and you can start celebrating Christmas this Saturday.  If you have been being good this magazine is just for you.  If you have been being bad, this magazine is just for you too.  Is that a cool yule or what?

Among many other topics you will get to read articles about Carp behavior, stalking the wily critters, late season tactics, fishing the two fly rig, and detecting the take. I can hardly wait!

My article is about detecting the take.  Along with my article I produced a video giving explanation and showing several different takes.

This magazine is a multi-media endeavor.  Editors, Dan Frasier and Tony Cartlidge, have been working for months to bring us all a top quality product.  Watch for the magazine; it is going to be impressive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jumping Like a Twelve Year Old

The week before Thanksgiving found me fishing for Trout for two days.  I wish I could explain why some of my trips turn out the way they do; the fact is, I can't.  

We live in a neighborhood called Brookside.  It's just a name; the only brook here is the one that runs down the street when it rains hard.  We love our home; it's beautiful actually.  We like our small yard and we like the neighbors who live in the homes that are all very close together.  

I left Brookside later than I thought I would.  I rarely set the alarm.  For decades I got up at 5:00 to go to school.  Katy still sets the alarm.  I usually wake up before her alarm goes off.   I don't exactly "sleep in" now.  It's more like I "lay in".  I'm awake; I just lay in bed for a little while because I can.  Sometimes I'm planning my day, sometimes day dreaming about who knows what, and sometimes I'm worrying or conjuring up unnecessary anger.  

I was planning to drive from Brookside directly to the water in central WA, fish for several hours and then stay at the Carp Lodge.  It is almost a 4 hour drive to the water I was planning to fish.  I had hoped to be fishing by 10:00.  I got a late start.  There was an accident so the traffic out of the city was horrible. And, ammm... there was one more thing that slowed me down about 25 minutes.  I was groggy so I stopped to take a nap.  (Caffeine makes me jittery.)  Good grief.  Well, that meant I started fishing promptly at 11:40.

Who knows--these details may be important--they may have effected my karma in some big way.    

I put 6 nice Trout in the net by 4:15.  It was cold and getting colder.  I hustled back to my truck, dressed down and headed to the Carp Lodge.  Six fish was enough to satisfy me.  I lost a few, had some strikes, and had several refusals on my small dry.  I would like to have caught more but I was very pleased as a couple of the fish were over 20 inches and none were smaller than 16.  It was nice.  I can explain in a pretty straightforward manner how my day went, why I got to the water later than I planned, what fly I was using, how I was presenting it, and how the fish responded.  So there you go.

Here is a fish from day one.  


Who the hell knows why the next day went the way it did.  I surely don't!  I fished the same water with the same fly.  I started at about 10:00.  I got a fish on the third cast.  Oh swell, that makes me think fishing will be easy today and I'm just gonna knock the crap out of 'em!  I have found before that is a dangerous assumption.  Was it the weather?  How could it be; I just had different clouds.  Was it the temperature?  How could it be; it was just as cold as the day before.  After an hour or so I had already put 6 fish in the net.  I had no idea what was different.  I stopped at about 11:45 to eat my Clif Bar.  From about 12:00 until 2:00 I put a fish in the net about every five minutes.  I had fish on three consecutive casts.  More than once I had fish on two consecutive casts. Precise counting got suspect at 16 or 17 fish.  Somewhere in the 20's I reached a point where I consciously stopped counting.  Counting was interrupting my enjoyment.   

While it was cold out, there was a small hatch coming off and there were occasional full rises (a rise where the fish's mouth breaks the surface of the water).  There were more partial rises but still not many.  (a disturbance of the surface of the water where the fish takes something subsurface but doesn't show his head).  It was by no means voracious feeding.  

I stopped counting the fish before 2:00 and I fished until just before 4:00.   I would say I felt like this    and I kind of did--but not really.  That's a little smug and I wasn't feeling smug.  I caught so many fish I felt like I was twelve years old.   Twelve years old, and just plain and simply jumping with a young boy's unbridled joy.  Seriously.  

See, like this, this is how I felt.   I know, I know, white men can't jump, especially when they are wearing chest waders and boots.  But white BOYS, can jump; they can jump really high, particularly when they are happy.  

I wanted to end the day with a fish.  The fishing had tapered off the last half hour.  It seemed very greedy of me to want still one more.  At about 3:45 a 22 inch fish took my small dry fly off the surface and ran into the backing on my 5 weight.  The coloration was beautiful.  I took his picture and let him swim away.  There was still daylight and I could have fished longer but I liked finishing with the best fish of the trip.  

I actually did jump when I got back to the truck.  Just once though.

I don't have the slightest idea why I caught so many fish; it is not likely to happen again any time soon.  I was at the same water I had been at the day before, fishing the same fly, with the same weight leader, in the same weather.  I was even wearing the same clothes.  (Including my underwear.)  (Yeah, so what.)  

After I had dressed down I pointed the truck at the water and just looked at it for about 10 minutes.  I savored the day.  The slow current, the sage brush, the dying cattails, the occasional rise, the low sun glistening on the water briefly at the end of the day as the clouds broke slightly, the spots on the fish, the red bands, the scarlet gill plates--all of it was wonderful.  And the takes, oh yes, the takes; they are the best.  I savored all of it.  

In the end I felt like this.  so incredibly grateful.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scratchin' the Itch

To say, "They are not Carp", well, it's true, but so what.  Really, so what.  Carp are my favorite fish; oh dear God, yes they are.  I still like fishing for other fish too.

I was itchin' to get out and fish. I was itchin' to catch some fish too.  Wow; I got to do both.

Some large trout were kind enough to take my fly today.  When they take a dry fly it is even more kind of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Change of Perspective, or, Carp Lips

Are you thinking about trying Carp fishing?  Have you just started?  Do you think a Carp's mouth looks funny compared to a Bass or Trout?  Can't quite bring yourself to try it?  Sometimes it helps to just look at something a little differently.

Now see, isn't that a lot better?  Doesn't this picture just make you want to turn off your computer and go Carp fishing right now?  A little change of perspective can make such a difference.  

PS  Mr. P.'s Blog has a Facebook page now.  Click the "Find us on Facebook" button.  (As if you weren't already getting enough nonsense just reading my blog.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Steelheading

Two shirts under the flannel shirt and two fleece jackets over the flannel; that's because it was 28 degrees out when we stepped out of the truck.  Add some wind and the Simms fleece hat was no longer just a fashion statement; it helped keep me warm too.   It's Steelheading weather. That's probably not exactly true; it was too nice to be "real" Steelheading weather.  There could have been snow, ice, and hard wind.  We were fortunate; snow was not forecast for a few more days.  Clear sky and striking fall colors made for a beautiful setting.

There was a point in time when wading across a challenging or even dangerous section of river would give me kind of a rush.  Those days are long gone.  Now, wading in dangerous water just scares me.  I still love being in the water;  I love the feel of my feet and ankles solidly clamped into my boots, the feel of the cobbles beneath my cleats, and the feel of the river (lightly) pushing on my legs.

The summer is my favorite time to fish but the fall is just plain my favorite time of year.  In the fall the sparrows, wrens, and juncos flit around with an increasing sense of urgency as if they have heard the weather forecast and  know that snow will drop in just a few days. Long, dark, cold, wet days are coming; the trees shout it out with their last gasps of color. The sweet, fermenting smell of leaves beginning to decay is the smell of fall to me.  That smell is another herald of coming winter, the season I like the least.  Still, I love the smell and I paused on the trail to the river to savor some slow and deliberate breaths.

Swinging flies works sometimes in this river.  It works best when the fish are more "grabby".  I don't care much for grabby people but I sure like grabby fish!  When the Steelhead are not grabby then the fishing gets more technical and one needs to nymph.  Dead drifting a nymph in current is challenging.  It's indicator fishing with a heavy top fly and a dropper beneath it.  All that stuff on the leader is not exactly an aid to smooth, easy casting.  Not every tailout or drift is the same.  Sometimes we had to mend the line, sometimes we had to throw an upstream curve in the line (it's different than mending), sometimes we had to stack the line, sometimes we had to high stick the rod to lift the belly of the line over slower current than the fly is moving through.  Good grief; we just wanted to catch some Steelhead!  I swear at least half the time my line bellied in the current ahead of the indicator.  The indicator has to lead the line downstream.  Once the line bellied and started to pull the indicator downstream the flies lifted up and I was not fishing.

Add to that, the wading was difficult.  The rocks in much of the river are boulders.  Both Gary and I wore PFD's while we were wading.

The Methow is small river.  Most years the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife opens it up to Steelhead fishing for about 6 weeks in the fall.  The determination is made on a yearly basis and is dependent on the number of returning fish.  It has some unusual regulations in that you cannot remove a native fish from the water and you must remove and kill a hatchery fish.  The hatchery fish have clipped adipose fins.  These anadromous fish enter the river in the fall but don't spawn until the spring.  The WDFW allows this fishery because they are in a manner of speaking using the fisherman to help reduce the number of hatchery fish that spawn.  A "cookie cutter" Steelhead on the Methow is 22-24 inches.  There are some that will get up over 30 inches but that is not the norm.

Gary and I each brought a typical Methow River Steelhead to the net on Wednesday.  Gary's was a hatchery fish so it had to be bonked and brought back to the truck.  Mine was a native.  I lost a toad early in the day and lost a smaller fish just before we finished up.  We fished again on Thursday and both got blanked.

 Gary fishing a great drift

 Gary with a fish on

Me with a fish on.  Like I said the Simms fleece hat was more than just a trendy fashion statement.  

 My Steelhead was an adipose present fish so his head and tail are still in the water for the picture.  

The Methow is a beautiful river.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

Thanks a lot to Dan, Tony, and Dave, the guys at CarpPro.Net for inviting me to be on their Pro-Staff.  I am anxious to make a contribution and honored to be a part of a such a great group!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I am 62 today. (And my bobicator won't bobicate)

A central Washington lake is where I took my favorite fishing picture.  That picture predates digital cameras.  None of my three favorite fishing pictures has a fish in it.  They portray places; places that I have grown to love.  Certainly that love is in part because of the fishing but not entirely.

As I look at my favorite fishing pictures it is interesting to me that they are all taken in the fall. The late day, diminished light of fall adds rich color and clarity to a scene without editing or enhancement.  The fall is a time of transition—shorter days, cooling air, returning wind, and leaves dressed in their brightest colors.  I love the fall.  The occasional warm fall day helps me remember and savor the heat of the summer.  Colder, shorter days bring back sweatshirts and fleece.  A cool, fall breeze causes a quick shiver that says, “Change is in the air.”

I don’t like the winter.  I only like the winter because I know spring will come.  I fear the change and yet, I love the change. 

The average American man currently has a life expectancy of 75.6 years.  If I live precisely that long I am at this moment 82% of the way through my life.  Visualizing those 75.6 years spread over a 12 month calendar, I am very much in the autumn of my life.  More precisely I would be in the last week of October.  I love the fall and I am loving the autumn of my life.  Still I know, literally and figuratively, winter is coming.  Cold days and difficult conditions are in my future.

My left hip hurts much of the time.  A day or two of wading on cobbles lights up my right knee.  Most of the balance I had as a 40 year old is still with me today.  But not all of it.   My hearing is like my balance.  The autumn of my life is now.  I miss the warm days of summer and I am not looking forward to winter.  I fear what I won’t be able to do in the winter.

And, as I said in the title, I’m 62 today and recently it would not bobicate.  At least it would not bobicate the last time I tried to get it to.  What’s a guy to do?
Last week, for the first time in several years, I fished that central Washington lake where I took my favorite picture.  About 7 years ago the lake had become overrun by small spiny rays. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has rehabilitated lakes in the past.  That means they treat the lake with rotenone and kill all the fish.  Then they plant trout again.  With reduced budgets and less staff, programs they were able to support in the past had to be abandoned.  There was no longer any budget for this lake.  I had not fished the lake in years; though I go there each year just to stand for awhile, reflect and give thanks for “warm memories” of fishing in the past. 

In 2011 the lake was treated with rotenone and stocked with some Triploid Rainbow.  For months I had been planning a fall trip to the lake.  I had such high hopes of catching 20 or more 16 to 20 inch Rainbow.  Last week I strung a rod at this lake for the first time in years.  Wonderful memories blended with high anticipation.  When I was 17 or 18 years old I would run from my car down to the water I was so excited to fish.  Even in my early 20’s I was still doing that once in awhile.  I've gotten a little old for that now.  And yet I still feel the anticipation just as I did 40 years ago. 

Gear all assembled and ready, I took a knee at the side of the lake and blessed myself with what I think of as holy water.  Out loud, I said the same four prayers I have said for decades, the same four prayers I always say when I start fishing. 

 Low water levels and high weeds made getting out on the lake in my pontoon boat a bit challenging.  Being the only one there added to my sense of how spiritual fishing can be for me.  Out in the open water my first cast settled on the surface.  The last time I was at this lake, years ago, I finished the day fishing a Chironomid under an indicator.  Like so easily and comfortably picking up a conversation with a good friend I hadn't seen in years, casting the indicator and the Chironomid just made me smile.  Like old friends, the lake and I picked up where we had left off.  It was comfortable. It was good. 

Staring at an indicator gets old for me.  I like indicator fishing when the indicator, indicates.  It has to go down for it to be fun.  Otherwise I stop liking it.  I know the lake well; I know where the shallow water is, the deep water, and all of the ledges.  My indicator sat on the water over all of the spots I used to frequent. 

When the indicator won’t indicate I start to call it names like a stupid indibobicator or useless bobicator.  That damn bobicator just sat there on the water.  My bobicator would not bobicate!  It just sat there like a well fed, sleepy cat content to do nothing.  Calling the indicator names has about as much effect as telling the cat he is lazy.  He just happily closes his eyes. 

I switched to the rod with the sinking line and tried casting and stripping nymphs near the ledges and drop-offs.  Nothing, again, nothing at all.  I didn't get a strike.  Not a single fish jumped or rose. 

Unusually long periods of hot weather in July may have killed all the Trout in the lake.  Maybe they were hiding in the deep weeds and are still getting fatter.  Who knows?...

I had to realize that this lake, while it is one of my favorites, will likely never be the same as I remember it.  The “warm days” of catching so many fish there are going to be memories for me to savor.  And I do.  I had to face the reality that like me, in a way this lake is likely in the fall or winter of its life as a good trout lake. 

Returning to my truck I was surprised that I wasn't a good deal more disappointed than I was.  I wanted the fishing to be the way it was in years past.  It wasn't.  I want my hip and my knee to be the way they were in years past.  They aren't and they never will be.  That bothers me more than the fishing. 

There was nothing for me to do except adapt and make the best of it. I returned to the Carp Lodge where I tied some flies, drank some beer, had dinner, and got a good night’s sleep. 

The morning saw me heading to different water.  I gave that indibobicator about 20 minutes to indibobicate.  It didn't bobicate so it got benched in favor of dry flies.  Ahhh…that felt a lot better.  If I’m going to get skunked I would rather get skunked fishing a dry fly than a wet fly.   

Well now, go figure, some Rainbow liked my dry flies.  Damn I love it when I see them take the fly; it is just so darn cool!  Some of them were nice and porky, just how I like them.


Eventually I will be in the December of my life; the day will come when I am less able to fish and am confined to only very easily accessible water.  The day could come when I won’t be able to fish at all.   It is after all the autumn of my life and I feel the cold winter of life nearing.  To be sure it is bittersweet. 

I am 62 today.  I am in the autumn of my life.  In the autumn of my life there is rich color and clarity not seen in earlier seasons.  I know it won’t last.  I am scared of the winter.  I love the fall, yes indeed; I love the fall. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Carp Slime Productions: "The Best Thing About Fly Fishing For Carp"

That's Carp slime dripping there, not water.  It kinda warms my heart just seeing it.

I produced Lessons From the Carp Lodge after the 2011 season.  It was meant to be instructional and helpful.  This video isn't helpful; it's just for fun.  It shows the best part of catching Carp on the fly.  It is HD.  Watch it in full screen so you can see the fish better.

I am working on a second one.  I will finish it someday; I don't know when.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Preview of Upcoming Video

I have been working on a new video.  It deals with what is best about fly fishing for Carp.  Here is a short preview showing some tailing Carp.  This clip was uploaded directly into my blog so the HD quality is lost.  The final product will be on YouTube so you will be able to see things very clearly.  It should be ready next week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gregg's Eggs

Gregg Martin, an Idaho Carp angler and inspirational man, sent me some of his egg patterns before the season started.  I tried them in the early part of the season but the wind made fishing them difficult.  Last week I got out for three days of carping.  On those days the wind took only the occasional shallow breath.  I was able to get a Carp to take Gregg's egg.  This was not indicator fishing; I was sight casting.  It was cool to see this fish take the egg pattern.  Thanks Gregg!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Answer to a Carp Behavior Question

Here is a question Ex-ex angler posed to me regarding Carp behavior.  

"I don't know how many times I've watched this video, and I keep referring back to it. Lessons from the Carp Lodge: Episode #2--Can you catch every tailing Carp you see?  "I can't seem to catch any public pond carp, because I can't interpret their behavior. They just never seem to pursue a fly and getting the fly too close spooks them. Have you seen carp with their backs out of the water just wiggling about, but not moving? Is that sunbathing? 

Thanks for the questions ex-ex.  It took me a good deal of  time to learn to recognize different Carp behavior.  A very good example is that I had to learn that even a subtle change in direction away from the fly means the fish is now fleeing.  A slow fleeing fish is every bit as bad of a target as a fast fleeing fish.

Yes, I have seen hundreds of Carp with their dorsal fins just out of the water.  Yes, they are sunbathing.  Sometimes they are stationary and the only movement they are making is passing water through their gills.  Sometimes they very slowly and aimlessly amble around.  And yes, they are maddening!

Another lesson for me was learning to interpret Carp behavior versus learning to accept it.  When I see tailing fish then it is easy to ignore the sunbathers and the fast cruisers.  I know they are bad targets and I'm focused on the tailing fish.  When I have waded for an hour and not seen a single fish then even a bad target starts to look tempting.  When I see tailing fish it is easy for me to accept that a fast cruiser won't take the fly.  When I don't see any tailing fish then I have a much more difficult time accepting that the fast cruisers and the sunbathers are bad targets.

If I see a 20 pound Carp sunbathing clearly that fish has done a lot of eating in his lifetime.  No fish eats all of the time.  If I only see that 20 pound fish when he is sunbathing or cruising quickly then he is highly unlikely to take my fly.  My best success on sunbathing fish has been on the drop.  I have virtually no success with those fish when I cast to them.  That is particularly true when they are sunbathing on top of the water.

I know how to interpret the behavior I just have difficulty accepting it sometimes.  (If I reflect on this at all I'm sure I could come up with myriad examples of learning to interpret human behavior versus learning to accept it but that is for another day...)

The Carp I fish for here in the Pacific Northwest will move to the fly but they don't really chase the fly down. When we fished in Idaho we encountered some Carp that we could catch blind casting but this is a very small part of my total experience.

What I have to accept  is that there are some fish I may never actually see when they are eating.  I know they eat but not where or when I can see it and target them.  There are some fish that I only see when they are bad targets.  I can interpret their behavior; I just have difficulty accepting it sometimes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jackass Flats

Twenty-five or thirty years ago, when I was younger and better looking, I could crash through brush to get to water and think nothing of it.  Today, I can try to, "think nothing of it," but when I get stuck in the brush or when I fall then I wish I had "thought something of it".  I wonder, "What the hell am I doing?!"

The Columbia River is over 1,200 miles long.  It  drains through 7 US states and one Canadian province.  A person could Carp fish for a lifetime and never see the whole river.  I live in Washington and fish seamlessly between Washington and Oregon.  A person can drive east on the freeway from Portland for three hours and be paralleling the river the entire time.  You can do the same thing on the Washington side and because the river is so wide it is like you are fishing two different rivers.  It actually takes years to explore just this water and in doing this you would still only have seen a small fraction of the river.   I also fish water near the Carp Lodge which is hours away from the water I just mentioned.   The Columbia is just plain big!  Damn big!  That said, while I do have some places that I frequent, I still love to explore new spots.  There is just so much river to explore.

On Friday I went looking for new water to fish.  I parked my Carpwagon and started walking toward the river.  More precisely, I started walking toward the trees and brush.  I could not see the river through the trees; I knew it was out there though.   Somewhere.  In short order I was walking through a Washington jungle.  Since no other dang fools intrepid anglers had walked here and since no deer walk here there isn't anything resembling a trail.  After just a few minutes I wasn't really walking; I was climbing over and through thick weeds, brush, and tree branches.  The rod had to be broken down to four pieces.  Several times I thought I was nearing the river only to see that there was more brush ahead.  After about 45 minutes I thought if I didn't turn back I wouldn't be able to get back.  I rested for a few minutes and continued.

I had been struggling through the brush for over an hour before I came to the river.  I would love to say that it was a wonderful sight.  The river is always a wonderful site of course but at that moment it was a disappointment.  The wind had been blowing hard all night and coming straight at the shore.  That churned things up so that the water looked liked a latte.  The wind had also blown a lot of weeds, logs, algae, and human garbage into the shore.  Standing in water up to my knees I could not see my boots.  That means I couldn't see fish either.  All that work to get through the trees only to find water that was unfishable.  What a drag; what a total drag!

I had fished near this spot years ago but not at this spot exactly.  With all the effort it took to get in there I knew that only a jackass would walk through that jungle.  Jackass Flats seemed to be the perfect name for this spot.

I had parked my Carpwagon at 9:25.  I began fishing  just after 11:00.  Good grief.  Stalking Carp in muddy water means moving very slowly hoping to see a tailing fish before he sees me.  It was so muddy I had almost no chance of seeing a fish.

When I walk for over an hour and don't even see a fleeing fish let alone a tailing fish I start to lose my mental edge or my concentration.  Its not that I'm bored I'm just not as engaged as when I'm seeing fish; particularly tailing fish.  I stayed in particularly shallow water to help increase my chances of seeing a fish.  It was after 12:00 before I saw one.  He was even tailing.  He allowed me two casts, a good one and a bad one, before he ambled away.  It was after 1:00 when I saw a couple cruisers.  I didn't see them and they didn't see me until they were less than a rod's length away.  I felt like it was time to go home.  I was getting discouraged and yes, I was getting bored.

The wind had stopped and the sun was out so at least the walk was pleasant.  At about 2:00 I realized I was beginning to be able to see my boots.  The silt was settling.  I had made a grand total of two casts at that point.  I could say I was stalking Carp but if someone was watching me they would say that guy is just sort of aimlessly wandering around in the river at Jackass Flats.

Something happens to me when I see a tailing Carp.  I imagine it happens to anyone who takes fly fishing for Carp seriously.   I am focused on the fish at the exclusion of virtually all else.  I'm alert, I'm engaged, I'm riveted.  I am a hunter.  I am a predator.  At that moment nothing else matters.

A tailing Carp came into view.  I would love to say I made a perfect cast and he took the fly.  The first two casts were about as close to perfect as they could be.  The third cast was not perfect; it was more like right on top of the fish.  They don't like that.  Gone.

At least I was awake now and suddenly quite hopeful again.  Very soon another tailer came into view.  That wonderful, beautiful, amazing, animal turned to the Chocolate Cherry on the second cast!  Lordy, I love Carp fishing!  I had parked my Carpwagon at 9:25.  My first fish of the day posed for a five shot photo session that started at 2:23; a mere 5 hours later.

Visibility makes such a difference!  It is usually the devil clouds that thwart me when it comes to visibility but the muddy water was the problem during most of the day.  In the next 90 minutes two more Carp took the Chocolate Cherry.

There are days when I see a tailing fish every 10 minutes or even more often.  There are days when I walk for 6 hours and only get a few shots.  There are days (very few) when I never get to make a cast.  There are days when catching 3 Carp seems very satisfying.  There are days when catching 3 Carp is a disappointment.  (I know it shouldn't be.)  There are days when I catch 3 Carp and I feel like I caught 15.  Well 10 anyway.

On this day at Jackass Flats 3 Carp turned out to be wonderfully satisfying.  I felt extremely fortunate.  Heck, I felt extremely fortunate to not be stuck in the jungle.

By 4:00 my legs were finished fishing.  My sore hip was yelping at me hard.  During the aimless wandering part of the day I had walked down the river for 45 minutes.  I could see a better opening in the trees.  I made sure I finished at this point so that I didn't have to walk through the jungle to get back to my Carpwagon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Even a Blind Squirrel Can Find a Nut

Using all of their sensing apparatus I think that Carp are extremely perceptive.  I hate it when I snag any fish.  I particularly hate it if I snag a Carp when I thought he took the fly.  Sometimes I think they get near the fly and either because of me moving the fly, the fish's own movement, or both, the dang Carp gets snagged.  Sometimes, not often, I think they go for the fly and miss it.  In the process they may take a second stab and eat the fly, they make take that second shot and get snagged, or they may just swim away.  

I came up on this fish tailing seriously in shallow water.  He was at a 90 degree angle to me which I really like.  His mouth was to the left.  I cast the fly out past and in front of him.  Stripping it towards his dinner plate he reacted on the first cast.  He missed the darn fly.  Normally I would think he made the fly as a fake so he didn't take it but since he went right back to eating his late afternoon lunch I cast to him again.  I made virtually an identical cast and stripped the fly the same way.  It all played out the same way.  It looked like he went for the fly but he didn't take it.  He didn't flee; he just got back down to business.   He allowed me a third shot at him and he finally took the Chocolate Cherry.  

That is the Carp's barbule hanging over the fly.  

As I reeled the fish in I could see that he had no eye on the left side of his face.  It didn't look like it had been damaged by an accident or a bird; it just looked like he never had it in the first place.  No wonder he lost track of the fly the first two times.


How on earth did this fish avoid predation when it was small?  It took three tries but this half blind Carp still found the Chocolate Cherry.  It is a cool testament to survival.  What an amazing animal!  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fat Carp, Natty Ice, Hot Dogs, and Good Company

I need to start out by saying that I  I was dang lucky to even have my rod at all for the second day of fishing in the Carp-ocalypse. The first day we had gone from the northern part of Banks Lake all the way back to Desert Aire to look for big Carp. We fished near there. Well, more accurately we walked all over heck looking for fish and didn't find any until the last 20 minutes. When we took the boat out of the water I started to break my rod down to put back in the case. It's only a mile from the boat launch to the Carp Lodge and it is all on a 25 mph road so Travis told me I didn't need to break down the rod. He just set it in the boat next to his.  It was such a short ride I thought, "What the heck?..."  When we got to the Carp Lodge my rod wasn't in the boat.  The boat launch was very busy so if it had fallen out there it was likely crushed from the parade of trailers.  We started driving back to the boat launch watching for the rod in the road so that we didn't drive over it.  Fairly soon we saw a guy standing by the side of the road with my rod.  He was reeling in.  The fly had caught on a PFD and the PFD had blown out of the boat.  Now I ain't sayin' Travis is a crazy driver; I ain't sayin' nothin' of the sort.  That PFD just flew out because it is windy in central WA.  (Picture a little winky face thing here.)  The guy gave me the rod and I continued to reel in the line until I got to the PFD.  I have had some Carp take me way the heck into the backing but never as far as that PFD did.  Here is a picture Travis took when I was just about to finish reeling in the PFD.  Amazingly the rod was not damaged.  There is just a tiny nick on the handle of the reel.  I really got lucky on that one!  I think I used up all my luck for the Carp-ocalypse on getting back my rod.  There was no spare luck left for catching fish those first two days.

Travis, I want to catch a Carp that takes me into the backing as far as your PFD did.  

The tournament ended on Sunday afternoon.  Travis stayed at the Carp Lodge Sunday night; we were planning to fish again on Monday.  Now here's poor Travis; he comes to the Carp Lodge a suave, sophisticated redneck.  Next thing you know I got him sittin' on the patio, wearin' our Got Backing? shirts,  drinkin' Natty Ice, and eatin' hot dogs.  Travis, I'm so sorry man, I lowered your standards.  I'll try to make it up to you.

Monday morning we headed to a different part of the river.  Travis has dubbed the spot "Hard Luck Flats".  We were definitely seeing fish but almost all of them were sunbathing.  I cast to a slow cruiser that turned to the fly.  I really thought he thumped it good.  I didn't realize until I got the fish to the net that what had happened was that the fish was snagged in the face.  I hate that.  I didn't take any pictures of that fish.

Shortly after noon a Carp finally picked up my Salt and Pepper pattern.  I got him to the net.  It was my first fish in three days!  I want to say Blaaaaa! but I was grateful for the hookup.  In terms of size he was a pretty ordinary Columbia River Carp.  He was nice enough to eat my fly so that makes him special.

Travis and I were fishing water that was easy to wade but just slightly difficult to see in.  A porker came into my view.  It was tailing!  Oh my...  I made just two casts to her.  She took the Salt and Pepper; I set the hook and in short order the backing was heading down the river.  Lordy, it was wonderful!  After netting the fish Travis was nice enough to pause and take this picture while I balanced her on my knee.  She weighed 23 pounds.

I looooove Carp fishing!

I got one more fish to pick up the Salt and Pepper.  He was tailing.  The move to the fly was decisive and clear.  The fly wasn't in his pretty lips it was stuck down in his mouth a ways.

The last fish has been set back in the water and is getting ready to swim away. 

I was trying to get a picture of Travis here with the Pelicans flying by just before we waded out to fish.  Those are the wings of a pelican showing behind his hat.  

This is Travis totally engaged in stalking a Carp.  No wonder it is so frustrating and so rewarding all at the same time.

Travis, it was a pleasure to fish with you.  I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.  I wish to heck you had gotten some hookups.  Hard Luck Flats is a good name for that place!  Next time, next time...

I know you are fishing today and I hope you are knockin' the heck out of 'em!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Carp-ocalypse Feedback

I fished in the Carp-ocalypse last weekend.  The "Got Backing?" team consisted of myself, David Nakamoto, John Montana, and Travis, aka the Trashfisher.  I need to say right out of the blocks I didn't catch a single dang Carp during those two days.  Not one.  I have a few fun pictures from the Carp-ocalypse that I will post but if you are looking for fish porn then just skip this post and wait for the next one.  I caught a major phattie the day after the tournament when Travis and I were fishing.  Travis was nice enough to take a photo.  For now, let's talk about the tournament.

Leland hanging out the first day of the Carp-ocalypse.  

In the beginning I was a little concerned with the whole idea of a Carp fishing tournament.  Leland from Bellevue Orvis first contacted me a few months ago.  He took me out to lunch; what a nice guy.  We talked about the tournament and about me doing a Carp on the fly presentation at his shop.  After talking with Leland the idea of the tournament grew on me.  Leland, I just wish you had told me I would not see a tailing fish until the afternoon of the second day.  I still would have come but I just wish you had told me.  How could you leave that detail out?  Oh well...

Tournament participants reported to the upper part of Banks Lake at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning.  Good Lord, that's early for Carp fishing!  It was for the best though.

Some of the guys gathering just before leaving the first day of fishing.  

One of the things that I think was brilliant about this tournament was that Orvis gave prizes for the smallest fish.  That really set a fun and positive tone from the start.  Adam and Leland, that was nicely played, very nicely played.  

There was a prize for the most total inches of fish.  The "Got Backin?" team split into two groups the first day.  John and David fished Banks Lake and Travis and I headed way the heck back down the road to the Columbia River.  (That would be almost three hours back down the bleeping road!!)  We really thought that between the two of us we would catch enough big fish in the Columbia that first day to secure the prize for the most fish.  Travis and I thought we would chase small fish the second day.  

Travis and I fished familiar water on Saturday.  We were sure we would at least see some fat, tailing fish if not a whole lot.  Heck, we didn't even see any small, sunbathers for hours.  Travis had his Carp Machine boat.  While we thought we could get to some somewhat secluded water the truth was that it was Saturday and there were a lot of tow boats and jet skis around.  Carp just don't do well at all with commotion.  They get nervous, they get self-conscious, and they just get gone!  

Here is Travis looking for just one solitary fish that first day. 

I have seen and fished a lot of the Columbia.  I say that recognizing that there is WAY more river that I haven't ever seen than I have seen.  In 9 seasons of Carp fishing I would say the most beautiful flat on the river is where Travis and I went.  It was still beautiful as heck; it just didn't have any fish waiting for us.  

We had to report back to the check- in spot by 6:00 PM.  Given how far Travis and I had traveled we had to be on the road again by 3:00 PM to make it back on time.  I saw my first fish at 2:40.  It was a slow fleeing fish.  Even though it was fleeing slowly it was still a zero percent target.  In desperation I still made a couple casts.  We both saw a few fish that those last 20 minutes but not a one of them was even a passable target let alone a good one.  No fish for Travis and I the first day.  I believe John caught one near the end of the first day.  

When we got back to the park very few of the guys had caught a fish.  Honestly, it was kind of grim.  The conversation was enjoyable and so was the beer.  

These guys deserve to catch some Carp on the fly!  I believe their names are Dan and Leon.  I hope I have that right.  They came to my seminar.  They have been trying to catch Carp and have not succeeded so far.   They fished the whole darn tournament and never grumbled a bit about getting blanked.  They have the persistence that it takes to make it happen.  I am rooting for these guys big time!  

The second day we had to check back in by 3:00 PM so there was no heading back to the river for Travis and I.  We went to Barker Canyon and didn't see a single fish.  Near the end of the day we went to a spot I call Mosquito Flats.  Yes, there are a hell of a lot of mosquitoes there.  Travis got geared up before me and headed down the lake.  I headed up the lake to the part where the mosquitoes are and continued past.  Thankfully they don't follow you after a certain point.   With just about an hour or so to go in the day I finally saw a tailing fish.  He did not want my fly.  I did a good deal of wading and saw a cruiser that was barely moving.  I was very close to him.  I put the fly in front of him.  I saw his pretty Carp lips open and he sucked in the fly.  Well, he was faster than I was, or may slower; I lifted the rod and the fly just came out of his mouth.  I don't know if he ejected it or if I set too soon.  Either way there was no hook up.  I saw one more tailing fish who like the last one did not want my fly.  That was it for me and Travis.   We got blanked in two days of fishing.  We made so few casts I'm not sure we actually fished but that is the way Carp fishing is.

On the second day I believe John got four fish dropping the fly in front of some tailers.  As a result of that he won some of the cool prizes.  David also put a fish in the net and won a prize. Great job John and David!  Between the two of them the won the team prize for the "Got Backing?" team.  I feel silly that I won a prize and I didn't catch a fish.  Oh well...

John collecting some loot.

Here is David collecting some too.  

John and David were just not to be denied.  

In terms of prizes I think the coolest thing was that a guy who had never caught a Carp before won a high end Orvis rod for catching the smallest Carp.  His name is Mike Gamby.  Yes!  I loved this.

Most of the Carp-ocalypse participants.  

I would like to thank the Native Fish Society, the  Portland and Bellevue Orvis stores,  Idylwilde, and  Ninkasi Brewing for sponsoring the tournament.  It ended up being a good time and I will do it next year. Leland, I want to catch some fish next year.  Do you think you could arrange that please?