Search This Blog

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Questions about your Carp fishing

The more correspondence I have with Carp anglers across the country the more curious and fascinated I am with where people Carp fish and how they access Carp.  To a certain extent we all have some things in common.  Carp behaviors and characteristics seem to be fairly consistent.  Strategies and techniques that work are effective many places.  Increasingly I realize that some of us are fishing water that is quite different and we are accessing Carp in many different ways.

Often I wade shallow water when I fish for Carp but I also fish from my Zodiac a good deal.  I'm not using the Zodiac for transportation to get to the next spot where I will be wading.  When I am in the Zodiac I am fishing from the Zodiac the entire day.  Some years ago I published a magazine article about the advantages and disadvantages of fishing from Zodiac versus wading.

So here are my questions.  I'm not asking for GPS coordinates by any means; you don't even have to name the water you fish.  

1.  If you are in the United States what State you live in and if you are not from the U. S.  what country you live in?

2.  Do you fish moving water or still water or both?

3.  Is the water you fish typically clear, slightly off color, or just plain brown?

4.  What is the bottom like?  Is it muddy and dangerous to wade?  Is it firm mud, sand, pebbles, cobbles, or jagged rocks?

5.  Are there sometimes or typically a lot of weeds where you fish?

6.  Do you fish from shore?

7.  Do you fish from anything that floats?  An aluminum boat, an inflatable boat, a kayak, a canoe, a pontoon boat, a kickboat, or a float tube?  

8.  If you fish from something that floats how do you move around?  Gas motor, electric motor, oars, paddles, fins, push pole?

9.  If you use an anchor how do you manage it?

10.  Is there anyone out there who does both?  By that I mean that you wade and fish from something that floats.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Tale of Three Farts

I published this magazine article about 5 years ago.  Katy and I have been married 34 years now.  In the article I reference having been married 29 years.  The first paragraph is possibly slightly exaggerated but not that much.  (if at all)  The rest happened exactly as I described it.

I am posting this article now in response to the comments and discussion in this post concerning noise and putting Carp "on alert" or just plain scaring them off.  

Rereading this and rereading my fishing journal entries from 6 to 8 years ago I am reminded how darn important it is to do everything I can to keep from putting Carp on alert.  

The Tale           

In order to tell this tale I must first make a disclosure.  You might feel sorry for me, you might be embarrassed for me, you might identify completely, or you might be envious.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s a confession, maybe I’m bragging, I don’t know.  Either way, it needs to be said, so here it is, I’m good at farting.  Actually, I’m quite good at it.    There it is; I said it.  I know you Good Ol’ Boys in the South know exactly what I’m talking about.  I know y'all do!  You boys in the Midwest are down with this skill also; yeah, you betcha.  All you boys out here in the West get the picture.  I’m a little concerned though about some of you blue bloods in the Northeast.  With your dignified little putt putts, I bet you’re wondering what it means to be good at farting and how one gets to be good at this skill.  Without going in to too much detail let’s just agree that in no particular order the measures of “good” are: duration, sound volume, and frequency.  Plain and simply I excel at all three measures.  I’m good at farting and I enjoy it.  I don’t know how other people get good at this but I know how I got good at it.  Practice, practice, practice, that’s the key.  I have years of enthusiastic and frequent practice behind me so to speak.  So with the fact that I am good at farting established let us proceed with our tale.
While stalking Carp I sometimes wade the flats and I sometimes fish from a small Zodiac.  The Zodiac is only 8 ½ feet long.  That measurement is for the external length.  The interior space is much less because of the diameter of the tubes and because the transom is over a foot from the end of the tubes.  The Zodiac is a marvelous platform from which to fish but it does have some noticeable limitations compared to wading.  The floor in the Zodiac is made of 3/8 inch plywood with aluminum grooves.  I am able to stand in the boat and stalk fish.  While standing to cast, one of my shins is often touching one of the tubes of the boat.  When I change positions from sitting to standing or visa versa the boards and PVC tubes creak.  The boat will even creak if I just shift my weight from one foot to another.  This can be very annoying.  Normally it wouldn’t seem like much to me, except that is, when I’m Carp fishing.  Those darn Carp seem to be hyper sensitive to the smallest little noise. 

On a warm, July day in 2004 I was fishing from my Zodiac.  The eastern Washington wind, which often howls, was almost non existent.  The water was clear, the sky was blue; amongst the sunbathing and cruising Carp there were feeding fish.  I had hooked and released some fish; it was shaping up to be a marvelous day.  By day’s end several more fish had been deceived by feathers and fur.  Lots of fish to cast to, some willing ones amongst my targets, and perfect conditions, all made for a peak experience.  For whatever reason there are days when my confidence in my own casting goes up or down.  Some days I’m sure I’m going to place the fly in the desired spot.  Other days I just don’t have it.  This particular day, my confidence was running high.  I had made some “money” casts and got some hookups.  There was an occasional breeze which sometimes helped move me into position to make a cast but sometimes it moved me out of position.  A nice fish moved in to the swim I was working.  He began tailing immediately.  I suppose foreshadowing; there was a gentle puff of wind which moved me slightly closer to my quarry.  I was false casting, picturing a perfect cast.  Even before I delivered the line I could see the subtle take in my mind’s eye and feel the first explosive run.  I was making my last back cast setting up for my perfect delivery when suddenly there was a noise.  This was no gentle puff of wind; alas, I had farted.  Keep in mind I’m quite good at it but also keep in mind please that those darn fish are spooked by even the slightest little noise.  The fish bolted immediately.  I have seen Carp bolt for some easy to explain reasons and at times for no apparent reason at all.  I assumed that it was only coincidence that this fish bolted just as I made some sound.  I mean, well, yes, I’m good at it, but while I thought it was funny, there was no way I could have made enough noise for that fish to hear.  Good grief he was 35-40 feet away.  I laughed to myself about it several times and laughed when I recounted the story to others, including my very patient wife.

A year later, almost to the day, I was back on the same water.  Again, I was in my Zodiac.  There were some wispy clouds overhead, the kind that look like someone found a few fat, puffy ones and tried to sweep them away leaving track marks in the sky.  There was some wind, enough that it made stalking more difficult, but not enough to make casting impossible.  The water was cloudy.  It was still clear enough for me to see tailing fish but because the surface was disturbed from the wind the fish were a good deal more challenging to spot from a distance.  Because the wind was moving the boat I got only one cast at an individual fish as I came into range unless I anchored.  I had fished three hours and had released only one fish.  I wasn’t getting many casts to good targets.  When I did cast, if I wasn’t anchored, I was fighting the drift of the boat.  The line would belly very quickly; if I mended it I spooked the fish.  If I was anchored, the boat was swinging on the anchor.  Again, certainly not impossible conditions, but not ideal either. 

I had moved upwind again and was beginning to drift down the lake.  There were some tailing fish but by the time I saw them I was usually too close.  The wind subsided as if it had been running up hill and needed to take a rest.  The surface of the lake calmed and just like that a tailing fish came into view.  He was off to my side so rather than move my feet and risk making noise I turned my upper body to make my cast.  Both the Carp and I were fully engrossed; he looking for hapless critters in the mud, me trying to trick him with my fake.  I had made just two false casts and was delivering the line.  Just as I let go of the line with my left hand I let go with something else.  And yes, it was a good one.  Just before the line landed on the water the fish bolted and left me staring at a cloud of mud.  I hadn’t moved my feet, the floor boards hadn’t creaked: it just had to be a coincidence; that fish just couldn’t have heard my rumblings.  Rested, the wind found its breath; with renewed energy it started blowing.  I dropped anchor and as I did so another cloud of mud appeared not far from me.  I had spooked yet another fish.  I sat down and grumbled.  It wasn’t shaping up to be a marvelous day at all.  In fact the single fish I had already released would end up being my only one for the day. 

The previous year I thought that it was funny when I farted and a fish bolted.  It was easier to make jokes about it because I had a great day and because I thought it was humorous coincidence.  Now I actually started to wonder.  Could those fish actually hear or sense a fart?  Surely they couldn’t.  Or could they?  I thought something else made those fish take off, possibly a signal from a shoal mate, maybe seeing my funny looking face as they looked up through the water, maybe the sight of the boat, and maybe the moving shadow made by the fly line just before it hit the water.  It just had to be one of these things. 

The boat is in obvious contact with the water so any sound from the boat is easily transmitted.  My feet are always touching the floor boards and my leg is often touching the side of the boat so any sound from me is easily transmitted to the boat and so on.  I started to take my own joke more seriously so I read and reread things I had studied the past few years.  In several sources I was reminded that Carp have elaborate sensory systems which enable them to hear better than most fish and to detect subtle changes in their environment.  They have the traditional lateral line along with internal Carp ears of sorts.  If that’s not enough, quoting from the Dictionary of Ichthyology, “The Weberian apparatus is four bones and associated tissues connecting the gas bladder to the inner ear and conveying pressure changes and sound.”  Now wait a minute, a lateral line and internal Carp ears seem fine but not this Weberian thing.  That’s just not fair.  I think it makes the darn Carp too smart for its own good.  The kidding aside I really was starting to believe a Carp could be scared by a good fart. 

I headed to the same lake about 10 days later. While driving over and while setting up my gear I had again been wondering about, and actually marveling at, just how sensitive Carp are to changes in any part of their environment, particularly to sound. It was a calm day, the sky was absolutely clear; the water was only slightly off color.  I could spot tailing fish from quite a distance.  My sense of anticipation was very high as I pulled out from shore.  I was planning to fish a new Carp pattern.  I had tied two dozen of them in couple different sizes.  After only a short time out on the water a slow cruising fish stopped for what looked like a serious breakfast.  He was about 35-40 feet from me. He was perpendicular to my line of sight.  I had loosely, coiled line hanging from my left hand, the fly was pinched between my left thumb and fore finger, rod in hand I was perfectly poised to make a money cast.  Suddenly I felt the urge, so to speak, to perform a piscatorial assessment.  I had to act decisively to make sure that no other variables intruded.  I had to decide if I was willing to forego casting to this wonderful fish in order to have my question answered.  I farted.  The answer to the assessment was immediate; the fish made a hurried escape. 

Please know that each of the three experiences actually happened just as I described.  The results were also just as I described.  Being serious, the experiences gave me cause to pay much closer attention to the noise I make when stalking Carp.  In so doing, I have observed in several different instances that accumulating noise is not nearly as frightening to Carp as a sudden noise from the same source and of the same volume.  For example, if I am motoring along with my small electric, I can literally go right over a feeding Carp before it will bolt.  If I start the motor up even 20 or 30 feet away, the sudden noise is enough to send the fish to deeper water.  If my buddy and I are talking as we approach a swim of tailing fish they aren’t as likely to spook as if we begin talking after we get there or after the fish get to us.  I know another Carp fly rodder who fishes from a larger boat and uses a gas motor to move from one area to another.  Again, the gradual accumulated noise isn’t nearly as bothersome to the fish as the sudden noise.  Just last summer he had his motor wide open.  Sadly, he hit a sunbathing Carp.  If he had been stopped within 60 feet of that same fish and then started the motor the fish would have run immediately.  Again, the Weberian apparatus makes Carp so alert and discerning.  I guess to achieve “World’s Greatest Sportfish” status a fish has to have some serious assets.  Indeed, Carp do.

At the end of 2006, as I do each year, I wrote out goals for myself covering several parts of my life.  Areas that I work on setting goals are: personal, professional, financial, spiritual, family, physical, and social Included of course were my fishing goals.  My fishing goals included among other things: new places to which I plan to go, numbers of fish I hope to catch, size of fish I hope to catch, number of days I plan to go fishing, people with whom I plan to fish, flies I intend to tie.  As I review my goals I realize that I need to ask myself what am planning to do to help myself achieve these goals. 

Based on the results of my piscatorial assessment I am seriously going to work at stalking fish more carefully.  Even if I don’t see a fish bolt that doesn’t mean I haven’t alerted or scared more than one with a careless movement or sound.  In fact I should assume that I have.  I realize from the tale above that I am probably scaring fish I never see.  I’m not just scaring them away I’m keeping them from coming anywhere near me since they hear me long before I see them.  This is a critical lesson for me and I need to adjust my tactics accordingly.  I made a list of things I need to stop doing.  In a huge way I need to avoid so many things like: the clippers dropping, the radio plopping, the anchor thumping, the boat bumping, me telling, my buddy yelling, my feet pounding, the motor sounding, my backcast splashing, the water thrashing, the boat bag sliding, the trout guys chiding, the gravel crunching, my sandwich munching, the floorboards creaking, and the boat seat squeaking.  All of that said, when stalking feeding Carp, this coming year I will do everything I can to minimize the noise I make, even if I enjoy making the noise. 

Epilogue:  My lovely wife of nearly three decades just finished reading this article.  She commented, “In social settings, in the car, at a movie, at the grocery store, shopping for furniture, and during the night when your wife is trying to sleep, none of these situations have ever got you to stop farting.  But now, finally, after 29 years, you’ll hold back for Carp fishing?  What does that tell you?  Hmmm…” 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Carp Behavior Explanation

This post is in response to a question from Brian who asked me to explain the difference between clooping, bubbling, and tailing/rooting Carp in his comment in this blog post.  Brian, the answer was way too long for the comment character limit so I put it here in a new post.  

Very simply stated a tailing Carp is looking down.  A clooping Carp is looking up. 

A tailing Carp is feeding on the bottom.   The behavior of rooting is more specific than simply tailing.  When I say rooting I am picturing a Carp that is tailing in the mud.  That fish can literally have all of its body concealed by the cloud of silt that comes up from the mudding or rooting behavior.  A rooting Carp is tailing but I distinguish the behavior largely because of strategy for catching a rooting Carp versus one that is tailing on a hard dirt bottom, on rocks, or in weeds.

When I use the word “bubbling” I mean a Carp that is tailing or shopping very slowly and stopping regularly.  He definitely has his nose down.  I distinguish bubbling from tailing because I cannot actually see a “bubbler”.  I just see the bubbles that his activity creates but not the fish.  Not being able to see the fish is a huge difference to me.   Through the years I have had some very good success catching tailing fish but I have had little to no success catching bubblers.   I had some days on the Snake River where I was able to catch a few bubblers but again my success has been very limited.  Honestly, I largely ignore these fish.  As a result of the exchange in this post I am going to take bubbling fish a good deal more seriously in 2012 and attempt to catch them using an indicator.  That said, I would sure laugh at myself if I don’t see another bubbler for two years.   I may owe bubbling fish an apology for ignoring them.  I sure hope I do. 

I’m not sure when or where I first heard the term clooping.  I believe it was from John Jennings, a lifetime UK Carp angler.  When he and I started communicating about 6 years ago he sent me some VHS videos and DVD’s that showed Euro-Carping methods.  (Not fly fishing)  I know that there was at least passing reference to clooping Carp in the videos and I know John talked to me about the behavior.  From whatever that first introduction was for me, at the time I understood a clooping Carp to be feeding on the surface. 

For the first year that I Carp fished I believe I saw one fish, possibly two, take a bug off the surface. By the time I switched to a dry fly and cast it out, that Carp had aged so much he was no longer able to see the darn bug. 

In those early years I tried casting dry flies to sunbathing Carp.  It was education by trial and error for me.  By the way casting dry flies to sunbathers is a total joke. 

Through the years I have observed three surface behaviors from Carp.  I am not counting sunbathing on the surface as one of those behaviors.  I mean three behaviors where the Carp is looking up.  I don’t know if the Carp are always feeding when I see these behaviors.  At this point I don’t think they are but I could be wrong.  I also don’t know if anglers from the UK would call all of these behaviors clooping. 

The first behavior is when I see Carp rising and taking bugs off the surface of the water.  I understand that to be the classic example of clooping.  I went to Montana to fish the Missouri River in 2010 specifically to catch some Carp on dry flies.  I made a blog post about it and posted a YouTube video.

The second behavior I see where Carp are on the surface is when they have their mouths and eyes out of the water and are just sitting there.  I am honestly not sure what the heck these fish are doing.  Another Carp angler said to me once that he thought they might actually be getting a small amount of oxygen out of the air.  I have no idea if that is possible.  I don’t see these fish feeding.  They may be gathering very small insects that I don’t see but at least a few times I have observed this behavior I am virtually sure they were not.  It appeared to me that they had come to the surface just to look.  It is like they are “explorers” seeing what there is beyond the edge of the world.  They look out, see a loud, dry, scary place, and head for home.  They tell their friends that that the place outside the world is a interesting place to visit but no fish would want to live there.  Maybe these fish are sunbathing but they are looking up so I distinguish the behavior.  Also, I have caught a few of these fish on a cast but find it very difficult to catch a sunbather on a cast.  I do much better with sunbathers dropping or pitching the fly.  Because of this, again, I distinguish the behavior. 

I was in my second year of Carp fishing before I actually heard the noise that is said to be what clooping Carp do.  Humor me here please.  If you have never heard the noise that Carp make when they are on the surface, and you would like to hear it now, follow these directions.

1.  Say the letter “L” and when you are finished keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
2.  With your tongue on the roof of your mouth the entire time say the word “cloop”.
3.  Tongue still in place, say the word “cloop” slowly but inhale while you do it instead of exhaling. 

If you followed these directions you just heard the sound clooping Carp are said to make.  I have to say though that I have seen Carp feeding on the surface and not making this sound at all.  That first time I actually heard and saw Carp making the sound there were so many of them doing it I thought it was some small birds I had never seen.  It took me awhile to realize that all the noise was being made by Carp.  There were easily 40 or 50 of them doing this at the same time.  It was eerie.  I could not see any bugs on the surface of the water but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.  I assume these fish were feeding but I was never really sure.  I cast unweighted Hares Ears to them and got a few to take.

There are two lakes that I have fished where I have observed most of the sucking sound and the “explorer” behavior.  One day there were four explorers all pointing in towards each other like some sort of synchronized swimming.   I made a very lucky cast right in the middle of the formation.  One of them picked up the fly.  I don’t know if he ate it intentionally or if it sort of fell in his mouth.  Either way, I would say both the Carp and I were surprised.  He was nice enough to pose for a picture when it was finished. 

So what is a clooping Carp?  I have to say I’m still learning.  I would say a Carp that is feeding on the surface would fit most people’s definition of clooping.  I would say that sometimes Carp feeding on the surface make the sucking sound and sometimes they don’t.  I would say that sometimes the fish making the sound are feeding and sometimes they aren’t.  I also think that some fish are explorers and they are just looking out at the edge of the world. 

Today, I worked some, I tied a few flies, I wrote this response, and I dreamed of warm days where I was casting to fat Carp...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lessons from the Carp Lodge: Episode #2--Can you catch every tailing Carp you see?

Episode #2 of Lessons from the Carp Lodge has been posted on YouTube. This episode has a list of all the Carp behaviors I have observed through the years. That is followed by a list of all the presentation techniques I have used to get these wily buggers to take my fly. Episode #2 shows some careless casting and it shows some good casting. If you look carefully I think you will see a Carp fart on my fly as he swims by it with complete disgust.

I had the Carp behavior list and the presentation techniques list prepared a few years ago for a series of print articles I was writing. It is interesting to me that I added two presentation techniques to my list for this video. As JM pointed out in his comment in the previous blog post, we keep learning, and that's a good thing. When I drafted the print articles I had only tried one kind of swinging of the fly. In 2010 I tried a familiar but completely different swinging technique and got fish. I also added indicator fishing to my techniques list. I point out in the narration that I have not actually caught a Carp using an indicator but that as a result of the exchanges on my blog, and input from Greg and McTage, I will be trying it in 2012.

My wife has been good about supporting me in this endeavor. She patiently answers my questions when I ask her thoughts on what makes more sense or how I might present something. She does not fish at all by the way. She must still love me because she still puts up with my nonsense after 34 years.

She asked me who I thought the "typical viewers" of my videos are. I had to say I really didn't know. She asked if they were people who already were good at fishing for Carp, people who had some experience, or people who hoped to try it for the first time. Again, I had to answer I really don't know. She asked what if a beginner doesn't know what a tailing fish is. She said that if she had not heard me talk about it she would not know. She said that in the videos she has trouble seeing the fish in the water. I told her so do I, even when I'm standing right there making the casts I have trouble seeing the fish sometimes. That is a good part of why there are titles and arrows showing the fish and the fly in the water.

It is hard to know where a good line is between the time spent narrating and presenting information, versus showing fish taking the fly along with playing them. It is difficult to know what a viewer already knows or who a "typical viewer" is. I am in hopes that this series will be useful for both beginners and experienced Carp fly fishermen. I am in hopes that even someone who is extremely good at it will at least find things a bit entertaining during the winter months.

I set out to make this series helpful; not just a bunch of clips of me playing fish. That said, there is a good deal of narration and explanation in this episode. Okay, I imagine there are a couple takes in there too.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Episode #2 is coming soon

Episode #2 of Lessons from the Carp Lodge is nearing completion. Making sure I have something to offer is important to me. Figuring out what I want to say, selecting appropriate video to support the message, and then developing the narration are all challenging. Its time consuming but still very enjoyable. I was near completion last weekend, or so I thought, but as I assembled the parts I realized the video was too long for the YouTube limit. As a result I had to cut out the section on pitching the fly and redo the introduction. I will publish the pitching segment in a future episode. For this current episode I am still doing some additional work on the transitions in the title screens and I still have to record the narration for the last take.

In the process of taking all of this video the last two seasons I captured a good deal of Carp behavior. I got some good shots of Carp taking the fly. I also got some "great" video of me making bad casts. Maybe "clear" would be a better word than "great". In episode 2 I show some clear video of my good casting as well as my bad casting.

Once most of the work is finished, as it is now, then I am comfortable saying I will be able to post the video in the next several days. I am hoping to have it up by Wednesday.