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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.


  1. A good day for me is one carp, seriously now. I think we've all done the "Jackass Safari" one time or another. It hurts more these days, you under 40 may not understand.


  2. WOW...way to stick with it! I have done some serious bush-whacking before and it is always a disappointment when the water conditions are crappy upon your eventual arrival.

  3. This is how most of my exploratory trips go-- way to stick with it and earn that one. I hope the next trip through the washington bushland puts you in carp mecca!

  4. Jim, it's better when you earn it, right?

    Well, I guess with carp you always "earn it," but the journey is the best part.

  5. Ha ha - Jackass Flats. Love it. Good stuff Mr. P.

  6. Great read Jim. And I'm glad to see you aren't slowing down, though I have to admit that some of those "what am I doing" thoughts have started to creep in on me already. It's usually when wading through fast and deep water, or being shin deep in sinister mud that I start realizing how much easier it was when I was younger. I'm sure that sentiment increases along with the wisdom.