Every year J and I end the trip, look back and find one memorable line or saying that leaps out at us. Over time, we bust that out to make each other laugh, or remind one another of a past trip and the good times that we have shared. Last year, it was easy. After sticking a big fish (on video) J turns to me and says "That is a bitch of a fish John! A Bitch of a fish!" One of our all time favorites is from years ago, plying the Mississippi for carp. We came upon an old dude fishing away on a dike. He was stunned to learn that these two idiots with fly poles were out looking for carp, and once his initial shock wore off he turned to us and said: "So, are you much into Sheepshead?"
Why yes...yes we are.
This year, it came early. We had been relatively unsuccessful on the morning of day one, seeing a few carp and catching g a few bass, when we rolled into the parking area of a spot we love. A bass fisherman came tromping though the trees carrying a massive stringer of bass. Upon seeing our fly rods, buffs etc. he immediately figures we are after carp. "See any back there?" I ask...and the he says three words that basically set us up for the remainder of the trip.
"Hundreds of them!"
From there it was a simple matter of disengaging from that conversation as quickly as possible without being rude...and waylaying fish after fish after fish. The carp were there. We were armed, and relatively skilled...it was a fine, fine recipe.
I often speak to how difficult the Columbia River carp are, and that is truly the case. The difficulty at home lies in presenting the fly closely, avoiding spooking the fish, and detecting a nearly imperceptible take at distance. It is a serious set of challenges, and to a man, everyone who has fished the river with me has agreed that the big C fish are quite difficult. This isn't to say that Lake MI fish are easy...in point of fact, they are not. Lake MI carp are still carp and they give nothing for free, but the challenges they impose are different than the fish I chase at home. Gone are the super subtle takes, replaced by movement and, oftentimes, aggression. Gone is the need to place the fly so that it sinks mere inches from their face, replaced with the need to make long casts to moving fish and time said cast so the splash of the fly isn't noticeable and the intersect path is perfect. For the most part, gone also is the ability to close the distance on the fish. Back home, I quite frequently put the stalk on fish, but on Lake MI, long casts are required.
These differences put a strain on a guy. Try chucking a large sculpin helmet and rabbit strip fly 80 feet repeatedly for 4 days, fighting strong, hard charging carp, and yes...hoisting a 28 lber one handed for a photo (new record). In short...my arm still hurts.
These are the things I will remember best about this trip, this year, and this experience. We literally saw "Hundreds of them!" We fished so hard that our arms and bodies were beat. And we laughed and smiled so much that we stored up more than one winter's set of memories.
For the numbers, and better detail than I can provide, go read Justin (Wendy Berrell's) report. The guy is quite literally a poet, and will do justice to this particular experience better than I can. Let it be said though, that while the fishing was insanely spectacular (we were dumping 18 lb fish out of the net with nary a glance or pause) this trip is a success every year regardless. J and I...we get it. We get the need for bonds and friendship that extend well beyond college, and more importantly we get that those needs can be better met and bonds can be better forged when your boots are in the water and your hands are wet from the lake. Having raccoon eyes and wind swept cheeks, bloody fingers and sore heels, leaky waders and a rental car trunk that smells so bad you wonder if you somehow left a dead fish in there...these are the things that matter. And you only achieve those things by GOING and DOING. You don't get there by dreaming.
So once again, the bulk of the thanks to our families. I sit here on Father's Day writing this, missing my own dad fiercely and knowing that he would approve. Hell, he would have been right there with us, eating bad food, destroying the rental car and storing memories. Thanks to Justin, the best fishing companion a guy could have, and thanks to his wife and kids for letting me steal him for a few days. Mostly, thanks to my wife and kids...they get it to. Kelly knows me, and knows that I am a better person for having these adventures with J. She doesn't understand fishing, or cheap hotels, but she understands me...oh how I love that woman.
Til next year...see you soon Lake MI!