Saturday, August 23, 2008

When Kelly gave me the green light this morning, I was out of the house and heading towards the river in a flash. I threw my gear in the FJ, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the river. At times, I can be a little intense and focussed, and today those traits were dialed all the way up. I was on a mission. The last few trips out have been ok, but I had been fishing water where I don't see as many carp in pursuit of twenty pounder number ten for the year and the ever present goal of a thirty pound fish. Today, I threw both of those goals out the window and headed to a spot that I figured would hold a lot of fish, even if they were smaller than normal. I was really keyed up when I pulled up to the river. I jumped out of the car and before stringing up my rod I took a look around, and immediately spotted a tailing carp. Not only was it a feeding fish, but it was a mirror. I forced myself to calmly rig up, and get ready, being sure my knots were good and everything was set right. When I snuck into position the mirror was still there, and still had his head buried in the rocks. I put the Montana Carrot on him and in one cast all the tension just drained out of me. That fish leapt forward and sucked in the carrot. Minutes later, I had a 9 lb mirror in the net.

And it just kept getting better.

I stalked down the bank, spotting feeding fish every 20 ft or so, and they continued to eat the Montana Carrot with very little hesitation. I cast at cruisers and tailers, and saw carp take the fly with ever so subtle moves of their head, or pounce on the fly like they had been waiting for it all week. As I headed down river I started to get into bigger fish. I caught few low teens fish, and then saw a big tail sticking up between two boulders. From about 40 ft away I made a lucky cast and the fly sank one foot in front of the eating end of the fish. The tail disappeared, then reappeared one foot closer to me. I lifted the rod and almost immediately saw some fresh backing. I've caught enough big fish this year that my backing has a definite tan, but this big fish found a way to get the clean backing into the river. I eventually got the fish to hand, a beautiful 22 lb carp.

And it just kept getting better.

I looked down river a ways, and spotted a big mass of black rocks. As I got closer, the rocks sprouted tails, gills, and fins and I realized I was looking at a literal RIVER of carp. There was a 30 foot wide and 200 yard long stretch that was loaded with fish. Most were just hanging out in the shallow water, but enough were moving/tailing that I knew I was in business. I stalked the outside edge of the carp field and started picking fish out of the group. I'd hook one and he would bust into the main river, spooking 10-20 carp in the process. By the time I would land the fish, the carp field was back in shape and I would take a few steps, make a few casts, and hook another one. I've never seen that many carp in a stretch of river. Pretty quickly I started playing with flies, changing the Montana Carrot for JP's X factor, Wendy Berrell's Legion of Doom or Mr. P's Zebra hair. I got a few fish with them, and went to my old stand by San Juan. The SJW was deadly, and any fish that wasn't asleep basically ate the worm. I moved down the carp field, and caught a ton of fish. When I reached the end of the flat, I had long since lost count of how many fish I'd caught. I sat on a rock and watched the river go by for a few minutes, then started back up. The carp field was still there, though it was considerably thinned out. This actually helped, as I didn't have to worry about lining 5 fish when casting at a specific target. I was able to choose the biggest fish in the group on the way back up.

One fish in particular stood out. It looked pretty hefty, I was figuring it might be a 20 lber. I put the worm on the fish, and with no fanfare, it simply ate the fly. I got one run to my backing, and then brought the fish in close. I still didn't think it was a true monster, but when I finally got that fish in the net, I realized I had a serious fish. My net has been stretched to its limit, and even 20 lb fish fit in the pretty easily if you can get their head in the net. this fish wasn't super long, but the depth of the body was insane. I waded to shore, and took out the digital scale. By this time, I was praying that I had what I thought I had. I hefted the scale with both hands and anxiously looked at the readout. It immediately jumped to over 34 lbs...I held on tight and let it settle as the numbers edged downward. They stopped at 31.2. My net weighs just under a lb. 30 lb carp. I had finally gotten a 30 lb common, after two years of looking for one!

This year I have had 3-4 opportunities at fish that I thought were in the 30 lb range. I had big fish straighten my hook, break me off in weedbeds, and cut my leader in the rocks. Finally, a really big carp behaved when I took him for a walk. I took some pictures, released the fish and started back to the car. I probably should have just stopped fishing, goal for the year done, but I kept hunting for bigger fish. I ignored 90% of he fish I saw on the way back, casting at the bigger fish, and this mirror (I just can't resist Mirror Carp).

I caught a few more fish on the way to the car and I think I ended the day at about 25 or so. I kept track of all the fish I landed above 15 lbs, and in terms of big was an unbelievable day. I landed a 15, 17, 18, 18, 19, 22 and 30 lb fish! Easily the most big fish I've caught in a day. For the year that puts me at 11 fish over 20 lbs, my previous best year was 9. It has been a great year, and today was one of the better days!

Time to start thinking of a goal for next year!


Anonymous said...

How common are Mirror Carp in Oregon? I've yet to see one in Califoria.

John Montana said...

I see them pretty regularly, but they are in the minority for sure. I catch a lot of mirrors because I target them each time I see them. I'll pass on a big common to cast at a smaller mirror.

Anonymous said...

Too fine. Awesome work !!

Have we seen a pic of the Montana Carrot before ??

Unknown said...

John, you are truly the KING of large beasties on the fly. Congratulations on your 30. Impressive!

I'm glad you were able to put the swap flies through rigorous field testing. I hope to put mine to use when I get back from vacation at the end of the week.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!!! What a report. My enthusiasm is again renewed, and a searching I will go. Thanks, Dan

Anonymous said...

Congrats John. I assume you'll be carrying a 12-weight from here on out ;-) .

Wendy Berrell said...

Well, congratulations on breaking that barrier. It was only a matter of time.

Sounds like quite a day. I like the description of the carp field. That sounds like a dream come true.

What is next? Lighter gear? Micro benchmarks?

The 30 lber is quite a presence in that photograph.

Anonymous said...

Get Down !!! You are the MAN

Anonymous said...

Excellent report. A great fish!!! 30 pounds on a fly is a huge achievement.

Anonymous said...