Season over? Like most fishermen I have a problem with absolutes, hence the question mark rather than an exclamation point or a simple period. Still, deep down inside I am only fighting that "one last cast" mentality with token strength. It is cold, rainy, and dark. Are the carp on the flats? Probably in some small number or for some shortened duration but the energy and effort it requires to go find em is stopping me short of getting off the couch. Besides, Oregon plays tonight, jj wants me to be iron man (the bad iron man, he is the good iron man) and elia is cuddled up against me reading yet another book. I can't really think of a better place to be right now.
So yes...season over. At least with a period, the exclamation point would be a tad bit too final, don't ya think?
The river was thick with mist this morning. The sight of the fog was enough to change my original mental odds of finding carp from a coin flip (always choose tails!) to about 3/10. I took my time rigging up, there was absolutely no reason to hurry. Air temps were still in the 40s and I contemplated the vest, knowing it would get warmer, but basically being a big softy about cold weather. I wore the vest most of the day. I was fishing not one, but two brand new pieces of gear today, mostly because my wife is a saint and lets me have my toys. I rigged a beautiful GLoomis Native Run GLX in a 9 ft 6 in ch 7 wt, and paired that with an XL reel by Allen Fly Fishing Company. The XL is their newest reel, and I was anxious to see how both rod and reel would fare against a good size carp. Waders on, boots tight and net clipped to my pack, I stepped off into the river, looking for one more fix before the long, cold winter.
Fishing this late in the fall brings it challenges. The water is usually a little lower, the wind is down (truthfully, I'm a big fan of a decent 10 mph wind when carping...this ultra calm stuff is TOUGH!) but most of all it is the curse of just having finished summer carping. Gone are the hundreds of carp you usually see on the flats, replaced with singles, the odd pair and few tailing fish. The fish are there if you walk enough, but anyone can tell you that the key to carping is numbers. With summer fish, you can flounder around and the sheer mass of fish will still ensure a good day, but in the fall, all of the little mistakes you become accustomed to making in the summer haunt you. Stub your toe on that rock...poof...fish gone. Flub the cast and put it too close...ditto. All those types of things wear on a summer time carper too, but in the fall, you might not get another chance. I blew a few shots today before I remembered lessons learned and slowed way down. I carefully placed each footfall just where I wanted it, and in particular I was cognizant of how much water I was pushing with each step. Carp are sensitive, and in dead calm water if a pressure wave from sloppy wading reaches a tailer...adios tailer.
The first fish on my new set up came together nicely. I spotted the fish moving along the bank from quite a ways away and tucked myself into a little nook of trees, figuring I'd just await the fish's arrival rather than stumble my way to him. The fish slowly moved closer.
I waited and watched, flies cradles in my finger tips, heart pounding more than a little bit. At 20 ft, with a perfect angle I snapped a cast at the fish. Too far away. I picked it up quickly, but quietly and laid the line back toward the fish. The two fly rig landed in the right spot and I counted to 4, staring at the carp and envisioning the flies sinking to the bottom. I just finished saying "four" in my head when the carp slid forward and puffed out his gills. I set the hook and heard the XL sing!
It was a good fish. Thick and heavy, somewhere between 14-16 lbs but I kept my scale in my pack and settled for an estimate. The Allen reel sang a nice song, the new backing got stretched and the native run loomis wanted more.
I wandered down the river, stopping now and again to cast at a fish, putting a couple of fish on the bank and in general avoiding any thoughts whatsoever from entering my head. I came to a shallow stretch of river that is often home to some large fish, and I paused on the bank, scanning ahead for disturbances or tails breaking the surface. The fish were there.
The pictures don't look like much, but this was a big fish, actively tailing in the shallows. I crept to within about thirty feet, stooped at the waist due to a lack of cover on the bank. The fish kept eating and casually tailing. I am a big believer in staying on the bank when possible. In the water, sound travels easily and there is no way I would have gotten within thirty feet of this fish had I been in the water. I snuck along the shoreline, checked my flies for weeds and made a couple of false casts to the side to gauge the distance. The first cast was good, and this fish was active. With a push of it's tail the carp charged the sinking flies and I quickly set the hook. Most big carp fight with less guts than the mid size ones, but this fish fought valiantly. I kept up the pressure and several runs later I slid the big fish onto the beach. I busted out my scale for this one and he weighed in at 22 lbs. A great fish!
The rest of the day played out well. All told, I landed roughly 6-8 fish. I had a near miss with a really big fish...trust me, I know the stigma of "the big one that got away" but when every fish you catch was spotted, stalked and SEEN it becomes obvious when you have a shot at a really big one. Today, the accursed weed bed cost me a fish that would have been in the running for my biggest of the year. So it goes. I did land some great fish, and stored many visuals to keep me warm through the winter. I am already planning some production tying, and thinking ahead to the warm waters of spring and summer.
The cool water was the only reminder that it is now October. Not a hint of clouds, nothing but sun soaked flats and my own shadow to keep me company as I walked along. Late in the day the worlds biggest beaver leapt out of the brush and splashed into the river, stopping my heart for at least a second or two, but other than that beaver all I saw was the sun sparkling off the water...and some carp of course. I did find a few carp.
Despite the heat and sun I was glad that I wore my waders today. The water has cooled noticeably, and the carp are slowly disappearing from the flats. I started fishing in the morning and walked about a mile before spotting my first fish. It took a while before the shallows warmed to whatever magic degree the carp want, but eventually the fished started showing up in ones and twos, and then threes and fours. I only landed nine fish, mainly for two reasons. One, the numbers of fish were down significantly from mid summer or post spawn fishing. And two, I told myself I was only going to cast at fish that I thought were in the teens or better. I managed to make good on that, and the smallest fish I caught was likely between 12-14 lbs. I weighed three fish, one was just over 20, one almost 24, and this awesome 18 lb mirror.
It was a bittersweet day. With every step, every cast, and every release I knew the season was ending. I couldn't help but think about the long winter ahead. Yeah, the deschutes will be there and winter steelhead, but my fishing joy is the stalk on the flats.
One take in particular was everything that you look for when carp fishing with a flyrod. As I walked along a narrow gravel bar I spotted a carp tailing lazily about a hundred feet away. I crept into position, using the bushes to kill my profile and moving ever so slowly on the cobble. The light was perfect and I could see the fish in high def, facing directly at me and casually moving along and feeding every couple of inches. My first cast was a good one, and the front fly of my two fly rig landed about a foot to the left and almost even with the feeding carp. It took only a second for the worm to hit the bottom in that shallow water, but despite a near perfect cast, the carp ignored the worm and moved forward a few more inches. I made a few short strips, envisioning the green fly hopping along the bottom like a tasty nymph. The carp suddenly turned it's head sharply to the right and i clearly saw big carp lips extend like a tube and then suddenly snap shut. I set the hook quickly and the fish shook his head violently and blasted for deep water. Just a perfect take, and it so happened to be the last fish of the day. Likely the season as well.