Just completed three days of hard core carping on the big C with Dan Frasier of Carp Pro. You really can't understate the hard core part in the previous sentence. This wasn't a casual bit of wandering around looking for tailing fish...this was a full on search and seek mission. We walked miles and miles of river and roads, stumbling over rip rap, tripping on cobble, busting through thorns and blackberries, dodging snakes and spiders, dealing with clouds, wind, and rain and casting to numerous, numerous carp.
It was glorious.
As reports and pictures come out over the next week from Dan, myself, Mr. P. and Travis a few things have to be stated. Chiefly...these big C fish are TOUGH. The nature of the difficulty is simple...they don't move for flies. They don't chase streamers, or bolt forward a foot to eat a crayfish fly. Nope...a happy fish on the Columbia won't move from whatever is currently making it happy unless something spooks the fish or the food runs out in which case the fish is no longer happy and won't be happy to see your fly. Basically, you need to SINK your fly to within 4-8 inches of a happy fish in order to get a take. You can strip the fly into that window but in most cases that will spook the fish. If you can sink the fly into that window without spooking the fish, they will usually eat the fly. Sounds simple...because then all you have to do is detect the exact moment that the fish stopped eating what it was previously eating and decided to eat your fly. You have about a one second window to detect that take and set the hook before the fish spits the fly. In short...it isn't easy.
Combine all of the above in terms of presentation and detection with the method and you can begin to see that three days of this border on the line between demanding and exhausting. We move, we walk, we search. Finding fish isn't a problem...finding happy fish that will take a fly generally isn't a problem either, but it does require that you cover a lot of water. On foot. Wading thigh deep, frequently over difficult rocks and slippery cobble. I just love this shit.
If all of the above is at odds with the frequent posts on this blog showing large fish and big numbers of fish it is easily explainable, and not by the quality of my own personal angling ability. Truth be told, I am a relatively mediocre caster and fisherman...Dan easily trumped me in the casting department throwing loops that I can only dream of and putting the fly basically exactly where he intended. Dan can fish. Fortunately for me, success on the big C comes down not on technical casting ability, or good eyes to see the fish or secret flies that the fish love...quite simply it comes down to having lots and lots of targets. Given how difficult the method, presentation and detection are when it comes to Columbia river fish, if you only saw a handful of fish per day it would be brutal! But instead...we see hundreds. Sometimes more. On Saturday I looked out over a big flat that runs 1/2 a mile in all directions, and all I could see was the goldish brown colors of approximately one thousand carp. High sun, light wind, blue skies and a thousand carp on the flat...target rich indeed. The trick is that about 950 of those fish are negative, so you are forced to pick through the flats and find the fish that will eat. It is a good problem to have.
So as you read reports in the next week keep these things in mind. This shit isn't easy. We work for the fish. Nothing on the big C is handed over freely...she is a fickle mistress that will stone you with an upriver wind just when your cast to a 25 lb tailer is unfurling, blowing your fly off course and lining the fish. She will murder you with waves, and crush you with slippery rocks that force you to massage your feet each night, wondering just how you are going to cram your swollen heels inside your wading boots the next morning (but knowing full well that YOU WILL stuff those feet in there). But if you put in the time, and take the ass kicking she offers in stride...she will love you too. You will be rewarded with a day like Saturday when the heavens open up, the sun shines and the wind blows the fly right to the sweet spot. You will smile, the carp will feed and your reel will sing the song we all love...those moments are not free. You pay for em, and Dan paid for his.
The Columbia is a glorious place, a place meant to be shared and I am thankful I got the chance to do so with Dan. Thanks for coming out, taking a beating and giving one right back. Stay tuned for more details.