Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Fish

After two days of absolutely crushing carp on Lake MI, Wendy and I decided to change it up on day three. Day one and two had featured heavy volumes of fish in one large bay, mostly spawning, but with enough feeders to keep us tied into fish all day long. Toward the end of day two we had walked away from the bay and found some ultra aggressive carp cruising the rocky points...this grabbed our interest, so we started day three by ignoring a sure thing, and walking some rocks, looking for the chase...the eat...the carp that would kill our flies. It paid off.

J hooked up first, and after releasing his fish, I took the lead down a rocky point...eyes peeled for carp. In short order a group of four fish appeared, seemingly negative, just laying near the bottom, not moving much but in this shallow, rocky water, I suspected these fish would leap into action at the sight of prey. I crept into position and laid the fly 30 feet out there, past the fish, but on a sharp angle so I could pull the fly not toward the fish, but away from the fish as if it were an escaping goby. The bunny leech settled to the bottom and I stripped and hopped the fly into range, a few feet away and past the sleepy carp.

One broke off immediately, lumbering forward to the fly, fins up as it closed the 5-6 foot gap. I let the fly settle and watched the fish mosey along...at two feet away I hopped the fly once, a solid 6 inch strip, then a second six inch pull and the carp sped up and darted toward the fly at what looked like full speed. I gave the fly one more hard strip, but shorter, maybe 2-3 inches and killed the fly, letting it simply fall to the bottom in amongst the rocks and shells and cobble. The carp darted forward again, right on top of the fly and then flared its gills hard, flashing a big, white bucket mouth and I set the hook with a hard strip set.

The fish ran out into the blue waters of Lake MI, and I happily watched the fly line disappear. As Mr. P says, the take is the premier moment...the battle, the rush, the spinning reel and the long tug of war are all part of it, but the take, the eat, the dead ass bunny leech, the gill flare and white mouth...those are the moments that keep us coming back.

Credit to Wendy for the photos.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Orvis Hydros Carp Line

About five months ago Orvis sent me a prototype carp line in the mail. In the past I was never really a "line" guy, generally just fishing whatever the fly shop recommended at the time. As I fell farther and farther into the carp addiction, I realized just how important a fly line really is. Accuracy became crucial, and lets be honest, the line is as important as a rod when you go from talking about accuracy in terms of feet to talking in terms of inches. Yes, when it comes to carp...inches matter.

So what exactly do you need in a carp line? Unlike most modern lines, you do not need a cannon designed to shoot line for 100 feet. To me, the most important aspect of a carp line is the ability to make short, accurate casts, quickly. Most of my shots come between 20 and 40 feet and not many fly lines on the market really hit that sweet spot.

Orvis's new Hydros Carp line does. It only took one outing for me to fall in love with the line. I took it to a flat early in the season, and realized quickly that I was making short flips and one pick up 30 ft casts with no effort. Any carp in my optimal range was in danger. It simply casts with ease in that 20-40 foot range.

I have fished this line exclusively all season, from the flats of the big C to the emerald waters of Lake MI. I have thrown size 8 hybrids to picky fish and chucked 2 inch long streamers to meat eaters...all with the Orvis Hydros Carp Line. I liked it so much I told the Orvis people that when they released it (assuming they didn't change it) I was going to buy a couple more lines and switch them out on all of my reels!

Well, Orvis just released the line and the only change is the color. They switched form a grey head (which I disliked...not sure why really) to a perfect, muted olive color. If possible...I like it even more now. If you get a chance, check it out here.

Caught this guy with it!



Sunday, July 14, 2013


Wendy Berrell said it best: "You cannot carp fish without faith."


If you think the fish ate, you are too late, you should have set the hook. If you think about setting the hook, you are too late, you should have set the hook. In the time it takes for your weak, faithless mind to tell your body to MOVE...yep, you should have set the hook.

Carp fishing does not reward half measures. You have got to play for the win. You need to make the risky cast. You need to take an extra step closer to the fish. You need to put the fly 4 inches away, because 8 inches might feel safer but the fish won't eat it anyway. You need to risk it all to win big.

Bottom line...when carp fishing if you are not certain the fish ate...act with certainty anyway.

It took Travis and I half the day to remember these things, but we eventually got it together.




Wednesday, July 10, 2013

One Fish

I warned him. While on the phone with Carp Pro editor Dan Frasier prior to his trip to the big C I kept telling him, "these fish are tough...they won't move much, you gotta feed a feeding fish the fly and somehow detect the take." I did my best to not sound like a nag, but I really wanted to set the expectations. I have had carpers from other parts of the country come out here, and everyone has later acknowledged that these fish are really tough. Thankfully, we have tons and tons of targets, because if we only saw 10 fish a day doing what I do out here would be insane.

These fish will flat out stone you.

So I prepped him...lets be clear, I knew Dan could fish...he is one of the most accomplished fly carpers in the country, he can cast, spot fish, tie knots and do all the necessary stuff to catch big carp. He just hadn't had to detect the take from a 20 lb fish 40 feet away by spotting a gill flare or seeing the "tail speed up" (this one kills me by the way...I set the hook all the time on this and not ONCE have I ever really remembered what it actually looked like).

Dan took it well and came prepared. Day one went about as I expected. We stalked along and Dan peppered fish with excellent casts. Occasionally I yelled "hit him!" Or "he is on it" but hook ups were few and far between. The fish were eating the fly, but it takes shot after shot to see it. With an angler as good as Dan it was simply a matter of a few repetitions.

Late in the day it came together. We spotted a tailer at 40 feet and crept a little closer. The fish was stopping here and there, tailing up to eat, then moving a foot or two along the gravel to tail again. A perfect target. Dan made another great cast and drag/dropped the two fly rig so the flies split the fish's head...both landing right on the money. A TINY head turn followed...barely registering on my mental scale, but my body knew and I hissed in a short breath just as Dan lifted the rod hard and just stuck this perfect, perfect moment.

As the fish rocketed to deep water Dan turned to me with a huge grin on his face. "Did you see that take!" He exclaimed. I nodded and bumped fists...we caught a few more that day, but that one perfect moment was what I will remember. One painfully perfect presentation, one move, one eat, one fish.



Friday, July 05, 2013

"TheOrvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp" by Kirk Deeter


Oh, us crazy carp guys. The trout guys hate us, or love us because we stay off of their water...I forget which it is. I do know they don't seem to like it when I pretended to be blinded by how white their backing is (mine is all dirty and gray) and they sure don't seem to like the whole "we measure our fish in lbs, not inches" shtick...I should be nicer, and that has gotten easier as the respect for carp has grown. I can tell you that 10 years ago nearly everyone either looked sideways at me, or straight looked down on me.

Oh how times have changed. With his latest book, Kirk Deeter of Field and Stream and Trout Magazine, basically a well known influential Trout guy has sort of come out of the closet with the rest of us crazy carpers. The word is out, carp are officially mainstream. Don't believe me? Read the book.

Disclaimer, the boys at Stonefly Press sent me a copy to review, but there is no question I would have dropped the money for this book anyway. A guide to fly fishing for carp? The endeavor I have spent the last 10-12 years working to try to figure out...heck yes, I was in for any tips I could get.

So, what did I learn...quite a bit actually. Kirk mentions frequently throughout the book that he isn't an "expert" and even has one section dedicated to tips from know carp guys (I somehow made the cut, and yes, I am proud as hell to included with THAT group of carpers...not bad for a weekend hack). This section was by far my favorite of the book, not because of any one piece of advice but because of the massive different bits of advice listed.

I will be honest, I was secretly worried that Kirk would go into detail about how to catch SPECIFIC carp...not carp in general. To me there is a difference. I have caught carp in 8 or 9 states now and while there are some things that apply to all I am convinced there is not one fly or technique that is a true magic bullet. Carp are too adaptive, too varied and flat out to smart to be patterned or to rely on one specific fly to be a national go to fly. Body of water to county line to state line, you better come prepared to read the situation, learn and adapt.

Kirk nailed this. The information in the book is basic enough to apply to carp (and many other species) yet specific enough to help increase your odds of success without being so detailed that it would only work on the flats of lake MI or the Denver South Platte. This is a fine line to walk, and managed so with a skill that makes me envious. He covers the full spectrum, detailing how varied the carp behave and how you need to focus on the behavior I. Order to have some success. One chapter alone is dedicated to how he did it "wrong" at the well know Carp Slam in Denver. Reading that felt like running through my own mistakes each and every time I drive home from the river. To catch carp, you have to get each individual situation correct, and that simply won't happen 100 percent of the time.

One more reason to pick up this book...it is flat out beautiful. Full color, glossy, a must have if you are like me and simply enjoy books on a shelf. The Stonefly Press boys reached out to the carp community, and a lot of the carp guys out there are pretty amazing photogs...some great work made it to this book (even my ugly mug).

If you are looking for some tips, or simply want a place to start "The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp" by Kirk Deeter is a must have.


Monday, July 01, 2013


I could see the tail, bigger than my hand and slapping the surface as the fish fed in thigh deep water on the edge of the gravel bar. I was 100 feet away, and the stalk was going to be an issue. For some reason I hadn't put my wading boots on and I wasn't feeling very sure footed in the slippery cobble in my sandals. I inched forward, one careful foot at a time in knee deep water, willing the cobble to stick and not shift beneath my feet. I spotted a tailer about 30 feet in front of me and slowly came out of my crouch to stand tall and straight. The smaller tailer spotted me, but as I had hoped, he didn't hard spook...instead he simply stopped feeding and slowly peeled off into the depths. I kept going, back in a crouch, one carefully placed foot at a time. 70 feet...60 feet...50 feet...."I can make this cast" I thought but Rule #2 popped into my head (Don't cast until you can see their head) so I continued my painfully slow stalk. 40 feet...30 feet...I could see gills and a rounded head. I didn't dare get any closer. I stripped out some line, cast just past the fish and dragged the front fly (a San Juan worm) into position and dropped it. I counted to 5 to let the fly sink to the bottom in the slightly deeper water and as I said "5" in my head I saw a flash of white and set the hook hard.

I nearly lost the fish right then. Most 20 plus lb fish are dogs, but this guy blasted out into the river in an instant and I almost got in my own way. Fly line peeled off the reel, backing next and I looked out to see a barge way out in the river. I laughed at the idea of this fish catching the barge, then reconsidered the laughter as backing continued to disappear. Eventually, the fish slowed, and I towed her back in to my waiting net. 36 inches, 26 lbs...a real, serious athlete.