Saturday, September 30, 2006

My dad and I had planned to spend Friday chasing Coho Salmon on a local river. One look at the weather report added to sheer addiction of carp on the flats and we changes out plans in a heartbeat. We got up Friday morning and headed for the Columbia River in search of big carp.

My dad has caught a few carp, but our destination was the big leagues of carping, previously he had only fished in the minors.

Our first stop did a great job of getting him excited. We saw several fish in the teens feeding on the flats, but they were extremely spooky, and we just couldn't get any flies to them without sending the targeted fish rocketing out of the shallow water. Still, it gave my dad a chance to see some nice fish and to get a taste of the required stealth and casting accuracy.

Our next locale proved much more successful. We stalked the flats like herons, pausing to squint into the glare before each footfall. We managed to sneak up on several fish, and my dad hooked several, but just couldn't seem to hang onto them. I fished as well, and managed to land four fish, all in the 6-8 lb range. As we walked back out later that day my dad was treated to the sight of 2 big grass carp cruising along 200 ft away. One was a true monster. We also spotted one massive common I would put in the 30 lb range, but by the time we got into position to make a cast, the fish was onto us and moved away. Dad had plenty of opportunities and despite not landing a carp, he was excited about the day. In a lot of ways he and I are alike...We are both as much hunters as fisherman. I put away the rifle and bow, but still love to hunt and carping gives me a great outlet. The highlight of the day for me was taking a video as my dad made a great 45-50 ft cast to a big carp. The fish turned on the fly and my dad set the hook just a split second late. He was rewarded with a big boil as the fish narrowly escaped. It made for a great video!

Always good to fish with my dad!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Now you all know I am a die hard carp on the fly guy, but I have to admit that every year at this time, I am tempted to join the throngs and crowds and chase a few silver salmon. Fishing for Coho is actually pretty easy. Just find some fast water, park yourself at any pocket or break in the middle of the fast run and nymph the heck out of it with an 8 wt and two fly rig until the coho decide to move upriver. When they move, you can see them coming, leaping through the whitewater below. Invariably, they pause for breath and a rest, and if you chose the right pocket and they stop in yours, they usually aggressively smack that fly and the fight is on! While few things can compare to the power of a carp on the fly, a large coho salmon hooked right at your feet in the midst of a whitewater rapid does a pretty good imitation! They run like crazy, and seem to switch direction more than most fish. I've had coho actually beach themselves in a mad and desperate attempt to get free of the hook. Well, the time is upon us here in OR. My dad is currently making his way to my place from MT (he stopped and fished the venerable Deschutes river today) and I am frantically tying flies in preparation. Friday we'll be on the river before dawn and hopefully be in the midst of leaping, rolling salmon all morning.
And of course, if the salmon aren't in I can always go show my dad Highway Cone!
Wish us luck!

Monday, September 25, 2006

I spent Thursday and Friday in a conference room at the Sawgrass Resort in Jacksonville, FL. We spent two days discussing our successes and challenges as a company this year, and making plans for next year. As usual, the discussions were fruitful, and the meetings went well. We got ahead of schedule, and actually didn't have to meet on Saturday morning, so I was thankful that I had carried my 7 wt with me to Jacksonville.

I woke up Saturday morning around 8, had a long breakfast and then grabbed my rod, reel, and flies and walked out the front door of the resort. I was planning on spending the afternoon with one of the guy's from the Jacksonville office and someone from our corporate office in Atlanta, but I had at least a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with Kip and Jonathan. I walked down the long driveway along the hotel pond and eyed the water seriously. I did see a few panfish, but nothing to indicate any carp, so I keep walking. I crossed a busy road and headed toward a shopping complex, and spotted another big pond. As I walked around this pond I spotted a small alligator swimming out in the middle. Again, no carp but lots of panfish, and also a few signs posting the pond as no fishing.

I continued on, and crossed another road to get to a pond in front of a big grocery store. Here I hit the jackpot. As soon as I walked up to the pond I spotted two feeding carp near the shore. I dropped to all fours and crawled up to discover that not only were they large carp in the mid teens, they were grass carp! I watched them eat for a few minutes. They would move right up to the bank and grab a big mouthful of the weeds embedded in the shoreline, about as much as you or I could grab with our fist. With the weeds clamped into their mouths, the carp would then shake back and forth while slowly swimming backwards to rip the vegetation loose, then slurp it up like a mouthful of spaghetti. Really interesting, but it looked tough to mimic with a fly!

Nevertheless, I got into position. For the next hour I realized that grass carp are indeed the spookiest fish I've ever seen. If I coughed, they spooked. If I stood up, they spooked. If I slipped, they spooked. If I false cast more than once, they spooked. I ended up literally crawling around the pond while the cars on A1A honked and pointed, hunting these grass carp. I managed to get the fly in front of plenty of fish, but almost the second the fly touched down, most would spook. It was pretty frustrating.

Finally, I got close enough to a fish to literally set the fly softly into the water next to his head. As the mohair leech slowly sunk, the big fish turned slightly and inhaled it. I quickly set the hook and the fight was on! Sort of...

The fish made a short run, then came in like a log (even worse than a northern pike!) I reached down to try to tail him, and then things got interesting. The grasser sensed me coming and bolted for deep water, making two long runs that almost touched my backing. I eventually got the fish in under control, and landed him by tailing him and getting my other hand under his belly. What an interesting fish! It is clearly built for eating, and makes me think of a freshwater cow. The mouth had some roughness inside, but no teeth at all, and the entire fish was stiff and strong, not much softness even in the belly. I'm guessing this carp weighed about 14-15 lbs, but I did not have my scale, and it was such a foreign species to me that I couldn't be sure. It felt heavy, but I haven't seen enough of them to really know.

So I have now added grass carp to the list! I would love to catch a few more, but with the fish being illegal to chase in both OR and WA, it might be a while before the opportunity presents itself. Always good to justify carrying the fly rod on a plane though!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I learned something today in a short carp session. There is a large difference between trying to be stealthy, and being stealthy. The trouble is, only the carp seem to know the difference.

I found myself fishing mostly on my hands and knees this afternoon. The fish (and these were big boys) were feeding against the bank, and the only way to get a fly to them without putting line across their backs was to belly crawl up to them and careful get on one knee in the brush and dropped the fly in like food from heaven. This worked exactly 4 times, and while it was thrilling to hook fish with all my flyline still inside my guides, I didn't land a single fish. At first I was merely crouching to approach them, and invariably I would spook the intended target and promptly watch 6-8 other carp forms (that I hadn't even noticed) blast from the shallows in a general stampede. The delayed reaction was the best part. The first fish would spook and blast through the pod and as a group the remaining fish would startle, and then bolt for deep water. Pretty fun to watch, but it would have been better had I landed something!

The first fish I hooked was sheer fortune. I had just spooked a pod by apparently failing to be at or below sea level as I moved, and was sitting on the bank looking through my flies for several minutes, searching for a pattern they hadn't seen before. After a few minutes and the realization that I hadn't tied flies in a LONG TIME I noticed a nice fish moving in from the depths. Actually a big fish. As it got closer I realized two things. One, it was going to stop and feed against the bank, not 3 ft from me. And two, it was a big mirror. This fish was easily in the mid teens, and would be the biggest mirror I've caught by at least 5 or 6 lbs. I pried myself away from thoughts of big mirror carp and great photos for the blog and and gently flipped a little crayfish pattern into the path of the oncoming mirror. The big fish paused when it reached the fly, I popped the rod tip and saw his head dip down and I set the hook quickly. The fly line ripped through my guides in starts and stops and I prayed the tippet would hold. It did momentarily, and I got to my feet to begin playing the fish. I had no control over the big mirror and he zig and zagged through patches of dead and dying weeds, and in short order had a massive amount of salad attached to the flyling and leader. The drag of all those weeds proved too much and the tippet parted. I had so much junk on the line I didn't realize the fish was gone for several seconds.

I quickly sat down and rerigged with heavier tippet (back to 1X!) and then continued down the bank, pretty much spending the entire time on my belly. Fish #2 was feeding tight to the bank, and he took my crayfish pattern (the green one) with such confidence that I almost felt bad...almost. I jumped to my feet with renewed energy, knowing my 1X tippet would do the job this time. It did, but the hook didn't The fish quickly got off and I reeled in a completely straightened crayfish pattern.

On to fish #3, again with the green crayfish pattern, same size and hook equaling predictable results. I hooked the 3rd fish easily enough, and he straightened that hook easily enough as well.
I do learn, although slowly. I went up a size on the crayfish pattern, tied on a size 8 salmon hook this time, and began hunting for fish #4. As active as the fish were, it didn't take long to find him. Once again on my belly I got within a rod length of the fish, another good one (none of the fish I cast at were less than 10-12 lbs, with the big mirror being the largest). I dropped the crayfish fly just out of range, and hopped it toward him. He turned his head slightly and inhaled the fly from about 8 inches out. As soon as I set the hook the fish blasted out of the bay and into deeper water, and quickly began boring into every weedbed he could find. I held him as tight as I could but the powerful fish kept ripping the line from my fingers and gaining distance. Soon enough he was buried in weeds, and somehow managed to slip the barbless hook. So ended the dance with fish #4.

I spent a few more minutes looking around, but I was pretty satisfied and thinking about Elia at home waking up from her nap and ready to have some fun. I broke down the rod and headed for the car. It was a good day.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I can't help but feeling like we are almost out of time here on the west coast. Carping is getting tougher daily, as the weather cools and the fish get more sluggish. This morning was cool, overcast, even a bit foggy. Elia and I headed out to the only spot that I KNEW we would see fish, and met my friend David out there. David walked up as I was fighting my first (and last) fish of the day, a little 5 lber that pounced on a maroon hairs ear dropped in amongst the rocks. I had spotted the fish working in and out of some good sized rocks, and got him to take on the first cast. Just a few minutes later David made a great presentation to another tailer, and the fish actually came up through the water column to take his black fly. His results are pictured here! Elia didn't want to be in the backpack today, so I quit fishing and just walked along with David. We did spot a few more great fish in really good spots, but they simply wouldn't eat. It was good to get out with David, I hadn't seen him in a while, and he has truly turned into a carp nut! I met David by chance on his first foray into carping, and we spent the day together talking fish and having a good time. Since then, he has become an expert on OR carp, and joins the limited ranks of the few of us crazy enough to chase these fish while others are out standing in a river swinging flies and waiting for a steelhead to hook itself! I say that now, but Coho season is here, and hopefully soon I'll have some nice salmon pictures to put up on the blog.

Thanks again David!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

W. B. Yeats:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I got an email from a friend of mine today who was reading the article I wrote for the American Carper. She mentioned how big many of the fish in those pictures were. Courtesy of, check this out Karen:

The world record common carp, over 76 lbs.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I did get out twice this weekend for some carp. Saturday afternoon Kelly, Elia, JJ and I hit a local spot and Elia got to "pet" a 5 lb carp. We mainly just walked and played with the geese, but I did manage one fish, and Elia enjoyed touching and "hugging" it! So for the record...JJ saw his first fish at 6 weeks old.

Got blanked today in 2 hours. Saw some nice fish, but no takers.
I recently wrote an article for The American Carper. Check out the september issue here:

The article starts on page 31.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

There are some advantage when fishing with KB. One, he is an easy guy to fish with. He knows what he is doing, and is just a fun guy to be around. Two, he brings LOTS of water. Three, he happens to be a professional photographer...Every now and then that comes in handy!We had a spectacular day today chasing carp. The water was low, which made the fish ultra spooky, but making each fish more difficult just made it that much more rewarding when you did manage to hook up, and hook up with did. KB hooked 8 or 9 carp, landing 3 or 4, and I hooked about 15 carp, landing 9. The big fish of the day was a 22 lb beast that I took after creeping down the bank like a Ninja and dropping a big prince nymph on his head. The big boy was so intent on feeding, that I could barely see the fish, but I did see his tail push him forward and felt a tiny bit of weight on my line. I thought to myself, "weed." Than I strip set anyway and the fight was on! This fish had me wondering if I had enough backing as his first knuckle-breaking run had me staring in disbelief at my reel. After what seemed like an eternity I managed to bring him back to shore, and then KB performed one of the best net jobs I've ever seen. He sort of scooped the fish's head into the net, and then move the net from side to side to get each pectoral fin in there! It was quite the sight watching him squeeze this huge fish into my tiny net. One of these days I really will get a bigger net!Lots of great memories and moments from today for both of us. My best take was simple. I dropped my fly in on a fish feeding in some weeds, and saw the fly sink to the level of the fish. The fish didn't move an inch, and I thought to myself, "He either already ate it, or he's not going to, " and I quickly lifted the rod and it bent over as the fish blasted out of the shallows. We had the great fortune or running into Paul Huffman as well. I have been meaning to fish with Paul and it was a pleasure to spend some time with him and watch the inventor of the Carp Wooley at work!All in all a great day, with good company and good fishing. As Mr. P says, "the take is the premier moment," and today was all about that split second when it all comes together.

What a great day on the water! KB and I hit our favorite carp hole, and conditions were pretty good. Visibilty was tough at times, and the numbers of fish are down a bit as the nights get colder, but we still had plenty of targets for our flies, and as you can see from the picture, we even had some success. I'll get a detailed report up soon, but as for numbers, KB laned 3, hooked around 8 or so. I landed 9, and hooked about 15 or so. Most of the fish were in the 6-8 lb range, with at least one fish that reached 9 lbs, and one monster fish that scaled out at 22 lbs. We saw some backing and tested some knots today!