Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday I had the pleasure of fishing with Scott T for carp. It had been a while since I fished with Scott, and just catching up over breakfast and having some time on the water made the day worthwhile. Conditions were far from ideal. The wind was moving pretty good, and the high, white clouds cut visibility from feet, to inches. If the fish was more than a rod length away, we couldn't see it. Scott had some near hookups and I caught one while he was there, but he had to leave around 1 or so. As is usually the case, once your fishing partner leaves, the fishing picks up!
That wasn't actually what happened this time, but I did start moving around more, and I found some fish feeding on the edges of the shoreline. In super stealth mode I could get close enough to see them and managed to get into some fish. For the day I landed about 12, with the big fish being about 15 just bottomed out my weigh net. The interesting part of the day was that it was a tale of two flies, fished in different manners.

For most of the day, and most of the fish I hooked the go to fly was the San Juan Worm. I've never been a huge fan of the worm fly, but my last couple of times out I've started to see its merits! The fish do like the fly, but you have to fish it just a little differently than most nymphs or other carp flies. First, you have to be really accurate with your casts. With the worm, the fish needs to see the fly sink within that 1 foot or so cone of vision. If they see it sink and hit bottom, you are in business. Secondly, you can't move the fly. With most flies I fish if I overcast I just pull the fly into position along the bottom with short strips or hand twists. With the worm, the fish have got to come to the fly. You cast it right near their head, let it sink and let it sit. If the fish saw it fall, they'll eventually ease up and eat the fly. If you move it, the fish spooks. I saw this many times a few weeks ago, and again yesterday. When I just let the fly sit it was extremely effective coupled with an accurate cast.

The second part of my day was spent chasing fish that were hanging around the mulberry trees. These fish are without a doubt, the easiest carp I've ever caught, but catching them is a complete reversal from fishing the worm. For starters, they are all serious about eating. You can see them cruising in slow circles just downwind of the trees. They look like packs of bikers circling around a group of kids in a bad movie. Every time a berry falls in the water, one or two fish rush the berry like it will spoil when wet and the first fish to the berry chomps it down with an attitude. For these situations, the carp wooley has produced. I tie mine heavily weighted as it is a fly I often use on the flats as a general nymph imitation. The weight isn't a problem, though most of the berries float for quite a while. The fish near those trees seem to be so keyed on berries, that they charge any plop they hear, and eat just about anything that resembles a berry. I have had a few fish turn completely around and change direction to chase down a fly. It makes for some exciting, and relatively simple carp fishing.

All in all, it was a great day on the water, as any day with a fly rod in hand usually is. I enjoyed spending time with Scott, we really need to get out and fish more often. One lesson I took away from Sunday's outing was to pay really close attention to your presentation. With carp, it isn't enough for them to see the fly. They have to see it in the manner in which they expect to see it. In other words...they expect to see a crayfish run or act defensive...they expect to see a leech swim...they expect a berry to plop into the water like it fell from several feet above...and they expect to see a worm sitting in the bottom sediment, easy pickings for a meal. The next time I'm out I'm going to pay much more attention to the specifics of the presentation, rather than simply focusing on the accuracy of my cast and stealth of my approach. I think the details can make the difference between a skunking, and a some burnt fingers from palming your spool.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

My lovely wife sent me out today, not specifically to fish but to take Panga out for a few hours to get some exercise. Of course she knows full well that to do so involved me carrying a fly rod and looking for something to catch. I was torn all day yesterday. Part of me was itching to grab the 4 wt cane rod and head up into the upper reaches of the Clackamas and catch a billion tiny trout on dry flies. The thing is, trout are easy to catch. Especially small trout. I could put on a march brown pattern right now in July, fish it along the seams of that beautiful free stone stream and catch as many 7-11 inch fish at I could release. It sounded very appealing, but the real intention was to let Panga run, and the boulder strewn clackamas river, while beautiful, isn't the kind of ground where Panga can get up to speed. I hit Sauvie Island instead.

Well, I was reminded that Sauvie Island is one of the premier locations for carp around Portland. There are fish in literally every inch of water on that big island, and there is a ton of water from which to choose. I did have two problems though. One, the water I fished was all colored up and visibility was maybe an inch. Two, the sun hid for 2/3 of the time I was out. When the sun peeked out around 1200...I could finally see fish in catchable positions. During the morning, I saw mostly things like this:

While that is indeed a great sight if you are a carp fisherman, try catching one of those fish! I did everything including feeding them a fly directly into their open mouths, but they wouldn't look at an artificial. It was still a great moment watching those cloopers go nuts on vegetation and cotton. As the sun came out I ran into these three fellows.

Nice guys. This marks the first time I've actually run into bow fisherman. We chatted for a bit and I think they were pretty surprised to see me stalking the edges of the slough with a fly rod in hand. One fellow mentioned that he had shot carp in that area as "big as a fireplug." Interesting way to put it, and while I have yet to see a fish that big out there, I'd love to meet one! We went our separate ways and I finally started getting into some fish. The trouble was that I simply couldn't see the fish well enough to know when to set the hook. I was making great casts again with that fiberglass 7 wt fenwick (LOVE that rod) but I simply couldn't spot a take. Instead, I'd wait too long with my fly near a cloud, some bubbles, or a shadow and then feel a quick tap, tap that ended with me missing another carp. I finally did put it together and landed this one fish...a small guy, probably 5-6 lbs.

So with one fish in to hand, I called it a day. Panga was tired. She had run herself out and for the last 30 minutes I fished had dug herself a little hole and was just sitting there, watching me miss fish after fish. Smug little dog...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

This report is a few days late, but I did manage to get out after some carp twice this week. Once for a few hours on Tuesday, and then again Wednesday morning for the 4th. I fished with KB on the 4th, hence the nice picture above of me and JJ. Always fun to take the kids out, and while little JJ did fall asleep, he was sure excited to see me land the small carp I caught Wednesday!

On Tuesday I caught this tiny carp. Probably the smallest carp I've ever actually seen in person. A few interesting items from the two day report. First, this tiny carp was in a cloud of carp that had maybe 300 baby carp in the mix. I dropped the fly in there just to catch one and look at it, then left them alone. Tons of tiny carp, kind of a neat sight.

Second, in one of my local ponds I was stunned to see a monstrous fish roaming the shoreline about 20 ft away. This was a big fish, about 30 some inches, and as I snuck closer I realized that it was a Sturgeon! Unbelievable...I was shocked and watched the fish mill around for a minute or so before it headed off to the deeper water. That was not something I expected to see.

Third...I spotted and chased a 5-7lb white koi in another pond that I don't often visit. People teased me last year about Highway Cone being my "white whale." Well, I have an actual white fish to chase now...I really want to catch this koi, and of course it spooked at every feeble offering I could muster. I'll hunt him down eventually.

Speaking of Highway Cone brings me to number four. KB hooked that monster Wednesday morning! She swam by me with her usual disdain, moved into perfect position near Kim and he dropped a hares ear right on her. To his amazement...she ate it! He got one really good run out of her but that wily fish threw the hook after blasting out of the bay. I didn't see the run but I bet Kim enjoyed watching an orange bullet shoot through the water.

5th and final...I had one carp actually "taste" my fly while I watched. I dropped a carp wooley on a small carp only to have the line hang up slightly on a stick in the water. The fly was effectively hanging there about 3 inches down in 2 ft of water. The carp wasn't nosed up and gently sucked at the fly. It touched that fly at least 4-5 times with its lips, but not once did it actually take the fly inside the mouth enough for me to set the hook. Finally, the fish gave the fly an interesting look, and swam off...

One more item...I fished a 7 wt Fenwick Fiberglass rod both days and really enjoyed it. I'm still undecided on the whole glass thing, need to hook a bigger fish on that rod but I was casting like a Rajeff brother both days...well, in terms of accuracy, not distance!