Friday, October 03, 2008

Salmon trip number one was a success and a failure at the same time. I only hooked two fish, but one made a twisting leap that was pretty spectacular. That leap made it worth losing that fish. The other fish I hooked rolled over down deep and popped off, all I was was the white belly when it rolled. So while I didn't land a salmon today, I really enjoyed the afternoon of fishing. I nymphed current seams, and it didn't take me long to get into the rhythm associated with nymphing. Cast upriver, mend, take in line, high stick, swing it out...water load and start over. It also rained the entire day, which I loved. I was all snug in my gear, rain pounding on my hood while the river went by. Occasionally a salmon would roll or shoot upriver, but not often. The fish were not moving much despite the rain. To top off the enjoyment of the fast moving river and thrill of the rain, I took a swim today. I slipped off of a big rock and landed in the main channel I had been fishing. I was under water for a couple of seconds and spluttered to the surface only to float downriver a few feet. I stood up and despite the fall, the cold water, the slightly bruised ego...I had a big smile on my face. It takes a certain type of person to enjoy standing in the pounding rain, landing no fish and taking an impromptu swim..I guess I fit the bill.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Of course I went carping. With the forecast calling for mid 80s and full sun, it really didn't take much for David to convince me to put the salmon off for a week or two and chase carp. I think a guy could still get into carp for a few weeks if the weather holds, but they are definitely not on the flats in the numbers to which I'm accustomed. David and I found enough targets, but all in all it was a bit slow. I think David only landed one carp (he hooked and broke off several more) and I landed 6, maybe 7. I had a nice stretch of fishing where I was able to put two fish in my net, let them go, and net another two fish a short while later! Why do that? It was fun.

The fly of the day was the standard San Juan Worm. I would say that 75% of our takes came on the worm, with the montana carrot accounting for the rest of the takes. The carrot is a great fly, but REALLY frustrating to fish. I just cannot tell when the fish has that thing in its mouth. With the worm, I'm right on them. With the carrot, they just suck at it and move all around it. One really nice fish made a dash at the carrot and I paused, then set the hook. I swear I felt that fish on for a split second...the rod even bounced once, then he bolted for deep water. When I took a look at the fly it was missing one rubber leg. I am sure that fish had the legs and one broke off on the hook set. Despite the frustration, it is a fun fly to fish because most of the time the fish really do light up on it.

The big fish of the day was this 15 lber. Not a massive fish, and it looks like I'll finish the season with 14 fish over 20 lbs (was hoping to get a big one today). David and I did see a couple of big fish, I had a great shot at one but couldn't put it together. Overall though, most of the fish were in the 10-11 lb range. The water was high and cool, and I think the bigger fish were out much deeper, we just couldn't get to them. Great day fishing with David...he's a heck of a carp fisherman and a good companion. I always enjoy chatting with him while we stalk the flats, and we made quite a few plans for next year's carp season. If next year turns out anything like this year I'll be thrilled. I'll put a recap of carping in 2008 sometime this was quite a season on the big C.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

That time of year again. We haven't had a ton of rain yet, but I'm betting the fish are in the river. To be honest, I'm itching for some salmon fishing right now. Coho have the ability to momentarily make me forget about carp! I'm tempted to make one last carp run if I can get the green light this weekend. The weather shows sunny, high of 80s and I bet I could find some fish despite the cooling water, but part of me wants to hoof in and find a a nice pocket in the midst of a series of rapids. I bet there would be a couple of coho hanging out there, taking a break from their incessant upriver run.

I suppose I'll shoot for the green light, watch the weather and make a choice. Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The recent death of my Albright EXS (good riddance, too brittle) and the sad demise earlier this year of my st croix legend elite put me in the market for a durable, lovable 9 ft 6 inch 7 wt. After some casting, research, etc. I put my hands on a Sage VT2, and pretty much knew immediately I was done. The rod casts like a dream, and reminded me that Sage really does make great casting flyrods. I actually liked casting the VT2 more than my Albright...and I really liked that Albright as a casting rod, though it was a terrible fishing rod. I bought the VT2 Saturday, and immediately set out to test it out.

For starters, the kids and I ran over to the local pond and put the hurt on two small carp. One of the takes was really great. The carp was plowing into some weeds, then backing up and chowing down. I waited until its head was buried in the weeds, then dropped the carrot about 3 inches away. When the fish backed up, I lifted the carrot and that carp HAMMERED the fly. I handed the rod to Elia and she duked it out with a little 3-4 lber. She got tired from holding the big rod and fighting the fish, so JJ lent a hand. Elia held on, while JJ reeled for all he was worth!

Eventually, they got the little bugger in close, and I helped them beach it. Neither kid was willing to lift the carp up, but they both felt his scales, and JJ actually stuck his finger in the carp's mouth. After releasing the second carp, Elia was adamant that we try to catch a Golden Dorado.

So the initial outing with the VT2 was a success, but a 9 ft 6 inch 7 wt is a little much for the local pond carp. I headed out to the big river today to put that rod through its paces. Simply put, it's an ideal carp rod. The tip is fast enough that you can shorten your casting stroke and punch into the wind, or you can open it up a bit and feel the rod flex into the butt section. I generally prefer slower rods, and this is a really nice mix. I fished mostly the Montana Carrot today, and the fish responded well to the fly. I managed this fatty that scaled out at 20 lbs on the nose.

For the day I laned 8 or 10 fish. They are definitely moving off of the flats. I wet waded today, and it was a bit chilly despite 85 degree air temps. The water has really cooled down.
I still saw plenty of targets, but not a lot of them were actively feeding or tailing. Most of the fish seemed to be cruising, or holding in a weed bed, or just hunkered down in a warm patch of sand, sitting there doing nothing. I tried the worm, and got one or two on that but the carrot seemed to be the best fly. I fish one in a drab brownish/yellow color, and add rubber legs as a split tail. The fish react pretty well to it, and when they eat it...they really eat it.

All in all this was a great day of carping. I had some memorable takes, one big 20 lb fish (bringing me to 14 fish over 20 this year. That number blows me away), and fell in love with my new flyrod. I might get one more trip in this year, but if not I am pretty satisfied. I caught lots of nice carp this summer, and still have Coho to chase!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

When I stepped into the flat I realized that despite the air temperature, fall has definitely arrived on the Columbia River. For a second I considered heading back to the car to grab my waders, but the water wasn't really that cold, just noticeably colder from the last time I was here. I knew I was off to an early start (when your wife gives you the green light, you don't look at the clock, you just go) but I figured the water would warm up soon enough. I checked the hook on my Montana Carrot, and started down the flat.

Two hours later, I had seen 3 fish. That is 3 as in one (tailer, I blew the cast); two (almost stepped on him, thought it was a rock); and three (40 foot cast a big tail, no hookup). The last two times I had walked this flat I had seen literally hundreds of carp, but today there were virtually none to be found. I think the cool water pushed them out of there, but I didn't wait around any longer for the water to warm up...instead, I jumped in the FJ and headed to another area.

My second stop proved to be a better choice, or maybe the sun had cooked its water a bit longer. Either way, I had some fish around me but once again, not in the numbers to which I am accustomed in this locale either. I managed to catch a couple of fish on the venerable SJW, but nothing to write home about. I packed up shop on this flat in a hurry as well, and decided if I was going to deal with mediocre fishing, I might as well explore a bit. I checked out some nearby water that was a mix of sand/gravel bottom. I thought maybe the sand would be a bit warmer, and it was. The third stop ended up being a good decision, as there were a pretty good number of fish around, and most of them were tailing. I had killed most of my day, but I got down to business and started putting some fish in the net. I had tied on the Montana Carrot and stuck with that was getting great reactions from these carp. The Montana Carrot is basically Mr. P's Carp Carrot, tied in a more muted color, and I added a split rubber tail for action. It isn't orange at all, but the body shape was shamelessly stolen from Mr. P, hence the name.

It's a fun fly to fish. I would chuck it at a tailer, and if they saw it sink they'd almost immediately stop tailing and dart forward. The trick was that they wouldn't always eat it on that dart. Sometimes they'd kind of rush the fly and stop. I'd strip a few inches of line and they'd dart forward again. Sometimes they would pursue the fly, mouth's opening and closing as they gave chase. I was having a heck of a time deciding when to set the hook...I just couldn't tell when they had the fly! I actually caught two fish by "feel" which is something that rarely happens. I would be stripping the fly in while they chased it, and twice I felt resistance. The second time it turned out to be this pig of fish. I figure high teens...MAYBE 20 but my digital scale took a crapper on me and wouldn't work. That's what you get for $15 I guess.

It turned out, I was putting together a pretty solid day. Then a typical 10-11 lb carp decided to fight back. He made a run deep into my backing, but I put the brakes on him and hauled him all the way to net range. As I started to unclip the net at my belt that bugger took off again and POW! Snapped my 7 wt Albright in two. The reel was still screaming as the fish seemed determined to head for the backing a second time. Luckily, the tip section was still pretty close by, so I darted forward and grabbed it. At that point, I just aimed the broken rod at the fish and broke him off. This marks the 3rd time I've broken this Albright. Bottom line...this rod is just not cut out for carp fishing. I'm beginning to wonder if any fly rods are? To date I've broken (all on fish mind you): Albright EXS (3 times), St Croix Legend Ultra (once); Reddington Wayfarer (once...sorry wendy berrell); and St Croix Avid 8 wt (once). I've broken 6 rods on carp. I'm not sure what I'll do with that Albright now. They charge $60 to repair it, and I don't plan on putting another carp on the end of that thing. Plus, my 6 wt was custom built, and st croix sent a middle seciont 2 inches shorter than the original! So now I'm down to just my 8 wt for the remainder of this year (coho season is around the corner). It looks like I'll be building/buying some rods this winter.
The sad truth is having only one rod probably won't matter. I could feel the season ending as I stalked the flats today. There were fish around, but not in the usual numbers or usual places. I think we have a few weeks left before the bulk of the fish vacate the flats. Most likely, this was my last carp trip until the spring. We'll see what happens with the weather.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I was fortunate enough to take a client of mine fishing on Friday. Chris is a great fisherman, and an easy guy to be around. We had a great day, both of getting right around 10 carp to hand. His big fish was ??? (running a poll), largest he's ever caught on a flyrod! I did manage a 20 lber (right on the nose), putting me at 12 fish over twenty this year...Quite a tally. Overall, he was a bit surprised by the power carp have, and ended the day vowing to bring more backing next time! Chris fished like a carp pro, not an easy thing to do on his first real carp outing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

So last Saturday, while I was out having a grand time chasing carp my friend David was on the same mission, different water. The first thing I did when getting back to the car was grab my cell phone to call him and tell him about the 30 lber. I picked it up, and saw he had left me a voice mail. The voice mail was 2 words. "27 lbs!" A pretty simple message, so I called him up and congratulated him on this beast of a carp her had landed earlier that day. David asked how I had done, and I gleefully told him i had finally broken 30! We laughed a bit, tiny portion of fisherman's competition rearing its head but honestly, we were both thrilled that we had found some big fish. This 27 lb brute is the biggest fish David has caught on a flyrod! He has been fishing with me, and patiently learning some big fish water for the last two years, so it was great to see it pay off for both of us on the same day.

Great fish David!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

When Kelly gave me the green light this morning, I was out of the house and heading towards the river in a flash. I threw my gear in the FJ, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the river. At times, I can be a little intense and focussed, and today those traits were dialed all the way up. I was on a mission. The last few trips out have been ok, but I had been fishing water where I don't see as many carp in pursuit of twenty pounder number ten for the year and the ever present goal of a thirty pound fish. Today, I threw both of those goals out the window and headed to a spot that I figured would hold a lot of fish, even if they were smaller than normal. I was really keyed up when I pulled up to the river. I jumped out of the car and before stringing up my rod I took a look around, and immediately spotted a tailing carp. Not only was it a feeding fish, but it was a mirror. I forced myself to calmly rig up, and get ready, being sure my knots were good and everything was set right. When I snuck into position the mirror was still there, and still had his head buried in the rocks. I put the Montana Carrot on him and in one cast all the tension just drained out of me. That fish leapt forward and sucked in the carrot. Minutes later, I had a 9 lb mirror in the net.

And it just kept getting better.

I stalked down the bank, spotting feeding fish every 20 ft or so, and they continued to eat the Montana Carrot with very little hesitation. I cast at cruisers and tailers, and saw carp take the fly with ever so subtle moves of their head, or pounce on the fly like they had been waiting for it all week. As I headed down river I started to get into bigger fish. I caught few low teens fish, and then saw a big tail sticking up between two boulders. From about 40 ft away I made a lucky cast and the fly sank one foot in front of the eating end of the fish. The tail disappeared, then reappeared one foot closer to me. I lifted the rod and almost immediately saw some fresh backing. I've caught enough big fish this year that my backing has a definite tan, but this big fish found a way to get the clean backing into the river. I eventually got the fish to hand, a beautiful 22 lb carp.

And it just kept getting better.

I looked down river a ways, and spotted a big mass of black rocks. As I got closer, the rocks sprouted tails, gills, and fins and I realized I was looking at a literal RIVER of carp. There was a 30 foot wide and 200 yard long stretch that was loaded with fish. Most were just hanging out in the shallow water, but enough were moving/tailing that I knew I was in business. I stalked the outside edge of the carp field and started picking fish out of the group. I'd hook one and he would bust into the main river, spooking 10-20 carp in the process. By the time I would land the fish, the carp field was back in shape and I would take a few steps, make a few casts, and hook another one. I've never seen that many carp in a stretch of river. Pretty quickly I started playing with flies, changing the Montana Carrot for JP's X factor, Wendy Berrell's Legion of Doom or Mr. P's Zebra hair. I got a few fish with them, and went to my old stand by San Juan. The SJW was deadly, and any fish that wasn't asleep basically ate the worm. I moved down the carp field, and caught a ton of fish. When I reached the end of the flat, I had long since lost count of how many fish I'd caught. I sat on a rock and watched the river go by for a few minutes, then started back up. The carp field was still there, though it was considerably thinned out. This actually helped, as I didn't have to worry about lining 5 fish when casting at a specific target. I was able to choose the biggest fish in the group on the way back up.

One fish in particular stood out. It looked pretty hefty, I was figuring it might be a 20 lber. I put the worm on the fish, and with no fanfare, it simply ate the fly. I got one run to my backing, and then brought the fish in close. I still didn't think it was a true monster, but when I finally got that fish in the net, I realized I had a serious fish. My net has been stretched to its limit, and even 20 lb fish fit in the pretty easily if you can get their head in the net. this fish wasn't super long, but the depth of the body was insane. I waded to shore, and took out the digital scale. By this time, I was praying that I had what I thought I had. I hefted the scale with both hands and anxiously looked at the readout. It immediately jumped to over 34 lbs...I held on tight and let it settle as the numbers edged downward. They stopped at 31.2. My net weighs just under a lb. 30 lb carp. I had finally gotten a 30 lb common, after two years of looking for one!

This year I have had 3-4 opportunities at fish that I thought were in the 30 lb range. I had big fish straighten my hook, break me off in weedbeds, and cut my leader in the rocks. Finally, a really big carp behaved when I took him for a walk. I took some pictures, released the fish and started back to the car. I probably should have just stopped fishing, goal for the year done, but I kept hunting for bigger fish. I ignored 90% of he fish I saw on the way back, casting at the bigger fish, and this mirror (I just can't resist Mirror Carp).

I caught a few more fish on the way to the car and I think I ended the day at about 25 or so. I kept track of all the fish I landed above 15 lbs, and in terms of big was an unbelievable day. I landed a 15, 17, 18, 18, 19, 22 and 30 lb fish! Easily the most big fish I've caught in a day. For the year that puts me at 11 fish over 20 lbs, my previous best year was 9. It has been a great year, and today was one of the better days!

Time to start thinking of a goal for next year!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Got my flies from the swap today. They look great. For full details, check out Fishing and thinking in Minnesota. Fun swap everyone, but now I'm really itching to catch a carp.
From earlier this year...21 lb fish:

Big Carp Release

Man do I need to go catch a fish.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A couple of fun events from this weekend. Picked up our scooter Friday night. It is a Honda Ruckus. Fun little scooter, it will make a great commuting vehicle for me! JJ absolutely LOVES it. Also, spent Sunday on the Columbia with Elia. Conditions dictated that we spend most of the time collecting shells, rocks and blackberries rather than fishing. It was a great day and Elia didn't mind not catching fish at all!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hard to believe he's 2 now. He's a little stud.

I was massively skunked today. Horribly, completely, insanely skunked. The funny thing is when I woke up this morning and my wife gave me the green light to go fishing, I had a moment of sheer confidence that I was going to crush the carp today. I planned on exploring new water, looking for big fish and figured that by going solo even if I had limited chances at big fish, I'd get into some. Instead, I stumbled my way through the day like a complete novice. I'm really not kidding when I say it was horrible. Every single skill or misc. piece of good fortune that makes me a decent angler deserted me today. For starters, I couldn't cast. I'd line up a nice fish, fire off a perfect false cast to the side to gauge the distance and then dump a ball of line with a fly buried in the middle of it 10 ft short of said fish when I redirected to lay it out there. I looked like Swigs when he first picked up a flyrod back in MT after college (sorry Swigs...true. By the way...great monster bass you caught!) Along with my casting, my vision was virtually useless. Usually I'm eagle eyes on the water, spotting motion, color, shapes, etc. long before I "should" be able to, which allows me to get into position to make the cast. Not today...I spooked so many fish today that I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow switched my polarized lenses for non polarized. Finally, I'm usually a pretty agile guy. Wendy Berrell calls me the Mountain Goat, and some of my trout fishing friends dubbed me Legolas after I bounded through a snowfield during the Metolius Death March of 2006. Today, all sense of athleticism abandoned me. I stumbled on rocks, got stuck in the sand, slipped on tiny patches of mud, and even tripped over a few sticks. I fell into the river on 3 separate occasions.

Despite all of this..I should have slayed them! I STILL found the carp...big ones too. I was eye to eye with a 30 lber for a good .5 seconds...literally. I was making one more step when I slipped, fell in the water and that fish spooked right toward me. He damn near ran me over. I hooked and lost about 5-6 fish. Two or three were lost to the massive weedbeds that seems to accompany the water I'm learning holds big fish. 2 fish that I lost really stand out in my mind because they highlight my ineptitude. One fish broke me off because I didn't clear the line from around my reel. 1X tippet won't hold a carp in the teens when your flyline is wrapped around your reel seat. Fish number two broke me off in similar fashion when the flyline became wrapped around my LEG. That also ended in a dunking number 2-3 for the day...not sure which one. For the record Wendy, I did fish your Legion of Doom. I spotted a big tail, dumped the LOD on him and that fish darted forward...I set the hook, and off he went into the weedbed with your fly, never to be seen again.

At the end of the day, I forced myself to make one more stop. I just knew that if I could get to the water before the light was bad, I could turn the day around with a nice fish. I sprinted for the water, putting the rod together as I moved. I stopped at the edge of the river and put on a nasty looking crayfish pattern. I hadn't walked 10 ft of river in the fading light when things started to come together. 30 ft away, I could see a dark shape moving toward me. Remarkable because I could only see a cone about 5 feet wide, and this fish was RIGHT in the middle of the cone. I made a cast one foot to the left, 2 feet in front. Unlike most of my casts today, it unrolled true and perfect. I let the fly settle as the fish eased forward. When he was nearly parallel to the fly, I gave it a crayfish hop. That carp jumped on that fly like he had been waiting for it his entire life. I set the hook with a whoop of joy! I had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a crayfish pattern and this big fish! For 3 seconds I was elated, looking forward to getting a closer look at the beast that had sucked in that big fly...then the line went slack. Gone. I reeled up, fly still there, hook still sharp but alarmingly unattached to anything. With that, I clipped off my fly and headed for home.

Carp fishing is tough.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Catch and Release all Wild Steelhead!

Thanks to Matt Klara from Sexy Loops for reminding me of this...if you love fishing for steelhead, please click on the link and check it out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I should have known better. You always pay for saying something stupid, and it was just a few post ago when I said words no self respecting carp flyfisherman should utter. "Carp fishing with a flyrod is easy." Yep, that came back and bit me right in the ass this weekend. Fortunately, the total butt whipping I received at the hands of the carp was tempered great by some outstanding company. I was lucky enough to fish not only with my dad, who is an excellent carp angler and companion, but the legendary Mr. P. Actually, he is more of a myth than a legend, as no real photos of Mr. P exist on the web...instead there is just word of mouth from people who say in a hushed whisper..."He's real...I've fished with him." This is as close as I came to actually getting a picture of the famous carp angler:

As I mentioned, the fishing was rough. My venerable "super" worm was rendered useless by no wind and ultra calm, clear water. The fish ran from it before the worm even reached the bottom. Thankfully Mr. P was there with his infamous Carp Carrot, which went a long way towards saving the weekend. So did this guy:

In fact, this turned out to be the weekend of Mirror Carp. That in itself added a special flare to the fishing. I know Mr. P landed at least one mirror, my dad got at least one, and I landed 3 that I remember. The fish above weighed in at 13.5 lbs, just a hare bigger than Mr. P's fish (also above) and took the honors as the big fish of the trip. I should say big fish landed. I was in big fish hell today, which is really a strange place to be. I couldn't seem to find any fish under 10 lbs, and had shots at some real monsters throughout the day. At one point I had a great fish right up to the net. As I lifted his head I could see the worm BARELY hooked in his lips. I thought to myself "you better take a shot with the net." Of course, the fish turned back down, made a short run and the hook pulled! At another stop, I found several large fish tailing on a gravel bar in between two massive weed beds. It was fun, but tough to close the deal. I hooked 4 fish, and tried to hold each one from the weed beds. In all 4 cases I had to put a new fly on the end of my tippet after the carp reminded me that BIG FISH > 1X TIPPET. Mr. P had a good look at a monster fish as well, but couldn't get a hook up and my dad had two casts at a tailer that I am positive was over 30lbs. The fish was about a rod length away, and I had 2-3 minutes to check him out. I think the reason my dad didn't hook was was that he was afraid to hook him.

Great fishing with Mr. P and my dad. They are both excellent anglers, and we had a great time fishing, eating, driving, and just hanging out. We never did manage to get a picture of a "triple" but there were plenty of laughs and a good time was had by all.

Till next time Mr. P and the Reel John Montana!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Just got back from a day and a half of fishing with my dad. Elia made the drive with me and we stayed in my parents RV. Elia had a great time with Grandma (I think my mom is exhausted) and I had a lot of fun fishing with Dad. Too tired for a full on report, but in short...the fishing was great. I caught somewhere between 40-50 carp total, my dad landed 15-20. He got big fish of the trip honors with an 18 lb pig...his biggest ever fish on a fly rod! I landed 2 fish over 16 lbs, and one at 15...most of the fish were typical 7-9 lbers. As usual, some stunning takes, and some takes so subtle you had to be on your game to hook them. Great are some pictures!

Love the shot of my dad trying to net his fish for the "double" photo. Keep in mind that I had to set the camera, hit the button and run back to get my fish out of the net for the photo. All dad had to do was hang onto his fish! He dropped it and scrambled up stabbing after it with the net. Pretty funny. He nailed it though! Gotta give him credit for that. The next photo went a little better.

Congrats on that 18 lber dad...beautiful fish!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The San Juan Worm. Until Zen Piscator talked me into using it, I hadn't even thought about that fly much. It just wasn't on my radar. Now, it is far and away my go to fly. This is how I tie it...of note, I use a huge tungsten bead to get the fly to sink. I'd rather risk spooking the fish throwing rocks than deal with the frustration of trying to predict a random path to give your fly time to sink to the fish. I'm also partial to these hooks now...for info on that, contact Matt Klara of Sexy Loops...he hooked me up with these hooks and I'm a huge fan. They've replaced all my scud hooks.

All you need:

Putting the Bead through the Chenile:

Putting the Bead/Chenile on the hook:

Securing thread behind the Bead/Chenile:

I pull the chenile back, and criss cross the thread forward, securing behind the Bead:

Whip finish, and that is it. I'm too lazy for head cement, though it would help. Here are the hooks...I dig them. Contact Matt, link on the sidebar: