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.