Monday, August 30, 2010

Homecoming on the big C

The trip to lake MI has my head loaded with images. Crystal clear water, shallow flats and miles and miles of sweet carp habitat. Unfortunately we only had a legitimate shot at one carp, and yes, I blew it. Next time.

But with the carp itch far from sated I hit the road today with one thing in mind. Big fish. The columbia is loaded with carp but the truly big fish hang out in much different water than your average big c carp. If you want a big one, ignore the mud flats, shallow bays and standard carping fare. First and foremost, large carp want access to deep water, so I fish edges and drop offs. I also look for larger gravel and cobble, even boulders. This means covering more water, and fishing a 2-3 ft window rather than a big flat. Today I charged through the shallow stuff pretty quickly I. Order to get to the marginal water that I hoped would hold the fish I was after.

Of course, on the way through the flats I had to make a few casts! I think I landed the first three tailers I saw, which felt pretty good. The sun was high, the fish were there and the only thing really holding me back was the wind. Hands down, this was the worst wind I have ever fished in (yes roughfisher, even worse than those spring). Many times during the day I nearly fell in after a particularly powerful gust. An hour or two into my walk and it was basically impossible to cast into the wind. I had to stealth my way into an angle on the fish I. Order to have a chance of getting the fly to them.

I moved along the marginal water and had my share of shots at large fish. I hooked three. The first one popped off quickly and I found a scale on my hook. Snag job. Big fish #2 got off in a weedbed, as did #3. I just couldn't put it all together today. The third big one I hooked was scary, freakishly big. Easily the biggest common I have ever hooked. That fish just materialized as a huge fantail near the surface of some deep water on a drop off. I crouched down and snuck close as it slowly pivoted and moved in to shallow water. I flipped the fly to the fish from about 20 ft away, and it took in a classic "stop tailing and move forward" manner. I was stunned that it came together so easily, but not so stunned that I missed the hook set. Unfortunately, the weeds were close by and the fish got off quickly. What a beast though. It is only a matter of time before I get one that size.

I walked back through the shallows and stuck some more fish. The biggest of the day was a 16 lber that I caught off a gravel bar. It was a really nice day on the water. The big fish are out there, but it might be next year before I get to them again.

Flying home shortly from a nice stay in MN. On a whim Wendy Berrell, his brother Joe and I ran east to the legendary flats of lake MI in search of carp. We walked miles of spectacular water but the carp were simply AWOL. We saw two sure thing fish, only one that we had a legit chance to catch (and I botched it...ugh). Joe did break in his new 7 wt on this sweet smallie that we caught on a random river crossed on the drive home. I literally do not know the River's name. We ended up with 6-7 smallies but no carp. I will go back though. Lake MI is stunning.

More pics of the beautiful flats of lake MI when I get home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crummy camera phone picture

Inspiration provided once again by Wendy Berrell. Nothing too fancy but these will get eaten. Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More pics courtesy of Dr. Cane

More pics from a weekend filled with memories. Here is Coleman bringing his first carp to hand.

A nice mirror I caught, actually my last fish of the trip.

We had a couple of doubles and one near miss triple.

What a great weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coleman, Columbia, carp and Dr. Cane

Coleman's first carp came much as I had envisioned it would. We stepped to the water and stood still for a few minutes scanning for fish. Twenty five feet out and slightly to our left a solitary tailer chowed down on the sand flat, likely enjoying a breakfast of clams and aquatic worms, maybe a nymph or two. Coleman had no trouble spotting the fish, but his first cast was too far from the business end of the carp. He lined up a second cast and I watched as the flies sank in perfect position, just a few inches away and slightly to the side. The flies touched down and the carp quickly closed the gap and ate. I yelled "set!" and Coleman hammered the hook home and fought his first carp to a standstill.

It was a good omen, and actually our second fish of the trip. An early start had led to both Dr. Cane and myself getting a couple of shots at tailers on the way to our primary locale and I managed to stick a nice fish.

The sun was high, the fish were active, and the company was great. We wandered down the river spotting fish and tossing flies. Not every carp took and not every take was spotted, but we found enough action to keep us busy. It didn't take Dr. Cane long to drop a laser like cast on an active fish and bring him to the net.

I spent most of the first day just meandering along, going back and forth between Coleman and dr. Cane with the net and enjoying their company and the general excitement that comes with tailing carp. I was standing next to Coleman a few hours into day one and watched him place a perfect 35 ft cast to a cruising carp. The cruiser paused for a split second and my right arm twitched a bit as I watched it unfold. Before I could think to say anything Coleman lifted the rod and we watched this beautiful mirror zip off the flats and listened to some sweet reel music.

The rest of the day played the same tune. We left the flats in the evening, tired, satisfied and already thinking about the next day.

We woke to a river that looked completely different than anything I had ever fished. The flats were dry piles of gravel and mud. The water was low and the wind was gone. Not a stitch of wind or a ripple to be seen. This combination proved tough and we spent the better part of the day spooking the few fish we found out of the tiny bit of remaining shallows. After quite a bit of exploring we found a large group of carp heavily feeding on the edge of a mud flat. With the water clouded up from the feeding we were able to walk right into the middle of the fish and Coleman put on a zen carp master show. Fishing only the sjw he dapped carp on his left, he dapped carp on his right, and he dapped carp from right under my feet. Dr. Cane and I could only laugh as Coleman put on a sjw clinic.

Chris and I stuck some fish as well, and I finally put a hook in a real pig. This one scaled out at just over 20 lbs, the big fish of the trip

We did have a triple going but the fly on Dr. Cane's fish popped right at his feet. I will put up the double picture and some more pics of all of us after Dr. Cane emails them to me.

All in all it was a great trip. Both Dr. Cane and Coleman are great anglers and fishing with them was a pleasure. Coleman took right to the zen nature of carp fishing. On the ride home I asked him, "what were you keying on to figure out when to set the hook?".

Coleman kind of thought about it for a minute and said "I can't really say. I just figured they were eating the fly."

That is carp on the fly in the big C.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trout fishing?

Once upon a time I was a respectable trout angler. I used to spend hours tying nymphs and soft hackles; I named the wilted spinach after the salad my wife was making while I sat at the vice. I thought a 7 wt was a broomstick and I not only carried 6x tippet...I actually used it! I fished for trout in the rivers around whitefish, casting big, bushy dry flies. I paddled a pontoon around the reservation lakes in search of big bows and browns, and snuck around the tiny pools of the MN spring creeks, casting from my knees and delighting in the spots of the brown trout. My fishing life has taken a big turn the past few years and while carp have taken center stage, I would never deny the allure of trout. Monday night I was lucky enough to get back to some trout fishing with some good friends. While definitely rusty, the rhythm of dry fly fishing came back before too long. When looking at water like this things come together pretty quickly.

With the clackamas river, finding the trout is pretty easy. They are everywhere. All a person has to do is fling the right dry fly around and make sure it stays afloat in the swirling currents. I managed to find a small trout here:

Fishing my Paul Young Perfectionist taper cane rod makes the size of the trout irrelevant, which is a good thing on the Clack. I don't think I landed anything over 10 inches but each and every fish was a blast. And there were many. A rough estimate of fish to frills honest best guess? Fifty.

It was a great night on the clack. Nice to see some old friends in both the men who showed up and the fish who chased our flies. I will get back to the carp soon, I am already tying and dreaming of the next tailer, but going back to my respectable roots was a lot of fun.

Sweet, sweet clams

Most days when out fishing I see a lot of this:

Has Michael Gracie found the solution to the Columbia river clam dilemma? Field testing will be required (in the name of science as I tell my wife) but from where I sit here on my couch these flies are gold! Pure gold MG!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Reel John Montana

Imagine my dad moseying on down the flat, eight weight in hand, polarized glasses on. He spots this in the shallows.

With a steady hand he takes the worm pattern off the hook keep and prepares to cast. The first cast is long, putting the flies too far from the tailing fish. Patiently he picks up then line and casts again.

This time the fly lands in the intended spot. He waits while the worm sinks into position. The tail dips, the fish moves slowly forward, the tail comes back up and he sets the hook. In seconds the fish is peeling off the flats, searching for deep water.

I watch as the carp zips by my feet and my dad merely hangs on. With a hot carp in July, all you can do is hang on. As the carp slows, well into the backing by now, my dad dad begins the long process of getting the fish to hand. The hook holds and a few minutes later we slip the fish into my net.

Just another day on the flats for The Reel John Montana.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Green Fly

About as simple as you get...kind of like the rest of the flies I tie. Basic green erstatz body, courtesy of the Roughfisher, and then green pheasant hackle. I use whatever beads I have sitting around and a very short shanked hook with a big gap in a two or four. I was using scud hooks, but I ran out. Honestly, tie some green crap on a hook, add hackle and a bead and throw it in front of a carp. I never pretended to be much of a tier. For that, check out Michael Gracie or the roughfisher. This ugly bugger works though.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Green Fly

Money. But if you use it, bring some hemostats.

Been fishing the heck out of this thing since the roughfisher's visit. Basically a staple fly now. I honestly have no idea how many fish this pattern has caught this year, but it is a lot. Ask Wendy Berrell, Dr. Cane, and the Reel John Montana if it works!

Dr. Cane

The good Dr. took to carping in about...ten minutes.

I think that is how long we walked the flats before he got his first really good look at a carp. It went something like this:

Me: thirty feet up, tailing, head facing us and 45 degrees toward shore. Put the fly about six inches in front and 4 inches to the side.

Dr. Cane: where is he?

Me: right there (pointing rod).

Dr. Cane: got him (makes cast and the fly lands 6 inches in front and 4 inches to the side of the tailing fish.)

Me: wait for him...wait...set!

Bingo. Done deal and the carp came to hand moments later. The bottom line is that Dr. Cane can flat out cast. He absolutely peppered carp with accurate casts. It was a sight to watch. Granted, it took him a while to decipher the takes but that masked man can put the fly where he wants it.

Very enjoyable to fish with the guy, but he made me feel bad with my broomstick casting and clumsy line skills. Dr. Cane is pure poetry with a flyrod. We had an amazing time and got into plenty of fish. I am pretty sure we have a convert now. Chris was a great sport, even willing to literally swim the river with me to get to one area I wanted to check out. Superb caster, willing swimmer...and he brought me some sweet hooks. Nice.

The only bummer was the lack of truly huge fish. I landed two over 18 and Dr. Cane got a 15 but the 20s eluded us. Chris put a hook in one (stupid weeds) and I beached one only to have the fly pop put and not be quick enough to pounce on it before it bolted from the shallows. Still, some great fishing.

We both caught some mirrors, and the takes were fantastic. Dr. Cane had one in particular that was awesome. He had a fish all lit up and poking around for his fly, but we kept missing the take. On the third cast the fly fell perfectly, just slightly to the side and the fish turned, opened it's mouth wide and sucked it in. Fish on. Awesome.

Truly a great time. I am looking forward to more trips with Dr. Cane.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

And people say they are ugly.
Quite a few trip a in the books for July, and I will get some pictures of some fish up soon. We got into some nice fish this month, and while none were absolute monsters, we caught more than our fair share of mirrors. Elia and I hadn't walked ten feet of this flat before the green fly struck again.

She duked it out with this one for a while but a columbia carp in July is pretty hot and she needed a hand getting it to the net. She is a trooper though and she loves carp!

Looking for a worm.