Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One thing that is nearly always true

If you put your boots in the water and start walking, you are bound to see something cool. That held true throughout the 4 day swing with a couple of legends from MN. I am sure those four days will provide some fodder for the blog and all three of my regular readers can expect a decent stream of photos and updates over the next few days, but for the most part I am having a tough time putting things together in my head. The basics are there (crappy, cold, high water...big winds, limited sun, good company etc) but the details and particulars are still awash in the general awesomeness that is 4 days of flyrod carping with buddies. Four days of nothing but water and sky and fly rods and legions of doom and puffy lips and broken Tippett and bent hooks and good pizza and busted shins and horrible netting techniques and carp. Lots and lots of carp. Granted they weren't always in spots we could catch them and they often were hard to see, fuzzy shapes slinking along in thigh deep cloudy water, ghosts with the potential to thrill and amaze if you could just make them out a little better! Anyone who has done this knows of what I speak...so tantalizingly close to epic that settling for amazing seems too much to bear.

So we went with it, and I will likely spend some time this week doing what we did...putting our boots in the water and walking until we saw something cool. Unable to put any decent structure to those days together in my head, I am just going to plod along and see what comes out. Hell, we got enough good images to tell the story better than my piss poor writing can, so let's just wing this. Starting with a shot taken by Wendy Berrell.

A flat out money shot that came about solely because we kept our boots in the water. With the river a mess we walked into this field and proceeded to wack the carp in knee deep water amongst the small shrubs and large trees. Note WFF in the background stalking some carp. He stuck his share back there too.

The difficulty here was the fish had immediate and dangerous access to piles of bushes, trees, deadfall, blackberry bushes and god knows what else so we basically had to clamp down on their asses and hang on. I broke off 10 fish in one day using 12 lb mono. What a trip!

We found em, but had a heck of a time pulling them out. The basic fact is that if you keep moving, you might find something cool.

Monday, May 30, 2011

End of the trip

Much more to come, but Wendy and WFF are winging home as I type. Just want to put out a thank you to those guys for expending the effort to join me out here. Wendy and I go back a long ways and our time on the water together is important to us both. Really enjoyed fishing with WFF as well, that sob simply never stopped smiling. Condition were just short of brutal. One day of full sun and little wind but the river is higher than I have ever seen it and most days the wind hammered us (to the tune of 25 mph yesterday). We roughed it out, worked hard and put right around 60 carp in the net in four days. Broke off tons of fish in brush and debris from the high water, so the big boys eluded us...we figured an average weight of around 12 lbs. Thanks again to you two for making the journey and being great sports about the rough conditions! More pics and stories to come, but for now, a great shot by WFF of a small fish that I caught. This is what it is all about.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brief interruption

Back to the day 4 report and some awesome pictures soon...but have to give a big thank you to Singlebarbed! Got home from a great trip to see this:

And for the record, Keith Barton dubbing was used in the flies that stuck several of the 18 carp we landed today. The deadly free range dubbing will soon be applied to more flies...I need to replace the 10 I left stuck in puffy carp lips today. Tough to land em when their primary escape route includes a path through flooded blackberry bushes. More to come on that, but a quick picture:

Thanks for the dubbing Keith. That stuff rocks and will cause many, many carp to have sore lips.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day Three Highlights

Wendy Berrell is a carping machine. He and his Legion of Doom fly are a deadly combination.

WFF put a 100 yard stalk on our first "tail out of water"tailer...and stuck the fish in one cast.

I watched a fully scaled mirror pounce on Wendy's LOD like the fish had been waiting his whole life to see that fly.

I got skunked.

The river is a mess, but we are slogging through. Caught some fish, saw some cool stuff and ended the day eating burgers, wings and watching UFC 130. In short, we are kicking ass.

One day remains.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Picture of a picture

When my dad got his first digital camera he used to tell me to "zoom in and take a picture of a picture." I think what he was asking me to do was crop a photo. Well, these next few shots really are pictures of the LCD screen of my camera. Basically, I left the laptop at home. Still, despite the cards stacked against WFF and Wendy Berrell in the form of gale force winds, a river that appears to be made of sludge, water that is so far in the trees the birds all have wet feet, and some relatively piss poor guiding...the boys are putting some fish on the bank. Hell, I have even caught a couple. In short, the river tried to kick our ass and we are kicking right back. Round three tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day One

Wendy Berrell and WFF landed yesterday for four days of carping. Four days on the river with a couple of good dudes. Pretty tough to beat so a big thanks to Kelly, Emily and Liz! Day one ended and despite horrid river conditions, we did pretty well. The big C is pretty big right now and so murky we were afraid to even get in the water. We hit a few ponds and worked our way into some fish despite less than ideal water. WFF landed his first ever Oregon carp, a 14 lb bruiser that put a smile on all of our faces. Wendy hooked the "biggest f'ing carp you've ever seen!" (he screamed that into the camera...awesome video) and I managed a few fish myself. All told, 16 fish landed for just over 176 lbs in total weight. No monsters brought to hand yet, though we all had our chances.

More of the same tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One bad fish

From 2008 with Wendy Berrell. I poached this bitch while Wendy was working a (much smaller) tailer. A good host would have said, "hey...there is a pig". Instead I sauntered over and stuck her. I get that from my old man...fair warning to anyone coming for a visit.

Fishing and Thinking

It is rare that I point out a specific blog post but this one was worth highlighting. Full disclosure, Wendy Berrell and I went to college together and remain close friends and fishing buddies despite roughly 1832 miles between us. We manage to make time at least once a year to fish and talk (unless driving, in which case Wendy sleeps like a two year old). Check this out, the good stuff is below those nasty looking carp flies.

Fishing and Thinking in MN

There are a lot of blogs out there written by people who want to say something (mine included) but precious few written by people with something to say. Keep up the good work Wendy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The two loud cracks heard in my neighborhood tonight

One was Elia's collarbone snapping while she rolled down the hill at the park. The other was my heart breaking for my little girl.

A normal evening, scooter rides and some races and somersaults down the hill at the park turned into a trip to the ER for some x-rays. I stayed home with JJ and Kelly took Elia and returned with this sling (adult size...we will be downsizing in the morning). Six weeks of keeping her arm stable and all will be well...Elia is a trooper and I am certain that Dad is more freaked out than she is.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You gotta make em move

Carp out here on the big C and Willamette are basically lazy buggers. Sure, they will chase down a crayfish or dart after a nymph on occasion with the best of the legendary Great Lakes fish but if you want to really hammer the fish out west you have to feed them the fly. And herein lies the problem. Case in point, the lazy ass tailing carp below.

I could cast the fly a foot or two in front of the fish and strip it past and it might get up and chase the fly. Heck, with all the targets out here at times you could catch plenty of fish doing that and have a great time, but if you can put that fly on the dinner plate within a few inches without spooking the fish...it will flat out eat the fly. I have gotten pretty adept at casting close enough to get the eat, but not so close as to spook the fish. It takes a little feel, much like nymphing.

The issue is when to set the hook. If you do it right the tailing carp above will keep on happily doing exactly what it has been doing and your fly simply becomes another morsel to be sucked in and devoured...no wasted motion. Carp can suck in a fly from about a foot away without moving...I have seen them do it. With this in mind you can either guess (frankly, this works, if the fly is there and the fish isn't spooked it will eat that fly) or you can make em move. Instead of putting the fly inches directly in front of the fish, put the fly inches in front of the fish and 2-3 inches to the side of the fish. Make the fish turn its head ever so slightly and then key on the head turn, or on the tail pushing the fish around. You don't have to get the carp to chase, but you gotta make em move.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Last of the crummy iPhone pictures

All three regular readers (hi Mom!) rejoice. The Pentax WG-1 arrived tonight. You gotta love a camera that comes with a carabiner.

Just don't expect any photographic miracles.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A few notes

1). Taking pictures in high water with an iPhone sucks. Most attempts turned out like this turd.

Supposed to be an interesting shot of the weird tail, but it basically sucks.

2). Fishing in muddy water is interesting. When your "normal" flats are chest deep you can either bitch and moan or keep walking. I bitch and moan while walking...saves time. Basically, to combat mud and visibility issues I tell myself to find knee deep water at all costs. This might entail fishing in the grass or walking a long ways but if you keep moving (slowly) you will eventually stumble into something cool like this.

Just don't spook it. This was the "chew the cud" fish and tipped the scales at 17 lbs. And yes, I took the time to get my iPhone out of a plastic baggy and take that picture before tapping the fish on the shoulder with two feet of Tippett out my rod tip. I am secretly hoping to drop the phone...hello upgrade.

3). I caught 1 (ONE) fish on the San Juan worm. I was, am, and will remain stunned. Generally speaking in these condition (high water in the weeds, muddy, single tailers digging on the bottom, etc) the sjw is crazy good. For whatever reason the black and orange nymph crushed the fish in an even taste test (I fish a two fly rig). Not sure what to say about that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sometimes you have to tap them on the shoulder

I froze. The carp had materialized out of nowhere, one rod length in front me with its face buried in a clump of grass. I watched as it oared backwards and settled to the bottom. Its mouth and gills kept moving, like a cow chewing its cud. I was too close to cast, so I slowly pulled in the fly line, leaving about two feet of Tippett hanging out of the guides. Then I reached forward and tapped her on the shoulder. Moo,Moo.

I had been standing still for so long I was sure I was sinking. The shoreline seemed to be getting higher. I was surrounded by spawning carp. Groups of three and four at a time splashed around me, only spooking when they bumped into my legs. I waited...looking for a single. A pair dashed by on my left, a threesome cavorted on my right. Then, directly in front of me...a single tail. A hungry carp. Good thing I brought some hemostats.

I studied the three dark shapes up against the shoreline. The middle fish was noticeably bigger than the other two, but a cast to the big one would risk lining his two buddies. I studied the angle, weighed my options. I could surely catch one of the other two fish...slightly ahead of the middle guy. Or I could blow all three aiming for the big fish. I would only get one cast at at the middle fish, and maybe two or three at the other two. Stared and thought. In the end, I only needed one cast. 20 lbs.

Three out of about 15. The rest are fading into bits and pieces. A tail here, a pounce there. So much to see on the water.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Not much to this fly

Again...been thinking simplify this year. Basic, basic pattern and shape in a bunch of colors. This color (black and orange chenille) was money last time out.

No need to comment on what a crap tier I am...I am well aware, but I bet you a dozen donuts carp will eat this sucker.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I have been blessed with not one, but two amazing mothers in my life. Quite frankly having children of my own has made me realize that my mom is a saint. Imagine raising 4 kids, one with childhood diabetes, and TWO born without hip sockets and therefore spending many long months in full body casts. Do all this while your husband drives a train for a living and is gone for 3-4 days at a time. Oh...and keep in mind that the fourth kid was me. Like I said. Saint.

And my wife? I have a minimum of 2 "I am not worthy" moments per week. Somehow she keeps us all humming along despite me working too much, fishing too much and in general being, well, me. I look at my kids everyday with a stunned appreciation for the opportunities Kelly brings them and know that the love and kindness my children exude is a direct reflection of the boundless love Kelly possesses for our family...right down to the dog and BOTH rats. All of this while continuing her own personal journey and growth...amazing woman indeed.

Happy Mother's Day to you both...I doubt I can ever show my appreciation enough but I promise to try.

And she is still smoking hot too.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

Am I alone in thinking that the mirror carp has a clear cut place at the table of beautiful fish?

Yes, I still understand that they are carp...lips and tails and according to many: slime. But there is just something about the mirrors. Each scale pattern unique and brilliant, made all the prettier in full sunshine.

This is the carp's version of a brilliantly colored rainbow, or the chrome brightness of a steelhead fresh from the ocean. Maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I can't be alone in being enamored with mirror carp...can I?

I do get the lips thing. Sometimes they still freak me out.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Surprise, surprise

Returning home after what can only be described as a LONG week of work I was handed a package by my wife. No sane carper (if that rare species exists) could avoid letting out a whoop upon seeing the contents. Mine was loud enough to bring Elia running.

What an amazingly thoughtful gift from the legendary Mr. P! I am fortunate to fish with Jim every year...any two people nuts enough to be public about a love affair with carp in the steelhead crazy pacific northwest are bound to find each other. Thanks again Jim! You literally made my week...

Off to do some reading.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Eventually, I will hunger to hear the stories and see the pictures...but for now...I am jealous as hell.

Third Coast Fly Beaver Island Media Outing

I know I could find my 35 lber on beaver island. Should be a crazy time with that crew in that locale. Go get em boys!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Have you seen your backing lately?

I have.

Some of you may (or may not have) heard the tremendous sigh I voiced at approximately 1100 this morning. Not a whoop or a holler, but nevertheless a loud enough sigh to reverberate off the water and sky and send my tension and stress downriver faster than the current could possibly carry. Yeah, it felt pretty good, but despite a great day of catching carp I would say that the fish are ready but the rivers isn't.

I arrived at the river this morning and my optimism disappeared. The river was high, muddy and cold. No bank at all, just submerged trees. I rigged up and got into the water but after thirty fruitless minutes staring into the murk I was officially going through the motions. I told myself I would walk to a certain point, and I am ashamed to admit that after an hour I stopped a mere 50 yards from my self imposed target. With disgust, I turned around and began a hasty, moribund trudge back to the jeep. I plowed through the muddy river grumbling and scowling, but to my credit I continued to scan the water ahead. Suddenly, about 100 ft ahead I saw something that may or may not have been a swirl in the placid surface. I slowed up but stayed well short of full on stalk mode. Sixty feet out and I saw a dark shape in the dark river that may or may not have been a fish. I stopped. After a full minute of intense squinting the dark shape may or may not have moved. What the hell...I slipped into full on stalk mode and crept closer. At 20 ft I was certain it was a fish but in the murky water I couldn't even decipher head from tail. After a mental coin flip I made a cast and my two fly rig immediately vanished in the sludge. I counted to 6, the shape may or may not have moved and I set the hook. After that I really only remember two things. One...the worlds biggest sigh. And two, praying that I didn't drag back a scale from a foul hooked fish. A few minutes later I slipped this 17 lb beauty into the net.

Here is where it gets slightly amazing, at least considering the spring we have had. For the next several hours I found carp. Regularly. The numbers of fish weren't huge but they were there and ready to eat if you could decipher the fish and take through the mud filled river. I dumped the bad attitude and slipped into full on hunt mode, moving so slowly I could have snuck up on a heron. I got right on top of fish and stared through the muck with such intensity that I swear I was forcing the water to clear up...and I started to hook fish.

Early on the fly of choice was a black and orange bodied soft hackle, but as the day wore on the worm had it's moments and overall I think I landed more fish on the worm.

I landed a total of 18 carp. Not a typo and I kept track since this was the first day I have really found fish. I think the fish are as eager for warm water as me, now it is just a matter of waiting for the river to fall into shape a bit...and a few more degrees would help! Most of the fish were smaller, in the 9-11 lb range but I landed 5 over fifteen lbs. A 15, 16,16,17, and 17 in total. I had one huge mirror carp break me off right at the net (over eager on my part) and while I don't think that fish was in the Wendy Berrell class, it would have been my biggest mirror for sure. I did land one mirror, this 13 lber.

I apologize for the crappy photos...high water + my camera is AWOL...pretty tough taking photos of carp with an iPhone!

I feel better. No more angst filled posts and whining about the cold spring. Prime time is just around the corner!