Monday, June 27, 2011

Lake MI 2.0

In a few words...massive success. We only had two days of sun, but that didn't stop us from putting the hurt on the fish. Rough numbers for the trip...

75-80 total carp to hand

45-50 smallmouth bass to hand.

Largest fish, a 23 lb beast caught by Wendy Berrell. I got one at 21 lbs as well.

Roughly 10 smallmouth in the 17-18 inch range...we weighed one of those fish at dead on 4 lbs.

Lost flies...countless.

Destroyed gear list...many leaders, and not one but two pairs of boots (lost the felt soles off both my Simms and Wendy's redington boots).

Pictures never do a trip justice, but this time they might come close. We took some fantastic photos. It will be a while before I get home to put up pictures, so keep an eye on Wendy's blog...he will likely get pictures up before me.

So many visual memories in my head right now...crazy. Wendy and I spoke frequently about how blessed we have been to keep up this tradition, and how our trips keep evolving. Truly special time...a big thanks to Kelly and the kids and mrs. Wendy and his little ones as well.

More later.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mostly sunny and a high of 75

Yeah, that plus Wendy Berrell and myself prowling the flats is enough to make a guy feel sorry for the carp of lake MI. We put a serious hurt on the carp today, landing somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 carp, and a half dozen or so smallmouth. Once again we threw big rabbit and squirrel flies onto rocky flats, enticing follows and turns and dashes and big, white rimmed open mouth takes. Stunning stuff. Too many memorable takes too recount. Lake MI is and amazing resource.

One day left. We will once again stalk the flats, primarily looking for some real brutes to top our best two fish of the trip thus far (23 lbs for Wendy and 21 for me). The forecast for tomorrow...mostly sunny and a high of 75.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 2

After tearing up the smallies last night, I totally get the smallmouth bass thing. Prior to last night I hadn't had good action or caught any big smallies...pretty cool fish.

Still, today dawned with more rain clouds and dark sky but we didn't hesitate. We skipped a sure thing smallie slaughtering and went exploring for carp.

And we found em. Lots and lots of them. Instead of slaughtering smallies, we slaughtered the carp. We didn't count but had at least 25 to hand between the two of us, the biggest at 19 lbs and the vast bulk of fish right around 11. While the numbers were good, what made the day great is these freaking carp absolutely chase flies with abandon. No time was spent "detecting the take". Instead, we lead the fish, plopped a big, huge, rabbit stripped lead eyed monstrosity out there and stripped like hell. Some crushing takes and truly memorable moments. Two day of this stuff remaining.

And tomorrow's forecast...mostly sunny.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Great Lakes Carp

Day one...we saw carp. Big improvement over our last attempt out here. Wendy even caught a little 11 lber (and I snagged one in the face). Still a stunningly beautiful setting and just an amazing experience but we fished all day in high, nasty dark cloud cover. We quite simply couldn't see anything. With a little sun I think we would have been in business with the carp but it didn't happen today. The bulk of the carp we saw were already spooked, we just couldn't spot them in time.

Fortunately, there are a just a couple of smallmouth around here. Toward the end of the day we started blasting casts along the rock edges of the flats and began hammering the smallies...big ones too. We even got to do a little smallie sight fishing when we would catch a nice shoreline shadow. All told, we landed roughly 22-24 smallmouth with at least 6 or 7 in the 17-18 inch range. Flat out great evening session.

Tired, and ready for more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sleeping carp

Mr. P just wrote a nice blog with some comments on sleeping carp. It seems like Jim and I have been on the same wavelength, or more likely fishing to the same type of post spawn carp. Throughout the season any dedicated carper will come across lots of resting carp. Oftentimes they are simply laying near the surface soaking up heat from the sun, tempting targets that are, in general, a waste of time. They are not active feeders, nor are they likely to suddenly decide to eat but if no other targets are might as well fling some flies.

After years of casting at every carp I can lay eyes on my thoughts are pretty simple when it comes to sleeping or sunning carp. If they are in deep water, 1 out of 100 might eat. If they are sunning/sleeping in shallow water you absolutely can talk them into a meal. The conversation is the tricky part and usually requires a change of flies. You no longer want a quick sinking bottom heavy dredger, instead, fish something light and airy that has motion without requiring much movement to activate said motion. My past favorite...the rubber legged hares ear. My current favorite (shocker here)...the soft hackle nymph with a light bead.

The method is what you would expect, but works best when you are a stealthy SOB and can dap, rather than cast to the fish. Sneak right in there and hang that fly inches from his face. I mean inches, as in 1-3 and not 6-8. That distinction is the difference between catching one and thinking they can't be caught. If the fish doesn't either eat, or slowly spook out of there after a few repeated slow sinks past their mouth...I usually try to wake them up. It is shocking how often this works...but it does. Ask Mctage. If they don't eat, and don't spook I will quite simply rest the fly on their close to the mouth as possible. Try not to laugh and spook the fish when you see your size 10 soft hackle resting on the carp's lip like bad teenage facial hair. Leave it there for a second and what usually happens is the carp wakes up and swims backwards a few inches...I just let the nymph fall and then jig it upwards right in front of the suddenly awake and aware fish. Usually, this is an instant take. They simply reach up and grab the fly. Truth be told...I have caught many nice carp using this seemingly ridiculous technique. Bonk em, then jig. In close quarters on shallow water sleeping carp, it is often the only way to talk them into a meal.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy fathers day!

Happy fathers day to everyone out there. Good day to remind Yourself how lucky we all are. Good day to reflect on things, and hug your kids...actually everyday is a good day to hug your kids.

Some old pictures of JJ and Elia.

My kids both have boundless passion. While frustrating at times, I know it will serve them well in the long run. Life without passion would flat out suck.

Happy fathers day to my dad as well! We have lots of great memories together and I am thankful for all he has taught me, even if his "cat like reflexes" are mostly in his mind nowadays.

This September my dad is taking me to the Royal Coachman Lodge in Alaska. Going to be a special trip in an amazing place. Thanks dad! And happy fathers day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So I am still not really sure where to go with all of this. The truth is, we slayed 'em. We caught tons of really nice carp and a few really big carp, and a couple of really monstrous carp. The trip was an amazing success regardless of conditions if you look at just the numbers, but carping is certainly about more than just the numbers. Fishing is about more than just the least to those that really love it.

There are always those particular moments that hit you when on the water. I remember in particular the smallest fish that I caught all trip. We were walking back for a last ditch effort and what was supposed to be a travel zone turned into a carping zone. We spotted fish way up in some grass and caught one or two each...small ones like I said but one that I caught was a take that will replay in my mind. I was crouched at the waist with the fish slow cruising to me through pockets of grass. I dapped a fly into the opening to which the fish was headed and when he cleared the debris the fish reached up like it was picking an apple and grabbed my suspended fly. This was in about 6 inches of water.

I remember Mctage sticking a 16 lb athlete on the open river. Another slow cruiser (my favorite targets) out on the deep edge of the deep and flooded flat. I am not sure how he saw the fish or the take...I just remember the smile as that rocket took off into the depths of the Columbia.

I remember the grass. We fished two kinds of grass...stuff so thick and field grass high that the name of the game was picking an opening and hanging your fly there, hoping the target chose that particular path. And we fished cropped and manicured grass next to picnic lush and vibrant and green that it was distracting to see these big, dark alien shapes cruising and tailing where families should have been playing frisbee and eating potato salad. In many cases the fish were tailing so vigorously that we simply couldn't get the fly through the grass to the fish's level.

I remember slowing down and taking a moment to look at several of the fish we caught and marvel. Carp are amazing creatures. Big fins, massive tails and broad shoulders...they truly are fascinating. So efficient. At one point, after releasing the big, 31 lb female I grabbed my rod and took a few steps back to the water and stopped. I looked up Mctage and said I needed to take a few minutes to really enjoy that experience properly. I sat on the bank and watched him fish. After a few minutes, I got up and waded back out into the carp. I don't remember if I caught another one that night.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Big fish

So day 4 ended with me dropping off an exhausted Mctage at the airport. We fished hard, had a blast and stuck some serious fish. I don't really know where to start so I will just extend a big thank you to Mctage for expending the effort to get out here from CO. I had a great time fishing with him and he clearly knows his carp. We fished about 2/3 of the day today but caught enough carp to end the trip having laid our hands on roughly 100 total fish. Mctage caught what I believe is his largest carp ever at 23 lbs.

This fish was a serious beast and required a shallow water stalk on his knees to get into position to get the eat. We landed several other absolute monster carp. I landed a 21 lb fish on the first day and also managed to land a 22, 23 and 31 lb carp. Here are a few pictures of the 31 lb bruiser.

This fish took a size 8 black and orange soft hackle. What a hog.

Still a lot of thoughts slipping through my head and I will sort through some things and put up (a lot) more pictures over the next few days. The carp were tough, with the takes being as subtle as they ever get, but as is always the case with carping, good things happen when your boots are in the water. We saw some amazing things and fished in some interesting places...more on all of that later. For now all I can say is what a trip!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day, we get too cocky

Riding the day one high we rolled the dice a bit and fished some water that I knew was a bit of a crap shoot. Turned out ok, but it wasn't red hot. The fish were there but with the high water we struggled to get any good presentations. All told we landed 11 fish, with the best being a broad shouldered 16 lb athlete that took Mctage for a serious ride. We closed the day fishing the worst water imaginable...literally a flooded forest, full downed trees and pitfalls. We caught three in that mess.

Overall...good stuff happening here in Oregon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Those CO boys can fish!

Mctage arrived last night and we just finished day one. If it wasn't clear before, let me tell you. CO has some serious carpers. Mctage eclipsed double digits his first day out fishing in the jungle, plucking carp from the brush and grass with ease. It was quite a day with roughly 40 carp brought to hand, and our five biggest fish were 20, 19, 18, 18, and 16. We set the bar high for the rest of the trip.

Day two tomorrow. Pray for clear water and sunny skies!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Midway through day two I hadn't stuck a fish. I was happy as a clam (though I doubt clams in the Columbia are happy...major carp fodder) and had spent most of the morning running back and forth netting fish, taking pictures and giving out high fives to a pair of smiling fisherman. It wasn't red hot, but we were doing ok with a few nice fish, including this great double.

Note the blue sky...that always makes me smile. We had some rays, and the boys were taking advantage of the light. After moving through the mud flats we came to series of small, rocky bays. Normally this is one of my favorite spots on the river but given the water levels we were struggling. The fish were there, tailing in the boulders but the wading was brutal. Repeated slips and falls and one badly bashed shin marked our efforts, with just enough shots to keep us moving down the treacherous water. This is big fish water though, and it did bring us our biggest "to hand" fish. As we stumbled along I spotted a big tail waving amongst the boulders. WFF was on my right and quickly put a fly on the fish but an errant gust of wind contributed to a nasty tangle and ended his attempt at the feeding carp. I looked over at Wendy but he was too far away to risk the movement in the slippery conditions, so I flipped my two fly rig to the fish. As the flies sank I snuck a glance at WFF and said "he is going to eat that." A second later I set the hook and the fish screamed out into the river. This was one of the few fish we hooked that had room to run, and it felt good to see my backing. Approximately 45 minutes later (in dog years) Wendy deftly netted this nice carp.

The fish tipped the scales at over 15 lbs, and while we all hooked bigger fish, this was the biggest we managed to net. It came on a perfect actively tailing fish in amongst the boulders, a soft presentation and a short, sharp head turn to the fly...memorable.

Monday, June 06, 2011

In the thick of it

Or, why I bought some 16 lb leaders on Sunday.

The jungle. This ain't carp fishing for the faint of heart. Hook em close and hang on...

If these fish get more than ten feet away, it is game over...unless you are good at mazes and can follow a fish through this stuff.

All told, the three of us broke off something like 17 carp in one day fishing in that mess. We would have landed more had we stuck to the open road.

Fun stuff, but I miss my flats.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


The one hand hold. Tradition, however limited with regard to carp on the fly here in OR requires an attempt at a one hand hold by any and all visitors. Why...because Wendy did it one time and I thought it was funny. As was typical with regard to the massive enthusiasm and smiles that WFF exhibited throughout this adventure, the one hand hold was accepted as a personal challenge, to great effect.

The trick of course is finding the right size fish. Years of study have determined that the one hand hold is possible only with fish under 12 lbs, and the higher end of that scale increases the difficult dramatically. As you can see, WFF took right to the challenge and found multiple opportunities for the statue of liberty pose.

At one point he was so immersed in the vegetation of the forest that even as he whooped and hollered to indicate he had hooked yet another carp, neither Wendy nor myself knew where he was in the maze of trees and brush. Not to this point in the trip WFF was an old hand and knew just what to do.

Nicely done WFF. Nicely done.

Saturday, June 04, 2011


Have I mentioned the water was high? With my favorite areas neck deep I was scraping the bottom of the proverbial fish in a barrel deal to put WFF and Wendy on some fish. Late in day one we headed to a tiny strip of backwater that I knew held some carp. Typically I fish big, open water with flats and gravel bars...nice big landscapes. This slough was more like an oversize drainage ditch...narrow and deep with just a 50 by 50 area where the carp are catchable. I have found that sunning carp are nearly impossible if they are in deep water, but if you can find those same sunning fish in waist deep or shallower, you can talk them into eating. The slough was just over waist deep, and there must have been 30 carp spread out in the shallow area...sunning. Time for some fancy talking.

First up was WFF. He snuck down the bank like a seasoned pro, armed with instructions to hook the nearest fish and flat haul his ass out of the scrum so we could take more fish from the group. No pictures of this, but I got a sweet video of WFF basically spoon-feeding a nice 12 lber from a rod length away. When the fish took he clamped onto that sob like a dog with a bone and didn't give the fish an inch. Three minutes later and the fish was in Wendy's net.

Quick disclaimer...if I read one more online forum post about a 45 minute fight with a common carp I am going to puke. If you are really taking that long to fight a fish you are doing the fish no justice. I know carp can kick major ass, but don't wear them out for the better part of an hour! If you fought a carp for 45 minutes one of two things is have no concept of time or that fish will be dead 5 minutes after it swims away. End of rant.

Wendy slipped into the area next and I joined him, leaving WFF on the high ground to take some sweet photos. As established in many years worth of past posts...Wendy is a pro and he stuck a nice fish in short order, straining to keep said fish from blowing up the area.

I slipped up to Wendy and netted the fish, right around our 12 lb avg for the trip. Wendy offered up the area to me but I pushed him forward a few feet, figuring we could get one more fish before they were all spooked. As he lined up a cast on a nice one WFF shouted from above..."big fish to the left!" wendy and I swiveled a bit and saw a massive head sliding towards us, about twenty feet away. I grabbed the camera and flipped on the video mode as Wendy made the cast. By the time I had the camera up the big fish had eaten, the hook had been set and WFF was screaming like a little girl. At this point all hell broke loose. Wendy was leaping around fighting a truly huge carp and somehow dancing waist deep water like JJ does when he sees the ice cream truck. I am hollering like we just won the state basketball title and WFF is nearly in spasms on the bank at the size of this carp. Suddenly Wendy turns towards the camera and shouts "This is the biggest fucking carp you have ever seen!" One more four year old dance step from Wendy, rod bent double and POW. The fish breaks him off. He drops his hands parallel to the water in a WTF gesture, and looks blankly over his shoulder at me. I turn off the camera and we all stare at the water as if we could somehow get that 10 seconds back if we looked deep enough. It was a huge fish.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Players

Wendy Berrell

Wendy is a thoughtful guy. Thoughtful as in considerate and kind, and also thoughtful as in, well...full of thoughts. It is rare that he can't find the heart of a matter or discussion and rarer still that he can't pinpoint said heart in a the space of a few words. I remember one year Wendy considering the merits of a new flyrod or a plane ticket to Portland. He easily and quickly bought the ticket saying simply, "I would rather spend money on an experience than an object." It quite simply is a pleasure to fish with him.

Winona Fly Factory

WFF spent the bulk of four days smiling. He smiled into the chocolate milk waters of the Columbia, he smiled into the white, cloud filled sky, he smiled at the broken Tippett and bent hooks, and he smiled right into the teeth of the 25 mph winds. What more can you ask for in a fishing companion? Well, it would be nice if he could tie...and WFF is a world class fly tier. He tied flies in the backseat as we drove from spot to spot on the river. I would fish with WFF any day.

John Montana

Not to toot my own horn, but I am relatively adept at finding carp. That and the willingness to immediately and forcefully point out a blown cast or a missed take are pretty clearly my best attributes as a fishing partner. I guess one sort of cancels the other out. Sort of.

Cyprinus Carpio

The common carp is unquestionably one of the most exciting freshwater gamefish in the world. Name another fish that feeds in shallow water, takes flies readily, sprints like an Olympic athlete and is capable of breaking a fly rod on their second or third run. There simply is very little like the common carp in freshwater that can combine such qualities as a gamefish with the sheer excitement of the method used in catching them. When carp fishing with a flyrod, even getting a refusal is enough to raise your heart rate.

When you put this set of players together...only good things can happen.