Sunday, July 31, 2011

Be appreciative

0745 and we are in the jeep with the top down. Sunglasses on, and my kids laughing in the back seat at my dumb jokes. Next stop some coffee and talk. JJ turned five today, and woke me up with a hug and enthusiasm. It took a moment for me to stir and he ran to the top of the stairs and yelled to Kelly "I guess we will just have to open presents without him!" thankfully, they didn't and I am still replaying the smiles and looks on his face. Does the content of the package matter as much as the unknown? My ever thoughtful daughter picked out an angry bird's black bomber plush toy and JJ is thrilled and Elia is all smiles and heart.

The sun is in the sky, the wind is on my face and my kid's laughter is in my ears. Despite the turmoil that often surrounds us, if you look for it, you can find moments where all is right with the world.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

First carp on the fly

The cast was good...far enough up current to give the fly time to sink, and a few inches short on a broad side shot, enough to make the fish move slightly. As spence's fly sank I could see it in my mind floating through the water column. I could see the fly hit bottom and tumble, tumble toward the waiting carp. I broke away from my daydream just as the big carp darted to the side and a white maw opened in the water...

"Set, set set!" I yelled and spence reared back on the rod and came tight to the fish. The big carp (15-18 lbs) lurched forward a foot and out of the corner of my eye I saw the rod tip jerk downward toward the water. Then the carp crouched back on it's haunches like a leopard about to pounce and the leapt forward and off the gravel bar. The reel sang and spun and spence smiled and hollered. The fish blasted for deep water and as I watched the reel move at warp speed I told spence to palm the reel to keep it from back spooking. His palm touched the reel and in an instant the big carp broke the 12 lb tippet.

The big carp kept the fly but spence was the one hooked.

A few minutes later he brought his first carp to hand...a nice 11 lber. Not bad for a guy who hadn't picked up a fly rod before today. Carp on the fly is a master's class...differential equations vs the basic math of panfish or the multiplication tables of trout. Re: not for beginners. He managed to hook three and land one, and I landed a handful but the fish didn't make it easy today. We worked for our shots, and I think I hooked more than just a few carp.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fishing with my dad

The plan was to fish for a couple of hours on some water that we don't fish often. It is good to cover new water...walk areas that you have only looked at once or twice. Often times it is even better to try someplace you have never been, but my dad doesn't cover ground like he used to, so he leaves the full on exploration to me! This time, we wandered down a flat that I rarely fish, not because it isn't good, simply because all the river is good. It didn't take long to find the fish.

The sun was high, the wind was down and my dad and I were wandering knee deep flats with seven weight fly rods. That pretty much sums up the day. We didn't fish long or particularly well, in fact, the first hour or so was actually pretty tough. The fish were there but they were not reacting well to the green nymph. They ate it, don't get me wrong but with no wind and great visibility we were making roughly 35 ft casts and the trick was detecting the take. Many times the fly would be I position, the fish on it and then they would dart away. "spooked on the fly" my dad would own theory is different. I think they ate, spit, then spooked. After a while I switched from a green nymph to an orange nymph (courtesy of singled barbed's awesome Free Range Dubbing) and immediately the tide turned in our favor. Suddenly the takes were more noticeable...the fish reacted and moved more assertively to the fly and we started catching the fish we should catch.

Amazing what a difference the color of the body made in this day. In a couple of hours, I landed 9 and my dad 4. All but one of mine was in the orange nymph, the other one on the green. I think most of my dad's came in the orange as well.

Best take of the day came when I was off by myself for a bit. I was walking on a gravel bank with fantastic visibility and spotted a nicer fish holding just off the bank in some relatively heavy current. I put the fly well upriver and could just envision the nymph dropping to the gravel and tumbling along like in a trout stream. As the fly neared the fish's position the carp darted sideways like a trout and ate something...I set the hook and the fish blasted downriver into my backing. I could not stop this fish, and he went further into my backing than any fish I have ever hooked. Scaled out at 16 lbs...really fun tale and fish.

That is a lot of line missing.

As always, great to fish with my dad. He really has taken to this carp thing...and every once in a while he even listens to me and changes flies!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Have you seen your backing lately?

I have.

No huge fish to hand today but I had a 16 lber go farther into my backing than any fish I have ever hooked. Just a crazy hot fish. 15-18 lb carp seem to be the apex athletes out here...they will crush you, while the really big girls just bulldog a bit.

Man do I love catching carp on the fly!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Some days it doesn't go as planned

I have managed to sneak out for a couple of carp outings of late, neither of which was a rousing success. I met up with Mr. P for a short trip, best described here. We caught some fish, but nothing like what we were looking for, and Jim broke his rod. Try fishing for carp with one fly rod only works because Jim is a pleasure to fish with.

The second outing was a bigger success in terms of fish, but again, it just wasn't what we were looking for. But this time...we had a boat!

Travis was kind enough to take my dad and I exploring, and in a boat it is certainly a lot easier to look at new water. The experience was stellar, the company superb, but the catching only so so. Check out the sky in this picture and you will know why.

Carp fishing is tough under any conditions, but combine dead calm surface water and no sun and you basically spend the day saying "there goes one". I did manage to land 8 fish, the largest at 16 lbs, and my dad and Travis each caught one, but it was tough. The highlight for me (other than meeting Travis and fishing with my dad) was a blind cast and hook up to a tailer. I stalked the fish on a huge flat, spooking multiple fish while enroute to the only one I could see (it's tail was completely out of the water). After a long cast, I kept the line tight and slowly pulled my flies into the zone until the tail disappeared and the line came tight...very cool.

Fishing with Travis was great...very laid back guy that clearly knows his carping! He stuck a nice fish with the same blind method...we were reduced to this method most of the day. Not the most productive way to catch carp out here.

All in all both days were different than planned, but both had a lot to offer. Jim and I got to fish literally side by side and swap high water spring stories...great fun. Travis, dad and I got to explore stunning new water and lost track of how many times we said "I need to come back here". Carp fishing is tough, and things don't always come together as planned, but as I walked down a long gravel bar, birds wheeling overhead talking to Travis and looking for tails breaking the surface I realized that really don't have to catch fish. Sometimes the experience is enough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

US Carp Pro

Check out the latest issue of US Carp Pro. Several fly related articles in there with some nice flies by The Roughfisher and good stuff by Dave Mcool...heck, if you can't sleep check out my article to cure your insomnia. Another job well done these guys.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lake MI day four

The undeniable fact of life is that you keep getting older. Time wears away at us slowly, but the effects of that wear jump out at you faster than expected. One day your back hurts when you get out of bed...all on it's own. One day you see the opening and go for the drive but can't get there and turn the ball over. One day you groan audibly when you bend over to unlace your wading boots...where did that come from? Looking back, while it seemed like the pace of life had suddenly caught up to us, we had slowed quite a bit over the years. Don't get me wrong...four days is the perfect amount for a fishing trip...three is too short and five makes us miss our families to the point of not enjoying the fishing, but the length of each individual day and the type of day has gradually gotten easier over the years. We still forget the simple things, like eating, or carrying water, but now we will actually stop to grab something when driving from spot to spot. And while we still basically fish all the available hours...we do it a lot slower and a lot more relaxed.

Are we older? Wiser? Or simply in worse shape.

Regardless, day four dawned on two old, wise, and out of shape fisherman. We were cruising through a small town, enjoying our coffee and thinking ahead to the flat we planned to fish when Wendy pointed out that we were literally driving by tailing carp. We pulled over as the harbor town awoke, geared up to some strange looks from the dog walkers and vacationers, walked into the bay (in plain and loving sight of some gear fisherman) and promptly caught some carp.

It was that simple. A nice family took some photos for us, you can see their shadows. We wandered around the flat, answering questions while peppering carp with casts and landing fish. It was all insanely relaxed...and simple. Carp fishing for the civilized.

We ended the day and the trip where we started...casting for smallies back at the day one spot. We didn't fish long, just one relatively quick and dirty walk through the area. We were nearly out of flies, down to some pretty hefty tippet and both of us were thinking of our kids and wives (wiser). The fish were there still, and we caught them. Pretty simple really.

It was quite a drive back to our families, but Wendy and I have known each other a long time and the hours tend to move quickly amongst friends. We had a lot to reminisce about, and recounted take after take and fish after fish, but mostly we spoke of families and life. Fishing trips are about so much more than fishing, a fact we are both acutely aware of but make no effort to acknowledge. Sometimes it is best to just be, and just do, and let things settle. Lake MI 2.0 was the perfect mix of this for us. We crested at an impossible high and slowly came down and unwound on day four...and speaking for myself I got what I needed from this trip, just don't ask me to define what that was.

Thanks again to Wendy for sticking with me all these years and making these crazy adventures so memorable. Couldn't ask for a better guy to fish with. Most of all though, thanks to our up so much time for something you don't fully understand is an amazing thing to do, and I can't thank you enough.

So how do we top this one Wendy?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lake MI day three

Exhausted and exhilarated...but ready for more, we fueled up on some good grub at the end of day two. We both had a whitefish rueben (with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut) and as we chowed down we lamented the state of our fly boxes. Simply put, we didn't have enough of the "right" offerings. Sure, we had caught fish on a variety of our normal stuff, with the legion of doom, soft hackle and even my first Carp (of several) on the venerable backstabber by Jay Zimmerman making an appearance...but what we wanted to fish was big, rabbit fur flies. We wanted the chase. Thankfully, Wendy came prepared and after dinner he whipped up a bundle of squirrel strip flies that would prove irresistible to these great lakes carp. With a fresh batch of flies and a forecast of full on sun...we had high hopes for day three.

And we were not disappointed.

We took it to the carp. It was an absolute clinic. Some days you feel like you have the game figured out. Some days you just know that your next shot (or three or ten) are flat out going in the basket. Some days, you are basically unstoppable. Any athlete has felt it...we were in the zone.

The fish were cruising down the shallow flats, eagerly casting from side to side, and we were on 'em. Our casts were accurate and the fish were cooperative. We scaled a bundle of fish in the 16-19 lb range, and saw so many cool takes that I really can't remember many individual eats. There were a lot of eats.

Many doubles. We fished our first stop for the bulk of the was simply too good to leave. Every time we thought about walking out of there another dark shape would appear on the edge of our vision and we would slip right back into hunting mode. I hooked a massive fish on the deep edge in 6 ft of crystal clear water. After a long battle (easy 45 minutes...just kidding) I towed the fish toward the net and as it turned for one last mini run Wendy and I knew we were in trouble. One slap of the tail against the roughed up leader and that fish was gone. In retrospect...likely a 30 lber.

Eventually, we left that magical flat...and found more magic. As Wendy said...we pounded on tailing carp until we flat out couldn't see anymore. I actually started blind casting for smallmouth just to change things up...and I caught three nice smallies in minutes. Sick, sick fishing. Oh...and Wendy stuck a 23 lb beast.

The fish were everywhere, and as the sun got low and visibility got worse, we saw a lot of this.

That'd be probably 40 carp swimming for safer waters. Being within casting distance of Wendy and I on this day equaled not safe.

We trudged back to the car in semi darkness...many, many fish were hooked. Many, many flies were mauled. All four of our legs were tired, and all four of our arms were exhausted. Catching that many carp is a workout. Our bodies were busted...our gear destroyed. We had no leaders left...just cobbled together bits of tippet, most of them frayed and ugly. Our flies looked like they had been puked up by a cat and both of our reels were wheezing like old men after a long walk. Even our boots had seen better days.

Yes...that is duck tape.

It was awesome. Lake MI...I thank you.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Lake MI day two

Despite the relative smallmouth slaughter toward the end of day one, we left the cheap hotel the next morning with only one thought on our minds. Carp. Well...and coffee. After fueling up we hit the lake, talking as we walked a short trail to the went something like this.

Me: this overcast is going to kill us.

Wendy: might be tough to know if they are there.

Me: I am just praying we step into the water and spook some fish, just so we know they are there.

We step into the water ten seconds later and a carp spooks from about three feet away. Thirty seconds after that I spot one and plop a big, black, goby looking fly in front of it. First lake MI carp for me.

After that the day took on the tone we had expected for the trip. During the planning stages we talked about and hoped to hit the tail end of the spawn. We figured it would be easier to find the fish this way, and we would be able to fish the edges for feeding fish. It came together for most of the day just like that on this flat. The spawners were easy to see, so we poked slowly along the edges and stuck plenty of fish.

Then we stuck our noses through a tiny little opening in a closed off bay to peek at the main lake. What we saw was incredible.

It certainly helped that we caught our first real sun at the exact moment we stepped into this setting, but the real stunner was the piles of cruising and marauding fish that patrolled the shoreline. Wendy hooked up in seconds.

We split up and each proceeded to lay the smack down on the fish, with crazy aggressive takes...stuff we just hadn't seen on the Big C out west.

Eventually we left that flat relatively sated and feeling good. We hoofed around, mostly walking and spotting the occasional fish...but honestly, we were done. We considered the day a wild success and with smiles on our faces we headed to the car.

The problem? One last cast syndrome. The minute our boots were on dry land we started wanting more...thinking not about the last take...but the next take. So we gave in, and rushed to one more spot as the sun was still visible.

One last cast turned into another...and another and another. In the fading light we reminded ourselves that good things happen when your boots are wet.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Elia, JJ, and 44 lbs of carp

Check out this bad boy that JJ duked it out with today.

That'd be 23 lbs of carp. When i handed that rod to JJ I figured I would never know how big the fish was, but he got it done.

Slipped out with the kids today, with a plan involving rocky bottoms and the hunt for crayfish...unfortunately the water is still really high (though not fishing from sunken picnic tables high) so we couldn't find any rocks to flip over. We did run into the above bad girl who munched the little green soft hackle in a heartbeat. I played the fish for a few minutes before handing her fate over to a 4 year old. We also caught this monster just a few minutes before JJ's game of tug of war.

21 lbs on the nose, though neither kid got a shot at this one...this fish was just too hot. Elia got in on the action with a standard 11 lb male, and JJ got to do his favorite part of fishing...he eyeballs that net like there are cookies in it.

Nice assist JJ!

Will get some more lake MI pictures up this week, but any day you can take two fish totaling 44 lbs (plus an 11 lber) with your kids involved is indeed a great day!

The release of the 23 lber...