Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tail End of the Season

The season is clearly winding down. I covered a lot of water today, and saw roughly 20 percent of the fish I normally see. Part of the problem is the angle of the sun doesn't allow for great visibility...but really, there just aren't as many fish around. Still, I stuck 7 or felt like a goodbye to the 2012 carp season for me. Two fish stood out.

I spotted a nice 17 lber tailing about 35 feet away. For the record, I am not a great caster, and this was going to be a tough shot. The fish was facing directly away from me, and the bottom was a slippery, noisy, cobble that prevented me from making any type of stalk on the fish. I couldn't actually see the fish's head, just a very active tail, and anyone who has fished with me knows my rule number one for carp fishing.

You don't cast until you can see the fish's head.

I looked at the situation for a few minutes, lined up a cast and let it fly. For a change, the flies landed exactly where I wanted, a slight hook cast that kept my line off the fish. I counted to four to let the flies get to the bottom and when I said four in my head the tail slipped under the surface, then reappeared about 10 inches farther away. Fish on.

The second fish was much more visual, but much smaller...a standard 9 lb Columbia River carp. I had a slightly elevated position, and was using a bushy tree for cover as I watched through the branches as the fish slow cruised into my target lane. Every few inches the fish was stopping to eat some moss off of a rock, or dig a nymph out of the cobble. The fish entered my window and I dropped a worm pattern into its path. The red worm stood out on the bottom, and from my elevated position I watched as the fish swam to the worm. He tipped up, and started vacuuming the bottom...but the worm didn't move. It must have been caught on some weeds, because it just sat there as the fish more and more frantically flared its gills and puffed out its lips in an attempt to eat the fly. Finally, the fish simply tailed up, almost vertical and smashed his mouth right onto the bottom and took a big mouthful of sediment...and the worm.

All in all, a good day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Toothy Critter

One doesn't often think of salmon as toothy critters, but this old chinook had quite a set of canines. Personally, I would hate to get caught in a territorial battle with one of these guys. My green yarn fly likely didn't enjoy it much either...this guy liked his space.

Unfortunately, the coho were absent. I didn't even see a fish roll, so I was thankful for the chinook for breaking up the monotony. First salmon of the season for felt pretty good.

with the weather holding and the coho hiding in the big river waiting on rain, I plan on getting out for carp one more time this year.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There Goes the Neighborhood

Thanks to the crew at Carp Pro for including me...nice to see carp getting more and more respect, and I hope I can add something to that group and the magazine.  

See you all on the water!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I went Steelhead fishing tonight. 1 for 2...little hatchery brat.

Been a long time since I swung a felt pretty good!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The River

I made it to the river today. Expectations were high, but my heart wasn't really in it. I went through the motions...walked some flats, crept across gravel, stared from high banks looking for targets; but whatever I was hoping for never really materialized. Honestly, I was hoping to feel better, but I don't. There are no quick fixes, no easy way to skip out on the tough stuff of grieving. I guess you just have to keep on keeping on, and eventually you feel like your old self.

The river and the fish seemed to be in a similar mood. The water was low. Really low, and not a breath of wind in the air. Once popular flats were high and dry, grass was growing where carp had been feeding a few weeks ago, and the shallows were hard to find. And even harder to fish. I lost count of the number of tailing carp that simply stopped tailing and swam away when my flies hit the water. I went lighter, cast farther away form the fish...eventually I found the sweet spot and got a few flies to some fish...started hooking up.

I fished one of my dad's rods today. A six weight, the very rod he was using the day he died. It is a great rod, and it felt right to fish it, but I couldn't turn the fish. I lost a good half dozen fish to weedbeds. I simply couldn't stop them. they would burn towards the nearest weedbed, and I would try to turn their head to no avail. I caught a lot of salad, but lost a lot of carp.

All told, I landed 7 or 8 fish...nothing over 13 lbs or so...the bigger fish that I hooked (and there were a few) wouldn't be denied the deep and heavy weedbeds.

Worth noting in the first picture is a 12wt prototype sun mask...nice piece of gear...and of course a Fly Carpin lid. Thanks to both for some great stuff.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Many Thanks


I won't attempt to list the people to whom I owe a great debt for the love, support, and help this past week. I would surely end up missing someone and kicking myself for it later, but thanks to you all. My dad was well loved, and never was that more apparent than last night. We planned for roughly 200 people to attend, and instead were faced with a horde of loving friends and family. Grouse Mountain eventually asked us to shut down the reception line, as it stretched down the hall, blocked the entrance to the bar, restaurant, and foyer and carried on into the parking lot and round about out front. According to the lodge, over 600 people came through the doors. It was truly amazing to see so many people there to say goodbye to my dad. My sisters, mom and myself were carried along all evening by a room that was filled with love and I said last night (or at least tried to say):

My dad would have loved it.

Thanks to you all...

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Apache Blues

T'was a balmy summer's evening,

Stars were gently weaving

Webs of brilliant beauty

Across the Asian sky.

We lay dark and faded,

In combat that we hated,

Asking for forgiveness

And wondering when we'd die.


Guns, in the distance, rumbled,

The earth lay torn and crumbled,

Hushed with hesitation,

We knelt upon our knees.

Shells began their pounding;

Echoes, then resounding,

Torrents of hot metal

Shredded through the trees.


Through it all, we wondered,

Artillery flashed and thundered,

Gunships dived above us,

Their guns barked in the night.

And then we heard the screaming

In the jungle, hot, and steaming;

An enemy had fallen,

Near death, he cried in fright.


With our weapons, blazing,

Boldly, gunships hazing,

We crawled upon our bellies

The way we had been trained.

No longer 'fraid of dyin'

Amidst those screams and cryin',

Hopin' if you get it

You die and not be maimed.


Emerging, weak and weary,

From the jungle, stark and dreary,

Choppers in the LZ,

They come to fly us back.

In war, there is no beauty;

We went and did our duty.

Don't talk to us of glory

'Cause we've been where its black.

Don't dwell on thoughts of glory;

War is coldly mean and black.


John Clifton Bartlett


A fisherman, a hunter, a father, a brother, a husband...a poet. A warrior. My dad was many things...I miss them all.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

John Bartlett 1947-2012


My dad was a hero. I don't mean a hero in the sense that most dads are heroes for their young sons and daughters, though he certainly was that as well. I mean he was an honest to god all American hero. My dad flew Cobra gunships in Vietnam. He was the kind of man that stepped forward when everyone else stepped back. He volunteered for the missions that no one else wanted. My dad was the pilot the Blues and Scouts wanted flying cover when the shit hit the fan. They knew he wouldn't flinch. He would fly into danger to help them get clear of danger. Once upon a time my dad wasn't John Bartlett, he was "Bloody Bart". He was a hero.

When I was four my dad took me bear hunting. I shouldn't be able to remember much, but I do. I can clearly see the marshy field from our spot on the edge of the tree line. I recall the color of the twilight, and I can feel the rough denim of my dads jeans as I slipped my hands into his back pockets to keep up with his long legs. Mostly though, I can hear the boom of his 30-06. We shot a bear that night, and as I sit here writing my ears are still ringing. I feel as if they have been ringing since my mom called Tuesday night to tell me he was gone.

How many young boys can say they have walked the wild of the Kootenai River? My dad took me. He was the engineer on a work train out of Libby, MT. As such, he spent four days inching along the tracks while the crews cleaned and repaired tie at a time. In the morning, he would run me out with him on the big locomotive and drop me off somewhere on the river. There I spent the, my fly rod, a half dozen royal coachman's and the trout of the Kootenai. As evening approached I listened for the whistle of the train and waited on the tracks for my dad to come and get me.

His heart had been failing for years now. Last year the doctor told him his ejection fraction (the measure of how much blood your heart is pumping) was less than 20% of a healthy person. Rather than ponder all that he could no longer do with only one fifth of a heart, my dad shot back at the doctor and the world "IT IS A GOOD THING MY BALLS ARE FIVE TIMES THE SIZE OF MY HEART"!

My dad lived his life. He loved his life. He went at everything full throttle and never slowed down. He is gone now, and the world is undeniably a darker place. I am not a religious person, but much like my dad I believe in a higher power. And just like him, I see that power in the wind through the trees and the waves in the water. So I know where to look for him. No one that met him could avoid being touched by him, so he surrounds us all. I see him in Elia's quiet determination. I see him in JJ's fierce competitive spirit. I see him today when I am down, and I will see him in myself tomorrow...when I get back up. I know where to find him and the next time I am walking my favorite flat, I know I can count on him to give me a little extra ripple on the water so I don't spook that big fish. And if I listen real hard after I blow the shot...I bet I can hear him laugh.

Dad, we thank you, we love you, we miss you.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Contest winner!

My wife has spoken. Congratulations to Greg Osenko with his entry ILVTAIL. Greg narrowly edged out a bunch of you (the finals list had 11 plates). Greg, send me a message and I will get you in touch with 12wt. LLC for a pair of their awesome SUNwt gloves. Thanks everyone...lots of good stuff. How long before we see carp license plates on the road?



Sunday, September 02, 2012

PHD Level Carping

We faced a pretty stiff test today. The fish were flat out weird. The normally passive Columbia River carp were downright lethargic today, and getting a definitive movement toward your fly was incredibly tough. Plus, in addition to the most subtle takes I have ever seen, the fish were ejecting the fly in a heartbeat. I had the fly in at least 5 different carp mouths at one point, and hooked none of the five. Crazy tough today.

Still, we managed some fish. I think I landed 8 and Travis had 3 or 4, but it was the misses that really hurt. Travis had a 20 plus lb fish on briefly, and we missed two or three other fish in that size range. We simply couldn't get the big boys on a clean take. We had to be content with little guys today.
Most of the fish came to the normal green soft hackle with Travis's additional worm tail. Adding that worm tail was flat out genius, and it makes the already deadly soft hackle even more versatile. I did catch three or four on an egg/worm combo fly. It cracks me up that they eat that goofy thing, but they do! I had one nice "cat pounce" take on the egg/worm that was by far the most aggressive take of the day.

As always, great fishing with Travis. I am blessed with a family that lets me fish frequently, and great friends with whom to spend time on the water. Even on a day when the big carp remind me who is the boss...I feel lucky.

The season is winding down. Pretty soon I will have to start chasing a few salmon and steelhead.


Saturday, September 01, 2012

JJ vs smallmouth bass


Had a little father/son adventure today...of course that involved dirt, water, fish...oh, and Panga.

JJ is simply a great companion. He has a lot to say...interesting things like "dad, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?" He remarks on everything around him, is fascinated by dirt...yes, dirt. He simply loves to get wet, dirty, and muddy. If something moves, he wants to catch it. If something is fuzzy, he wants to pet it. If there is a tree, or cliff, or mud bank, or stump...he wants to climb it. I just love my kid.

And he fishes. Granted, fishing is not at the top of his priority list (see above) but he is adept with a spinning rod and can wing jigs all over the river. This usually lasts a few minutes, then he gets distracted by doing what he loves...even simply fording the river repeatedly. I just watch him, and when he sets down his rod I pick it up, wing jigs around while listening and watching. When I hook a fish, he is all interest again and gets down to business fighting the fish. This works for us...and is in stark contrast to my daughter Elia (who when fishing is totally and completely concentrated on her rod and the fish).

Right now, both of my kids are happy to join me in my passions. We go fishing, have adventures and get dirty, hot, wet, sunburnt, etc. together. It is glorious. Some day I realize that we might not all share the same passions, though my passion for being with my kids will never end. Somehow, I doubt JJ will ever stop being such a good companion either...nor will he be able to avoid petting every fuzzy creature he comes across.