Friday, June 10, 2016


To howl at the yellow moon we prescribe the following.

Small and medium covered.  The hybrids and anything with SJW component probably won't get much use but good to have present.  Heavy use on the LOD, small nymphs and that new line of fur "symph" derivative of the Ivy Pheasant Tail Craw. 

Big flies covered.  I bought a bunch of rabbit strip but then in digging through my inventory could not justify the time to tie more meat streamers.  Rather, look forward to what would be the best problem one could possibly have: depletion of giant carp flies due to assault and battery and theft by bruisingly large strong fish in two feet of water.  If we are found palmering bunny strips at night in hotel rooms you can mark it down as a "good MF day."

I like this size and I like the headstands.  The split tail come of the pheasant splayed.  Two different weights per DB eyes.  My vision here is resting these in the bays; waiting; twitching and dragging when the intersect is right.  Or: maybe they just get mauled as they sink.  That would work too.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Columbia River 2016


May 11, 13:13 hours, Minnesota.

May 11, 13:19 hours, Minnesota.
It was suggested that these two local carp were good practice.  Good warm up for our trip out to the Columbia River.  Their photos and a brief explanation are acutely appropriate in this report because the fact of the matter is that fish like these are actually anti-practice if one is preparing to engage the clam-eating-non-moving-stingy-clue-giving carp in that grand river system out west.  The anti-practice was as follows, with respect to that second fish:

Walking a pond shore with decent cattails in front of me to break up silhouette.  Peeking through here and there.  Spot a carp in typical feeding position head down tail up facing me at slight angle.  Two steps forward to get my feet right.  Fish is clueless.  Two drag and drops with a medium sized black leech.  Second presentation is pretty good maybe a foot in front, just to the side.  All very clearly seen, all very obvious.  After about five seconds fish takes note of fly, moves forward and in semi-dramatic fashion sets down on the fly; like an asian fan version of a carp face and gills flaring out widening and setting down on the fly.  I laugh and pick up the rod and fight the fish and land it and find that it weighs exactly 9.5 lbs and has a decent curve at the back of its belly.

Minnesota fish.  Pretty easy.  Can't go so far as to say the fishery is easy, because as has been discussed there aren't that many settings that offer target-rich environments to sight-fishers of carp.  But if you have a Minnesota fish unawares, there is a very good chance you will be afforded solid clues as to when you should set the hook and as such a very good chance you will catch the carp.

These damn Columbia River fish.  Not easy.  I've been thinking and thinking on it and I believe I can describe the condition in which you can have crushingly good days but for now start with the tough news.  It's a tiered difficulty and each requirement has a relatively thin margin of error: find the fish, approach fish without spooking, present flies without spooking, discern the take (or intuit the take), set the hook, fight the fish, land the fish.  And if you are used to Minnesota carp or Lake Michigan carp you're in for some shit.  Quite a few eff ups.

We didn't have ideal conditions: first two days no rays of sun.  Third day we had some dead calm aquarium which is the deadliest worst condition.  Fourth day was best in terms of sun and wind but we had some anomalous interference blow some fish off the main flats and we spent some time running around looking for fish.  My estimation is that the best condition is finding good numbers of fish in moderate wind with decent sun.  Guessing JM agrees.  The wave action is the angler's friend.  Like moderate turbidity or even raindrops on the water surface when trout fishing can give the angler camoflauge.  Can always use the help especially out there.  I think in 2014 we had ideal conditions, two anglers and fish everywhere.  That resulted in 135 carp to hand.  I am not sure just what we did this year but it was a lot less; maybe around 50 fish total for three guys.  Sounds silly to say that catching 50 fish each of which is likely bigger than the biggest caught by 90% of fly anglers is a slow trip; that catching a half dozen fish 18-22 lbs between three guys is a slow trip.

On a playing field described by those conditions the difficulty of the already tough-to-catch Big C carp is amplified.  They just don't move.  And they rarely if ever eat big flies.  Can't see the fly (usually), which brings two issues: harder to know that you've put the fly where it needs to be; harder to tell when the fish has eaten.  And the carp won't give you clear indications.  So that goes to JM's rule: watch the fish. I think I do that, but man it is still really tough.  Look for a longitudinal rotation; look for a slight head dip; look for a little tail flutter.  All makes for good tension and drama.

We've addressed a lot of fish.  All the trout big and small.  Alaska.  BWCA for years bass and pike.  Carp of various fisheries.  My assertion is that in terms of going from the step of finding the fish to hooking the fish, the Big C carp are clearly the toughest.

Main thing for me isn't fewer fish photos, catching fewer fish, etc. it's that I feel like I let down fellow anglers when I don't make it all come together.  These shots are all so interesting and visual and cool and memorable and there is an urge to make it work.  Not for the individual accomplishment but for a sense of doing your part.  That's much of it for me at this point.  I like walking the water or paddling with friends and family and having all focus be on finding fish and addressing them.  I like the singular focus.  I think that a giant river full of golden hogs that you can see plain as day is very interesting and to hunt them down (sight fishing is hunting plain and simple) with fly rods is an absolute adventure; one worth pursuing.

It was a treat to fish with JM and Flycarpin.  I almost enjoyed the evenings as much as the days; hanging out with good dudes in restaurants of notably varying quality.  Got one dinner with Funhogger too.  Some carpy fishy dudes.  The best, really; elite carpers.

Some great fish counts are on the books; most recently 2011 and 2013 Lake MI and 2014 Columbia.  Not far off probably another big one will pop.  As we head toward it the in-between chapters are pretty damn good too.

...who drinks the wine should take the dregs; even in the bitter lees and sediment new discovery may lie.  - R. Jeffers.

Thanks JM for having us out; hospitality and river guiding is unmatched.

















Thursday, May 12, 2016

Three Generations Outing

New favorite photo.  Everything that is SE MN.  Nine year old kid at the center hooked up.

Rainjackets.  Boring Christmas presents but thus far, the most used.  Can't say enough about good outerwear for kids.  Adults don't always need comfort on the water but for the kids it can help keep the focus on fishing.  It was cool and rained much of this afternoon; there were zero complaints.

He took half a dozen out of this hole.  Probably landed 8-9 on the day including his first ever BKT on the fly.  We took some fish pictures but they are nearly all on his camera.  The kids got two each to hand.  Older kid got his first ever RBT on the fly; he is up to 29 total fly caught trout in 2016 which is pretty good for a young dude.  

Suppose I made maybe 12-18 casts on the day.  At a few holes after the guys had worked them.  Trying some of the tougher drifts.  I estimated this fish using handspans and rod markings at 13.5 inches but he was actually 15.  Standard.  Nearly without exception my field estimates are under the actual.



We took home six fish and all four guys contributed at least one to that creel.  A special harvest.

Last trout we'll see for a while.  Moving on to bigger fish in the short-term.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Couple Trout Chapters


As noted previously the deal is to carp fish on opening weekend of catch and keep.  And then head out during the week.  Bluebells; green and blue pushing up from the floodplain bench; water low and clear.  Rock faces.  Trout made of circles spots yellow and blue; tangerine colors.  The benthos rising too.  April is a special month and if I had my way this is how I would chart it out: take the months of April and May off work; June go to half time; July and August, the hot worthless months go to 2x FTE; September through November go back to half time; December and January 1.5x.  March 1x FTE.  Something like that anyway.  If you understand what's out there it feels wrong to not be there.  Maybe that's what folks mean when the say something is calling.



On this day had about six hours total; drove a little further than I normally do maybe 50 minutes.  Water was in great shape; fish rising.  Right about where my feet are positioned here I logged this video of a brook lamprey.  

Got one to eat a caddis dry and then I put it away.  I watched the rising fish.  Nearly all small brown trout.  I had it in my head to nymph steady so I went with it.  Fished a triple nymph rig with this barely passable caddis pupae the trailer-most.  It got eaten quite often.  Root beer bead.

Some nice fish on light gear.  The legacy 2 wt rod.




Took a few photos of this fish as I was tuned into those spots.



Be honest caught a lot of fish of which I kept my first share of 2016.  Felt right to walk out early so I did it.  Nice and slow.  No folks around.


Day II:

That wasn't the case on second day; sometime in early May.  Been itching to get The Kid out to keep some trout.  He was pumped too.  I was bordering on uncontrollably happy when we parked at 730 AM in the rain and found no one in the lot.  A Sunday.  Risky as hell.  But I thought we had it licked.  Started upstream and he hooked two nice fish and lost them both near his feet.  Tough go.  Good fish.  Would have kept both.  An emotional dude so I take great care to encourage and state the way to do it is think of the day as a whole; each fish lost and landed a part of it.  Focus on the next one, etc.  Million trout; it's okay to lose a few.  Happens.  Thirty minutes in, around a bend and we met a guy walking downstream toward us.  He didn't look happy.  Hello we offered.  He wasn't rude but he was grumpy and he explained as much: I keep running into people he said.  Oh man. So more folks about.  And we two of them, yes.  We pushed on and fished two holes that should have produced trout but showed none.  Fishing behind people.  So I let him decide.  Look for new water he said.  So walk out; drive out downstream.  But now cars at every corner.  Every pulloff.  We screwed.  Approaching mental breakdown as an adult; can't take it; people all around.  So we left out for C&R water where we knew there'd be few people.

Here he studies his place in the world.


Common water right by the house.  Most know it.  Rebuilt by man.  Good lesson on this day.  First off, he wanted to leave.  I suggested we fish this last piece.  We had worked through maybe four holes and he had gone only 0/1.  So wearing a little thin.  Ready to hang it up.  Persistence is a quality though.  I put a couple drifts together and got a fish; his attention was thus refocused.  Flip drift flip drift high stick etc.  No fish.  I took rod and instead of drifting four inches from the bank, put the whole damn rig underneath it.  All out of sight including indicator.  Came tight on nice fish.  He watched; took rod; did same; got three to hand including this one.  No creel but some fish to round out a tough day anyway; he was lauded for his efforts.



Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Trout Catch and Keep 2016

A sot when it comes to a creel of trout but not archsot enough to wade into the mire of human egg carton crowding on the water for the harvest opener.  What I like to do instead is go carping.  This was the first carp of the year; smallish fish but a little belly geometry there and she even got her dorsal up for the camera on timer.  Ate a plain strip of green bunny fur with DB eyes.


The water was turbid such that the fly had to be in many cases levitated in front of the fish for a while so it could be detected.  The normal heavier flies e.g LOD were sinking out of sight too quickly.  Switched to an egg fly.  Rarely use it.  On this day it was money.  Ended up catching 6/7 carp that came to hand.  Seven carp over two hours in MN is a pretty good clip.  No big ones.  No dramatic fights.  Still felt good to catch some bigger fish though; big relative to trout.  Didn't scale any of them.  I think I was getting one class of fish around 5-6 lbs and another around 8-9 lbs.  Couple fish were in clearer water; deeper; it was highly enjoyable to sink this damn egg on them (very high vis fly) and count it down, watch for tells and set the hook.  Jedi carping at its best.  No strike; can't see fly; watch fish and discern.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Break 2016 Chapter III


Older guy is going to paddle north this year.  About time.  When the hint was made that the younger guy isn't quite ready there was some marked disappointment; maybe some tears.  My construct was a weekend outing then in which he would be the focus; a special trip for him.  Dad guiding; big brother hanging out with Mom.  At the start of this outing he was 3268 days or 8.95 years on Earth. Following are some photos and captions.

First day, first hole, first fish of day, first rainbow of his life.  Pretty excited.
I like these shots more than I like the grip and grins.  The Kid II well-positioned, following his flies down and around the corner.  I could look at that one for a long time.  We took some care here to work on flips and rolls.  No backcasts.
The country we're walking; country we love.  Will never get over fishing good water framed by outcrops and towering cliff faces.  Special place and I wanted him to be immersed in it without having to worry about competition or anything else.


There are a few places down here that have seemingly unending good water.  All day.  Just keeps coming.

Found half dozen of these.  



Wild onions with soup we carried into the woods.

He ended day one with seven trout to hand.  Many more hooked and LDRed.  He was born in 2007 and as such one can't expect him to put the hammer down on every fish he encounters.  I was impressed and happy for him.  I maintain that if he'd focused a bit more he may have had a 15-20 fish day.  But that's his personality - much lighter than mine - probably a good thing in the end.


Start of day two.  Money water.  Just full of fish.  I think he hooked 3-4 here.

This fish right here.  A special one.  He hooked and lost one.  Persisted, and few minutes later got this one to hand.  From the same water that gave his grandfather his first trout on a fly.  He recounts the matter.  

Favorite postcard here.

Another just ridiculous piece of water.  That seam between the current and the triangle resting water...   thick with S. trutta.

I think the biggest he landed. 

Old cut healing itself somewhat there on river right.  This entire river reach is good water and should never see heavy equipment or the mark of "improvement" by man.  Beautiful.  Full of fish.  Good habitat for fish and bugs.

This was memorable because he hooked a good number of fish from the main lanes of this water.  When he was done I took the rod and mended into the toughest-to-get-to lane which was right against the woody debris on the outside corner.  I told him there would be one fish there.  This was it.

Absolute coffin-trough full of trout right there.  He worked from near to far as one should do.

We used the tripond one time; looking for the grandeur of the cliffs as backdrop.

I think here he is studying relativity.  Giant colluvium.

Streamers do not need ribs; they do not need palmered hackle.  Tail.  Dubbed body.  Soft hackle collar.  At the walk-out point of our journey on day two, the boy took up a sword and went to work beating down last years husks and stalks on the floodplain.  I took about one hour and cast streamers.

This fish, in my observation, could be caught by approximately one means.  A favorite hole.  Woody debris parallel to the flow.  Drifted nymphs through; smaller fish.  The current and wood are configured such that a guy can't really strip a streamer through the heart of it all.  So it's the twitch drift of the streamer, under the indicator - not to indicate, but to regulate depth as the drift proceeds.  Cast upstream, mend into lane along wood.  Right before heart, one hard twitch.  Photo credit Kid II.

He got three fish to hand on day two for a total of ten.  Nine brown trout, and one rainbow.  All nymphing with tandem rigs under an indicator.  He was allowed to flip and roll.  He did well in initiating roll casts from either side of his body depending on how he stood relative to the current.  I think his biggest fish may have been 13 inches; it was for sure a strong 12.  His first serious trout fishing affair; will be remembered well.