Friday, July 11, 2014

Thank you MN DNR.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Photo Series: First Carp

Dialing back to late May.  An onlooking couple took great interest in the kids' battles with spring carp (which have been detailed here previously).  This is a cool camera angle.  They took care to email us the images, which I appreciate.  They said in parting that they liked the fact that I would only net the fish; would not grab the rod.  Wouldn't have been the same had I done as much.

Photo credits R.M. of NW USA near Canada.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Great Lakes 2014

Regarding a goal statement, i.e. what we look forward to in this venture: a single focus in a special setting with good company.  Eliminate any of those three legs and the stool tips; falls.  You see pictures of carp and you might think that they constitute the dreams; the looking forward.  Big perfectly scaled golden matriarchal legendary fish; many in pictures, done up just right.  Held aloft.  Comes naturally that one might think they stand as a goal.  And much is made of sound bytes regarding not the destination, the journey, the walk to remember, etc.  This is not any sort of statement resembling anything of that nature: the goal is a few consecutive days walking around trying to figure something out.  That in plain terms anyway.  If the goal is catching fish X-prime one might spend more time and money (maybe paying other persons) to help facilitate.  But you cannot pay another person to help you achieve singular focus in an old lake with your buddy.  In other words: we are afforded a concatenation of days in which we approach the task of working out an old puzzle that involves old wary players.  In a place that can be waded; waded forever, endlessly.

And so that's a little insight as to why one might leave a family; wife and kids and home, for an undertaking such as this one.  Even as someone plagued by indecisiveness and guilt that hovers with every aching movement, I've come to a doctrine that prescribes open air treatments of ailments and the ague that hath one's hams.  It was printed in 1968 by E. Abbey:      ...get lost for awhile, come back when you damn well feel like it, it'll do you and her and them a world of good.

E.A. provides a natural segue way to another key component: go it on foot.  We going to walk this sum buck.  Yes sir, yes madam, I entreat you, get out of those motorized wheelchairs, get off your foam rubber backsides, stand up straight like men! like women! like human beings! and walk -- walk -- WALK upon our sweet and blessed land!"--Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968).  Can't say enough about the glory of being unencumbered; mentally and physically.  Shed motors and most gear.  Drop all thoughts at the dead end road.  All you're doing now is looking for carp in clear water; seeking out dark shapes that move slowly along rock points.  It is conceded that the notion of unencumbered is discussed in terms of degree.  We know it.  Shorts, shirt and a flybox in a pocket would be one way to go.  Matt Damon Elysium outfit would be another.  Somewhere toward the short side is about where we fall I suppose.  We ain't hassling with boat trailers; we have no combustion locomotion outside of the basic cell processes.  Another concession is that we do drive to locations before getting into the water.  Fair to say that if we did not allow this intrusion we would disallow ourselves from engaging at all.  Therefore that, like concessions here and there, must be managed.

Something corollary then is the act of shielding oneself against elements.  Who would say it is highly desirable to walk on uneven ground in calf-deep water from 8 AM to 8 PM with not a single swill drink and not a gram of any organic matter be it meat flesh from roaming animals or vegetable matter in root or fruit form?  You can mark it down now; I would say so and I say it right here; now.  Four days of it.  One goal: look in clear water for fish.  And these just the basic elements; shielded by waders and lug boots; penetrated by sunglasses.  The atmospheric variables that mingle and twist and descend of their own accord are another stratum of passive assault that can surely be met head-on and beaten back.  And we talked about this; actually had maybe a five minute conversation about it: the supremely satisfying feeling of being in poor weather and being comfortable; able to operate to satisfaction and maybe even effectively.  It can be visualized as such: wading knee deep, cool to cold air temperatures, steady moderate rainfall; you are dry in your waders - standard stuff; but you have about your upper body a warm collar shirt, over which rides a wool vest maybe fifty years old come from the second hand store; over this warmth is a shell rain jacket that simply and beautifully repels; your neck and ears are covered by a buff and your hood is pulled tight and forward such that it shields your glasses from rain droplets; you move slowly with head slightly bowed, rod tucked in crook of arm, spitting sunflower seed shells and looking in the water; you can see well enough to understand contrasts; and that is all you need.

And so the cards and the sound bytes - the inspirational/confirmational/affirmational - I think they are trying to state this: it's what comes tangentially and contextually that in sum forges the memories.

Some notes pertaining to the actual execution of the angle and the fish that were encountered:

People have asked: how was the trip?  It's a courtesy to ask and I appreciate it.  Some may not ask again though because this inquiry is an inlet to any of varying sorts of counter-questions, comparisons, discussions of technical merits, adverse weather conditions, the valiant common carp, old limestone, and the fact that people don't get hungry when they're staring into water hour after hour always looking and hoping.  That's how the trip was, good man.  Thanks for asking.  The real answer is that we are still figuring on some rating of this outing.  Relative to last year, it pales.  But I'll say it here and now: everything pales when held to that candle burning.  I'll just flat out say that I (and some others, confirmed) hold the belief that Great Lakes 2013 set any number of world records, that include but are not limited to these [with respect to any inland freshwater fly fishing outing]: greatest weight top 20 fish combined (471 lbs), greatest weight top 10 fish combined (didn't compute it but it's a lot), greatest mass top 10 fish one angler (239 lbs), greatest mass top 5 fish one day one angler (120 lbs), most 20+ lb fish one day combined (9)...   others.  So 57 carp to hand in 2014 reads okay but short of epic; epic being well-defined at this point.  It's generally understood that had the weather held we would have approached and likely exceeded 100 carp.  But she didn't hold; dropped off a cliff in the end.  And that goes to this approximate recounting:

First 40% of the trip we did well, I think 44 carp to hand.  Cool air, gray, mist, rain came.  Specific heat of the bays such that they did not warm well and thus there came no reason for the fish to ascend them.  Day three we sought out wandering black shapes and we got some (only four total).  By day four they were gone to us.  No longer known in the shallows.  We resorted to bass fishing, which was successful.  Day five we assembled a triage approach and we made it work.  Some new water, new setting.

Worth noting that whatever the conditions, one does not come in early; no daylight left on the table.

Regarding big fish, I got a moderate humbling this year.  And also some interesting perspective: thinking about big fish and the fact that we no longer honor 16-19 lb fish with any sort of special note or ceremony.  Fact is I got one fish of 20+ lbs to hand; I think it was 21 but could have been 22 lbs.  No picture because we dropped her in the lake during the process of handling.  In an interesting twist I had my hands on two other 20+ fish: (1) the hook fell out in the net, and the fish had a cut under its chin; a gash that by all accounts indicated an act of snagging; this fish was weighed out of curiosity (22 lbs) and released without tally, (2) after managing my profile effectively I broke out of a minor slump spell on day 1 and watched a giant sow move to my still fly and set down on it; on hooking she ran across the particular water and into a mat of vegetation; to the point of burying my entire leader; I dug and dug, found the leader and dug further; sure, found her there buried and still; I put my hand on her head and rested it there, my thumb in her mouth while she held, safe; never saw her again; in the course of attempted extraction she very readily snapped the tippet and disappeared.  To lose a carp is all too easy; it cannot swim fast, not more than seven or eight body lengths per second, but it swims strongly  and determinedly and can put its great weight into play (Downes & Knowleden, page 133).  JM ended with six (6) fish 20+ lbs, including a nice run of three consecutive days with at least one.  I think he topped out at 23 lbs.  A great showing and not surprising at all.

Just a few words on the carp which have been extolled here and abroad; moreso lately.  These Great Lakes fish can be tough but the statement needs qualifiers.  There are a lot of tough fish around it seems; those in spooky settings and/or those that are not hunting.  Surely these fish can be had and when they are it is as a giant exhale and it is with some jubilation because they have been overcome.  The right fish though, will provide the drama that is sought.  The rocky points, the wave troughs, the slow-moving dark shapes.  These fish seem more just because if they are found and encountered, and approached correctly and understood, they will eat a fly; and they will break off at extreme angles to chase a fly and eat it.  Comparison to the Columbia River, in my assessment: the river fish are tougher on an individual basis (because of their eating mechanics) but taken at a more macro scale, maybe easier because there is a greater probability that a given enountered fish will eat if approached correctly.  The Great Lakes fish need more decisions at a macro scale by the fisherman, but when you slide into the right groove, the fish will eat and move much further to do so, therefore requring a lesser degree of technical skill.  And in both waters, all waters: full sun dead calm conditions are tougher than hell.  Waves and wind are desirable.

There are carp fishermen, and others for whom angling is only a sport (Downes & Knowelden, page 129).

Cyprinus carpio is the quintessential cyprinid; drowsy, majestic, powerful, beautiful to its admirers, shy and cunning when pursued, valiant when caught (Downes & Knowelden, page 131).

Carp are clever as well as big; to some extent, clever because they are big.  A large fish has large eyes, with more cells in its retina and can therefore make out fine details more clearly; a large cyprinid has a large swim bladder, and therforee its Weberian ossicles move more in response to sound and its hearing is keener; and a large carp is an old, experienced adversary that is not easily deceived (Downes & Knowelden, page 132).

Four carp.

One word on bass: they have a ceiling, pictured here (unlike carp).  Same setting every time (unlike carp).  Eat mechanically if you do things right (unlike carp).  They are relatively small and they can't run (unlike carp).  The qualities are jolting takes, leaps and bulling pulls.  I do like bass.  But I can't bring myself to target them when there are dark shapes off rocky points; moving slowly.  

Final words would note respect for a DIY trip and appreciation for friends and family.  Without their loving kindness I don't know what I'd do...  G.B.  Not particularly easy for grown men to make friends; some anyway; me I mean.  What are venues for it?  Moved far away from my brothers and miss them every day.  If not for sports and the affairs of the outdoors how would a person approach another with a first word?  Certainly it all runs deeper than that but to plan and execute together thereby making the substance of it all; fishing is good.  And in fact on this outing we were treated to dinner with some long-time carpers.  Venerable cats; I will remember it well.

There isn't a better carp on the fly guy out there; I live and learn alongside JM and I appreciate it all.  He travels great distances and keeps traditions.  My family has gone from putting up with these adventures to encouraging them; I'm a fortunate son in that way it seems.

larga vida a la carpa

The New Compleat Angler.  Stephen Downes & Martin Knowelden.  1983.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June Trout in Captions

11 AM to 4 PM on some of the best water in the midwestern region of the USA.  After laving my vehicle I did not encounter one acre cultivated.  No roads.  Pasture, walnut groves, high cliff faces; those were the frames of the river.  My hope was to encounter any sort of June hatch of large insects.  Something that would define itself well and invite big mayfly patterns.  Started out the morning though with streamers.  Shitty ones at that; I'm purging fly boxes.  No tying; just using what I have.  Notably this does not seem to matter much.

I think most of the fish pictured out of the water are now dead.  This worth mentioning as it pertains to discussion regarding photo time impacting fish mortality.  The fish are no more for their world as they are now a more direct part of mine and those of my immediate family.

Good water.  Fish throughout.  Conditions were excellent.

As it happened I was applying a rod passed along by JM's dad to present flies made of deer hair from the hide taken by my dad some 30 years ago.  An aside on that one is that as he tells it, he'd conceded that he'd missed the deer and given up looking for his arrow; gone home.  But arrows were expensive.  He was drawn out to the woods hours later to look further in hope.  Instead of locating the stray arrow though, he found the dead deer.  In telling this story he is careful to note that at this point he let out a howl of jubilation.  And now the tanned hide is draped over a chest made by my brother.  Sits in my shop.  Any number of legacies here to consider.

Creel from great uncle that sat in original homestead until past summer when it was gifted to me.  Already tearing the strap fasten point due to exceedingly frequent bouts with heavy loads.

Baseflow cooler, implemented while sitting on a bank after catching many fish.  Cows downstream; fish rising upstream.

Adams Irresistible.  A generalist approach in the midst of varying bugs on the water.  Worked very well.

This fish right at 16 inches; nice deep mouth.  Still swims.  Not a dry fly fish.  Had gone back to streamer at this point.

The water from whence it came. 

This gray type showed the biggest and best fish.  The small ones out in the riffles and tailouts taking dry flies.  The bigger fish tucked away in pockets and under overhanging vegetation.  This is well understood but still very interesting and intriguing.  Get flies in tight places; fish are in there.

Really liked these spots.  A lot of variability across individual BNT.

Money water.

June in SE MN; glad I was afforded a few hours.  Very special water and remarkable place.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Last Weekend: Two Key Components


Sunday, June 08, 2014

First MN Carping Weekend

Notes from credible sources are appreciated.  I talk on and on about carp and lettuce and grapes and how hard my kids can throw and garlic and reel mowers and beets and walnut trees.  So much so that people sometimes think of me when they see oddities related to any of the listed subject matter, especially carp.  Couple weeks ago I got note; it said, hey man there are a bunch of giant carp up in the rush beds of a lake I know, staging to spawn and/or spawning.  This person has handled thousands of carp.  He ain't gonna put me on.  And we are offered so few clear-water, hard-bottom carping situations, this merited an arrangement of calendar to allow for an exploration.  Basically comes down to this: would one want to look back on this good lead and remember that you did not follow up and instead kept manipulating spreadsheet cells?  There are many work hours logged; no shortage; no worries there.  I brought my canoe, but the nearest public access was ~1.5 miles away; I aimed to use my good looks to avoid the paddle.  The first woman I encountered offered access to the bull rush points I was after; but even better she pointed me to easier/closer access that did not bother a single soul on planet Earth.  And thus I was brought to the shore of my first serious MN carping day. 
This pic struck me because I thought I could pass it off as Columbia River, maybe.  Not much of this carping water around here.  There were fish crusing this shore, but it was a struggle to position oneself to see them; they were out a little deeper, maybe 2-3 feet of water.  At one point I found a notch in the bank vegetation that allowed backcast; it was the case that the best approach was to simply hide and wait, cast.  I could not get a fly to any of these fish though; they were relatively fast movers; not interested.  I did see some very large carp.

Adjacent to the lake was a backwater that was full of spawning fish in the morning.  With the spawners were many fish creeping slowly through the thick vegetation.  These carp would eat but the challenge was getting them to see flies in the thick dogged slough setting.  It was camoflauge chameleon ninja scaling your building fishing at its pinnacle.  Statue-still dapping.  First fish may have been >20.  Hooked it at six feet away; watched the head come up in wonder.  It charged into a log pile and shattered my tippet.  A bow fisherman watched the whole deal.  I swore when the fish broke me off.  Next fish did the same, using vegetation mats to murder me.  Finally, third fish was steered through a narrow outlet to the open water of the slough. Careful handling was required.  Fish came in at 13 lbs.  After getting one I decided to leave these fish and head back out the main lake, try to work on that deal.

Slough carping.
Decent vis on the lakeshore.

See my tracks in the grass.

Tough sometimes to determine the right time to leave a water in favor of another.  I only left myself about 1.5 hours to check out this tailwater on my way home.  Probably should have allowed more time.  For reference, most of those fish are about 10-13 lbers.  Carp and buffs nearly all.  This is a spectacle.  
What may be called biomass.  What may be known in some circles as TNTC.  Too Numerous To Count MF.

Great detail of the two species in water; buffs with the forward white mouths.

These fish were not actively feeding, as you can see.  But they were milling.  Blind stripping was a snagging disaster.  Downstream swinging of smaller flies DID work.  In fact one carp ate a RLHE so deep I had to get out forceps.  But think of the trouble here.  The goal is not to catch a carp.  Not with 1.5 hours ticking down.  Need to sort through this spectacle; need to target.  Only way to get a big fish out of here was to get above them and execute ridiculous looking high altitude dapping; then running down to fight fish.  It did work; maybe one fish per fifteen minutes.  Some smaller carp to hand.  Then this pretty one scaled at 13 lbs.  Great head turn on the eat.  Seen from above.

Got a buff to charge forward a bit and eat.

One-eyed 14 lber.  Some kids rallied around as the fish was landed.  Mira, she said.  There is no eye.

Last march of the Subaru.  Overheated and cracked the engine on the way home.  I pulled over on an exit ramp and sat under some lilacs chewing on grass.  Haven't seen my canoe in a week.

World looking and feeling good in May 2014.

[Cancel weekend plans; take kids to this tailwater and stay in very cheap hotel and then fish it again next day.  This was our basic approach.  Test the boys' spinning gear.  Max it out.]

Fighting first carp of his life.

Raining.  Folks taking shelter.  Kids out fighting fish.  A time to remember.  They hooked and fought these fish themselves.  I netted them all.  Here is JD's first carp.  10 lbs scaled.  It'd be his PB for a couple hours.

DMW with a 10 lber; his one fair-caught carp on the day.  He landed a couple snagged fish and lost a few.  We were fishing in the midst of a gathering of sorts.  And thus when these fish were landed there was great applause about; great spectacle that it was.  People taking video and photographs.  

As adults we understand that these fish fight hard.  But watching my kids go at was good reminder re just what tanks they can be.  It looked like they were trying to reel in windows.  They both tired pretty quickly and were wearing faces of agony fighting fish toward day's end.  That does not mean that they wanted to leave.  I was impressed by their collective constitiution.  Rain and giant, impossible fish.  And yet we were there for about 5-6 hours day one.

Last fish of the day was this 13 lber.  I think JD ended with four fish to hand excluding snagged.  10, 11, unweighed (smaller) and 13 lbs.  Danny logged one 10 lber.


More of the same day 2; Danny got this pretty buffalo.  I was running between kids with a net.  Pulling snags off rocks.  Smiling at this engagement.

I took about 30 minutes and tried to get a big one.  Hooked a monster that ran me into a lady's line; broke off.  Another sow I fought for maybe three minutes and then she just came unpinned in heavy current.  Wasn't to be; it was about the kids.  I landed maybe 3-4 fish topping out at 14 lbs.  Photo credit here goes to DMW.  He took about 20 pics.

Day 2 fish for JD, I think it scaled at 10 lbs.

I've lost track of my mistakes, like birds they fly around (GB) but I will mark this one down in the other column; a time to remember; many details will be known to us for all of our remaining years.  Impressed by my kids' tenacity and appreciative of the interest and budding love they have for our local fisheries.