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).|
|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.