Days 3 & 4: Wading the Flats
“The carp was dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second and third degree. Limp, I fell into a chair, with my hands still unwashed reached for a cigarette, lighted it, and waited for the police to come and take me into custody.”
Alice B. Toklas, American writer (1877-1967)
We didn't kill any carp, and we both detest smoking. However, as I flopped my ragged ass and burnt and cracked lips into the seat of an airplane, I was in fact A.B. Toklas. The airport security and la policia SHOULD have taken me into custody and beaten me with a rolled up Dex Direct phone book to force the words from my mouth... "J-J-John Montana... and the place, the beautiful and sacred, secret and most wonderful place of all places is... is... ahhhhh!" And then I would flop my chin to my chest and sob and sob and sob.
The place shall remain anonymous. The fishermen and the fish shall not.
We spent days three and four on the Pacific NW's version of Meche Sebe. The difference is that this Big River is in a gorge. It's very clear, and the effects of the numerous dams seem to be more apparent. We drove into a desolate setting, walked even deeper. There were sage bushes everywhere. It was very dry. It did indeed feel like a desert. Not too much time to marinate on that though. The Mountain Goat led the way and we found water. Hard bottom. That was one of the coolest bits about this deal... Easy wading. Seems like a secondary detail, but as days wear on, it's supporting bits like this that can make or break. The water was high, but still only calf to thigh deep.
Right away we saw a lot of carp. Most were still sexy though, and thinking only of engaging in prolific reproduction and passing on the family name. That made it tough. We still caught our share of fish. We probably only landed one in every 20 fish that we saw (if that)... but for the ratio folks out there, we saw somewhere in the n'borhood of 400-500 fish I bet (we figured we were on the water for ~20 hours and saw an absolute MINImum of 20 fish per hour). So while we were both aware of how it could have been crazy-good (see most recent post on Carp on the Fly), we were more than happy with the level of goodness we were offered. Hell, I'll shut up and let some pics do the talking. Before that though, do need to summarize and provide some highlights:
SUMMARY OF WHY THIS BLEEPING ROCKED:
(1) SETTING: as I said - mountain desert eco-sphere. Something I'm not used to... and very cool. It felt like the setting of an underground movie. That sage smell permeated everything. And then to come on a world of water... We saw a few deer, and none of them spooked at us. They kind of chewed cud and observed us observing them. We didn't see any people. It was remote.
(2) WADING: great substrate. The flats of a legendary river. The wading was not a hindrance, which allowed all energy to be focused on the fish and fishing.
(3) SEEING: the water was stone clear. Very clear indeed. Seeing fish is so far and away beyond blind fishing... I think you know what I mean. We could see and identify mirror carp as they swam by...
(4) TAKES: subtle is what they were, in most cases. We didn't see many tailers, so we had to be pretty focused and make a lot of educated guesses. When they worked out, it was candy. We had some great takes.
(5) THE FISH: the native brand of carp is that of a strong and racecar-like fish. They run like MFs... and this gets back to the setting: once hooked, one can let these fish properly defy you by giving them the Big River... just let them have their way, stay connected, and then bring them back to you. Allowing the fish to be the fish and to beat you for a while was important. I liked that. I liked the fact that some ran and ran and then came unpinned. They are beautiful, solid, golden fish.
(5) SIZE MIX: set up perfectly here is a fish population that seems to show you limitless 9 lbers, and occasional biggies. The general population keeps you interested and focused and in fish all the while... and the giant that ambles along now then provides periodic bursts of excitement, anticipation and occasionally fulfillment.
In summary it seems that a person could find any of these "pieces" somewhere else, but it'd be difficult to find a place that marries them as this little joint does... So the whole then is what makes this place.
Some highlights specific to our trip then, followed by some pics:
(1) DOUBLES: we had numerous doubles. We had a triple even, meaning JB had one in the net and while waiting for me to land a fish, he flipped out a fly and hooked another. Two guys connected to three fish.
(2) SWEET TAKES: we made some long casts to cruising fish that worked out. In a couple instances, ever-so-subtle slow-downs were the only indicators... but we jumped on those and did what they said to do: set the hook. The take is indeed the premiere moment (followed closely by ass-whippings though).
(3) SOME BIG FISH: we fought to hand some beauties - including a 16.5 and a 15 - two fish that fall on the big end of my history.
There's a lot to describe here but I've already typed too much I think. Maybe I'll add some more later. Suffice to say that here, weeks removed, I'm still riding the high.
Thanks John Montana for having me out there and leading us to so many intriguing places and putting us on good fish.
These are in disorder... maybe sort them out later. They tell the story nonetheless: