Spring Trip, Day One: A Poor Man’s Columbia River Flat
A poor, ragged man’s flat maybe (and here, the term flat
is used loosely). Anything in comparison to what John Montana
has out west comes out as a beggar’s flat. No question there. There is fun to be had though, and memorable fishing for a couple guys willing to explore a bit. In retrospect, the most worrisome part about this day was that it almost didn’t happen. We were cruising in the motor vehicle, sipping coffee and discussing this or that… When I said: Well, we could drive directly to our no-miss spot, or we could loop a little north and hit two dice-rolls
. Fifteen seconds of discussion decided that we skip one of the dice rolls, but hit the other en route… just to check it out. Maybe see a carp or two. Part of this was because I wanted to see how JM would interpret the situation. Part of it was because I’d seen carp there, and looking at air photos and considering basic intuition, a guy had to figure there were a lot of carp in the general vicinity. The questions were regarding access to the fish, and visibility. Could it be waded, and could you put eyes on fish well enough to nick them? Turns out it’s a decent water. Here is a brief photo journal.
Rigging up. A little magic in the air. Been looking forward to this for a while, and to actually be out there was a great feeling. Anticipation on various scales is a big part of fishing: thinking about what you’re going to do the next day… all the way down to thinking about how that buglemouth is going to suck that shit up.
LOD variant that I tied up for this trip. Farily badass, IMO.Roughfisher
sent us some sweet caps. Fedex, in fact. Thanks dude – I love mine. Some sweet graffiti there too.
First fish JM saw was the first fish JM caught. We had been planning to blind nymph today, so a sight-fishing appetizer was about as fist-pumping as a guy could ask for… First of a number of cool takes. Minnesota carp is what it was. From the bank though, in plain-clothes fashion. Camo shirts and Gonzaga sweatshirts, etc. Nothing waterproof.
The next key decision then: to wade out in pursuit of fish unseen, or to move on – happy with a complete and solid appetizer? Credit to JM on this one: let’s wade this damn place and see if it can hold our boots up. We did that, and this was the result:
The beautiful thing here was that every fish caught was spotted, stalked, presented to, hooked, played and landed. Nearly as cool as catching some of these fish was the fact that they were pretty much everywhere – not thick like some of the Columbia situations, but we regularly and methodically saw fish to cast to… Many of the fish were not eating. This was not a numbers day, but rather a quality day. There were some sweet takes. JM can detail his; here are a few that I remember:
(1) Saw fish eating/rooting on the far side of a log pile… sneaked on it, flipped LOD to the side… went unnoticed by fish. Come on man. Flipped again without spooking, and watched fish pivot… didn’t see the fly enter mouth, but guessed and it was there. That was first fish of the day, so it swatted the skunk off my back.
(2) Put fly under a couple of fish and watched them move over it… slight pause and set hook. Fish there. Played her over to JM and took a photo. JM had a similar situation in which he casted to a couple of crusing fish… maybe a barely discernable pause, but he set the hook when the fish were over the fly… rod bends and we both figured he had snagged one in the belly… In comes fish, only to find fly lodged contently, well inside bugle mouth. Impressive.
(3) There were also opportunities to cast across/above fish and drift flies down to them. IMO, this is pretty difficult and I’m not too good at it. It’s cool to try though, especially if you have a fish or two willing to hold for a while and allow you some trial and error time. I got a few of those opps. In one instance I cast about a dozen times at a pair of fish – pulling the flies to the right drift – considering both horizontal position and sink time of the flies. Got no attention. Added a single split shot to get them down just a little faster… A few drifts in I saw one of the carp kind of roll on its lengthwise axis. Kind of an abstract memory, really – but I know that he did something. Set the hook. Fish on. Right in the mouth. Woo-freaking-hoo. That is fishing. That is hunting. That is not asking for a fish to come by and do you a favor – it’s you making something happen. And thus, I believe that is why it is pretty fulfilling.
All in all, we didn’t land dozens of fish. It wasn’t a numbers bout. No really biggies either. We scaled some. Most were in the 8-11 lb range. Coolness abounded though, and we had a solid time. We left when cloud cover become a bit of a bitch. On to the can’t-miss blind nymphing…
And on that blind nymphing – it was a miss. Almost a major whiff really. There were carp everywhere. Trouble was two-fold: they were all small, and they wouldn’t eat. Fail-safe flies were ignored. Various presentations were put forth. Effort was there. Fish were not. As a consolation of sorts, we each picked up a “gamefish” or two. Note that the pike was caught on a #10 rubber legged hares ear. Right in the lip. The smallmouth crushed the LOD lead fly. I think we each caught maybe 1-2 small carp in the mouth. Plenty of snags and a handful of those were landed.
So, in short, and again in large part thanks to JMs suggestion, we abandoned the blind nymphing after a couple hours and went back to the place from which we’d just come. You don’t leave fish to find fish (we violated that) but you can leave fish that won’t bite to return to fish you’ve already found. Makes sense. Plus, the clouds cleared off and we figured we’d be in business on that “flat” with a little light (we fished the morning with only marginal illumination). We got there, and the cloud bank moved in. Still caught a few fish. Then went to bed.