Monday, May 30, 2011

Operation Alphabet

Pictured above is a representative average of the ~60 carp caught over the past few days. Figure I'll hit the hay and tell the story later, being that I just traveled across the country in a shiney tubular transport that some might argue is slightly out of place in the Great Blue Beyond.

But here, a note to say thanks to fishing companions and hosts for yet another marvelous tour of the Columbia River Gorge and its world class carp angling.

PS: the fly of the trip was the MN stand-by Legion of Doom. Many many eats.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cancel Christmas

Maybe you recall the line from the Robert Duvall and Sean Penn landmark film Colors. Cyprinus carpio may as well comply at this point. This is some highly edible stuff placed on absolute rock-solid hooks. Unbendable and unbreakable. Big gap. Bascially: you can't mess with this stuff.

Worms are nothing special but they have the key ingredients: the right chenille and the right hooks.

This is essentially a hybrid between LOD and Carp Carrot. In various body colors and soft hackle collars.

This is "the little green fly" or variant thereon.

Tung-head carp wooley. Absolutely irrestible, it looks, IMO.

And found this pic on downloading tonight. Older son took it: multiple chrysalis (what is plural of that word?) that he is keeping.
It’s 9 PM on a Saturday and one kid is here behind me sleeping after reading through a compendium of Tolkien-related paintings and interpretation. The other kid is downstairs trying to hold some juice in his system after puking at least 12 times today. In fact: a housekeeping note is that at this very moment there is a pile of red puke on the floor right by the table and I don’t really care all that much. Many, many things were covered in vomit today. There were also pools of human feces to clean up. Fucking place has some lingering odors. As you might guess. Man oh man. So at this point, I just finished a John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale (9.1%). My good neighbor, who is pictured in the photos below, was good enough to share this with me – knowing that after a day of cancelled itinerary and stomach-acid-mopping I might need such an elixir. He was right. And now I’m chasing it with an IPA I guess. Out of a Chuck Foreman pint glass. He was number 44, as you probably recall. Maybe strong brew is my muse. I’d be good with that. Hell, I just sat outside in my backyard and looked at all the plants that hung in stasis over the winter, waiting to burst forth and show. Looked at our grapevines that have recently revealed just how many bunches they will offer up: probably ~40 lbs worth. Looking at the walnut tree showing some compound leaves now. Looked at hostas and bergamot and bee balm and lemon balm and monkey flower and blazing star and speckled trout lettuce. All as night came on there under the walnut tree. Hens cooed a bit. Lay some fucking eggs I said in reply. Read The Week and got informed re Bin Laden’s porn stash. He’s like everyone else I guess. Drank that John Henry and ate popcorn popped in a popper that was given to us for our wedding. The popper is made in Monon, IN. For anyone who has viewed the movie Hoosiers, that should ring a bell: I’ll hide-strap your ass to [something or another] and send you down the Monon Line. Well this product from Monon is a good one and I popped some corn in it using canola oil that has been soaking with hot chiles for ~ 1 year now. The popcorn is so fucking hot you can’t really eat it. I chomp a few pieces, cry a bit and then drink beer. Fucking stuff is hot I say. But the only way you can really get going on this blog, after thinking about the various contradictions floating around out there, the various problems with fucking keyboards and monitors and man’s dispositions and that other shit, is to drink in excess and then take to it. Recall that Poe’s character loved animals all his life and then he hung that fucking black cat Pluto. Drove him nuts. I’m not driven nuts yet but I can’t bear to look a computer in the face without being (1) at work, or (2) chemically altered. Poe’s guy hung that cat and then that cat came back and really did him in, didn’t he? I read that story some years ago; then listened to it while driving a month ago; then read it again last weekend. The gallows. They were coming alright.

So there have been all kinds of thoughts and things bouncing around with kids, family, fishing, etc. I’ve been thoroughly attached to the kids lately and I’ve been enjoying that. The plain truth is that now that they don’t fill their pants and need constant attention, they can be companions in all sorts of ventures. It’s highly pleasurable to be at home or out and about with them.

Just drank the last swill of IPA. Going to crest this high and come down in a hurry so better get on to narrative that is pertinent here.

Fact of the matter is that my friend and neighbor conceptualized a great day: long walk on the wild side. Hell with road crossings. Let’s get deep into the wild for a bit here and see what happens. So we did that. Dropped a car, drove downstream and started upstream. In at 7:40 AM. I think we came out just shy of 9:00 PM. To a full moon seated just on the crest of the horizon. Very full moon. We adopted a calm but steady pace for the day: fishing properly but not too intensely. We could have pounded some water but we only tapped at it and then moved on. We took in a lot of experience. We learned that the good water keeps on coming. We saw many good riffles and talked of “if only there were bugs now” etc. etc. Many good corner holes. Many good slow reaches full of fish. Not complete solitude (we ran into two parties), but pretty close. No road crossings. No tilled acres or homes in sight. A person needs to know he can walk a day like that and see nothing but the forest floor and the river. If you don’t have that all your daily life is changed in ways you can’t readily notice or understand. But you’ll be crankier and more ready to get pissed at someone. But if you know that there is a walk out there that is close to the walk that it’s always been before Europeans rolled in here and gummed things up a bit…. You’ll have some underlying peace. If you can look up at cliff faces, and see only river up and down you’ll have that peace. I don’t know why that need is there but it is surely there. Go read The Peace of Wild Things maybe – that could be it, summed up in a poem by a prophet.

[first four pics are credited to my neighbor]

Must pause and say that this is new favorite pic of mine. Regardless of who it is... we're looking at a ninja-like persona there, deep in the wilderness, battling a potential meal with an apparently very flexible fly rod. If that isn't what we're after... who knows what we're looking for then.

Just a couple more things to say here. First: we found some forgiving fish that ate traditionally-hackled flies in dead glass water. We were putting Adams and EHC on them, and they were taking them readily. In an aquarium. Sweet.

This fish came as evening set: prospecting with an Adams in a big and broad western-style riffle. Came in from the side and crushed the fly... all visible and beautiful in the action. Closed out a memorable day.
Mothers' Day 2011

Whitewater River Valley
Per Mom's request
Kids were adept at climbing up
Vertical rescue team had to help down

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Spring Celebrant Episode III

Finally got it: heavy caddis hatch. Many cars. Many people. I know by now though, that in this case: doesn't matter. You can fish all day in sight of someone up and downstream of you and still catch 40 trout.

On this day I had about three hours. Starting 1 PM. Walked up to the first hole, and did not leave it until 3 PM. Notes:

(1) Immediately, the fish took adult EHC patterns. Maybe 15 fish in the first 30 minutes. Then a lull of maybe 15-20 minutes. I noted mayflies on the water, mixed with caddis. So I tried the Adams pattern. Taken readily. In fact, it fished as well as the caddis. I believe that the pattern was originally designed to imitate a fluttering caddis.

(2) They say that if you don't catch fish, you still have a great time, as long as you are fishing. It isn't quite true, but with a slight modifier I can say that I'd go along: as long as you have some action and/or some visuals, it doesn't really matter all that much precisely how many fish you get to hand. Case in point with this hatch: it was just as sweet to observe the patterns, and watch the trout repeatedly charge and then refuse flies as it was to watch them crush and sideswipe and hit flies before they even landed on the water surface. Saying that honestly. I actually enjoyed being refused. In part because it's an education.

(3) Clearly I was not fishing this situation "just right." For two reasons: (1) I don't know how to do that exactly, and (2) it's unnecessary really. I believe that the fish were eating caddis in the film for a lot of the time I was there. Hard to say for sure. I did see them charging the adults bouncing on the water, but careful observation showed a lot of fish hitting unseen insects. LaFontaine describes this in his book. I should have been using some "damp" or emergent pattern. But if you give them the adult, they will eat it. Maybe not right away, but they will eat it.

(4) Tried various skittering techniques. Tough. I think the immediate mend is a good approach. I also tried holding rod high and shaking the tip. These approaches need refinement.

(5) Stomach contents of kept trout showed almost 100% caddis pupae. Green and black wads of gorge.

(6) Watching trout eat dry flies is one of the pinnacles.

(7) Needed this medicine because the busty spring was starting to get to me.

(8) Wore out all my EHC. Need to work on fly durability.

(9) Hard to say, but probably 30-40 fish to hand. One was low teens, otherwise a lot of smaller fish. Kept fish ranged from 9.25" to 11.50". We've eaten our share of trout, so this creel was shared with others.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Spring Celebrant Episode II

I figure if you spend enough time deep in old valleys - at the base of cliffs that are older than you can comprehend, you have a good chance of absorbing goodness and maybe even becoming a better person for it. There's really no rationale for the claim so there will be no typing in that direction. It's a feeling and as I tick off years I tend to put more on feelings and judgment and perceived goodness than on proofs, facts, etc. I just figure the sound of water, the sight of limestone: good. Probably really good.

So I walked around a bit, throwing a dark streamer because it was still gloomy and doggy and there was no chance of seeing any bugs in the air. No riseforms would be had today. Several beautiful fish were brought to hand in fairly short order. The first of note was a-laying in this dark little slot surrounded by boulders. Fished the near side of the situation, and then waded across, leaned on the boulder in the foreground and high-sticked the rig through there. Instant flash from the depths: watched BNT rise up to eat. Nice burning into memory there. I figure he was just tailing in that current watching detritus come by... investigating some of it, charging some of it pulling up just short on noticing it was not viable food... then in plopped a black, elongated mass: looked like a big bug or maybe a dying trout fry. Charge and eat. What came next. Something like the Primus song - Ol' Diamondback Sturgeon maybe. Can't say for sure but I put him back in that lay.

Water like this is absolutely ripe for streamers: some current, but relatively flat and deep. Fish hang out here. Casts up and across were stripped back but regularly interrupted by jolting objections to retrieval. Playing some of these fish the backdrop was noted as spectacular.

Like the look of the new scuds, which incorporate wiggle dub - a gift from John Montana.

Favorite fish, as of late, tend to be produced by context as opposed to the fish itself. This was clearly favorite: waded across to big red dot. Leaned over and high sticked rig to small red dot. Fish shot up and ate. It isn't dangerous whitewater, but it was an uncomfortable perch and a hell of a spot to hook a fish. It's not often in SE MN that you find yourself hooked up with pisces that is racing down a chute of rapids. Thoroughly enjoyable and memorable.

Of all the duplicative fish pics that me/you/everybody puts out there... sometimes a sweet one rolls out. I like this one: the background is right on, the fish is relaxed and beautiful. Says SE MN fishing.

Didn't even fish on the way out. In fact, wandered away from stream for long stretches.
Watched yellow rumped warblers wreck havoc on BWOs (which were around, but were not being eaten by fish). Those birds are efficient in their pursuit of the bugs. Swooping. And hovering even, over bugs on the water, to pluck them from the aqua. The bugs have it tough: mortal danger from above and below. Monsters eating them and all their brothers. Barred owl called twice. Up on the hillside I think. And nothing to say about Dutchman's Breeches. Just look at pic. Forest floor: a person could spend a lot of time there.

Got some nettles on the way out. That's about it.

Spring Celebrant Episode I

Number of things to note as spring rolls around. Household things dealing with plants, compost and good dirt and kids spending more time out and about. World greening up a bit. Grapevines starting to show furry buds. A lot going down. And it's been a long time coming. After that long winter... being subjected to continuous rain, snow, cold in April and May. Has a guy down now and then. Especially when he reminisces on spring 2010, when April was lit up with all kinds of good stuff. So when the sun finally does shine down and things start to unfurl a person feels good. Many dimensions to it. But I guess in this forum the notes worth sharing pertain to fishing. So here are a few, derived from some recent episodes in the good woods.

Found this path and was struck by the river valley and how old and deep it is. And something that can't be communicated by pics too well: the greening of the forest floor. Coming up through the leaf litter. I always note to my kids that trees go back to dirt. We like to tout trees as completely renewable and thus usable for whatever we want. Complexity there for sure. And in the scheme of things: wood is a desirable material for folks to use. But when you see the green coming up through the litter embodied in the organic material that was a year or two ago leaves or maybe a few decades ago tree wood, you are reminded that extraction of trees from a forest is a mining operation. Organic matter held in various forms. Etc. etc.

I think I got to the river around 815 AM. It was May 1st. It was snowing. That's how it was. My wife uses facts like that to spurn discussions regarding moving away from MN. I admit it was mildly frustrating because what a guy wants to see is bug life: he wants to observe insects hatching and fish eating and take part in that to the extent possible. He doesn't want to just catch a fish. So tying on flies with fingers that were rapidly slowing down... I was my normal grumpy self. Bitching about this or that in my head. It was gray and cold and dark and no bugs were to be seen so the fly of choice was a #6 Tombstone Shadow, trailed by some generic nymph. Moved some fish right away. I was on the take too, being that I wanted some fish protein and figured I should bind some more of my family's cellular construct to that of the stream. I figure that's a good bond and therefore I justify crushing skulls of salmo trutta and a brief respect paid. Interesting to note that all fish kept on this day showed only chironomids in their stomachs.

Hit a major lull up to maybe 1015 AM. Just nothing going. I started questioning my rigs: was I down far enough, was the streamer to bulky and water resistant and sinking fast enough, etc. Looking back on it, the fish I did move or catch reacted to strips and aggression... the dead drifts just weren't doing anything. Likely the case that the fish simply weren't really active that early on a cold drab shitty morning. Translated: I should have stayed home and made breakfast for the family instead of stealing away at 530 AM.

Fish did start to come though. Couple beauties here, both too big to keep. The second fish was right around 16 inches according to the rod reference note made on the stream. This fish ate and orange scud trailing the streamer, on a dead drift.

The fish are beautiful, but what I've been more fascinated with lately is the water from which they come. The situations. Pictured below is the drift that turned up these two fish. I think I fished that riffle first and got maybe a fish or two. Then waded across to that nice soft edge adjacent to the woody debris. Cast up to the head and mended to let rig sink... drift on through there, maybe a jolt or twitch to get attention. Sweet water.

And then right at this water, someone called out to me. I had picked up a visual on a tall guy in white, fishing behind me. Made me hurry a bit, both because I like solitude and because I wanted to give him some space. Turns out this guy was fishing with WFF, and they approached me just after I had methodically put these four drifts across this nice water, in succession going away from me each produced one fish.

I liked the fact that the person I'd run into on this day was WFF. 36,000 acres or so and we were the only people on it. We caught up. Strategized a bit. Shared some food and then were on our respective ways. On the way out, I didn't fish much. More of a spring walk. Still gray and cool but now much more tolerable. Trout lillies, wild ginger, nettles coming on. Back home for late lunch.