Monday, March 19, 2012

It’s 80 F in March, Part III:

[Part II was long day of social appointments offsite and having folks over to our place, drinking throughout day, etc. i.e. not relevant subject matter for this venue]

Looks like ~5 hours to handle on my own came up. Original plan was to find some bugs and get after trout. I thought and thought and toiled and wallowed in indecision as I’m wont to do. Finally came down to this: I went against trout fishing because (1) I don’t like driving 45 minutes one way, and even my home waters 25 minutes away seemed too far, (2) the bugs are not well-defined at this point and reports I was reading suggested only sporadic activity, (3) can’t keep any fish right now. So in sum I didn’t want to drive far to catch and release average-sized trout via nymphing. And one more thing: it’d been a long time – maybe 1+ years – since I’d given local carp a good solid look (I’ve dishonored them recently by giving them only little bits of time wedged in here and there). So that’s what I did: carp focus. I spent 30 minutes the night before doing some recon and planning. I had five waters in my home area queued up, with a plan to get to three of them holding two in reserve. I ended up getting to two of them, which is a good thing.

(1) Conditions were not optimal, but manageable. Windy, cloudy and water slightly turbid. Sun would break through now and then. But as we’ve learned over the years poor conditions can be managed and can actually work in your favor now and then as carp have difficult time seeing fisherman. The basic technique here is one of patience and slow walking, and intense, nearly mind-numbing focus on the water through your polarized glasses. I spooked a lot of fish because I didn’t see them in time. Could only see their dark shapes, or occasionally the outline of dorsal and fins. Could not see heads or mouths. Spooked a couple nicer fish. Then went to the other side of the river – side I don’t usually fish. Two minutes into that walk found a fish that was a dead lock. Presented the fly and guessed on the timing/take. First carp of 2012 to hand.
(2) The technique in this setting involves one key decision on spotting a carp: cast from the high bank and risk waving your rod and line all over hell, or sneak down the bank and slink up for dapping. All three fish I caught at this location were via the latter approach. The carp can see you up there and it’s tough to present from that high bank. Not impossible, but tough. And vegetation comes into play: in a couple months this bank may be unfishable. Stinging nettles and every other thick veg specie in there.
(3) Left that water looking for bigger fish. Walked into them on first investigation. I was thinking it’d be a bust so I didn’t have my scale in my pocket… I peeked into the water and saw some biyatch fish in there; ran back to the car whooping a bit and grabbed that scale with some hope. Didn’t hook any of them though. Went to another water; it was a bust, so came back to the big fish water. I said to myself there’s no way you won’t hook one of those fish if you just set aside the time and iteratively go through fly box. Soft hackles, SJW, leeches… I kept putting these flies on these damn fish but they weren’t eating. They were swimming in a circle and disinterested. But then to the DC squirrel strip fly… two minutes with that in the water and things took a turn. Complete disclosure: I was watching one fish getting ready to cast to it… but I was making a habit of jigging that fly in between casts. As I was picking it up to cast I bounced/jigged it up… and here came a f*cking dinosaur-headed carp, swinging slowly from side to side, up from the depths right under the fly… big white mouth opened and sucked in that squirrel strip! I know I yelled at the top of my voice at that point. Hooked that fish. Just a sow bitch pig of a carp. What hasn’t been said yet: I knew I had only a 1% chance of landing the fish because of the extremely goofy location/setup. No details shared here on that, but suffice to say it was a tough angle. But hook the fish and then worry about it. So I did some odd things that involved running away from the water 20-25 yards, standing on my tip-toes and risking breaking my rod for a solid 30-45 seconds of foot travel. And I almost pulled that shit off. Almost. I was nearly home free and she popped off. Too much slack on line. Tip-toes weren’t tall enough, etc. Easy high teens fish, may have touched low 20s. Hard to say. Will work on it.
(4) The biggest fish to hand was scaled at 11 lb. Quick story on that, which adds to the on-going dialogue re over-estimating fish weights. As I was fighting that fish, along came a guy that I knew. We talked a bit. Good guy. Smart guy. He said “looks like 20-25 lber, right?”
(5) Two smallest fish were kept for eating. They are on ice at home right now. I’m still figuring on the best means of cleaning and prep. Probably then smoking.
(6) Felt good to catch some weighty fish. A guy loves trout but they are not fighters and they are not heavy.
(7) Don't figure you can put carp in a cooler of water without securing the cover. They objected to captivity and in fact released themselves.
(8) Quest for 20 lb Miss River Basin carp continues. If I can add that to the 20+ fish from Columbia and Great Lakes basins, might retire or at least make a t-shirt out of it. I think I saw some yesterday, and they are there for the catching (albeit tricky catching). Trickiest thing though is finding another slot of time to go get them


Blogger Gregg said...

Very good!

I have one of your flies and hope to use it as soon as I can. The carp ought to be good, as the immigrant fisherman that my sons and I accidently let on to a local small carp pond can attest, they keep every single fish, protein, but I worry about my water now. I can rant some other time, bully for you. I have a favorite spot exactly 100 miles away from my drive way, it's worth it.


11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:58 AM  
Blogger Ross Brecke said...

That's it! I really have to catch a carp on my flyrod. You have inspired me! I saw some eating sunfish eggs on a lake less than a mile from my house last spring, huge carp!
Looks like a great weekend was had!

4:18 PM  
Blogger testflycarpin said...

What an early season for most of the country, nice write-up as usual. Seems like just about everybody is off the carp shnide early this year.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In all the buzz about flyfishing for carp over the last few years, this is the first post that has made me want to try it. I think. Let us know how they taste.

1:10 PM  
Blogger John Montana said...

Me...I am still grumpy because it snowed the other day. So nice job and all that shit. I am going to poach a fish from you when you show up here in May...just saying...

10:18 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

It was good; still riding this one; thanks for the notes.

Ross: you'd better get out with your fly rod and run that carp down.

The carp were smoked last night. They taste fine as far as quality of the fish; but the brine was too strong. Left them too salty. I think this can be remedied by using another brine formula I was eyeing. Surprised me a bit because I used the "float an egg" technique endorsed by many, including Dickson in Fishing for Buffalo.

8:49 PM  
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