Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 27 when the day is done

After work, one quick inning of carp baseball and went 1-3 with a stand-up double.  Double digit fish just before dinner never a bad deal.  Quick hitting encounter.  Three chances in the 100% cloud cover, off-and-on rain, turbid waters: (1) soft, soft steps and painful focus on the water; is that a dorsal outline (not the fin, but the dorsal dimension is noted); yes it is just that; drop fly; it goes out of sight, as does the gray line of the carp; lift up and find the fish had eaten this green leech.  Not an unremarkable event.  In fact somewhat fulfilling.  Scaled the fish at 10 lbs.  Note the nice belly contour.  (2) Another fish, this one in better sight, moving along the shore...   can even see some red in the tail...  put fly on, fish soft-spooked, never to be seen again.  (3)  Soft steps were falling just as they should have, but when I came upon a pigathon with a nice rounded gut, she was facing me; completely still, big scales in all her grayness; easy mid-teens, maybe high.  One, two, three seconds as I touch my fly in the hook keeper...   probably holding my breath...   and there she turns, bolting; knowing better.

Other notes: (1) got to try out the drag on this new "entry level" Ross Reel.  Desirable, IMO.  Funny sound when reeled in; I asked the guy at the Ross table why the hell it sounded like there was sand stuffed in there on reeling up and he said you can disable it and I said, oh, so you do that on purpose.  Yes, on purpose.  It's a large arbor and it came with fly line and backing.  The fly line was worth more than what I paid for the whole deal, so that's explanation enough as to why purchase was made.  It'll sing a lot higher notes come end of May though.  (2) Spent all day with the boys today, various engagements none of which were high intensity or taxing.  Like Go Fish game over coffee and hot chocolate at the local bakery, then 1.5 hours of tag at the park on the creek, then 45 minutes at the library.  Low-dollar, high-community things, IMO.  On the way back I pointed to a piece of water and said sixteen lb carp right there last year.  That's half your weight Danny.  Then to James: if a sixteen lb carp is half of Danny's weight, how much does Danny weigh?  Without pause he said thirty-two lbs.  Which wasn't all that surprising.  But then I asked him how he came to that number.  Fifteen times two is thirty, plus two is thirty-two.  I about ran off the road and then I did run in and recount this exchange to my wife.  Watching your kid absorb process and understanding; and even better using a Houghton-Mifflin carp word problem.

Two important and relevant poems from W. Berry...

Looking through some older collections.

The Change

Part 1.

I'll never know what causes it
 --the sudden going down
into pointless sorrow, great
beyond all causes I can think of,

the almost aimless attempt
to recover out of huge darkness
the too small thought of myself.

Something turns over
in the heart, like the black
side of a mirror turned
to the light. I'm exhausted
by the thought of all
the possibilities that are lost.
[my emphasis]

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

[both from Openings, ~ 1965]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seeking Situations Everybody knows where some trout are holed up; everybody knows where some big carp reside. Bunch of trout down there in the bottom of that belly; some big ones too. 35+ lb carp in that lake for sure; my guy arrowed one that he scaled at that weight. The fish are everywhere and we know it. But a person isn't really looking for fish (and this won't swerve off into some deal about a guy looking for himself when he's fishing). Rather looking for situations: the right size trout water - the one that affords concealment for trout and camo for fisherman. Looking for the carp water that let's you see the fish and approach the fish. Number of criteria go into evaluating situations. Case #1: fishing to fucking trout in aquarium holes. And not even that many trout. The other day we chose some water that was too small, too low gradient and too sparsely populated with salmonids. It was tough man. The setting was interesting and beautiful - deep down in a valley, nice pasture. But we could tell right away it was going to be a tough go. Very few holes. And what holes were present showed belly-dwelling spooky fish. Some find this challenging and amusing. I've never been too into it. I like to let those fish be. I like to sight fish to situations, i.e. sight fish trout without actually seeing the trout but knowing 100% the trout is there and visualizing bouncing nymphs. So anyway we were fortunate to get a few small trout to hand and then move on. We'll make up next time. I did get to fish a 10 foot 3 wt, which was pretty badass. I hexed it though by losing two fish.
Case #2: carp everywhere today while doing some recon for work. Everywhere. We chased them off rapids and we pushed them in wakes ahead of us as we moved across flats. There are carp in there, that would be the report. Of course there are carp in there; this is a SE MN river system. We found one flat that showed so many fish... but only as silt plumes. Clarity ~4" and we strained and strained through polarized glasses and we simply could not see even the vestige of a black geometry under the water surface. We were getting right on top of them too. One hit my kayak so hard I figure it listed approx 15-20 degrees. Big deal though. What good is it? For the sight-fisherman it is of little good. I believe you could put in prolonged effort and eventually get some fish (indeed, Danny and I got one off that flat last year); but given remote location and undesirable situation, ratio of time and work to fulfillment goes way up. Not the right deal. And chasing those fish off riffles - not the right deal. How would you fish to those guys, there in the middle of nowhere, seen only by kayaks passing over the top? More carp but wrong situation. And then on the way out, saw a bunch of fish stacked up by a dam. Probably could have caught a few. But smallish fish, milling around not really looking super positive. Mixed in with redhorse, suckers, quills. And you'd have to much around quite a bit to land them. Maybe this situation would rate as barely-marginal. But then finally, around 4 PM when day is done... here come some fish in the right scenario. In a stillwater setting, one fish milling in rocks. The look of interest is clear. Not tailing but going down for something, then up, then scooting. A dead man walking is what the fish was the second it was sighted. And the situation provided obscurity to my human outline. Opportunity to approach. Formulaic indeed. And thus the first cast resulted in a cat-like assault on whatever fly I put out there. 100% visual record and a good thing indeed. I took that fish and put it in a makeshift livewell and said if you are here when I return I will eat you. Because I had to move on to another deal that was making itself known to me: that of a dozen or so fish milling in and out of current, feeding in mid-column and occasionally on the top. I could approach these fish from the side. Stay low; they wouldn't see me. I worked a 90 degree angle. This did take attention to fly selection. The first was too heavy; couldn't levitate it in front of faces. The second was just some polar chenille with no weight - looks like a blob of algae or maybe a berry. Too light. Probably would have worked eventually, but I didn't have the patience. The third fly was a moderately-weighted soft hackle. This showed up in the water as a dark spot, and I could walk the dog right to where I wanted it. So I crouched there in the sun, wet wading in shifting sand, casting up into the current and guiding it to these fish. All told this took a good 15-20 minutes but I didn't quit because this was clearly a good deal; not just a chance or something that required help from the fish. This was an angle that if worked properly would come out. So I wasn't leaving. Finally guided that fly just right and I saw a gray head tick to the left... hook set and now-regular involuntary whoop. Recognize the right deal and make it work. Don't burn your valuable time fuckin around with long-shot stuff. This carp is now in a cooler of water waiting for a heavy knife tomorrow morning around 530 AM. I think the binary-star glimmer on that polar chenille is what got this one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's time to PAY UP M****F**** these are the wages of sin
hooks on clearance from bait fishing aisle dubbing from singlebarbed wire rib from coworker today chocolate guinea from river city fly shop

Monday, April 16, 2012

Catch and Keep 2012

No way can I take the crowds. The Sat/Sunday stuff is too much. Spent those days with the boys, and with family/friends. Saturday tried to get the older guy into some trout but interest waned quickly. At this point they'd rather wade, throw rocks, etc. Installing a tradition of going during the week following the opener weekend to chase down a harvest. This works well. Kids at school. No one else on the water so poor social skills by me are not a factor.

Steep drop to this stream. Saw two whitetails on the way in and they raced the car a bit. To bookend that, two dogs raced me on the way home. Had to drive in the ditch to avoid crushing one of them. But anyway, the deep valley killed the wind. And my worry about dropping temps was as usual unfounded and it was all fine. Fish came as they normally do... same skinny water and same nymphs. Had a limit in very short order but stopped at four so I could fish a bit up to lunch time. Overall supposed I fished 930 to 1230. Then slowly worked my way up and out. Stopped to dig some ramps. Used an old bone as a digging stick. Some small fish. Couple too big too keep. One with a nice deep-set jaw.

That stands for Hard Ass PT. 2x heavy scud hook and heavy bead. Also hard ass because bragging rights re tied from one material only.

Not a bad place to take a break around 11 AM on a Monday.

Heavy creel. Good thing. 20 minutes from my house all this played out and it should leave a guy feeling pretty good for a while.

"Well did he love garlic, onions, and eke leeks, and for to drinken strong wine, red as blood." - G.C., Cantebury Tales

As quoted from the monastery soup book I'm using at this exact moment to make potato leek soup.

Friday, April 13, 2012


It happened that my family left for spring break. At home alone I feel a bit ghosted and plus it was a pretty glorious time to be out and about on planet earth. Fished a couple days. On one of the days around 2 PM I sat down with my fishing partner and he asked me how many fish do you figure we've caught so far... maybe 60? I thought for a few seconds and confirmed. With certainty. The specifics of the two days are not really worth relating; they can be summed up as an absolute assload of fish; pile of fish to hand, most came via tandem rig nymphing; few on dry flies (the fish weren't keyed into a hatch but would eat dry flies if fisherman persisted), bunch on black buggers. Better subject is some of generalities that have been lingering in my mind after this remarkable outing.

Nymphing: it's an art form. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. And is without a doubt the most reliable way to pry these trout from their holds. I'm not as venerable as a lot of guys who fish around here, but I'm no rookie either and my take is that nymphing is intriguing, difficult and deadly.

The conversation about indicators is over, IMO. Calling them bobbers is false. Even calling them indicators is slightly misleading in that there is almost always a visual mark that is watched by nymphers. Far and away the primary function of the indicator is depth regulation. Keep moving that indicator - that's what the guy in the MO River fly shop told me before I went out there and got murdered by that big river. But the point stands: assess the situation and regulate your depth. The suggestion that using an indicator makes things "easier" may have some truth to it, but it's an overly simply suggestion. I heard that if I put an indicator on above my nymph and cast it out there, it'll be easier to catch fish. But just the indicator... that's not what does it for you man. It's part of integrated depth regulation approach that uses nymphs, shot, a float and high-sticking. Laser-deadly shit we're talking about here man. Laser-on-deadly.

Also over is the suggestion that you should minimize your time in the water. Best positioning your feet and thus your angles for presentation trumps the need to stay out of the water. I like being in the stream. Better casting angles, easier landing of fish. Stealth in the water is a possibility. Prefer to be in the water myself, with boots immersed maybe up to the laces, crouched down surveying all angles. This also kills your silhouette better, getting down off any bank. Plus how the hell are you gonna land a fish without getting in? Hook it from the bank and then crash down in a rush to grab it... is that stealthier?

We touched so many fish man. There was a hairpin in the stream where we basically stood back to back and crushed these holes. Four doubles were noted. So many holes gave up 6-9 fish.

THere is one rule and one rule only; all other suggestions are corollary to it: study water and know how to read it. Know where the fish are laying up. I don't always do this but any success I'll ever find is a direct function of the right reads followed by getting nymphs to the fish. Dry flies and streamers require some but less of this reading, IMO.

And corollary #1 would then be: after reading the water and knowing, knowing the fish are there... determine whether or not you should fish to them. A good quote out there I read once that said "learn to identify dead water, and avoid it." The reasoning being your time will be more focused on good water and thus more productive per unit expenditure. But it extends into fishy water too: learn to identify water that is too tough to fish, and avoid it. Like the aquarium stuff. Like water that will give up one fish and then no more. IMO, the key here is to zero in on the absolute locks: that water that provides the fish with a feeling of security; water that provides you audio and visual camoflauge. Broken water. Gray water, etc. Places they figure they are safe. Places you can iteratively work over with nymphs and shot until you get flies in front of faces. Skip a lot of water. I suppose it depends on your goals and your timeframe, your zen-state, etc. But skipping some fish in favor of others can be a very good deal.

We operated like surgeons on said water. Pretty much that simple. And the glory of the valley shone down on us. What a time to be out walking: no veg yet; 60 F. Full sun. Remarks and exclamations were often involuntary.

Second day I fished by myself. There was one spell of 30-110 minute range out in the middle of nowhere sitting on a stump where I just stared straight ahead and then snapped back to it. Burned some time there but I couldn't get going for a while. Then after revving up again I worked over the holes in said fashion. At one point after catching 2-3 fish from a very skinny piece of water I started snapping frames of each fish... just to see how far this stuff could go. It went pretty far. Note times in the captions in the collage below.

Some fish on dries and emergers just to feel the grace in the casts but that wasn't the deal. It was nymphing. Methodical applications. Something joyous about it too.

And one pretty big fish ate a black streamer (from Roughfisher) around 6 PM one night. This fish was not in a hole but rather hiding in a V behind a log. Sweet lay. Beautiful fish well into high teens.

Finally: the water is skinny now. And water that looks like it can't hold fish... is full of fish. Little gray water notches beside riffles. Small holes. We even danced streamers over riffles and had fish materialize out of nowhere in crush mode.

Deep down in the valleys both days. No people, no road crossings, no row crops. One cabin and two hunting trailers sighted. Cows around. Things greening up. Nothing more to say on it; some pics help communicate.

[pics from both days follow; kind of mixed up]

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Roughians have been beating me up lately…

(1) Other day had three hours come free in land of good carping. I walked up to a tailwater and from a high vantage saw all kinds of carp down in there. Hanging in the slack water. Some big ones in there. Nice long black lines defining dorsal and wide gray up by the head. Looking pretty good. By all accounts I already had those fish in the bag and I found some involuntary smiles and whoops as I rigged up. Not to be. There is always something that can get you and in this case it was the water scenario: when I got down there and put my eyes at that level, I could no longer see the fish. I’d marked them so I knew where they were… but couldn’t see them. So sight fishing was out. And the water was so low and slack there was no way to blind nymph a la trout fishing. I had all that stuff along too: big indicators and heavy shot. But no current to carry the rig. So a person is relegated to casting out and slow stripping blind. I suppose that can be good if things are hot, but in most cases I’d say it sucks bad. No sight fishing and no dead drifting. Crippling. I knew I was screwed but I pounded away for 2.5 hours. Snagging fish fairly regularly. I got one to eat just by pure chance and couldn’t even stomach a picture. And to cap off that encounter, on my way out I stopped again at the high vantage. There they were… milling slowly fuggin mocking me but I was good with it. It’s a campaign.
(2) Slow walking on a river and I spotted a bright orange koi. Maybe 4-6 lb range. It was hanging with a bigger common. Right behind a snag, nice current break. No way would it have eaten but had to give it a try. Approach was too close though and before I could present and confirm failure the orange faded off into the greater current. Funny to think of a koi though, not in a pond, but making its way in the big river.
(3) Found a big pod of quills hanging in current. Worked them via dead drifting toward their heads one after another. Finally guessed right as a fly entered vicinity of head and I thought/felt/vibed a movement that seemed right. Small fish and zero fight but fascinating nonetheless.
(4) On the way out of this watershed I decided to stop and walk a good shore. Easy walking. Night was falling but I figured: no one home, so why go home? I walked as the sun started down. And here came two guys carrying fly rods. Heavy stuff. For carp. This was the highlight of the day. Chatting with guys who are into this stuff. Naming folks that we both know. Talking carp water. Freely passing information because the guys seem right. I’ll remember that for a while. Not every day you run into guys staring hard at water looking for tails to dap on.
(5) Local river – back for some action – hoping for something like I had first carp outing (three to hand). They were there. Conditions again tough. Had only 1.5 hours. Walked right up on a beauty, in the one good visibility stretch. It was methodically eating in the rocks. Absolutely dead lock, owned fish. The fundamental choice on this water is whether to cast from the high bank or sneak down to the rocks. I chose the latter. It worked. Presented the fly, although the fish had fallen back into slightly deeper water and became an oblong dark shape. Fish either saw the fly fall, or spooked when I jigged it ever so slightly. Gone to the depths. The rest of the fish spooked ahead of me as I moved like a heron. Absolute heron but the water was turbid and no light; they had me whipped. Spooked fish after fish. Let them be; picked some nettles for Easter dinner and went home.

Catch and Release Opener 2012

April; you don’t get many of them in your life. Not one hundred or eighty; maybe you get 60-70 of them and of those you remember hopefully 75%. In April you can look ahead and count on six months of solid interaction with trout streams, the valleys of SE MN and fairly welcoming weather and conditions. March is good; April might be the best month though. April 1’s status as an “opener” of any sorts will likely soon be deleted as regs and seasons start down the path of simplification. It’s really not that complicated now, but the proposal that’s out there will be an improvement. Folks have been C&R fishing for months, but now more streams open for plying. Water even closer to home now open. Overall my take on complete C&R fishing remains unchanged: don’t like it. Don’t like 100% C&R that is; I like releasing fish but I like doing so according to the variables to be considered: trout density, size of the fish caught mainly. Still nagged and bothered by the reduction of something to “sport.” Rather, I’d like to enjoy the land and the water while harvesting a few fish. It’s not too much of a reach to say that during C&R a person can enjoy the land and the water while catching a few fish. So really my C&R problem doesn’t burn too strong; I do it and I enjoy it.

This fishing was largely unremarkable. Other than wet-wading early morning in April was good to go. Decided to try a new stretch of stream close by my place. Urban water; redone water. Got up before folks were awake. Hit the stream around 7:30 AM. Nymphing tandem rigs. Approx 12-15 fish to hand, only a few of which were moderately sized; no big fish. One RBT. Eating standard nymphs. Zero dry fly action. Air temp records suggest that it was around 43 F when I arrived; around 50 F when I folded up shop and walked out at 10:30. Few hours; handful of fish. Etc. etc. Can’t call it old hat but if there’s no dry fly action, no big fish, no brook trout, no beautiful valley, no kids along and no kept fish… what’s left? Still some good things but you might leave questioning the use of the time.

Afternoon the temp hit 65 F. It was an uncharted afternoon. All I knew was that I was going to get the boys into something good. Maybe trout, maybe carp. But we started off at the local trout pond and wet-wading was the deal. Not fishing. Building dams, implementing various engineering ideas and wading in a cold pond. I didn’t have it in me to suggest anything else; I let it play out and figured I’d react if they asked to do something else. So I lay me down in the dirt with my feet just at the edge of water. One of those good half-naps during which you are conscious enough to track things; see things through the blur of your nearly-closed eyelashes, etc. Looks like we have a problem situation, Danny said a few times when the dam would break. So we kicked away the day in pretty good fashion. C&R opener.

Friday, April 06, 2012

April 6, 2012
17:59 CDT
Somewhere deep in an old valley