Cross-tie Walkers Make Good on Another Carp Chapter
Sun, water clarity, water level, wind. Full sun is desirable. Dead calm and dead clear is not desirable. Wind and turbidity in moderate degrees provide cover for the hunter. Water levels are generally notable insofar as they impact water clarity and disallow fishing of certain waters (e.g. water too deep to get on a good run of cobble bar, or water to shallow to keep carp on a flat). Recall this note from 2011: Carping Quality Score = 150 – [% cloud cover] – [(% above long-term mean flow)/2] – [turbidity NTU value] – [ABS((wind speed) – 6)]. The final word on conditions is that one is allowed to bitch about them for any length of time and with any degree of intensity; however, when offered a chance to engage a premiere fishery, one is not allowed to fold up or not fish or not focus due to conditions. Tell it to yourself like you say to your kids: you get what you get and you don’t have a fit.
Scan ahead; that is the reminder; that is the reminder from JM. Tendency is to burn eyes into the water in an immediate radius. But spotting fish at a good distance allows for design of the best approach. Degree of difficulty is moderately high. Dark shapes are usually obvious; but one is not always afforded high contrast imagery. Sometimes subtle color differences, nervous water, varying grayness, obscure lines in the water are the only signals.
Consider the angle of approach that will allow best presentation. Because there are no favors being granted here; it comes down to execution on the part of the angler. I mentioned to JM that a nympher here in the DA said once in his presentation one of the most overlooked and oft-shrugged-off considerations in nymph fishing is where one plants his feet when presenting the fly. The end-node of the stalk of the carp marks this point in this application. Weigh carefully the closeness of the approach termination. Carp feel water pushed at them. They feel reverberations initiated by boots on cobble. And they aren't like the sunfish I saw yesterday that not only didn't spook at my presence but followed me around in a school, presumably figuring I had something for them. In this venture we see countless carp that perceive our presence before a stalk can even be initiated; they leave; move on to safer havens.
Cannot spook fish with fly plop. Cannot allow fish to feel tippet (the actual tippet or the water moved by tippet). Carp must see the fly. Must get into feeding cone. And the Columbia River fish require much of a presentation; they do not stand for tangentials; they do not move much. You will not be stripping flies through the path; you will not be hoping to break a carp off its linear course. Here is the feeding cone; you put the fly in it. Or you walk away stoned. This is unlike other carp populations of the world and thus worth noting. Difficulty level can be very high, especially if fishing small flies in wind.
Generally speaking carp don’t strike; rather, one must detect a take. An eat of the fly. They don’t offer obvious tells; rather, just some clues if they are feeling generous. Changes in angle of inclination; hurrying of the tail motion; subtle head turns. This puts the burden of detection on the angler. It’s not like fishing pike or bass both of which give clear messages that the fly has been eaten. Watch like a bird dog. Study, and when you feel the fly has been eaten, pick up the rod. Many times there is no fish; but here and again there is one and the resulting head shake marks the penultimate reward; possibly the ultimate reward as some have said the take is the premiere moment (Mr. P).
Fight like no other; no other freshwater inland fish. Long runs and remarkable endurance. It’s been professed; it’s all true. Is there another freshwater fish that will show you your backing without the aid of current? Please share; I do not understand any such possibility beyond carp. I think we’ve become conditioned to the heavy, heavy fights and bulling pulls and refusal to submit. Grown accustomed to releasing oxenesque 15 lb fish without remarking. I suppose we figure we’ll land them now for the most part, using 7 wts and 1x tippet. But they can still cut lines on rocks. They can still sweep across in diagonals and run so far as to put long bows in lines (up to 10 feet) such that the tension is degraded to the point of possible hook fallout. This is the fish for which drags were made. Bring a net; you’ll catch twice as many fish simply because you’ll cut fight time in half.
Good sun, dead clear water day 1. Then wind came on, constant, strong wind for most of the remainder of the trip. This provided a good school, requiring careful consideration and varying flies, approaches, etc.
We fished different water every day. No repeats.
Often times saying “there should be a carp in here,” etc. Water looks good. But on the last day we dialed it in such that we were very accurately predicting carp presence; beyond speculation/probability. The waves were big; whitecaps. We came to understand where the fish were holding and feeding, to conserve energy, stay safe, find food. We would point at a haven and say “fish in there, go get ‘em” and they were there every time. Much like trout of SE MN. It was rewarding to approach these pockets and find any number of tails showing in the gray.
Had one day on which we were joined by a local carper; a guy who could have written the intro re Columbia River history and geology. Always good to connect with folks who appreciate carp and the planet earth.
Flies that caught fish: hybrid, trouser worm, deadpool, little green nymph, orange fly from the last carp swap.
On three occasions JM walked up to the river, waded in, looked in, cast in and connected with carp. This all seemed outrageous but also right and good.
We came away with two mirror carp. Had chances at some more. Saw them clearly. But in the end, two came to hand. First one was a superb sight and stalk. Second one was about the same size (shade smaller for the record), caught by JM. I netted it deftly, normally, all fine. And then I relaxed. And then the fish backed out, leaving the flies in the net and JM saying “not so great a job.” He was right. I think I got used to a netting approach and technique and got lazy holding them. We’ll remember the one that I let slip away.
Furthering the laziness theme – I lost JM’s net crossing heavy current. Wasn’t clipped to my belt. I looked; it was gone. Claimed by the river. And his boots and his other boots went to hell. And a carp grabbed my fly rod and reel entire, and pulled underwater and took off. This was just it seemed, from the perspective of the carp. We were resigned to the fact that the rig was under the waves, slowly bobbing. Gone. We looked for 5-8 minutes. Nothing. Then JM started some Sherlockian analysis putting together placement of fish, rod, people and surmising that carp could not have gone deep given constraints and laws of physics. Could only have gone into shore. We turned and looked in that directioin; there was the rod tip, 1.5 feet above water; fish still on.
Day two: hooked 11, landed 9, top fish 20 lbs
Day three: landed ~20, top fish 23 lbs
Day four: landed ~20+ top fish 19 lbs
All throughout JM landed many many fish without much effort. He got some 20 lbers to hand; would have caught many more had he not given me a lot of shots. I don’t have precise numbers for him but total probably around 80 without much sweat. On Day 3 Mountainscaler was at 20 count too, meaning we had three guys catching fish all over hell, whooping with beers in one hand fighting fish without care that were surely bigger than most will catch in the next 10 years. In the end, good numbers for this water, I think JM would confirm. Most we've caught I'd say. Vast majority of the fish were 12-14 lbers with plenty edging up from there.
On day three we achieved a double 20 (two 20 lb fish to hand at same time) for first time in recorded fly fishing history on Columbia River.
Day three also featured a carp triple. We dug into the bank thicket and JM one-handed his carp while he hit the plunger on the camera and stumbled into the frame.
Catching 20 lb carp on three straight days in this tough fishery was beyond any unreasonable expectation I may have had if indeed I had any. But it happened, days 1-3. Will be tough to duplicate.
Any number of good takes when you catch a combined ~150 carp. White mouths, slight head tilts, faith hook sets. All there. I’ll detail only three that provided comprehensive process and great visuals.
|McTage's Trouser Worm; great performance on this trip.|
|One of many unnamed bigs.|
|Double; we had a few.|
|Double 20s; I think 23 lbs on left and 21 lbs on right.|
|Badass photo by Mountainscaler.|
|Lumpy 23 lbs.|
|Many of this size. Nice hat.|
|Cruise control on Day 3.|
|Happiness is a warm gun.|
|I like this sequence, next four pics. Water and fish.|
|Found a duck decoy in this scrub. Brought it back through security as carry-on.|
|19 lbs, highly memorable take.|
|First fish of Day 4; painfully little signal was offered but it was in fact discerned.|
|Conditions snapshot; we saw a lot of water like this: marginal light, waves.|
|The little pocket that held the 19 lber.|
|Trailing fly of two-fly rig that it ate.|
|Rocky water with many havens full of tailing carp. Badass water.|