Thursday, April 26, 2007

Buffalo Days Continued

These buffalo were too much to allow me to stay away. I stepped in the water at 1 PM and did not exit until 19:50. That is nearly seven straight hours of persisting in a current... very likeable indeed. The fishing was outstanding as would be expected. See previous post. I'll post some fish pictures later... in the mean time, here is what was unique about yesterday:
(1) There was a family fishing the river for buffalo when I arrived. They left only ~30 minutes before I did... they asked me for some of the fish that I caught. It was an interesting situation because I didn't feel good about turning over all of those fish to be axed... but if it would provide them food... but - food rich in heavy metals. I ended up giving them two buffalo fish. For some I said "too big" and let them go. They had rigged up a laundry basket on rope to lower down to the water (they were fishing from above) and scoop up the fish after hooking/snagging one.
(2) A conservation officer asked to see my license. He had to use binoculars to see it from above. First time that has happened to me...
(3) I got quite a surprise when out of nowhere a rock socked me in the right temple. Apparently a car must have shot it off the road and out and over the bridge... scared the heck out of me, and left some pretty good soreness.
(4) I fell in over my waders. No big deal because most of my body was already wet from grabbing/pulling/lifting/releasing fish. I stepped on a really slippery rock and my foot that was carrying all my weight on that step just went out from under me. Pretty funny.
(5) I did not catch a fish bigger than the beast from Saturday that shattered my rod. I did however catch three fish in the 16-18 lb range, and many in that were easy 10+ lbs.
(6) These buffalo are really interesting fighters: some just hold and bull and pull, and then eventually give up some grinding runs of sorts... while a select few just take off like rockets. Yesterday I hooked 4-5 fish that did that... It was crazy because I'd feel them running, then out of the corner of my eye I'd see this insanely large, jet-black-looking fish LEAP out of the water and belly flop back down - in a place that seemed to make no sense given the angle of my line and the point at which it met the water... apparently there was a lot of horizontal line hidden beneath the water - pretty cool thing to observe. When they leapt like that, they looked really short and fat, and jet-black - like a different specie of fish. In fact, I was sure that the reason these fish were running and leaping like was because they were a different specie - another type of buffalo I thought. That suggestion stayed with me all day because I couldn't land one of those beasts! They'd run like mad dogs and I just couldn't horse them in... I got a couple of them out of the pod and took them downstream to some calmer water, but they just kept going downstream and I couldn't stop them. FINALLY I was able to land one of these mystery fish only to find that at rest and at close range it looked just like all the other big mouth buffalo (only really big). These little sketches are my memories of what the fish looked liked when they leapt.

I think I'll always remember these buffalo.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The buffalo herd is here. I about had a heart attack a few days ago when I was walking by the river and saw a giant swarm of large tails swaying in the current like so many big accordion fans. I felt a pressing urge to get my person into that river. I did so on Saturday afternoon – took my Avid 8 wt (which would later prove to be an unwise selection), heavy tippet to rig standard 2-nymph rigs (1x to the first fly and 2x to the trailer) and plenty of rubber legged flies sizes 8-10. I also took large spinning gear style tin split shot because the flow was still fairly high. In fact, looking back at my records from 2005 and 2006 the current stage was higher than that which I remarked in May 2005 was “at the edge of safe wading.” I went anyway and found that I’ve become more accustomed to wading bigger and faster water, because it didn’t seem too bad. A wading staff would have helped though.

I located the pod of waving tails right away, and immediately started hooking up with them. At first the snag was on – just due to the sheer density of fish. Probably 50% of the fish I hooked were snagged… but most of those popped off. After just a short while it was pretty easy to tell the difference between a take and simple contact between the fish and the rig… I began doing all I could to avoid snagging fish – meaning slowly pulling my line away from potential snag situations and only setting the hook on jolts as conveyed by the strike indicator. Right away I just got destroyed by these fish – it was a fantastic experience, even with the heavy gear. It literally could have been a fish every other cast or so… The only limiting factor was time (and equipment failure as I’ll explain in a minute here) – meaning it took so long to fight and land these fish, a person could only get so many to hand in an hour.

The black eye of the buffalo.

I had 2.5 hours to work with. I actually only fought four fish on Saturday – I landed a couple great buffalo that ran in the teens (pounds I mean), and I fought one that was at least that big for about 15 minutes, only to have him pop off (may have been snagged). This was middle of the day, perfect summer setting downtown, so many people were around to watch the freak in the river fishing with fly gear… what a fuggin whacko. So they were following these battles with great interest, and when that one popped off there was an audible “aahhhh” in unison – pretty funny. Next fish though was the banner of the day: I hooked up for the fourth time, and twenty seconds into the battle, the fish just snapped my 8 wt like it was a fricking dry maple twig. I heard a crunch and looked up at the top third of my rod heading down the fly line toward the water. It was my first broken fly rod.

Decimated Avid 8wt (pic taken later). Nice to have lifetime warranty on rod.

I was pretty excited. Pretty pissed off though too, because I had two hours of fishing left (and fishing time is hard to come by these days). Anyway – the fish was still on, and I dropped the reel and 2/3 of the rod into the river and grabbed the 37 inch end section of the rod… grabbed the line with my other hand and kept battling. Talk about freaking people out – that really got them going… I must have looked like a real lunatic out there. I proceeded to fight that buffalo for about 15-20 minutes with that little rod segment. I tried to net him ~6 times and on each occasion he’d just get really pissed off and take off like a damn rocket. When I finally got him with a quick jab of the net, I found I had some trouble actually lifting him out of the water… Got some rounds of applause from onlookers, requests to hold him up for pics, etc. He kicked my ass all over the place, but somehow I landed him with that little rod… pretty great experience. I took a few photos and let him go. Believe it or not, when I released him (or her – not sure I guess) he took off with as much vigor as he displayed at the beginning of the fight. I’m not 100% sure of the weight, but an experienced John Montana says 20-22 lbs. He was BLEEPING HUGE next to that 8 wt rod and reel. Biggest fish I’ve ever caught… no question there. Also one of the coolest and most interesting.

Let a dog out, he's gonna bring back a bone

That fish left me in shambles - rod pieces and line everywhere. Outstanding.

Because my day was shortened by equipment destruction, I went out for some make up time the next day - this time with a stiffer 8 wt hand made for me by John Montana of Carp on the Fly fame. Long story short - the rod was great, and the fishing was amazing. Again, the only limitation was time - I could not land these fish faster than 10-15 minutes each, even with heavy tippet and some horsing in play... they were too big and the current was too fast. Almost every fish I had to walk downstream a bit and wedge myself into some slackwater... then try to bring the fish back to me. It worked, but it was tiring and long. I ended up catching 6-7 buffalo that were legitimately in the 13-18 pound range, but none as big as the monster from the day before. When is that last time you remember catching a half dozen fish that weighed in the high teens? For me - first time. Don't talk to me about walleyes or crappies ever again. That's what a herd of buffalo will do to you. Here are some misc pics (hard to get good shots when you fish by yourself).

Em and JD came to pick up as my time on the river ended. When they got there I said "let me hook one more and walk him down the river so you guys can watch." I did just that, and ended up catching the second smallest fish of the day (8-10 lbs or so), so I kept it and I'm currently smoking its flesh for future consumption. James was pretty excited to see the action.

I wanted to get out again with someone to share this with. Couldn't work that out, but I did drag this cat down here and put him on this water... He had a great time with some spinning gear and got his tail kicked too... but landed his share of these amamzing fish (including his biggest fish to date I think). I didn't holler at him until I'd had a chance to spy on him for a while... I was able to watch these fish pull him downstream and deplete his tackle supply - pretty cool - sign of a good day I think. He was pretty excited when he netted this one with his trout net and posed for this pic.

Buffalo. Amazing. They live up to the name, and I love them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lab Testing of Flies

It's about head:ass ratio. These guys had asses that were too big for their heads; thus, they floated to the top like flailing scuba divers who couldn't regulate their buoyancy correctly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Here are a couple Easter pics of James. He had quite a time painting eggs, then searching for them the next morning. As he found each, he refused to put any in his basket - he wanted to carry them all around wedged in his armpits and hands. He's learning about candy... we caught him with his hands around jelly beans a few times. He thinks he's pretty sneaky. It's pretty amazing to look back at his Easter pic from last year - he has really changed a lot.

A good friend of ours gave this tricycle to James. We wrapped it up in a blanket - he gets really excited about opening presents... this one especially. He was very happy with the fact that he could mount the seat without any help. He can't reach the peddles at this point though. He kept saying over and over "that's my bicycle."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Get your clock cleaned
Get lit up by cyprinus carpio
Get crushed
Get mauled by fish
See people mobbing the water all day
Get your izzauw beaten all over the place
Work for hours and see nothing
Finally see one pod of fish and get crushed by them
Go home with sunburn and no takes

In other words, I fished for 4-5 hours yesterday and couldn’t find any carp. First off, the waters were pretty mobbed with people. There were a number of bobber rigs being tossed around (ALL around) the shore of my top prospect. I walked laps for two hours and literally never laid eyes on anything save one ghostly gray image of one carp fading into the depths… this is excluding the occasional carp that would leap into the air way out in the middle of the water. So the spot that gave a carp and good chances and fantasies to James and me yesterday produced literally ZERO legitimate chances at another today. So on to more known water – the next two were big zeroes as well. Finally after a short drive I came to a good spot – but found it also mobbed with folks… okay – no big deal – I searched the “backwaters” of said spot and found these fish. It was a very fascinating situation. I was literally standing 6 feet from very busy traffic. Cars were slowing down staring at me – a freak with a fly rod and gaze locked on something out of their sight… pretty funny. I honestly thought I was posing a hazard to traffic, so I slid down the vertical incline that led to the water. I had no chance to backcast really – unless I wanted to time it between oncoming cars…. I tried a steeple cast and promptly got my fly wrapped around a fricking power line that was above my head. I could see these fish feeding plain as day, but the only way I could get a fly to them was to get close enough to bow-and-arrow cast it… so I slowly crept down to them. I was able to B&A cast a few times – decent but not good enough casts. Then they slowly started to drop back under the brush cover… I am sure they were suspicious of my form and/or the casts. I left and came back a half hour later – they were there again… I tried the same tactic, only this time on the first cast they BOLTED out of there like horses. So the only fish I could find all day were offered nothing but a hacked up handful of casts, and as a result I went home having never sensed a beautiful take or felt a wretching on my 4 wt. I’m telling myself that it’s good to sometimes get my ass kicked by the fish. The irony is that I was in perfect position to take these cool pics (camera does not require backcast, and has great zoom so you don't have to get close).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fishing Orgasm

This is what you do on trout catch-and-keep opening day. I took Little JD out for about 2.5 hours and we just ambled around a nice carp water. It was a very relaxed setting as far as fishing is concerned, but we did manage to catch this carp, which I believe is actually one of the larger fish in this system. James has aged a bit since I last took him carping, and it really made a difference. Instead of a backpack or stroller, I let him just walk along with me. He seemed to be great with this idea. Admittedly he got slightly bored now and then, but in those cases we'd just stop for a snack, look at pine cones, sticks, etc. or goof off a bit. He was pretty good about not getting too close to the water too, although he really wanted to follow me every step I took. He defintely got excited as this fish was coming to hand.

As for the fishing - I have been scouting for about two weeks now, and I finally found carp in accessible water. I didn't see any tails up at all - every fish I saw was just sunning or slowly cruising. My first few attempts were badly botched by errant casts, but soon I shook off the rust and started placing them better. This fish offered only a very subtle downward head tilt when the fly was taken... another of those hardly-believe-the-fly-was-taken moments that are so outstanding. The fly was the swimming clouser as tied by Zonker from the CAG (thanks!). So we saw a number of carp, fishing as buddies.... and caught one - all we needed.

The addendum though is interesting... and it is in the following picture. I cast to this fish at approx 40 feet (long for me), and believe it or not I was actually able to get about 10 casts inside a 2-foot radius of it, despite wind and distance (surprised myself because I'm known as a bad caster). I was getting pretty excited. In one instance, I was staring at this fish, slowly stripping and pausing the fly in a position that I thought was in front of it... only to have another fish that I never saw slam it while I stripped and break me off! That was a pretty exciting moment because in the confusion I thought for a second that this enigmatic pisces had taken the fly.

Friday, April 06, 2007

In Defense of Fishing

Author David James Duncan answers Grist reader questions.

Q: It seems to me extraordinarily cruel to get pleasure from tricking a fish into biting into a hook and then "playing" with the poor creature until it's brought out of the water to die. I suppose it's less reprehensible if fishers actually eat these fish, but so many simply throw them back in the water after playing with them. How can one who feels so much love for nature get pleasure from this sport which seems to me to be so cruel? -- Bruce Rosove, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A: I always thank those who hate fishing for leaving more water for me.

My best answer to your question is in my new book, God Laughs & Plays, in an essay called "Agony & Hilarity."

Fishing is cruel indeed. Eating is cruel, often as not, for those of us who don't digest sand and gravel live off of other life-forms. It is also "extraordinarily cruel" that this interview is being powered by electricity that is wiping out migrating salmon and dumping mercury and sulfur on North America's waters and children and pregnant women. And it is extraordinarily naïve to think that anyone is going to want to protect ecosystems and natural processes about which they have no firsthand experience or knowledge. Read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv or Gary Paul Nabhan and Steven Trimble's The Geography of Childhood on the separation of children from nature, and you might find it more reprehensible to sit here staring at a screen, or to drive a car, or to watch network TV, than to take a child fishing on a wild river. The fact is, those who have actually saved rivers and fish species have tended to be the fishermen and women who love them. Those who saved wetlands have most often been duck hunters. And so on. There is a mystery here that has to do with the words "love" and "sacrifice." This mystery has served the world well. Jesus caught, killed, cooked, and served fish to his disciples after the resurrection. I can't tell you how at peace this leaves me about my fishing.

Lord Byron felt as you do and condemned fisherfolk in his poetry. He also infected a large swath of Italy with gonorrhea. Fingerpointing is dangerous for all of us -- me most of all!

He is a genius, a poet, and a hell of a guy by all accounts.
Remembering the Great Winter Carp

Check out this big bruiser from winter 2006. It's worth noting that this fish made me late getting home I had to battle so long.

Here is a long distance shot of another carp caught that same day... love the perspective provided here. I'm getting excited for spring 2007 carping.