Monday, September 29, 2008

The Poll Results are IN

There were a total of 33 entries (for lack of better word). Most folks over-estimated the size of the carp in the previous post. Only a few under-estimated. Two people nailed it right on. A majority of folks said 10-14 lbs (54%), which isn't that much of an over-estimate really.

I think these results were pretty predictable. It's difficult in general to estimate fish size unless you have significant experience holding fish with known weights. It's extremely difficult to size a fish in the water (IMO)... and apparently the same holds true with respect to estimating with only a picture as reference. My own experience is this:
(1) I regularly under-estimate fish in the water;
(2) Pictures can be difficult to deal with, depending on scale references and photo constitution;
(3) I'm pretty good estimating the weight of a fish that I am holding.

Well, interesting poll. Thanks for participating folks.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Carp Days Winding Down

Some limited carping hours were logged recently. One of my favorite 2008 waters produced a couple of great fish. Here is the quick story:

The cyprinids had stone-walled me the last couple times out – to the point of literally looking at my flies and pulling 180s on me. Half-bolting away. I took to coloring the brass bead chain eyes with a black permanent marker, in an attempt to tone down the gaudiness factor of the LOD. That didn’t work. The Carp Carrot spooked them too. I can’t explain exactly why some days the fish spook easily and other days they don’t. Likely a product of a multitude of factors. Anyway, I knew the fish I’d encounter would be on a silt plain, most likely with heads down. My original thought was to use Wooley – a subtle fly. I decided against it though because even it struck me as a bit too spooky for these guys. I put on a San Juan Worm with a black bead – no flash whatsoever, and very fast sink rate. Immediately I saw a nice silt plume (couldn’t see fish). I put the fly down in the water near shore and counted off the rate… guessed at depth of water at fish location… dropped SJW on plume and counted to three. Picked up the rod and the fish was on. That’s about as good as it gets right there. Battle was good, although I had to hold her a little tight because weed beds were in play. Second fish was also feeding, but I could see this one… SJW up and to the side a bit and this one put on a nice show of a cat pounce. Took off like a flat bottom boat – much more energy than first fish. That ruckus bit spooked pretty much the entire joint though, so that segment of fishing was done.

Please offer your estimate of the weight of this fish. I have set up a poll on the Rochester Angler Forum. For reference, the rod is a 7 wt. Both pics are of the same fish. If you're not a member of the RAF, post your estimate as a comment here, or on the Carp Anglers Group thread.

Another segment came about though. A new water. Big flats and carpy looking. I walked some very interesting pieces of the river and was treated to a number of sights. I actually had to put waders on to get to some of these back corners… I concluded that not many folks have tread on these routes. The flats looked good, but they were empty. I believe that during slightly higher water, there would be carp feeding on them. Too low now though. The carp seem to be gravitating to deeper slots and pools where they feel safe. I looked all over hell, and eventually I found the one deep slot at this location… and there I put eyes on quite a few carp. They were hanging in current, moving to and fro and into and out of the cover of the tree in the pic. Near impossible to get a fly to… I played the heron and waited. Two came out, into my rod’s reach. I put the fly on the big one, and as she deliberated, this pip-squeaker came in like a rocket and ate the LOD. Oh well. I heroned on the rest of them for a while, keying on a pretty damn big fish the entire time… But it was one of those deals in which they were “half on to me” and thus not really confident about the prospect of eating flies. It was so because I had to get pretty close to even consider presenting a fly to them. Didn’t land another fish or even hook one for that matter. Really cool to watch them though. I know where they’re at during low flow now… and I’ll be back.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Different Type of Fishing

My youngest son and I were fortunate enough to spend most of Monday wading a blue ribbon of the midwest – a river that is in fact a gem of The Driftless Area. The pictures are a clear signature, recognizable by anyone who has put eyes on this landscape.

We started ~1100 – nice and easy. The temperament of this little guy is remarkable. He apparently sees riding in the backpack not as a means of confinement but rather as a perch from which he can see and hear all. He points and exclaims regularly… he grabs leaves and branches, and by all accounts seems to enjoy the ride. Every few minutes I’d reach up and hand off a rock. He would giggle. We’d stop now and again on a cobble bar and he’d teeter-walk around on inspection duty. It makes me happy to see him happy in such a great place… and I’m happy to be in such a place so I guess there is happiness abounding. That’s the best way to say it.

We did fish, but I say here it was a different type of fishing because it was incidental in that it took a back seat to simply being in the river. The turning leaves, the flowing water and the limestone and sandstone were at the forefront on this day. We did fish though. One fly – the Wilted Spinach – all day. Never lost one. Swinging a soft hackle is good for a day like Monday… low water and slow, thoughtful walking… you can fish it from quite a distance and you don’t have to worry about getting a good drift because you’re fishing it downstream. Fewer tangles too. You could argue less skill is required – probably so – you don’t really set the hook even. Also, you don’t typically get into the big fish with this technique, as it is difficult to get it down deep in the slots and dark hideaways. The kid cackles at any size fish though. The most interesting thing regarding the fishing was watching different sizes come from different waters. We fished mostly the shallow riffles, and from those we caught quite a few browns in the 4-8” range – very small indeed. In the couple shallow pools we fished we nicked a couple browns that were slightly larger. And from the one really nice deep water that was slow enough for a swing through, we caught the two big fish of the day: a couple rainbows in the mid-teens. One might have pushed 16” but not sure. On one of them, I felt the headshake before I even realized the fish had eaten the fly… not all that skillful, but it seems that can be the way of it sometimes.

Regarding the place – the pictures speak volumes, but it’s still not enough. You need to go there and look on it. It’s not a vacation, it’s not a family trip… It’s our backyard. A remarkable river and valley. Leaves on fire with color, rock faces whispering on some history, and a stone-clear flow of cold water around your legs. Waders would have been an insult. We climbed to a high point in the park to do our duty and pay some homage. I really felt that on a day like Monday, it’d have been offensive to the place to not be out there.

You'll have to excuse this blatant pose. I only meant to capture what you might see if you were to stumble across these two happy guys standing in the river.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Trout

Got out for a very, very short time today. Went back to the call of the coldwater... after a long absence. I was reminded how beautiful it can be - perfect weather, stunning water. I struggled a bit: trying to be slow and enjoy the deal while at the same time hurrying a little to make the most of the precious few minutes.

Started out throwing hoppers. I’ve always wanted to have a great hopper day, but it’s never happened. Still hasn’t. No big deal. It might be because I give up to easily and go to something that works in crushing fashion: the soft hackle swing. In the few minutes I had, it got me everything I wanted (well, maybe not everything, but close).

I’ll try a new style with this post: captions… and let the pics narrate.

This water was productive.

Came across a nice spider nest in a tree branch. The female was present in the nest. It was later pointed out to me that the male was on my leg. I’d appreciate an ID of this arachnid if anyone is up for it. Honest estimate of spider "foot print" is ~3 inches.

Limestone on top of sandstone. The years represented are beyond comprehension for both you and me.

This is the good and beautiful lonely road.

This is the basic technique. It is indeed basic. Of course, I missed a fish while taking this picture, so please enjoy fully.

Good sounds, good view… pretty damn good place to be, even if only for a short while. Ultimate recharger of batteries.

Salmo trutta, and also a friend who will be forever a part of our family. This picture is in gravel and rocks because this is a kept fish. I ended up keeping three, to round out a limit when pooled with the two that have been in the freezer for a while.

A worn and used creel is a good companion.

NOTE: I believe this is the spider.
Grapes man, grapes...

From the same waters that hold our fish here in The Driftless comes this little bounty.

We're putting together a good relationship with the wild grape. Recall several past posts:
eating the stream
hunter turned gatherer
picking with JD

The kids sure pound away at these fruits. JD insists they are blueberries... understandably so, given small size. On Sunday I took them to a top secret vine and snipped away while they ate as fast as little mouths can manage. Chewing right through the seeds.

Soon we'll be boiling 'em down... soon we'll have the purple gold bottled up for winter.

Composing Salsa

All ingredients from Oak Center CSA/Garden, via Farmers' Market:

~6 lbs heirloom tomatoes
2 large onions
many green onions
much fresh cilantro
much fresh flat parsley
6 anaheim peppers
2 bulbs of garlic

Nothing more and nothing less.
It captures well the fresh taste of the ingredients. However, it needs more heat. I'll add more peppers and maybe some cayenne next time.

From the dirt of SE MN, rises these colors:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Most folks are right about me, I figure

In that I am a grouchy, negative, sometimes whiny punk I mean. It’s true that my sense of humor fluctuates like a Brownian motion on a local scale and my attitude waxes and wanes like the totemic celestial body, the moon. I can’t help it. You might be the same way. Not sure though.

What I mean is that that last post was a downer: ripping on poor ol’ LMB and whining about this and that. It was an undeserved negative for any reader (any of the three out there) who may have happened upon it.

Well, things feel better. It doesn’t take much to get a guy back on track. Here is a hookup by hookup account of a very recent outing that provided big medicine:

Conditions were not, to this day, what I considered to be optimal: windy and partly cloudy. The wind was from the E/NE, so I went for a lee. More on that later though, as my attitude regarding wind has changed over time and especially after today.

(1) Dangle a carrot. The Carp Carrot that is – from a one Mr. P. This fly had not been wet –ever. I walked up to a couple carp feeding in some vegetation – they were not feeding on the bottom, but rather handing in the middle of the column. First success was that they did not spook. Put a cast out past them and drug it back, ripping it kind of quick to keep it hopping over the veg tops… dropped it ~8 inches up from one of the pair… beautiful head dip, perfect hook set and then a nice explosive burst by the carp. Half-rolled out of the water as it tried to surge through the veg and get the bleep out of there. Then he broke my 3x tippet. I said something like “that ain’t right, man.” The first Carp Carrot was laid to rest then, with a batting average of 1.000, for I cannot mar it’s reputation by giving consideration to my tippet selection.

(2) One more Carp Carrot in orange – slapped it on. Saw a fish or two that spooked on me… Not five minutes later though, found another pair of feeders in veg – same situation. Casting directly into the wind, did the same cast behind and drag forward bit… let it sink in a nice little opening. One of the fish completely disappeared in a downward direction. HA! I thought and set the hook. Outstanding. Blasted through the veg and I was very convinced that the tippet wouldn’t hold… but it did. Got her clear of the thick stuff for a few solid but not spectacular runs, and then landed her: a beautiful, gold, deep fish. Not huge, but moderately sized. One of the better length:depth ratios I’ve encountered. Translation: nice fatty.

(3) Walking along and what do I see? Golden scales peeking through the densest veg you could imagine. Just blaring at me. This fish is ever so slowly moving along under a veg mat… maybe feeding. Maybe. I gathered up all the line and left ~4 feet of leader hanging off… dapped the fly through a 3” opening in the mat. I was focused on this fish, waiting for some sign… when another, heretofore unseen fish, ate the damn fly! Surprised me, but I set the hook and had her on for ~1 second before she removed the fly and placed it neatly in a ragged pile of green.

A couple notes:
(1) That first fish, despite the breakoff, felt better than the fish I landed on Friday. This is because things worked right, in my mind. I didn’t play a numbers game like I did on Friday… but rather I made the proper presentation once, and it worked. That is fulfillment in the world of fishing.

(2) The wind is (or at least can be) a friend, not an enemy of the sight fisher. Some degree of wind anyway. To date I’ve always scowled at the wind that fouls up the fish-bowl views of lakes and rivers. I like to be able to see detail. After comparing Friday to today though, and thinking back on how I’ve fished this water, my attitude on the breeze is changing. I figure it like this: any good visibility conditions can be used by both carp and fisherman. If it’s stone calm and clear, that is likely as much as an advantage to them as it is to you. In these conditions, they are likely to see you even though they are not actively looking for you. When it is windy, you are both at a disadvantage: you can’t see the carp as well, and vice versa. However, the fact that you are looking for the carp comes into play here… The fish are not searching for you. They are on guard, but not searching for you… and their guard can be fouled by conditions. If you are careful and you study the water and look for dark shapes and certain geometry, you can gain an advantage.

Check the depth on this footballer:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Whoop Di DOO
Caught these fish on Friday. Blah blah. I fished for a while and got stone-walled by all the big carp that had been eating flies to date. They would literally be just fine and un-spooked while I casted and presented.... and while the fly sank... they'd swim over and look at it and as soon as they evil peacock herl of the LOD pierced their retinas and materialized in the back of their eyeballs they all did 180s and bolted. Woohoo. Then I walked up the mouth of a little trib and found some very turbid water... nearly zero vis - maybe ~1 inch. I could see nervous water though, and the blade-edges of tails now and then. Feeding fish. I put the worm-colored SJW on a tailer... and the FISH FREAKING BOLTED. Could not believe it. No way the fish saw me. All I can figure is that he saw or felt the fly sink and got scared. Who knows. Next tailer did the same thing. I was saying out loud things like "No way dude. No fugging way." Finally, I set the SJW down ever so gently, and waited ~2 seconds. Picked it up and found this little carp had it right in the mouth. No runs no hits no errors and fish was landed. Someone asked to "see it" and I said under breath "it's just a carp man" mainly because I was distraught and that state makes me like people even less than normal. Not sure what it is but I can't get a happy vibe from fishing right now. Need to bust out of it. One little parting rip on LMB though - I put the LOD on a sunning carp... couldn't get him to eat it, despite that fact that I was purposefully and intentionally trying to get him to eat... while fly sank, caught this LMB by pure accident. So to get that straight, it seems that while one cannot catch carp despite best efforts, he can catch LMB with no effort. Just for the record.