Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some notes on spring that might be useful to anyone interested in carp fishing, smoking fish, chickens, death, etc.

(1) 12:35 PM today first wood tick on pant leg.
(2) On way home from bus stop today noted first mowed lawn.
(3) The forest floor is pushing up through the leaf litter. This is always a glorious occasion. Colorful around here, especially in floodplains and in the river valleys in general. Bloodroot noted on way up Chimney Rock.
(4) The carp have awoken are in full-on active mode. I have in the month of March fished to feeding carp in both Zumbro and Cannon systems. In the latter I found fish that were swimming in pairs and small groups; had the look of prespawn but hard to say. Still a lot of mystery. Incident of note: sometime last week I had occasion to stop at some old carp waters. Part of my old hometown circuit. Walk up and booyaa biyatch there is a giant pigathon carp feeding all alone in current. I sprinted back to motor vehicle and lined up. Was going to go with LOD but at the last second I put on a worm bomb pattern because I wanted it to get down fast, being out there in the river and all. Back above and sighted the fish, still feeding. Marked the spot on the bank and went way downstream… started the stalk. It worked. The 300 degrees of vision didn’t get me. I showed it that fly and I’m not entirely sure what happened; fish just kind of faded out of my view and my life for now. I suppose it spooked gently on the fly or otherwise got onto me. The hunger of the quest really got me there and as I was getting to my visual marker and peering and looking so hard at the water I had the proverbial “feel my heart pounding” and it was really slamming there. I was figuring this was a good shot and I was pretty excited. Not to be though. It’s what makes the big carp notable and rare captures. Between other engagements I encountered some other carp and went back and forth a bit. Landed one that was so small I couldn’t bear to photograph it. Those little carp were in the river channel pretty thick. I did play the heron game and wait for a big sow momma to come by. And that was the worse of the two failures of the day: here she came… I put the fly on her…. She moved over it but gave no indication of eating. I went to pick it up and felt some resistance… figured she was snagged so rather than set the hook and blow her out of there, I gently pulled on the fly… only to watch her shake her head… feel the tension give… watch her swim away. I think she ate it in sneaky fashion and I snatched the fly from her pharyngeal grasp. I suppose I should have just played the odds and hammered on the fly. Tactical stuff indeed.
(5) Carp from previous post are smoked and laying in wait. Done this once or twice before, but still in trial and error mode. Here are the notes then: don’t use a fillet knife to clean carp. Use a big, old and strong buck knife of sorts. Sharpen it up pretty good. I found it really easy to fillet these fish with said knife. I should have scaled them first, but did that after. Wasn’t bad though. With scales off, carp look a bit like leopard fish in that they retain black and gold mottled color. Cut the fillets into steak-hunks, with skin still on. Brine overnight. I smoked these from 3 PM to 11 PM and could have probably taken them out earlier but I was gone that night until 11 PM. End result is that the are well-preserved and significantly reduced in volume. Too salty though. The useful note for any interested party is that I used the “float an egg” brine. This left the flesh too salty. Still usable but need to incorporate fish in a recipe that will cut salt. Next up I’ll try the 1:1:1 ratio of gallon water, cup salt, cup sugar approach. I’ll continue down this road until I get it right. This is a good and local protein source that I tangle with frequently. Feel a duty to eat some of them. Will make it work.
(6) Spring brought some new chickens to the yard. Couple weeks ago I killed the old ones. Here is how I did it: no food for 24 hours. Only water with a little sweet in it. This was due to reading that empty stomachs/crops are easier to manage. The prep was the key here. None of it was difficult or time consuming but I can see how a guy could get screwed up if he didn’t think it through and just went back and started hacking heads off birds. I got a good fire going. Got two empty feed bags for nice clean working surfaces. One big pot of near boiling water ready. Sharpened a really heavy knife to near razor edge. Got the garden hose out and handy. To hold the birds I took vinegar jugs and cut the bottoms out, and then cut holes by the handles. This allowed for the bird to go in with wings tucked and head down; head poking out the hole. I hung a plastic planter from the kids’ swingset. In the bottom of the planter I cut holes so the necks of vinegar jugs could set in there and stand upright to allow the birds to bleed out the necks. I don’t know if chickens can sense or understand death; I’ll never know that. I didn’t get all weepy or anything but out of final respect I took a board and set in front of the coop so they couldn’t watch their compadres being addressed with a knife. The boys asked me why we were killing the chickens and I said because they aren’t laying too many eggs. Plus, they’re dead already in that their day is out there; we’re just moving it up, etc. They were good with it. They opted to head to the park rather than help me out though, which was fine. Working alone is good. I think it was a fine way to die when all was said and done. What are the possible deaths for a chicken? Old age and cripple disease ridden rot? Or being assaulted by a fox or eagle maybe and eaten alive? Getting a heavy knife to the neck doesn’t seem bad in comparison. I always figure that terrible death for anybody is the death that is either slow or the death that you see coming a long way off and have time to think about; time to grow terrified. After placing each bird in their respective jug, I grabbed the head fast as I could, stretched the neck a bit and pressed hard… one quick slash and the head was off. Then let it bleed for a while onto the ground. Remove bird and dip in hot water for a minute or so, soaking everything. Feathers come off remarkably easy. Hold bird over fire to singe off some hair. Cut from breast to vent to eviscerate. Cut off feet (and save for folks who might want them). I figure we did right by the chickens and they had it pretty good to the end. All their guts and heads, etc. are buried in the yard in various places that will take advantage of the fertility. The meat is in the freezer. New pullets are already laying three eggs a day. So those are some notes to consider for anyone thinking of killing some chickens. I’m no expert but I can say with assurance that it’s not something to be intimidated by…. Read a bit and do the prep work. Things go fast, clean and easy for all parties. I’m not qualified to call it a rite of spring but it may have approached that for us. Note undeveloped comb and waddles in pic below; teenage chicken.
(7) Boys found another redbelly snake.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It’s 80 F in March, Part I:

(1) The set up for this day was to make things about as carefree as possible. Short drive; light gear; carry some food and water. Wet wading in March. I disallowed nymphing of any sort. We started at the local bakery and drank coffee and ate donuts until we felt like leaving.
(2) Whitewater State Park on a Saturday in March. No one at Cnty 9 crossing. No one at any road crossing. No one at the bridge hole where we parked. Not sure why. Never saw another fisherman all day. Plenty of walkers/hikers/dogs/etc. though.
(3) Put James on the bridge hole. Casting a jig and twister tail. No hits. I saw one fish rising in the broken water above the hole; caught it with a #18 Adams. Little did I know that we wouldn’t see another rise until ~330 PM. Puzzling there.
(4) We worked upstream. Boys caught some crayfish. No fish rising. Searching a bit with Adams and James with the twister (although his interest moved to crayfish pretty quickly). Boys made a good crossing or two that soaked them up to waistline. Learning wet wading. If not any technique, at least learning to not fear it.
(5) We found a horseshoe pit at stream side. I yelled at the kids to check it out; picked up a horseshoe and tossed a ringer. Then a friar come out and said we are practicing complete silence. I apologized (sincerely) and we turned around and headed downstream.
(6) Put James on some other good spinning gear water. He had a great RBT in low teens follow his rig right to his feet. We both watched it all unfold and we both whooped a bit. Refused though (ran out of water) and went back to depths. Good memory nonetheless. I asked him how big it was and he said about 24 inches.
(7) Fish came to streamers from the heads of pools. This was pretty easy. Didn’t fish much myself after I figured out dry flies wouldn’t work.
(8) Best thing about the day was being three companions on the water as opposed to Dad taking kids fishing. No whining by kids; no over-zealous pressing by adult; easy pace and appreciation of sun and water. Still trying to learn to relax and episodes like this are steps in right direction.

Monday, March 12, 2012

About Time

More than one month since last fishing (it was Feb 6 and I remember it well). That’s the way it goes. I don’t see any fishing “day” coming for a while – maybe early April. Hard to say. The instance here was a wedging of ~2 hours between a work day and an event in MPLS. Worked out well, economy of scale, etc. I was already at the stream, so I fished it for a while. Turned out to be pretty good medicine. A numbers day was in order and to be honest fully expected. Figured this time it had to come around. A few notes:

(1) No real substitute for orange scud. Even if I do tie it wrong (shade of orange vs cream, etc.). I’ve seen reference to the pink safety fly. Orange safety fly may rank even higher in terms of guarantees. I did some experimenting with this: put on a ball of orange dubbing with small silver bead chain eyes. No discernable difference with respect to actual scud. As some have noted this may be taken as an egg pattern. Don’t know but I do know that the orange scud catches a lot of fish. Put out tandem rigs with scud, HE, PS at first, to get some fish to hand. Within ~15 minutes found around half dozen from two holes. Relaxed then. Exhaled and slowed down a bit.
(2) Everybody and his bro and sis know this stream. By sight, by geographic piecing together, etc. It’s been reworked by HI. Maybe the most or second most HI work of any stream. Still can’t figure out just what to make of situations like this one; suffice it to say that because I fish it I appreciate it. Also can say though that it’s a tool that should be applied very carefully and with much thought; it seems we have the right folks in place to meter this. Anyway, if a guy is used to fishing water without HI and occasionally fishing water with some HI, it can throw a loop to fish a water that is nearly all HI. Felt a little eerie. Also, in an odd way found it hard to walk the stream due to few or no channel benches and a lot of rip rap. And still getting used to new vibram soles with studs.
(3) On the counting of fish: there has been some discussion of this topic lately. Let me apply the method that I figure is of appropriate resolution: (2 or three holes with 4-5 fish each nymphing) + (stray nymphed fish around 5-6 instances) + (4-5 fish on dries there at the end) ~ 20-24 trout to hand. And even more generally stated: plenty of fish in fairly steady fashion but nothing ridiculous.
(4) The weather was an interesting bit: air was cold enough to keep guides consistently frozen. Every 10 minutes I cleaned them. This seemed wrong to me because the sun was shining down on my grateful face the entire time. So it was a no glove, sunny, dry fly action day but with frozen guides.
(5) Gear notes: another instance of the Buff proving its worth. No need for a stocking hat but ball cap wasn’t quite enough. Thus enter the ball cap with Buff pulled up over ears. Comfort. Not yet convinced that the new Simms soles with studs are as solid as felt. The need to change is clearly understood. But we’ve all stood for many hours on rocks with felt as a buffer and grip… and felt solid as hell. No slipping. Don’t feel that yet with this gear. Also the boots completely fail walking the soft and muddy slopes of the new HI banks. However, it’s likely that the felt soles would fail there too. 3x long scud hooks problematic. Bend too easily. Even the Tiemcos. The long shank acts as a bending lever, I suppose.
(6) Nymphing was standard. Fish were stacked up in likely holes. Some I fished to, some I spooked. Midges in the air mid-afternoon; black and pretty small. I did the same thing I tend to do in such situations: fish the wrong fly but make it work. T. McGuane approach of giving them an Adams. A tailless Adams of #18 I think. Or maybe #20. They eat it. First three takes came right away on nice drifts; the first two simply didn’t eat the fly but must have smacked at it; the third was a miss by me because I was dicking around with something. First takes of 2012. Then got a few from some interesting water. You could say that with Salmo trutta most of the pleasure is derived from understanding where the trout are laying up. Watching the takes, esp dry fly takes. Best sequence was finally getting decent drifts at a 90-degree position to a foam tail-out of sorts; fish were holed up at the bottom and three ate the fly; two were caught.
(7) C&R only is bogus. Selective harvest better. Plenty of BNT in the world and these fish were all primed for consumption by my family. I don’t like reducing something to so-called “sport.” Almost to the point that if one has to exercise C&R “playing tag” might be better than actual fishing. Use hooks during the regular season for selective harvest. Break the hooks off for C&R. Who knows. Not even sure about it but worth thinking about.
(8) Attended Fly Fishing Film Tour in the evening. Approx eight film shorts from around the world. Some pretty somber/serious/gripping and others pretty much rock and roll fishing. The quality of the content was remarkable, i.e. the filming, imagery, information to absorb, etc. It seems like the fishing bum, rock and roll deal might be running its course in terms of interest but can’t say for sure. Variety though; something for everyone. One thing missing was carp; not a single image in any of the movies. Which is fine. More notable than the films was the opportunity for a hermit like me to be social. Spent some time catching up with Roughfisher and got to meet one of his buddies. Also met a few other folks and found it odd that I was actually being somewhat social and talking with others in a decent manner. It can happen. The evening closed with some acts of generosity that were remarkable. Roughfisher poured out a lot of flies and other gear to his friends and associates. I’ve been thinking on it and I can see that I do not deserve any such gifts but he gave them anyway. They are appreciated. And know this, as a post-script: my two boys and I walked down to the river last night, to look for the first carp of 2012. We found them. Then we took a nap on the river bank, laying there in last year’s stinging nettles with city traffic clogging the air and buzzing and bumping and crapping all over our ears and heads. I looked at my older son and reminded him that he should pull his tooth out. He’s been looking like a snaggle-toothed redneck for a while now. I closed my eyes for a bit and then he startled me back to attention. Looked up and saw a grinning kid in a brand new Redington trucker cap (from the swag lot) holding his incisor to the sunlight, his mouth rimmed crimson. He exclaimed something and then spat a big slug of blood down at the river, toward those carp.
(9) PS #2: and then, when putting the kids to bed, the younger son swallowed a marble. Took him to urgent care. He’s okay. It’ll pass.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Recall this fly swap. Most dominant swap I've come across. Every fly I got I immediately rubbed all over my body. Fly Carpin McTage was patient with me/USPS and I really appreciate that. Because the booty was significant.

It came to my attention that >=1 person asked for a step-by-step of the LOD. I am amateurish and thus do not do many recipes, steps, etc. and I've never put anything on YouTube. But I did pound these pics out tonight. Thanks for asking.

This variant uses a squirrel strip in place of chenille and hackle. It is untested. Sink rate is uncertain. I can't put it up there with the original LOD yet (which I put up against any fly out there). And it should be noted that the original LOD roots back to a crayfish pattern tied by John Montana. And it should be noted that you could call the LOD a peacock-backed, DB eye bugger. And you'd be right. But everyone names all these iterations. I'm not going to apologize for it. Like T. McGuane says: you have to have confidence in your fly when fishing it. Naming it, running through a certain song while fishing it, feeling like it's a badass fly, etc. that all instills confidence. And maybe fun. So rather than just say "Hello Wellington, I'm going to fish this peacock dumbell eye wooly bugger today" you say look out biyatches for the LOD ON THAT ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like to wrap the scrap forward to add a little more bulk.

Tie in medium copper wire, then clump of peacock, then a squirrel strip. Tie the strip in at what would commonly be figured to be the "back" of it so the hair is laying down toward the front of the fly. I suppose that is standard palmering technique.

Palmer forward and tight off tight. You can use a little extra thread to lock down the strip because you'll cover that up with peacock.

Pull the peacock clump forward and use it to splay out the squirrel hair. Might have to use your fingers to pull and prod to get the hairdo just how you want it. Tie off peacock.

Lash it all together with the copper wire. Move the wire back and forth as you wrap forward to avoid pinning the hair down. This creates a bit of a segmented effect which is cool. And it should keep the fly together.

One carpy-ass fly. A long time ago years back I used to say that any unspooked carp that saw this (actually the original LOD) had eaten it. I'll have to think on it but that might not be true anymore. Maybe though. They rip it up pretty hard. It pulls some punches. Etc. One thing to think about is the sink rate, which will vary according to the size of DB eyes you use and materials you apply. Look at different combinations. Drop flies in buckets if you feel like it. Make sure they are saturated before you start timing the drops though.

Post Script: scrounging for rabbit strips in my cast-off box, I found this old nag. BWCA smallie fly. Looks like the Gorilla Glue initiated chemical reaction with DB eyes. But this fly will catch a carp. Taking it to DC. Will rise from the Leinie's box that is the fly graveyard and stick a Lake Michigan carp. The old bitchy naggy oxidized head fly.