Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Local Carp

No trout fishing since June 1.  Few instances of chasing cyprinids in prep for Lake Michigan.  And for general quality engagement.

Went back to the boys' natal river.  We had about one hour and a decent group of carp.  First thing my son did was break his rod.  This mirror was dapped upon from above; moved down and out of my cone of vision; the take was blindly intuited; I picked up and she was on.  Stone-cold eat of LOD.  We did not scale but I say 11-13 lbs.  Pretty and dark fish.

For reference here is a really small mirror caught blind nymphig from the same system (downstream a ways) on June 10,  2006.

Another local carper put me a new entry point for some old water.  Great little concentration point for fish.

These fish were showing different moods.  One trio was hanging with heads together.  I set a fly in the middle and it was like statues coming alive.  The biggest fish did not get there first though.

Some wet wading in nutrient-rich waters with silt bottom was money on this day.  The Heron.  He knows how to chase a cat up in a tree.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book for sale here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen we got 'em: carp patties.

Long thinking about how to eat carp.  Plentiful protein source.  Bottom of the hill.  Concentration of accumulated pollutants in the flesh is relatively low.  Eating some fraction of the fish one catches further grounds the undertaking in a hunt.  To be clear I've never thought much of the suggestion that "we no longer need to hunt or fish to get food."  The truth value of the statement is not the subject matter in which I'm interested.  I remember reading that Earl Butz said [paraphrasing] this in reference to the industrialization of agriculture: now the vast majority of the people in this country can be relieved of the drudgery of growing their own food.  It's never been clear to me what that relief would offer and why it's necessarily a good thing.  Very few people grow a significant fraction of their own food but I don't think all folks would call this a good thing.  We are as busy as some; not as busy as others; busy enough though, that we don't have the time to engage a significant food production on our property.  Nor do we have the space.  We use perennials (grapes, nuts) and grow garlic, peppers, lettuce and maybe some beets.  We could do more but not a lot more.  The proportion of our total food consumption that is produced on our property is less important I think than the simple presence of the garden, the compost, the chickens: linking them together.  WB sums this up well in an essay:
"Participate in food production to the extent you can.  This doesn't mean plowing up the front lawn and planting cabbage. A small vegetable garden, a couple of tomato plants, even a pot of herbs can provide the sense of responsibility for your own food. Tending a garden and managing a compost system also puts you into the natural cycle of growth and decay. Knowing the blend of sun, water, and effort that produced the tomato you're eating makes you appreciate it even more."
As such I like to think about how to eat fish.  How to further bind oneself to the stream system.  No omnipotent figure placed fish in sacred fashion into the streams; the individual fish hold no status that is greater than that of the stream itself.  They are outgrowths of the land and the water like anything else; their beginnings are in the mineral matter synthesized and bound together by the miracle of primary productivity.  They owe a toll to chloroplasts just like anybody else is what I'm saying.  So for me the treatment of the land is of greater concern than the treatment of an individual fish.  That said, nearly every fish I encounter is released.  But some are struck in the head with focused violence and taken home. 
This is derivative of a jewish recipe; approximately:
2 lbs carp fillets
2 eggs
Chopped cilantro
onion (we used chives from the garden because had no "onions")
corn meal or motzah powder ~1/3 cup
lemon juice 2 tbsp
lime juice 2 tbsp maybe
some oil for frying
Method notes:
(1) A ~7 lb carp yields approx 2 lbs of fillet total.  Bury the big heavy head and guts in your yard somewhere; eat it later in another form.
(2) Main note is this: a few sources out there suggest processing the carp flesh before cooking it.  My recommendation is to cook it first.  Here is why: the floating bones are near impossible to extract before cooking.  Unless someone out there knows a good means of slicing them out.  Cook the meat first.  Same deal with pike: why go to the hassle/waste of removing Y-bones?  Cook the fillets.  Cut parallel to the lateral line; use your hands to grab the y-bones and pull them all out; throw them on the ground.  So here, cook the fillets, and then mash up the meat.  The bones are obvious and can then be removed by hand. 
(3) In this instance I cut out some of the darker meat.  Buried it instead of eating it.  You can see in the pics that I did not cut out ALL the darker meat.  This was the collective suggestion of a number of sources; thought being this decreases carpy/oily character.  Good discussion there re whether or not one wants to "decrease" the very character of the animal being consumed; not always, but if you are used to eating trout, crappies, etc. the carp taste may be a moderate struggle; the patties here are an example of minimizing the original "taste" and utilizing the protein source in a seasoned/flavorful recipe.
Cut up fillets.

Picking out bones; took about 4-8 minutes.

Get the kids on the chopper.  Fresh herbs from the dooryard.

Mix it all together in a big bowl.  Didn't stick together really well with one egg and my wife said add another so I did.

Fry them like any other burger.  They wouldn't work on your grill unless you used a sheet of foil underneath. 

There it is.  The flavor is mainly cilantro and lemon/lime.

Pretty girls like carp.  I asked for her unbiased opinion.  She called this a great success.  Kids ate one each too.  We didn't have any bread, but I think if you put this in a kaiser roll with slab of onion; good deal there.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Early June 

Receding water after an evemt allowed for a particularly productive morning nymphing for the invasive but generally naturalized brown trout of southeast Minnesota.  Draw a line going left from this point on the hydrograph; its intersection on the climbing limb will be a very bad undesirable time to fish IMO.  But same flow as it's dropping...   good.  This day.  More cover for the angler; by all accounts fish feel more comfortable in in their lays.  

Some of my favorite water; down in the valley.  Valley so low.  Few things have changed there but much is the same per bedrock controls.

Right away 820 AM.  Nothing came of the short side but the high stick and reach out across in that line brought a good number of trout to hand.  More and more I am fascinated by the water.  Reading it.  The technical work needed to nymph seams.  Seeing the trout without seeing them and then catching them.
Generalist theme: beadhead dubbed scud hook with a gaudy X of rubber legs.  I had three of these.  The pattern was highly effective.

Not many of the BKT this year.  This one ate in the half second lull before I picked up to roll cast again.  I unhooked the fish and let it go.  It circled back and nosed against my boot and waited.  I reached down and picked it up.

Work near to far; all the alleys.  This is great water.  Of the fish that came, the best ate right in that circle.

This year class 11-13" continues to show up everywhere.

Money drift.  Triangle full of fish.
Brown trout can be quite spectacular; varying spot patterns.

Here is the water at which I lay down  streamside after drinking a beer at 11:21 AM.  Won't soon forget it.  I had worked thorugh a series of holes that were comical in nature in that they seemed to give up unending trout.  This was the last of them.  In the highlighted trough, any well-presented nymph was taken.  I don't know how many trout I caught in three hours and it means nothing save indication of the quality of the fishery: had to be around thirty because four holes gave up 4-6 fish each and there were many here and there in between.

What a river.  I was set to get out again today.  Had gear packed.  Neither of my kids wanted to come along so I didn't go.  Times are changing in that kids greatly value hours with their buddies, which is a good thing.  Sometimes a challenging adjustment, as we put together a pretty good log of adventure time over the years.

Megaloptera - dobsonfly; thanks to a buddy for ID.  I thought it was a stone but "Plecops do not have a "neck" and their wings are folded flat over their back. These are somewhat tent shaped. "

Was hoping for some of the big mayflies 10-16 range.  Sporadic at best.  Some caddis.  Around noon I put on a gray EHC and prospected slowly with butter on some riffles and runs.  Got maybe half a dozen fish; some nice takes in sun.  All in all though the dry fly action didn't come together real well.  

World is greening up.  Thickening.  The good walking time is coming to a close.  Now heat and vegetation will have great bearing on many outings.  Might be about time to just fish 6 AM to 9 AM and come home.  I note that on the afternoon of this day, things calmed down very quickly.  As ridiculous as the morning was, the heat and light slowed things considerably.  I suppose siesta and then evening fishing would have rounded it out well.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Please advise if you know the name/make/number/etc of this net.  I have owned two of them; both lost to unknown ends.

The positive attributes:
(1) Strong;
(2) Perfect size opening;
(3) Perfect depth of bag;
(4) Relatively strong bag;
(5) Approx $20-30 new;
(6) Short handle; easy tuck in belt.

In short I took this net to be outstanding for the wading angler chasing large fish.  I understand this is not all that typical of a situation and as such, maybe manufacturers don't tend well to the need.

Here are the places I looked: Cabelas, Gander, Fleet Farm, Scheels, Dicks Sporting Goods, Amazon.  Can't seem to find it.  In the past, I think I bought them at Cabelas.  I believe the maker is Frabill although not entirely sure.  I would appreciate any notes.  Many nets that I examined are some combination of too weak, too shallow, too expensive.

Scanned my files for a few reference pics.  Thanks in advance for any notes.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Columbia River 2015

The individuals that comprised this year's fishing party are for convenience listed below:

McTage at FlyCarpin
D. Frasier of US Carp Pro
John Montana at Carp on the Fly

First, Some Historical Notes

Best I can recall it went something like this, according to my assessment of one old correspondence and a review of our photos, of which there are many: in the year 2000 I moved to southeast Minnesota.  Fact is we had both spent the better part of the previous six years there too, taking classes shooting hoops etc.  But in 2000 I came down to work.  With me was the trusty spinning gear of many many miles; many bass and pike; days in small rowboats; crowded boats countless fish with my dad and brothers.  I think I must have taken that gear to the river for grab-bag fishing.  Probably in 2001 John Montana said why don’t you get a fly rod and get the trout that are everywhere around you.  I was slow to warm up to it; typical fashion; why change anything.  He took a St. Croix Pro Graphite 5/6 weight with a SA reel all spooled up and sent it to me via USPS.  He understood that it would make in me an obligation to get out and use it.  Fish eat almost all their protein under the water; use nymphs.  Fish two nymphs he said.  Why would I do that it sounds like more chances for tangles.  I did as much and I remember the exact location at which I stood, whining to myself that this would never work, when an invasive brown trout ate the beadhead hares ear that was drifting maybe six feet upstream of my position.  First trout on a fly.  I think that was not first fish on fly because I had been going to lakes and wading for sunnies/crappies/bass on poppers.  Those were the days of dumb fish, dozens to hand, eutrophic lakes giving up bounties.  On the trout though, I am unsure as to the year but I think 2001.  On one of our earliest (if not the first overall) fishing trips together, JM and I found a pod of brook trout in a beaver pond.  I know how we can get these fish he said.  Aquarium.  Only way to do it was to get upstream, belly crawl, strip out line and backhand cast an emerger.  Let it swing down and across to them.  Then they will eat it.  First attempt we stared at the line.  It jolted and we had fontinalis #1.  Next guy up.  Same deal.  Hundred brook trout and we caught two and that was exactly what we aimed to do so we then left. 
The email mentioned was May 19, 2003.  All things being measured in rain events and flow conditions, we were at that time subjected to the only major event of that year.  The email feels like me talking with an informant regarding fisheries that may serve as alternative to those for trout.  Big event; high water; streams blown out; my guy coming to fish; what to do. 
Here is excerpt #1:
My buddy John Montana from Westfly copied me on a letter to you re fly
>> fishing. I live in Cannon and I fish often.... catching quite a few
>> trout in the streams around here. Sounds like you're into some nice
>> bigger fish in the main river - rough fish, etc.
So the link is made: JM points me to his buddy, who is IMO an elite angler who set a record catching a fish on the fly for some ridiculous number of days in a row something like 59.  I remember we would fish together I’d pull up to his funny little no-frontage apartment and he’d come out looking tired and off we’d go.  This guy was key in tuning into the local carp on flies angle.
Next, after I said some things like this small northern come almost completey out of the water and shred my popper
> - missed him though as he bit it off and left if floating for me
, was the clincher of sorts:
you may have seen me or a buddy of mine up under the dam downtown
. it's by far the best place to fish for carp as they stack up
under there nicely. i've caught them there mostly on dead-drifted nymphs.
we really pounded this spot most of last month when the water was right.

The carp are there and they can be had.  Not like we used to throwing giant Northern Tackle Whistler jigs and retrieving them 22 mph; rather, they can be had on flies.  I would note that some people in the world were already catching carp on flies; I have met three people that were doing it for years before 2003.  But one’s world is largely defined by his own life and those very close to him; this is generally understood.  We got some carp in 2003 dead drifting nymphs; blind fishing.  

To this picture then – the first of our sight-fished carp.  Here is the flow context; the mean daily flow values (cfs) at the local river gauge: 193, 221, 696, 956, 1170, 1050, 739, 543, 428, 436 (date of picture), 1230, 1250.  And that is a relatively large drainage (292,xxx acres, compared to trout streams which very but are often fished at 12-20,000 acres).  So we’d just been hit with a big slug, and on May 24 water was rising again at the big station meaning the trout streams were blown.  Probably peaked and turbid.  Where can we go and what can we do.  The only hydrology that seemed approachable was that between lakes.  That held by wetland complexes.  We went to such places and found clear water; rivers of grass.  Within those forests undulating we saw buffalo and carp; in and out of our vision.  JM had made a bamboo rod; at great pains; finished just weeks prior.  This was the rod he applied; I cannot recall exactly why; maybe all we had along.  We gave it everything we had – trying to hook those fish.  They were not actively feeding.  But in 2004 safe to say we were not really tuned into carp moods.  JM used a small hares ear and in striking foreshadowing fashion he got one to eat.  This was a dirt road culvert scenario.  Several cars stopped to watch.  This better be good said one tobacco enthusiast.  And I do remember explicitly the second the people saw it was a carp most turned away without a word and drove off.  

May 29, 2004.  Still have that raincoat.  And matching pants.

June 17, 2006.  After one taste of MN carp, JM took to the mighty Columbia River system.  I believe this was my first day joning him there.
Just back from trout fishing yesterday.  I believe it was the first time I was out by myself in the year 2015.  Good timing in that it provided ultimate context/contrast with respect to carp.  Trout fishing is beautiful in that it offers a favorite setting, good protein and it is slow and relaxing for the most part.  It is highly formulaic and the rewards come to practiced execution.  The fish are where you know there are going to be; the flies all work.  In fact very little matters beyond getting flies in front of the fish.  There is no surer guarantee that approaching good trout water with nymphs; provided the conditions are moderately favorable.  Carp on the other hand require concatenation of so many finer points – all of which have been subject to verbose elaboration herein and in other literature and texts.  The Columbia River carp in particular do one no favors.  They must be fed flies.  Plain and simple.  And this act must be understood by the angler without the typical signs afforded by most other species on Earth.  More than a decade studying on this matter.

So the evolution of these adventures continues, as evidenced by 2015 outing.  Locations, species, techniques, flies change over time.  We fish with a lot of great people.  What are your main memories.  Do you remember sitting at a party talking with your friend.  Do you remember days spent at keyboards and terminals.  You most likely do not.  In an age of comfort we don't really have struggles; physical struggles anway, and many of us hold jobs for which we have no immediate accomplishment to look upon at day's end; nothing built, no dirt turned over and nothing planted or threshed or cut or skinned.  Hell you going to do.  How do you maintain your gender in a world that strives for unisex existence.  What you are going to do is invent some struggles and make some adventures; it must be done.  Why does all of suburbia flock to the countryside in camoflauge gear.  The memories are made in water; on rocks; in woods.  And as such we don't buy 48 beers and sit on the river bank and wait.  We set up to be challenged; to struggle; looking into the river hunting giant wary fish. So that is an attempt to address the inquiry why do you do this shit.  The specific merits of carp as a quarry can be reviewed in previous posts.  Further, this understanding is becoming more general as the specie is being accepted as a gamefish.

Following are a handful of images captured a couple weeks ago in the Columbia River Gorge or thereabouts.

First fish of the trip was at 9:43 local time on day one.  Nice stick by D. Frasier.  

Second fish 14 lbs.  Photo credit to D Frasier.  This image good documentation of conditions early on day one.  Pretty good overall.

We hit a dead spot in the afternoon during which the fish stoned us.  Glass calm is a killer; even the smallest flies betray the angler.  

Day two fish - a favorite take - that san juan worm probably ~8-9 years old.

A 19 lb beauty stuck by JM on day two.

People see and marvel at the big fish captured by JM.  What I think is not generally understood though is his rate of execution.  Case in point on this day we were walking back in tough conditions.  The wind had kicked up; big waves.  TFM and I were having a hell of time seeing any viable targets; we were looking shallow; tough go; no fish coming.  JM was walking the deep edge, nearly waist deep; waves slapping.  And he was taking them apart out there: fish after fish hooked.  I couldn't fathom how he was seeing them let alone getting them flies let alone detecting the takes.  This practiced method is what cannot be captured in the still images captured on the river banks.

End of day two, trying to depict both the glare we faced at certain angles, and the pock marks contrasted with the wave patterns in the sand.

Day three we got beat up pretty good by the waves.  We asked for wind and we got it.  Here is FlyCarpin walking, looking.  We did a lot of that.  Got some fish but not too many.

Two 20+ lb fish, one each to TFM and FlyCarpin.  I topped out at 17 lbs, pictured here.  Nice fish, cast up and across at a 45 and watched a subtle eat in heavy waves.

As for final numbers, they were down (per capita) from years past.  My count for the three days was 9, 3, 3.  On the fourth day I had about three hours to fish; hit it with TFM; honestly had zero positive targets and hooked zero fish. Should have had more to hand.  Like every trip out there.  So many fish that you flat out just don't get.  Either they spook because you hit too close; they don't eat; they spook at the fly; you don't detect the take; they break you off.  A lot has to come together.  In particular - I had four opportunities at fish that were by all accounts 20+ lbers.

(1) Hooked and played, started running toward D. Frasier who also had a 20+ fish on.  My determination was that his fish was more important than mine.  I decided to lock down and either turn the fish or break it off.  Broke it off.  He subsequently lost his fish; we really effed that one up.

(2) Sorted through the smaller fish to find the big mama.  Dapped on her; she ate it in plain sight.  I set the hook and my tippet knot gave out.  I watched the fish swim around - pulsing her white mouth in repeated attempt to eject the fly.  Damn it that one burns me still.

(3) Sneaked on a giant, giant solo feeding fish.  Walked on a rock ridge and waited for her to intersect a gap in the riverside scrub.  She came into view perfectly.  I put the hybrid on her four times and every time she pulsed her white mouth I set the hook and came away empty.  I still don't know what happened.  I suppose she couldn't find it to eat it.  It's possible I was late on the hook set but in all honesty I don't think I was; especially given the four attempts.  She put a pretty good hole in the water when she swam away.

(4) Last big one didn't afford me a good look: I dropped a fly on an obscure dark spot and counted it down; set the hook and fish was on.  Big black specimen.  JM got a good look and said nice fish; probably 20+.  In the course of fighting it my leader broke off pretty high.  Presumably some wear from fighting previous fish.

0/4 on 20+ fish.  The chances were there.

Be honest I'm not too worried about it.  We've woven a pretty supportive bed of laurel leaves over the years.  It is what it is.  My eff ups and shortcomings are well understood.  Get some fish and some you don't touch.  They're all there though, in the river.  

Thanks JM for steering us and giving us all the good shots; your hospitality was greatly appreciated.

Best part of the deal was fishing with good dudes.  Two guys I'd never met in person in Fly Carpin and TFM.  D. Frasier.  Fun Hogger.  Host JM.  These fellas are all stone colder carpers.  I thank each of them for their time and camaraderie.  The morning pictured here we were scheming to present JM with a birthday present; we were fortunate to be together to celebrate on the water.