Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 18, 2018 Report from the Local Water and a Day to Remember

Lesson: personal milestones are cool but the true joy probably comes from sharing fishing with others.  This is known to many but always worth re-stating.

Episode I.  Pond I have fished many times; in fact have become very well acquainted with the carp.  I think it's a relatively sparsely populated system.  As such I have watched these fish get bigger.  Just after ice out I started looking around various pond systems; in this one I took note of big sow fish.  Wide and putting on even more weight leading up to spawn.  They have a history of just stoning me silly but I got a 19 lber to hand early on and that got me thinking I could get these fish in the aquarium settings.  They have a habit of what I call "wary feeding" meaning they are in fact looking for food, but they are not digging or mudding; rather they kind of dip and lightly feed now and again, along some slowly-traveled path.  This is maddening for the sight fisherman because they balk at any movement on shore, the rod waving, the line extending.  The line hitting the water and the fly sinking within their sight goes even further: blows them up and sends them off.  What is needed is the right wind direction and a careful study of one corner of the water.  On this day that pattern/habit indeed held and I found maybe 6-7 fish feeding heavy; by their own activity affording me some cover in the form of silt plumes and turbid water.  But the main deal was that they were happy and they weren't going to spook at my every movement.  I studied and studied and looked some more because to be honest I didn't want to hook a small fish.  Snobby sounding but the reality is that I would only get one out of here and this was such a periodic and difficult find; didn't want to burn it on a small fish.  I'd been fishing light flies to the wary fish - trying slow sinks - hadn't worked.  So I switched to what I believe is the best general fly pattern for MN hard tailers: LOD or something thereabouts.  Sinks pretty fast so you can get it where you want it easily; some substance and little flash to it so fish with heads buried can still see/sense it; and it looks like a lot of organisms in our waters.  I did spook a couple fish even with all the good cover.  Started to fret a bit thinking that maybe the group would disperse so I resolved to put the fly on the best-positioned fish regardless of perceived size.  Did that and it ate on the first presentation.  I couldn't see the fish head or the fly.  I put it where it needed to be and saw something in the tail movement that made me think eat.  Picked up and fish on.  Fish did not look really big while fighting.  Nor did it run great distance.  Fairly standard fight and somewhat easier to net than the 19 lber from a couple weeks earlier.  But when I got the fish close I started to study the distance from the tail breaking the water to my point of connection.  Looked long.  In the net looked long and felt heavy.  We've weighed many many fish and as I hooked the scale on the net I knew it was 20+ lbs.

Long clean heavy mean fish.
Tare on net is 1 lb.  

Always kind of bugged me that all the 20+ lbers in my log were from Columbia River and Great Lakes basins.  It's possible that I'd caught a 20+ from Ole Miss watershed previously, but this is the first one that I've verified with a scale.  Made me pretty happy.

So now have the three basins covered in terms of 20+ lber on the fly.  I know of one other person who has that trifecta: Fly Carpin.  If you too have it logged, please comment as I'd like to keep track of what folks are doing out there.  

Episode II.   Later joined by Winona Fly Factory; his interest was in finding some bigger (than trout) fish and he probably took note of 14, 17 and 19 lb fish on fly gear all caught over the span of a week or two without leaving home. No gear needed; no boat; no hassle really. No long drives in traffic. Just big fish that eat flies. This was of interest to him so we went out and looked around, skipping the pond that just gave up the 22 lber. Different systems; kind of a “carp circuit” in that way. The first good target we saw was memorable: we spotted a cruising fish across the pond – solid big fish doing the horse-head swing – looking for food but not tailing hard in any one location – searching along the shore. As if we had extended an invite the fish broke off the shore path and swam straight at us. I think I swore a fair bit and whispered exclamations like that fish is going to eat the hell out of your fly so be ready, etc.  WFF put the fly on the fish as it faced us directly at approximately 1.5 rod lengths. The water was moderately turbid but the fish saw the fly. WFF kind of moved it around trying to get an eat; the details are not crystal for me other than I recall the great white mouth moving about trying like hell to eat that fly. But it’s not always easy even on great shots. Just couldn’t connect. We laughed about it and moved along as did the carp. A couple more shots came. I was reminded to not take the drag and drop technique for granted. It’s nothing to do with trout fishing; it’s a whole different deal and it takes some honing I guess. WFF is about as good an angler as you will find but he needed some trial to get the carping edge back (he fished Columbia with us way back when). The irony is that the fish he ended up hooking was probably the most difficult target of the outing: we spotted at distance a great waving tail. Not breaking the water for it was fairly deep – probably 2.5-3 feet. Prominent bubble and silt plume – just a very happy fish hammering away at the pond bottom. I suggested to WFF that he should go Zen on this deal and understand that he would be afforded no strike and no visual of the fish head or fly; he’d need to drop it where he figured the head would be, count down according to known sink rate, and then just pick up the rod – this in sum constituting not a “guess” but rather an attempt based on the best available information and observation. He did as much and the first few presentations were not hookups; in fact at least one bumped her and moved her but she was so happy she didn’t spook – she just moved. On maybe the fourth or fifth such attempt he came up with a bowed rod. We studied with a bit of anxiety the fish moving about but it didn’t take long to see the fly right in the lip. Absolutely beautifully done. Being a special fish for WFF I basically just let him play it as he saw fit; he took great care and time landing it. There was one tippet knot in the leader. I had no mind to rush him. With the fish in the net I could see it was 20+ lbs. We weighed it 3-4 times and concluded that it was pretty much right at 22 lbs. Second such fish of the day, from a second pond system. By his own note, a lifetime fish for WFF; congrats man.

Episode III. On the way home my wife indicated that my older son needed something to do. My response/suggestion was that he should grab a long sleeved shirt, a buff, hat, glasses and water bottle. Continue the carping day I was saying. We had only an hour or so of bad light left. But he was ready when I pulled up and we just continued on to yet a third pond system. I gave him a little coaching en route, noting that while he had caught many trout on the fly and many carp on spinning gear, he had yet to marry up the carp with the fly rod; as such he would face a bit of a challenge – bigger fish on lighter gear, and no favors (generally) e.g. fish hooking themselves while you retrieve a lure or jig or fish showing the eat by rising to a fly. He seemed up for it and he said as much. Three great targets, as detailed: (1) small fish feeding, facing shore/us; he did a great job with the drag and drop, put the fly right where it needed to be; I watched the fish eat but did not say anything, allowing him time to discern; too late – fish ejected fly and left the vicinity; good lesson and we talked about it, (2) light was bad and as such we noted that in these conditions/times it is often best to key on bubbles and silt plumes; the first bubble trail he saw got a presentation and he put the fly where he figured the head would be; jig it just once or twice I told him because the water was a little turbid; he did so, and picked up the rod either on a jig motion or just by instinct, and found the fish on; very happy moment; very faith-based deal there for a young kid; we were a little bit happy; 5 lbs scaled, (3) another small fish facing us just as dark was coming on – very hard to see – he put the fly out maybe a foot and the fish saw that thing and started finning forward very excitedly; but then a couple inches away from the eat we humans were also perceived and the carp did a 180 thus ending our carping for the night. He went on and caught a bass and a crappie while I studied some more of the water. He made some remarks on the way home indicating that he is intrigued by carp on the fly. As well he should be; 5 lbs is his heaviest fish on the fly (which probably already has him in the top 25% of fly anglers worldwide in terms of biggest fly caught fish); not for long though I’d say.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Carp Fishery

Remarkable to study the various carp populations and learn the habits and behaviors of their constituents.  Some are very ready eaters.  Some stone my ass into next week with repeated refusals and spooks and ass-kickings.  Been torturous working through one particular water that shows educated big fish.  They spook at rod movement, at fly hitting water, at tippet in water, at movement on shore.  I try laying fly out way in front and then crawling across path.  No.  And then I switch ponds and fish hammer the LOD with flashing white mouths chasing it down.  Different fish and different environ.  

And then places within the various ponds and lakes systems...  I left the comfort zone of a small fish pond and pushed my way back to the toughest corner.  Which also appeared to be the warmest corner.  As soon as I got a clear look at the water I saw this female slow cruising loosely flanked by a couple males (presumably).  First time the fly touched the water she ate it.

17 lbs scaled.  Nice stache.  

April in the books.

1.  Caddis.  In consult with Winona Fly Factory we got on some good caddis hatches end of April.

Watching kid pitch dry fly.  He got quite a few fish using a simple EHC.

After training the kids to use smooth looping flips and rolls for nymphs, I had to reconfigure a bit and get him to punch the dry fly back and forward and then lay it out.  Good study of different physics required for various approaches.

He would have had twice as many fish to hand had he not bass-set on a bunch of them - pulled fly clear of mouth.  Pretty spots on this one.

HI water can be deep.  Kids like waders.

We were treated to notably larger than average dry fly fish.  Quite a few in the 11-12" range and some edging into lower teens.

Best part was that we used one fly all day. This piece of garbage dubbed body with a hacker elk hair wing.  No hackle.  They just flat out murdered it.  Sometimes simpler than we'd like to make it out to be.

We stayed in this old granary that the landowners remodeled into a simple domicile. Just right for us.  Markedly less money per night than a hotel which led kids to ask why we would ever stay in a hotel again. 

2. Streamer fishing old water

Few days later did some streamer fishing. Hadn't been on this water in many years.  My return was pleasure and also recon and study.  

Many fish of this year class eating simple black leeches.

The water was better than I remember it.  The flood of 2007 hammered it wide and shallow but it is recovering.  A lot of good streamer water.

3.  Afternoon streamer fishing favorite water.

Meeting down south a bit so fished afternoon.  Right before a big storm.  It got silly really quickly.

Second hole of the day; it's always the second hole.  And here is one two three every time.  Fish laying in the tail, in the head, and at the very top of the gray pool.  

Think I will just nymph in the winter and late summer now. Otherwise dries and streamers.  Nothing but drab streamers on this day and the fish were just dropping hammers.  Every little piece of water showed action.  

Often tie light streamers knowing I can pinch a BB at the head if I want to make it heavier in the field.  This afternoon fished probably 3.5 hours and it was >30 fish to hand with minimal effort.  Something in the air and the weather had them just banging.  I started playing tag after a while -pulling fly away.
4. tacos

Crema sauce that is sour cream, mayo, lime, cilantro and some other ingredients.

Made these for a number of people.  One guy said better than any resto fare.  A kid went home and told his parents about fancy tacos made with fish meat.  Pretty solid way to consume protein from the stream.  

Monday, May 07, 2018

Spring 2018 Carping Notes

Warmth was a long time coming but it did take hold pretty quickly once the ice was off some of the local pond systems.  First carp (in Minnesota) of the year was 4/22/18.  Dozens of fish laid up just soaking in heat units.  Not feeding; not really even moving much.  Some patience and finesse required, i.e. heron-dapping with a light fly like a San Juan Worm.  

I think this SJW was tied by John Montana maybe as long as 12-14 years ago.  

The Trouser Worm too.

Few days later found those fish doing almost the same thing. Not exactly same though because on this day I was there earlier in the day/diurnal.  So they weren't in the absolute shallowest water (where I'd found them previously during afternoon) presumable because that water cooled over night.  They were in the "neck" of that water - the transition from the deep to the shallow.  I think a really cool thing would be to have infrared imagery for some days during spring; chart carp movements with that as the basemap.  They were all arrayed there and I caught a couple small carp and then started hunting through looking for a bigger fish.  This one was holding steady by a log - no feeding - no movement.  Dapped a SJW; had to be right on her...   and she did in fact snatch-eat it.  Scaled at 14 lbs.

This fish was later- 5/4/18 heading into the weekend.  I have been long-acquainted with these carp and I think that I have caught a decent percentage of the population over the years.  There aren't very many; most of them are pretty big.  They are also very tough due to the setting.  I'd rate it as top difficulty.  Get stoned often.  That was happening on Friday night - stoning.  I take it in stride now; people change.  Good lesson with this fish though - I saw three big brutes moving longshore; I crouched and followed; put a fly on one of them and all three of them kind of pissed on it and soft spooked.  This fish did a 180 and headed back the other way.  It wasn't a particularly alarmed 180 but rather just indicating that she'd like to be elsewhere.  These reads on fish mood and behavior are often important.  I gauged that spook to be soft enough that one should try again.  I got low and basically tracked the fish down over approximately fifty feet, set up in a little window and put the fly on her again.  LOD.  On this occasion she turned slowly and curiously; swam forward and down and just settled on the fly.  From there it was a bit of a battle because I had my baby-carp rig (5/6 weight) which has no fighting butt (I had been using this for those little buggers previous days).  So it was a forearm workout and a difficult netting job; honest 8-10 minutes I'd say just because I wanted to be really really careful as I understood the size and quality.  Got her in the net and literally said aloud she will be 1-2 pounds short.  Scaled at 19 lbs.  I post-field-checked my scale on dumbbells of 25, 20 and 12 lbs. It's right on.  I really wanted this fish to be 20 lbs but just not there yet.  

The fish are in warmest water. I've seen carp in groups swimming together. I've not observed heavy feeding yet but as of yesterday 5/6/18  (got a couple small ones) I saw individual fish feeding.  I also found hundreds of quillbacks congregated; few bigger carp mixed in.  I've observed many many suckers spawning in pond settings.  LMB and panfish in shallows.