Wednesday, July 16, 2014

20 lb math

I sell freight for a living (essentially), but that wasn't always the plan. I have a degree in English lit with a concentration in creative writing...I mention this just to make it clear that I am not much of a numbers guy. Math bores me, number perplex me and in general, I am just smart enough to know I am not really that smart. That said, I was thinking about the number 20 today. The whole concept of 20+ lb carp on the fly has been sort of the level setting device for me and my buddies the past few years. We catch a lot of very nice carp, we weigh a ton of fish and 20 lbs evolved as the goal simply because it was rare, but attainable. Catching a 20 lb anything on a fly rod and artificial fly (no scent) should be celebrated...it isn't easy, and it doesn't happen as often as you wish it would. So...some simple math.

This year in 2014 I have caught roughly 320 carp. Granted, this isn't an exact number, but is pretty close...say plus or minus 20 fish (more likely plus to be honest). It has been an unbelievable start to the year, and in general I usually finish with somewhere around 350 carp to hand. If I keep fishing until October and have enough solo days, I am pretty sure I can break 400 this year. I have caught carp in 9 states in my life, and every year for the past 5 years I fish two of what by any measure would be called "destination carp waters" in the mighty Columbia River, and the beautiful clear waters of Lake MI. My aim is always twofold...catch a fish over 20 lbs, or catch a mirror carp. As such, I frequently walk by smaller tailing fish IF I am in "big fish water." I never risk spooking an unseen 20 to catch a 9 lber. I always cast to the largest fish I can see, regardless of the quality of the shot vs another shot, and I weigh anything that I think will break 15 lbs with a digital scale. Lastly, I cover a LOT of water. My last time out I clocked 2.65 miles in the water, one way.

This year, I have landed exactly 19 carp that weighed more than 20lbs.

 

So the math is pretty simple...19/320 = 6%. That is an astonishingly low percentage to me. I like to think that my home water is one of the absolute best resources for carp on the fly when you combine the numbers, size, water etc., and Lake MI is clearly at the top of the list as well. I do everything I can possibly do in order to target the biggest possible fish, and still only 6 out of every 100 fish I catch are over 20 lbs. I don't keep detailed logs, but that number seems to sit well with my general memory of the past several years (when my dumb little literary mind started to pay attention to the numbers).

So, a 20 lb carp on the fly is a really big deal...at least the way I look at it. Yes, it is an arbitrary number but the percentages seem right to make it a good goal for any fly rod angler...and it is a nice, round figure.

 

What say the rest of you anglers? Is 20 lbs the right goal? Is 6% representative of the likelihood of catching a 20 lb fish on your water?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Rule #4

To catch more carp, cast at less.

Nothing to see here folks...best to walk on by. Or drop a hybrid on the head of that big one in the middle...her close up:

Solo day today...just me, the river, and a massive number of tailing carp. Crazy day out there. The fish were spread out, and single tailers were the norm for the bulk of the day. The fish were so aggressive that I caught several after saying to myself "what a shitty cast!" Even bad casts were often rewarded with a surge forward from a foot or so away, and a white mouth take.

Normally I would walk by those sunners in the weeds above. Not great eaters on the big C, and a nightmare to pull them from the weeds but so much was going right today that I ventured into the salad and caught a few that way as well. Some days, the sun shines, the wind is perfect and the carp are ready to go!

 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lake MI 5.0

What can you say about Lake MI? In many ways, it is the hallowed ground for carp on the fly. The fish are big, the water clear, and they eat meat. I will forever be madly in love with the Columbia River, and my home resource has many large carp in it but the finicky nature of clam eating carp makes for an extremely technical carp fishery. You must get close, you must fish small flies with little to no motion...you must see the eat. Lake MI offers challenges, but they differ drastically from those of my home water, and in many ways the big lake is a little more user friendly. You fish bigger flies, and the carp (sometimes) chase them down and eat them. That said, I see a far greater number of "positive" fish on the big C. And therein lies the real challenge with Lake MI. You have to find fish that are in the mood. In a lake this size with thousands of miles of shoreline, that is no small challenge.

 

In addition to simple size and distance, weather is a huge factor. The sun comes and goes, the wind blows and the water temps change on a dime. One moment you are standing in a bathtub warm bay and two hours later you are wishing you had put on two pairs of socks and the carp are gone. Learning this water and where and when to go and be is not for the faint of heart. Just as an example, here are the rough "landed carp" numbers from our five Lake MI trips (generally between two anglers with 4 days on the water.)

2010--0 carp (we saw one in four days. Poor carp got smashed by a tumult of casts immediately.)

2011--85 carp (glorious trip)

2012--11 carp (we saw thousands, and failed miserably to catch them)

2013-- 135 carp (our top 20 fish all weighed more than 20 lbs...EPIC)

2014--57 carp (two great days, and some ass whoopings)

Five trips, five different results. 4/5 years we found the fish, but finding the fish doesn't mean you catch them. Lake MI fish aren't easy, they march to their own beat. Bottom line, you won't be "talking" these carp into eating...you have to find the players. Over the last few trips we learned that this often means walking away from hordes of fish. We often leave the bays and the numbers and head out onto rock points in search of single cruisers...we get less shots, but once you spot an eater on Lake MI, the odds are you will get an eat unless you do something really dumb. We do that too.

It is time well spent...afoot on a legendary lake with your best friend. We wander, we catch up, we peer against the grey glare in search of our quarry. We break rods (lamenting the loss of my beloved h2...soon to be repaired), we eat bad bar food, we laugh and cheer for each other to both miss fish and catch fish. We take photos, we sleep like dead men. One night on this trip we even attempted to get into the hot tub of the shit ass cheap hotel in which we were staying. The tub was slightly warmer than Lake MI. These trips MUST be about more than catching carp...because we don't always catch carp. We got blanked on day four, finally giving up around 430 and pounding on bass until it got dark. As Wendy would say...we go it on foot. And we are better for it.

Every year we take the time in this space, on this blog and Wendy's, with these words to thank each other and our families. You have likely read it all before and it remains true now and always. I am 39 now, years removed from the college where both Wendy and I met the most important people in our lives...Kelly and Emily understand us both and encourage us to maintain these bonds and these trips together. What an amazing thing we have here...a tradition started without intention, and driven not only by Wendy and I but by the ladies we love so much. I know I speak for my friend when I say thanks.

In closing Lake MI 5.0 I can't fail to thank my friend for his time and patience. Wendy is quite simply the best fishing companion one could ask for..smelly socks and all. As for the five people that read this blogworth noting is that none of this is done by magic. There is no trickery or unattainable ocean flat reality here. Wendy is a more skilled caster than I, but even at that we are at best, one step above total hacks with fly rods in hand. I hold no illusions to my technical proficiency on the rod or at the vice...I am a weekend fisherman with a family, a job and a life. I am thankful every day that fly fishing is part of that life. We do what we do and have done what we have done because we go, we try, we put in the effort and we make shit happen. Look back at the list written above...2010 happened. Four days of walking from 8-8 and we saw 1 carp...but in 2011 we came back for more, armed with the knowledge you only get from having your boots on the sand and limestone of Lake MI. Go and see...go and do. Good things happen when your boots are in the water.

Onward to the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 5

Travel day...no carp in the shallows. What do you do? Roll the dice, find carp anyway. Landed 9 and a couple of bad ass drum (though this big monster here was hooked outside the mouth).

Full recap to come...another great trip with Wendy Berrell.

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day Three

Dedication. Carping in a monsoon for 12 hours requires quite a bit of dedication.

 

 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

The deep edge

The glory and grandeur of carp on the fly usually happens in shallow water. We love finding crawlers and tailers...hunting for carp in knee deep water gives you the best chance of actually catching a carp. That said, this year has reminded me to keep an eye on that deep edge. On several occasions this year, a glance to the deep side has turned up a feeding fish. On a solo day recently, I made it a point to fish the area by zigging and zagging my way up the river. I wandered in and out of the knee deep water, making sure to get out waist deep and check the edges. It is more work than a straight line designed to spot fish in the shallows, but work pays off. Granted, you might not see as many fish in the deep stuff, but the ones you do see are usually bigger than the ones hanging out shallow.

 

 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Day 4

Day four dawned and we drug our beat up bodies out of bed. Truthfully, we were whipped. We had spent four days destroying the river, the carp, our gear and our bodies. We had lost one net, walked the soles off of 2 pairs of boots, poked countless holes in our waders, burned our fingers, cracked our knuckles and broke one rod (my beloved Helios 2). We slept like dead men every night, exhausted and exhilarated, but on day four we had one thing on our minds. Get a 4th 20 lber for Wendy. As we rigged up at the jeep, we knew that goal was going to be super tough. Full cloud cover and 30 mph winds are not a good combination on the big C.

We dodged the wind a bit and found some shelter, but the clouds made seeing carp tough. I picked out the ghost of a carp, and got a sweet head turn take for our first fish. Shortly after I spotted a nice fish tailing in the little pocket pictured above. It was feeding heavily, unaware of our approach. I knew this fish was pushing 20 lbs...we were sticking this fish. Wendy's first cast was too far away, so he cleared it and laid another cast out...too short, so he pulled that out too. Third cast landed true and we both uttered something along the lines of "that's it" at the same time. The big carp dipped its head, Wendy set the hook and I got ready to get the scale out. When the fish hit the net we looked at each other and said "19". The scale confirmed it, and Wendy ended one lb shy of a 20 lber each day...so close!

From there though, the carp gods smiled on us. Out of nowhere the sun came out, and while the wind kept up we found an area that had some ledges to break up the waves. The carp were thick inside these reefs, and with full sun...the ass whooping was back on! Our tough morning gave way to another huge numbers day, with Wendy sticking at least 20 fish and me ending somewhere north of 30. What a day!

Wendy and I know how lucky we are. Not everyone gets to extend the friendships they develop in college into their 30s, and now for us, nearly 40s. We are fortunate to have amazing wives, and amazing kids who let us do this every year. These trips are always a success, just by virtue of being, but the big C 2014 will go down as one of our top trips.

Thanks again to my buddy Wendy, and big thanks to our families. It won't be long now and Elia, JJ, Danny and James will be coming along with us!