Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Painful Reminder

I was wading about ankle deep. To my right was a wall of bushes, and to my left the water went from ankle, to knee, to thigh to belly deep in maybe ten feet. Big fish water. Normally I approach this type of water and realize it is a numbers game. My goal is to be in the right spot the moment the big fish moves out of the depth to feed. If she moves in way ahead of me she will probably leave before I get there and I won't see her. If she moves in behind me, I won't see her. If she doesn't move in, I won't see her. With that in mind I usually motor through this type of water quickly. I trust my eyes. I can spot carp, usually at a distance so I often walk a lot faster than most people would guess when I am hunting big fish. But today I had a strange angle, and a nasty glare that not even my trusty Costa 580g's could, the drop off was too steep to wade out and look in (using the bushes shadow to cut the glare). My only option was to crawl forward slowly, and it paid off.

I spotted the color first. Just a dark patch, 25 feet away but as I slowly cut the distance I could suddenly see a tail. I stopped then. It was a BIG tail, and I was only 20 feet away. I was tempted to make the cast now, but I couldn't see the head and this carp was happy, digging away, tail waving lazily. It was not going to chase a fly, not going to move. I needed to feed this fish, so I inched forward, looking for the head. At about 15 feet away I had a clear view of the fish, and remarkably, I had gotten there without spooking it. I made a long cast, letting my flies splash several feet away, the dragged them into position and let them sink. Here is where I messed up.

The second the lead fly (a trouser worm) hit the bottom the fish stopped tailing and inched forward. I could clearly see the fly, and clearly see the huge fish and it massive white bucket mouth about 4 inches from the t worm. The fish stopped, tail barely moving, holding itself in place as it considered the fly. I held my breath, certain I was about to latch onto a 30 plus lb fish. 5 seconds went by, then 10...I started to get itchy. The fish continued to stare. 15 seconds, I waited...20 seconds and I couldn't wait any longer. I twitched the fly and the big fish immediately spooked, and spooked hard. Water blew up, mud billowed and the fish ripped to the depths with one push of its tail.

A painful reminder...don't move your fly.

I have learned this over the years on the big c. The carp out here don't like to chase. They will reach out and grab a fly, turn left, turn right, occasionally dart forward but for the most part the only motion that doesn't spook them is a fly falling to the bottom. They seem t accept gifts from the heavens. On the big C, your best move is simple:

Show them your fly, and then let them eat it.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Euegene, OR

Come say hello Monday night in Eugene at Mckenzie fly fishers. Carp talk starts at 7!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

September carp

Got out for a solo day today. Late in the season the fish are spread out, and I didn't see masses of fish, but what I did see were pretty solid targets. I moved around quite a bit, covered a bunch of different spots and when I kept moving, I came across plenty of singled, tailing carp. Even late in the season, they dig the hybrid.

Most of the fish were tailing hard enough that I was seeing the muds long before I would see the fish. In one spot, I saw a huge mud from a few hundred feet away, and painfully snuck by some smaller fish to see what was in the big mud. When I got there, there were four heavily feeding carp. I stared for a while, figured out the biggest one and then promptly lined one of the other three trying to catch the big one. So it goes.

Ran into my friend Todd, just in time to see him catch a 20 lb mirror...yes, I was appropriately jealous. That is like my holy grail right there!



All told I landed 9 or ten fish. I weighed three fish at 19 lbs and hooked at least one that I thought was bigger but lost that fish to a nasty weedbed. It was a nice, relaxed day. I never got in a hurry, just meandered along, casting at singles...late season carping is just a different pace than the frenetic spring.



Thursday, September 04, 2014

Two years ago

Two years ago my dad passed away. I still think about him all the time, but there are a few days a year where remembering is more sad than happy. Miss you dad.

Written a few days after he died:

My dad was a hero. I don't mean a hero in the sense that most dads are heroes for their young sons and daughters, though he certainly was that as well. I mean he was an honest to god all American hero. My dad flew Cobra gunships in Vietnam. He was the kind of man that stepped forward when everyone else stepped back. He volunteered for the missions that no one else wanted. My dad was the pilot the Blues and Scouts wanted flying cover when the shit hit the fan. They knew he wouldn't flinch. He would fly into danger to help them get clear of danger. Once upon a time my dad wasn't John Bartlett, he was "Bloody Bart". He was a hero.

When I was four my dad took me bear hunting. I shouldn't be able to remember much, but I do. I can clearly see the marshy field from our spot on the edge of the tree line. I recall the color of the twilight, and I can feel the rough denim of my dads jeans as I slipped my hands into his back pockets to keep up with his long legs. Mostly though, I can hear the boom of his 30-06. We shot a bear that night, and as I sit here writing my ears are still ringing. I feel as if they have been ringing since my mom called Tuesday night to tell me he was gone.

How many young boys can say they have walked the wild of the Kootenai River? My dad took me. He was the engineer on a work train out of Libby, MT. As such, he spent four days inching along the tracks while the crews cleaned and repaired tie at a time. In the morning, he would run me out with him on the big locomotive and drop me off somewhere on the river. There I spent the, my fly rod, a half dozen royal coachman's and the trout of the Kootenai. As evening approached I listened for the whistle of the train and waited on the tracks for my dad to come and get me.

His heart had been failing for years now. Last year the doctor told him his ejection fraction (the measure of how much blood your heart is pumping) was less than 20% of a healthy person. Rather than ponder all that he could no longer do with only one fifth of a heart, my dad shot back at the doctor and the world "IT IS A GOOD THING MY BALLS ARE FIVE TIMES THE SIZE OF MY HEART"!

My dad lived his life. He loved his life. He went at everything full throttle and never slowed down. He is gone now, and the world is undeniably a darker place. I am not a religious person, but much like my dad I believe in a higher power. And just like him, I see that power in the wind through the trees and the waves in the water. So I know where to look for him. No one that met him could avoid being touched by him, so he surrounds us all. I see him in Elia's quiet determination. I see him in JJ's fierce competitive spirit. I see him today when I am down, and I will see him in myself tomorrow...when I get back up. I know where to find him and the next time I am walking my favorite flat, I know I can count on him to give me a little extra ripple on the water so I don't spook that big fish. And if I listen real hard after I blow the shot...I bet I can hear him laugh.

Dad, we thank you, we love you, we miss you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three Man Weave

Ross and I shared the bow of the boat, each with a flyrod in hand while Travis ran the motor. I spotted the mud cloud about 35 feet away...a nice tailing fish, busy. Ross dropped a hybrid just inches away but the fish soft spooked at the plop and started moving along the shoreline towards the boat. Ross fired off a second cast, but the hybrid didn't sink fast enough and the fish slowly cruised by. I timed it...looked at the fish, knew my rigs sink rate and made a leading cast perpendicular to the bank. I watched the intersect path, and saw my flies touch down inches in front of the slow moving carp. The carp approached, and slowed ever so slightly...I set the hook.

The carp blasted down the bank and then took a hard left, burying deep into the weeds, and the team jumps into action. Travis put the trolling motor on full and we shot off after the carp, while Ross dropped to his belly on the front deck and began ripping weeds out of the way with both hands. As he freed more and more fly line I reeled like mad to keep up, and Ross continued digging a trench through the weeds. The leader appeared and I dropped to a knee and hand lined the fish, pulling gently, trying to force the head towards the surface. As soon as Travis got a look at the body he made a stab with the net and scooped up a 19 lb carp and about 15 lbs of weeds. It was the fist fish of the day, carping is more than a spectator sport.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carpocalypse...a few photos

If you haven't been to Carpocalypse, you need to change that. A good time is had, despite the fact that at times the carp are total jerks. But...if you risk it, and work, you could stick a 20 like Matt Simms.

But these are still carp, so you need to bring your "A" game...if you don't you may cause a stampede.

But when it comes together, it is all smiles! Tom stuck a nice 14 lber on Sunday, an incredible take at distance..."A" game indeed.

Fortunately, we have what can best be described as a "target rich" environment.


With that many fish around, we can all find a little love.


Even if you end up cursing some by catch.


Thanks Orvis and Costa! What a great event.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Orvis Carpocalypse in bursts


The absolute silence that fell on the room as Adam announced the winner of the Costa 580 glass shades.

Adam and I screaming like 15 year old girls at the sight of a pop star when we saw a big white bucket open under water to eat Tom's fly. I think we startled him into setting the hook.

Spectator fishing. As Tom's (yet another) perfect cast settled on the water I watched the fish tilt, and flash some mouth at us. "Boom" I uttered under my breath as Tom set the hook on a nice 14 lber.

So many variations of the hybrid.

Travis getting out of the car at the first stop Saturday morning...and offering everyone a beer. Now that guy is a carper.

My phone buzzing with a text on Sunday morning...a photo of a monstrous 20 lb carp Matt Simms had just released...I whooped for joy miles away from him.

Watching a clearly exhausted Larry trudging back to the car after I drug him all over the river throughout the day. Suddenly his shoulders perked up, his head lifted, he made a short sharp cast and slammed home a hook set. No one could hear his reel shriek over our own cheering.

Laughing, as Terri quickly laid claim to the Orvis swag her husband Ross won.

Laughing even harder as Ross took the Helios 2 from Adams hands and walked back to his seat smiling. Good thing Terri already has one!

Giving out hybrids Saturday flies for you Kidwell!

Rob getting carp blocked by a 3 lb bass...and being genuinely upset about it.

102 degree heat. Mud flats and gravel bars. Tailers and sunners and cruisers.

Standing two rod lengths from a 30 lb fish and not casting because I really wanted Adam to see that fish. Had it been tailing I would have shown him a closer view.

Drinking a half bottle of Gatorade that had been in the car all day, and nearly burning my tongue.

Spotting a carp from the tracks as a train approached. Adam dove one way, I dove toward the carp. I used the train as cover and stumbled down the rip rap, scaring two people who had beached a boat on the sand and were sitting in chairs in the water enjoying the day. I crept toward them in a ninja crouch, covered in long sleeves, gloves and a face mask...rod in hand like a weapon. Suddenly I flipped a fly forward and as the train passed I hooked a carp. It exploded in the water, leaping and ripping off the flats. The people went from scared to interested, whooping and clapping as Adam reappeared on the tracks above. I casually released the carp and walk past their little oasis.

"Was that a carp." The guy asks...

"Yep" I say...and add "I bet you don't see that everyday" and Adam and I hiked the two miles back to our car.

Only at Carpocalypse. Thank you Orvis and Costa!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Coming up

August 2nd at 10 am I will be talking carp at Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn, OR. Always a good crowd with good dialogue at Joel's place. Come by for some cookies and carp! I will tie some hybrids after and have a few hats on hand as well.

And the big tournament is just around the corner! Have you signed up yet? If you live anywhere close you need to check out Carpocalypse. Beginning carper? No problem! This is a fun tourny and not ultra competitive so people are free with tips and tricks. The tourny starts on August 9th, sign up at Orvis in Portland.

The Saturday night party will be worth any travel pain! Hope to see a bunch of you there.

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 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 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 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!