Monday, November 19, 2018

October Float

On a cool and gray day in October high flows ferried my brother and I through mist and drizzle as we pounded the banks of our home river with gigantic streamers. The off color current dragged on the yellowing leaves of overhanging branches and vegetal flotsam lay draped and folded over every sweeping and submerged limb. We were counting on the overcast dankness loosening the inhibitions of this river's increasingly abundant big beautiful brown trout and we were not disappointed.

We thwacked articulated streamers tight to the banks and ripped them back towards the boat with occasional wounded pauses. The early broadside flashes of interested players spiked our heart rates and when we found the groove and began to connect after a river mile or two we emerged into one of those days where you felt that any cast could result in a very memorable fish. Some of them did.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


It was late August and I hadn't gone tidal fly fishing in 2018. Weighing on my carpin conscious was the fact that that school year was starting in a few days and I'd probably be waiting until 2019 if I didn't get out. I found myself checking the weather and found a window of opportunity that I couldn't pass up. Despite a decent wind, I embarked to a favorable eastern shore marsh to try my luck. It was slow. With the hot summer sun beating down and a flooded marsh, I had a hard time finding any activity, let alone spotting a carp. Around midday, I found myself paddling around during a high tide checking out sparse activity in the choppy water. I had a few opportunities during down periods in wind and was able to land a few small carp. However, I had my sights set on something much larger. 

Ever since I began this type of carp fishing, I knew I'd be able to land a giant. I set a goal of landing a forty pounder and also a forty inch carp. I've had several encounters with a few specimens that would fall into either of those classifications but could never seal the deal. A personal best of 34lb. was weighed a few seasons ago and I have caught several fish near forty inches. Despite this success, I am haunted by the silhouettes of some absolute beasts...

While paddling near some arrow arum, one such carp emerged from the depths to clear his gills of any excess debris. I was in a perfect position and was able to get one cast off before the large carp descended back into the deep. My fly landed about a foot in front of his nose, his mouth protruded, the gills flared, and the fly was sucked in without even moving forward an inch. I landed my first measured forty inch fish and he weighed in at a skinny 25 pounds. My slow summer day ended up producing a few opportunities that I was able to take advantage of and I look forward to the moment I weigh a forty pounder. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Being There Yesterday

Carp fishing in the East means long periods of observing, stealth, mosquito bites and making one cast count. Usually. But every once in a while, you might find yourself there yesterday. The mythical day, usually the day before you arrived, when the fish happen to be strangely cooperative.

Mark invited me to go out for carp on a creek that he's caught fish at before and I was more than up for it. It had been more than two years since I'd landed a golden bone and I was looking forward to something that would pull. I put on some overcast colors and we rigged up one rod to share. We quickly found ourselves on an elevated stream bank overlooking a flat that bordered a deep flowing channel. Carp were cruising out of the channel and onto the flat with purpose.

Towards a cruising fish I made one cast from the bank and danced my carp crab downstream in the water column. Headed in the same direction, the fish accelerated and engulfed the fly. I forgot how hard these things pull as I fought it on the shin deep flat with our 6wt.

Minutes later I made another cast at another cruising fish and had it pounce. Two carp on two casts was not what I was used to or expecting. They weren't even good casts. On any normal day, I'd have spooked them both. It was the mythical yesterday, as the rest of the afternoon proved.

There were so many carp in the channel that commotion from one brought the others out to investigate. It looked like pre-spawn behavior. They lost their inhibitions. A third carp came on probably my 5th cast.

And then a fourth. My arm was legitimately tired by this point and I had a bruise forming on my stomach from the fighting butt. It had only been about half an hour. I forced Mark to take the rod as we moved upstream to find some more interesting holes.

We watched some fish show themselves from across the creek and were so sated that we didn't even move to cast. It was enough to just see them. Later on, some fish presented such appetizing opportunities that we couldn't resist.

Mark waited for just the right fish before making that one cast count. He then dropped down the steep back to battle the fish around a fallen tree. He landed his first as it began to rain.

His fish was flawless.

An overhanging tree trunk provided an excellent vantage point to make another cast count, but from this place might have been the only time we were unable to entice a fish.

Mark picked one off as we walked back towards the first flat.

Then it was my turn again and I landed my last fish of the day as it began to rain again.

Mark took the rod and got another before being broken off by a big one on a root ball.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Savage River Diaries

The Savage is my favorite little river. It is technical but holds cooperative fish. It is accessible but engrossing. It is pocket water around every bend with distinct wild browns right where you think they'd be. It is native brookies, some pretty rainbows and at least one cutthroat. It is beautiful and cold and green. Here, I slide right into a state of flow and it's comfortable like an old and worn pair of leather boots.  This place has become my place of pilgrimage.

This is also one of the three stretches of water I'd planned to take my wife to this year. We made the drive and booked a room at a nearby farm through AirBnB. On our way to fish the first evening's hatch we crossed paths with a large black bear on the road, which isn't unusual.

We met my brother at the campground and walked to PhD Pool. Stacy set up shop on river right with her sketchbook and watercolors while Mark and I set up on river left with our 5wts and sulphur patterns. We sat and settled into conversation.

Mayflies began to dance above a downstream riffle so we knew they'd be above the upstream one, too. Sporadic risers began to interrupt our conversation with increasing frequency but we didn't get up; we only remarked on their particulars. We had been talking about life, marinating in the setting and scenery, and were satisfied with that until an agreeable riseform stood us up. Mark cast to and landed her; a gorgeous 16" brown brought to hand in the fading light.

With that, the three of us retired for the night and resolved to hit the water early in the morning for a full day of pocket water prospecting.

The morning found us working upstream from pocket to seam to foam line and finding more than a few smaller fish. The water was running a little high and made upstream wading more difficult than usual. The riparian rhododendrons were shrouded in cobwebs bedecked with several species of mayfly.

My wife is an apt pupil and is better at this than she thinks she is. She can put a fly close enough to where she intends although her fish fighting ability really needs some work. Practice is the best teacher in that regard.

Some brookies are prettier than others and the Savage has more than its fair share of them. There are some browns in there that are also a sight to behold. Mark fished the opposite bank and we all worked upstream together. It's a pleasure watching him fish.

We wrapped up the second evening hoping for a sustained hatch that never materialized. Bugs were flying around but they didn't bring the fish up to meet them. As the riverside forest grew dark beneath the cloudy sky we trekked back to the cars and made a fire at Mark's camp.

On our last morning, Stacy and I opted for more of the same while Mark went off on a solo downstream jaunt that took him to a deep pool from which he was able to take a few fish on a streamer. The Savage River screamer brown trout was not to be found, but a big acrobatic rainbow was eager to play.

While the sun burns off the morning fog after you've had a great few days on one of your favorite rivers, there are worse ways to spend a few minutes than in grateful streamside contemplation.