Monday, May 31, 2010

Carp Blocked.

Trials and Tribulations: Part Two

I finished last summer desperately trying to accomplish one goal. Catch a canal carp. I failed miserably. Fast forward to this new year and on the eve of another el verano my holy grail once again are the elusive ghosts that occupy that forsaken piece of water. As noted last summer in trials and tribulations, the carping at the canal ain't easy. The one mile stretch of carp water is narrow, deep, off colored, full of structure, poison ivy, mosquitos, and they experience every type of fishing pressure on a daily basis. Two out of three times I head to the canal and walk back and forth cranking my neck to the side, I come up empty handed. Thats right, most of the time, I don't even see one. Not even a glimpse. When I finally do see canal gold, its usually because they have already seen me and are swimming for their lives. When I am lucky, and I mean extremely lucky, I am presented with a feeding carp, along the bank, where I am actually able to present him/her with a fly. This is a rarity. So many variables are at play and more often than not I end up being carp blocked.

Of all the factors that come into play fishing for some golden bones at the canal, a few stand out. The number one carp block is the resident canal junkie. These people visit the canal seemingly every day. They ride bikes, walk the dog, go for a jog, swim, throw rocks, and scare the living out of every carp in the vicinity. It is a wonder, I am able to see carp. Oh, and of those 1/3 times I actually see a carp, nine out of ten times they are spooked and traveling up or down the canal at a blistering rate. This is attributed to the daily traffic the canal sees and the pressure from spin, fly, and bow fishermen. The best opportunity you have of not being carp blocked by the junkies is to get their extremely early. My recent attempt at getting there early, was not early enough. I pulled into the parking lot to find an old Cadillac. A half mile down the canal path I found my blocker. It was an eighty year old woman fishing. I didn't see a fish in the first half mile. Only passed her did I have my opportunities. Later on in the morning, she blocked me once again. I was hunched over, kneeling in the poison ivy, kung fu carping two twenty pounders along the bank. The sweet old lady, bless her soul, came right up behind me to see what I was stalking. Needless to say, the carp took off, never to be seen again.

Coming in at a close second, third, and fourth are the following carp blocks. They can be arranged in any particular order because they are very similar and seem to happen every time I am graced with a carps presence. Waterfowl of any kind. With any body of water, there are always birds congregating there to make as much noise and disturbances as possible the moment you get too close for their comfort. Turtles of any kind, including the invasives. Turtles are all over the canal and they freak out the moment you walk down the path as well, hopping and sliding into the water letting every carp in the vicinity know that danger is near. The fourth carp block is just plain old noise. I have seen carp spook from a nearby train, a firecracker going off, a car horn, a cell phone, and even my own voice.

The fifth and sixth carp blocks occur in the heat of the moment when your fly is actually approaching the zone. The first, and the most annoying of all carp blocks are the mosquitos. In the heat of the summer, the mosquitos along the canal are actually terrifying and seemingly immune to 100% deet. It is extremely difficult to concentrate on your descending fly and a monstrosity of a carp when hundreds of mosquitos are buzzing in your ear, burrowing into your skin, and flying under your hood, bandana, and sunglasses. It is uncomfortable stuff. The sixth carp block is every child's favorite: the bluegill. There was nothing I enjoyed more as a youngster than pulling out pumpkinseed after bluegill after pumpkinseed for my father to take off the hook. Now, I loath bluegills. They have ruined so many chances at canal carp glory that I want to destroy every single one of them. It is rather heartbreaking to have a carp descend upon your damsel only to have a three inch eating machine snatch the prize and send thirty pounds of scaled beauty into the depths.

The final carp block is me. I am an idiot. The stars aligned on my last canal outing. I weathered getting carp blocked by all of the above and managed to hook into a seasoned, wild, and rather huge canal carp. The fight lasted around 5-10 minutes before silly me decided to put some extra pressure on a running pissed off fish. I suffered a mental lapse and forgot I had on 4x tippet and was fighting a twenty plus pound piece of bone and muscle. The tide was in my favor and the next thing I knew the carp had a second wind. He blitzed for a downed tree on the opposite bank. My drag screamed and I placed my fingers on the line to slow her down some more. Next I put a little more torque on the rod and just like it always does, you envision and have a feeling the line is about to snap, followed by a glimmer of hope that it won't, then the reality of a limp line flying back at your face.

There are so many variables at play in this game, so many obstacles in the path towards success, but when it all boils down to it, I am the final straw. I have to overcome all of that in order to reach my pinnacle. In the moment, when all that adrenaline is pumping and all those outside disturbances are encroaching upon me, I have to make the cast, I have to make the hook set, and I have to play and land the fish of a lifetime.

Easier said, than done.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I am not exactly sure when the switch was flipped but over the past two years I have transformed. I have become increasingly more mellow and laid back on the water. In the past, I was (I don't want to use this word) a little too hardcore about fly fishing. It was guns a blazing, 100 mph, all the time from sunup until sundown. My friends and I were always the first ones in the parking lot and the last ones to leave well after dark. We counted the fish we caught and boasted about the size of fish. We competed for water and let our body language let everyone know how we felt. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were an afterthought. Hell, we were lucky if we paused for the occasional Red Bull. We entered waterways looking like special Ops soldiers knowing they were in it for a long haul. Instruments hanged off of every loop and boxes created bulges in every pocket. Chest waders were worn in the heat of summer with nary an afterthought on how useless they can be at times. We even joked that in Pennsylvania, there are three things we are never late for...(I think you can finish this sentence).

Low, Clear, and Gorgeous.

Only Adam Would Spot This Guy.

Dragon Emerging.

Life Finds a Way.

Drying Before Take Off.


It might have been the onset of the real world creeping into my horizon or it might have been just a greater appreciation of fly fishing that triggered this change. I think it all began the first time, I slept through an alarm that was designed to specifically wake me up for a day of fishing. Now, it seems that this happens a lot more than it probably should. I think it culminated the first time, I decided to take pictures rather than fish when large trout abounded all around. In between all of that, numbers and size became an afterthought. The amount of gear brought on the water shrank considerably to the point where a vest has not been worn in two years. Wet wading has started to begin in April rather than July. A camera has become the weapon of choice to capture a moment, rather than a fly rod. A new riffle or run has become a place to sit, relax, and take it all in. Through this change, an expanded awareness for the environment in which we enjoy our quarry has finally emerged. Joy is obtained just by being there rather than catching fish and not actually being there.

I Think The Group of Boy Scouts Walking Canoes Was Worse.
Yea Well.

Trout To Match The Scenery.

Red Spots.

Beat Up Bow.

Sulphur Emerger.


Want a 4wt Switch?
Take Apart Some Old Rods, Get Some Electrical Tape, & Behold.

I think this all came to the forefront on a recent excursion to a beautiful place. It was an ideal weekend and sulphurs had been hatching near nightfall. We slept in, took breaks, and packed light. We spent a little more than a day casually fishing a lot of water, wading through forests of poison ivy, and finding a variety of cool critters in the riparian zone. We enjoyed the day rather than get frustrated by low clear water, extremely wary trout, and a horde of kayakers and canoes. We caught some fish, tried taking some pictures, and left content with the outing and the experience. We had successfully escaped, long enough to find our happy place before returning to the real world. A real world, that has allowed us to put into perspective, the time spent on the water.

Poison Ivy Everywhere.

A River Runs Through Adam.

Little & Super Smart.

I Still Get Frustrated Sometimes.

Typical Brown.

Ever Look Up?

Something Big Lurks Here.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mack Attack!

Feeling the need for a bit of adventure last weekend, we loaded up a borrowed kayak with camping gear and paddled over 6km of open water to a small speck of sand, barely visible in the distance.

The island was invisible during our paddle due to it's size, so we used nearby islands as guideposts. The paddle took us over blue waters hundreds of feet deep. Peering over the side of our open-topped kayak, it felt as if we were paddling over a giant pit, the depths of which were obscured by distance and the unknown. We've heard people talk of tiger sharks spotted in these waters, and we've personally seen bull sharks, caribbean reef sharks and lemon sharks in the 7-8ft range.

Naturally, at least one fly rod was coming along, so I figured why not let some line out behind the kayak and see if we might summon up some creature finely-tuned to the unique environment of the deep blue water.

As the bottom began to disappear in about 60ft of water, I let out all 90ft of 10wt line and fed the backing knot through the guides. I pointed the rod behind me and stuck the cork handle under one leg. I tightened the drag so whatever slammed the fly would hook itself and made sure the reel handle was pointing up so it didn't slam repeatedly into the kayak if a fish ran. A three-inch white and lavender deceiver was tied to 18lb flouro. We paddled west, and waited...

At just about the midway point, I felt a strong tug on the rod, heard the reel sing and a splash well behind me. I grabbed the rod and set the hook as best I could and felt the pulse of life reverberate back to me from 100ft away. I had no idea what had taken the fly. As I pumped and reeled I thought of what it could be. Kingfish? African Pompano? Dolfin? Shark? Bonito? Mackerel?

The fish ran towards the kayak and I furiously gained line. It was now directly beneath us. I looked over the side and saw a silvery flashing thing at least 60ft down. It wasn't a shark, but that didn't mean a shark wouldn't show up. Suddenly, the flimsy yellow kayak we were sitting on top seemed quite unsubstantial.

The fish fought well. I gained on her up to the leader knot and saw that she was the first mackerel I've ever hooked. I tried to tail her, but at the touch of my hand she bolted under the boat, putting a dangerous bend in the rod I was borrowing from my brother. I got her close and eventually grabbed her with a gloved hand.



still pissed.

The camera I has never done justice to anything it has taken a picture of. These pics are no exception. The subtle colors on the fish were remarkable. It's serrated mouth shredded the fly to almost a bare hook. It's forked tail was massive in relation to it's size. The fish's eyes were huge and seemed as if they could look in all directions without moving, living and dying by them.

first mackerel.

perfectly tuned.

the unknown.

I caught two more mackerel that day and one unknown species of jack. I missed something big, which I fought for about 5 minutes before the hook popped out.

Yeah, it's not fly fishing. But it was fun.

Sandy Spit photos courtesy of

Monday, May 24, 2010

Brown Lines.

On a recent outing, I spotted a rather large carp in the middle of the lake. I stripped line off of the reel and into a pile at my feet before double hauling out a good portion of it into the lake. Stripping a few more yards out, I arched a cast into the vicinity of the shadow. As I patiently, waited a ten foot section of fly line sank below the surface of the water like it was a piece of t14. This left the shooting head and running line floating while the sinking middle portion pulled them towards one another. My indicator promptly took a dip and ten and half feet of switch rod couldn't even make up for the belly in the line. I lost the carp. In fact, I never even had the carp. With two years of abuse, I brought in a formerly chartreuse green steelhead sharkskin fly line for inspection. It resembled nothing of its former glory. The rough sandpaper like coating that once cut my fingers to pieces barely left a scratch. The hard, almost segmented exterior shell was worn and cracked in multiple places. The once electric glow of awesomeness had morphed into a line that looked like it went through a pile of feces. All good things eventually come to an end. Fly lines included. Cut that time in half, for lines that regularly work in less desirable conditions.

New & Old.
Fresh & Abused.

My Nemesis.
The Elusive Koi.

Found A New Lake.
First One.

Sweet New Place.
Large Population.
Small Size.

Number Two.
Twice as Ugly.

Coarse Scales on This Guy.


Very Coarse Scales. Weird.

Sucker Spawn Scores.

Trip 2#.
Pouring Rain.

Two Handed Carpin.

Nemesis No Longer.

My First Koi.

Moby Dick.

All White With a Flash of Orange.

I'll Be Back.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making The Most Out of A Bad Situation.

As usual, it starts with planning around midnight. A text message that contains only a few words but they mean a whole lot more than just, "lago x?" It translates into, "Do you want to slay some bones early tomorrow morning?" The reply is often even shorter than the invitation, a simple "son," is all that is needed. That tends to translates to, "Heck yea, I am down for some GOLDEN BONES!" Fast forward a few hours of sleep and we are lakeside gearing up and discussing tactics and fly choices while a dozen carp actively feed yards away. Will it be a damsel? A crawfish? Perhaps an egg pattern? How about a dragon? A twelve foot leader? 4x or 5x? We settle on our preferred methods and start stalking the shallows.

Its been almost a year since we started hunting these fish at this locale and since that time things have changed dramatically. Nowadays, the carp are seasoned veterans of the hunt and realize that an apex predator awaits them several days a week armed with a long silly rod and neon green line that casts fast moving shadows on the lake bottom. No longer are we the only ones that hunt these fish. There are others out there. Fly anglers too. The game has changed and it has only resulted in a much more rewarding experience. You have to really earn the fish these days. You have to adjust your approach, develop new flies, lengthen the leader, and drop the poundage on the tippet. Even then, it can be difficult. Throw in an unexpected event and the difficulty level ratches up into the extreme category.

Watch Your Back Cast.

Out a Ways.

Be Sure To Eat Your Eggs.

We are on the water for little less than an hour before a swarm of people starts encircling our lake. A benefit walk/march/run is taking place in the local park and there are literally a thousand or so people walking the shallow banks of the lake scaring the algae out of the carp population. The fish are on the move, escaping out into the middle of the lake, blissfully aware of every vibration, voice, dog bark, color, and scent that is moving along the bank. We are left shaking our heads from our decision to fish on this lovely day. We manage one carp and miss a dozen others. Premature hook sets. After several years, carp fever still plays with our intuition.

Note To Carp Anglers: Bright Red Shirts Scare Fish.

Gold Rush.

Admiring My Gold.

Letting Go of Tail.

With the difficulty level on a new par, Adam begins tracking down a new type of prey. An organismal biologist armed with a fresh degree, he carefully stalks his targets and captures their attention with a beautiful piece of art wrapped around a hook. Who says you have to fly fish for a species of fish? What is wrong with occasional reptilian or amphibian on the end of the line. The first target is a moderately sized snapping turtle and attacks an intruding crayfish pattern. The second is a dinner plate sized bullfrog that gulps down a damsel. After a few moments of admiration they are released just like any fish species.


Pissed Off Snapper.

One Happy Organismal Biologist.

Calm Before The Storm.

Catch and Release.

Letting Go of Some New Tail.

Face To Face.