Saturday, June 26, 2010

Breaking Down The Wall.

In the past few months I have received multiple emails regarding fly fishing for carp. As with any species, it can take some time to learn the nuances of the fish. Whether it be the aforementioned golden bones, bonefish on the flats, tailwater trout, or backwater tarpon. New water and new fish present a challenge for anyone. Initially it can be somewhat intimidating until you crack the code and land that first fish. Even then, it can still be difficult until multiple fish are landed. With multiple fish, comes confidence, with confidence comes swagger, and with swagger comes even more fish until the proverbial wall comes crashing down.

A New Term I Like: 
Coffee Mug Mouths Via Third Coast Fly.

Hoss, Tank, Bazooka, Manatee, Megatron, Optimus, Whale, Shark.
Gotta Love Nicknames of Big Fish.

First of the Morning. 
Dubbed: Megatron.

The Bazooka Shot.

My particular wall has been canal carp and if you follow the blog at all, you know of our experiences carping on that particular piece of water. It took us awhile before we became comfortable with the water and the beasts that reside there. With each passing trip and each shutout answers to many of our questions became answered. What time is best to fish the water? What clothing is best as to not spook the fish? How long should our leaders be? What fly works the best? What tippet can withstand their force without breaking off? What type of rod can tame their power in such tight quarters and the last one, how the hell do we get pictures of these guys when we are all by ourselves? 

The answers to these questions all led to the breaking down of the wall. We now know what needs to be done and how it is to be done. We have had back to back successful trips and some large fish landed. Our confidence is sky high and each time we now tread down that canal path we expect to at least hook into a fish. My last outing produced the 2nd and 3rd largest carp on my all time list. Two tanks that were caught back to back no more than twenty yards from each other on successive casts. Both fish required the stealthiest of approaches as they actively fed mere feet offshore and each put up quite the duel. I left with a wide grin spread across my face and made it home just in time to watch the USA defeat Algeria. My emotions went from an absolute high to absolute ruin back to an absolute high all in a matter of hours.

Battling Big Fish Draws Attention.
Can You Take A Few Pictures For Me?

No Arm Extension Required.

The Grin Makes An Appearance. 

Anyway, the best way I can answer all those emails is to tell all of you to stick with it. You have to be willing to put in the time, the effort, and be willing to handle the many defeats and heartaches that you our bound to experience. One of the most fulfilling aspects of fly fishing is finding out the answers to all those questions that are out there and what better reward is there than the tug of a fish on the end of the line? So the next time you go fishing in search of something new, go with an open mind and be prepared to look for all those answers. In finding them, you will become a better fisherman, and in all likelihood, you will leave the water with one big shitty ass grin on your face. 

I Dub Thee Optimus Prime.

Friday, June 25, 2010


10wt. False Albacore. Kayak.
I played a False Albacore a bit too enthusiastically last weekend and was left with a 10wt that snapped 8 inches above the cork.
If you apply pressure to a false albacore, it will immediately pull in the opposite direction. I applied a bit too much pressure. When the albie moved away, like they do, the 10wt exploded. As the pressure gave way, I sprawled backwards and came close to capsizing the kayak.
I am now down to one remaining fly rod, an 8wt Orvis. I’ve broken three in 10 months but only one of them was actually on a fish. Ceiling fans took the rest. Thank goodness for warranties that don’t rule out idiot behavior.
Throughout the past 10 months I have been the vicarious fisherman for my brother Mark, and Adam, the two other contributors to this site. I am sure it has been almost as frustrating for them as it has been for me to suffer through months of relatively little action. I’ve eventually landed tarpon, bonefish, mackerel, false albacore, barracuda, snappers and a bunch of other species, but it was mostly due to the advice and admonitions of my brother and Adam. Many were the evening when I skyped them with my head hung in shame and had to report that yes, I’d seen a bunch of big fish and yes, I might have even hooked up with one or two, but no, I didn’t land any and no, I didn’t get any sweet photos and yes, I tried the fly you suggested with the leader recipe you e-mailed me and yes, I set the hook properly and yes, I'm going back tomorrow.
I have been very anxious to see how the two of them, given a few weeks, would perform in this environment. Where as I am usually a bumbling and crude fool, they are gifted on the water and at the vice. The suggestions that have been poured upon me have served to improve my game 10 fold and, due to me thinking about what they would be doing if they had the opportunity that I have to live and work here, I’ve fished at the very least, twice a week since I’ve been here.
They’ve been as pumped as me when I’ve landed some nice fish and have shared in the heartbreak of break-offs and blown casts. But all of this vicariousness is about to change.
In August, we will be flying here for a reunion of the first order: 20 days of pure, unadulterated fly fishing in saltwater. This trip is going to be the stuff of legend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Pleasant Surprise.

I vividly remember fishing excursions from my early youth when I was part of the calmity that is opening day. Armed with a spinning rod and a cup full of meally warms I hardly ever caught anything other than the random stick while others routinely pulled out stocker after stocker. On one particular day, I remember standing in the middle of the stream late in the day. The sun was high and the water clear. I was no more than ten years old and a fish emerged out of the gloom that was as big as me. At the time I stood in amazement as this fish meandered on by. It made the tiny trout I was after look like minnows. I didn't know it at the time but that was one of my first encounters with a golden ghost.

That memory freshly recalled from long term storage I decided to check out the water with the hopes that I could sight fish to some carp. I approached the water and found myself on a cliff. Looking down into the deep sediment filled water I used my peripheral vision to look for the tell tale outlines of golden bones. I made my way upstream teetering on the edge before I found a shelf. The same shelf I waded out on as a young boy when I first saw that carp long ago. I parked myself behind some vegetation and began searching. I saw a moving log which meant only one thing. Carp. Rather than rushing into the fray I sat and waited. Soon two other carp came into view and I had a choice between three different bones.

The larger of the three was a good 10-12 pound fish. I decided to wait for him instead of going after the closer 6-8 pounders. Soon I had my chance. The larger carp was coming onto the shallow shelf directly at me. I roll casted my twelve foot leader and a few feet of fly line out and my horrible cast landed directly on top of the carp's head. The carp was slightly frightened and sharply turned away before immediately changing his mind, turning, and sucking in the unweighted, descending damsel. The carp was dazed and confused upon the hookset probably because he had never been hooked before. The battle came to an end on the other side of the stream as I carefully slid the carp in shallow water where it came to a rest next to an old algae covered can of Busch beer, most likely a holdover from the opening days of my youth.

Good Sized Carp.
Second Ever From a Stream.

Good Choice of Carp Water.
Bad Choice of Beer.

Monday, June 21, 2010


In the past, I learned how to fly fish on a local stream on my neighbors property. I had access to this secluded area because my brother, father, and I cut his grass and performed other odds and ends. This was rather time consuming because the property is rather large. In return for our hard work, we had the opportunity to fish in his two acre pond and in the area of stream that flowed through his land. Often, when my brother and father were toiling mowing the grass, I was plying my craft on the resident wild brown trout. The fishing was tough because it is a small stream with tight quarters and spooky fish. I learned a lot on that piece of water.

Small Stream Wonders.


Stocker Bow.


Stocker Brook Trout.

Wild Brown.

Spots Galore.

Remnants From The Night Before.

As the years passed, we stopped mowing our neighbors grass and taking care of his property. Other neighbors answered the call and I stopped frequenting the stream because I felt I no longer had access to the source. Five years passed and I had yet to fish that piece of water that resides a few hundred yards from where I sleep. I had a strong urge to find out what was happening in that stretch and to see if the wild browns were still there. So, recently I decided I was going to fish that water. I awoke before light crept over the trees, grabbed my two weight, and power fished a good  half mile of water. Everything was just as I remembered it, including the wild browns. My nymphs still got stuck on the same pieces of slate and my leaders still got tangled in the same branches of overhanging evergreens after a missed hook set. The experience was nostalgic in so many ways and it was a great reminder of how I got started in this sport.

Another Wild Brown.


A Wondering Fawn.

UV Hares Ear Scores.

Stocker Brookie To End The Morning Jaunt.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


After a lazy first day of summer vacation, I decided to spend my second day small stream fishing for some wild trout. I set my alarm for 4:30 in the morning but it being summer and all, I didn't get out of bed until 10:30. It took another few hours before I mustered up some strength to get my gear in the truck and push the pedal down to the floor. I had in mind several streams for my day of fishing but they were all extremely low. We need rain badly and I did not want to put any extra stress on the beautiful trout that reside in them. I decided to fish a small stream that is fed by an alternative source so I didn't have to worry about water levels. I unpacked my 702-2 St. Croix and hit the stream intent on some hot surface action.

The only action I received was from the resident sunfish population. I hooked and landed probably three dozen sunfish from two to six inches before one little guy changed the days plans. I hooked a small sunfish in a very deep hole and a huge bronzeback exploded upon the unlucky guy and simultaneously scared me half to death. Needless to say, I clipped off my dry dropper rig and opened my fly box for a streamer. I reluctantly put two ice man uv minnows in my fly box before I left the car just in case something like this would happen. It was time to probe the depths for some smallmouth, with a small streamer, and a rod designed for fish under ten inches.

The smallmouth were still in the stream from their spawning runs and came from a lake a few hundred yards downstream. I started working my way to the lake flailing wildly trying to toss a streamer and a tungsten cone with a small rod. I started to catch a few but none of them approached the size of the one that appeared out of nowhere to attack a two inch sunfish. The closer I got to the lake, the more I saw, and the more I lost. It was tough getting them to take in such gin clear water. When they did take, I had a hard time setting the hook with a super full flex rod. It was interesting to say the least.

Near the end of the stream, it began to widen and get slower and deeper as it gradually gave way to becoming more and more like a lake. This area was full of downed trees, muddy bottoms, and vegetation. I worked my way out onto a huge fallen tree careful not to slip and impale myself on a broken branch. My first cast ended up wrapped around a branch and I lost one of my minnows. As I was tying on my last one, mother pig came out of nowhere meandering her way under the downed tree I was perched upon. My first cast with new minnow landed about ten feet off from where she entered the debris and it slowly began descending to the bottom. She emerged and did not come to a stop until she inhaled the rusty ice man.

My drag already set to the maximum, I clamped down the fly line to the cork and lifted up as hard as I could. The hook set in and the pig ascended from the depths and exploded on the surface of the water before attempting to make a run to the nearest log. The line clamped down, my rod was literally in half and I began worrying for my two weights life. Twice the smallie was able to pull line out from under my clamped hand and from my small stream reel with the drag up all the way. When I finally got her in close I found out why she was fighting so hard. A snapping turtle was following her every move. As if I didn't have enough to worry about perched on a balance beam covered in algae atop water ten feet deep. When I finally lipped her, the snapping turtle was about to munch down on her tail. I lifted her out of the water and walked down the log before placing her back into the water. The snapping turtle meandered over again and I took a stick and whacked him on his shell. He barely moved so I went for a little swim to a less stressful area.

I don't usually target smallmouth bass but after that duel with my first pig, I will definitely be fishing for them again sometime soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day of Days.

The dogs and I were awoken by a phone call at 5 am and I instantly knew that I had overslept my alarm. I didn't have to look at who was calling me either but I answered anyway. I was tired and groggy from a brief nap while Adam was wide awake from a sleepless night at the vice engineering the outings new mouse trap. He was already at the canal. I got out of bed, put my contacts into crusty red eyes, grabbed my gear, and made the half hour trip in twenty minutes. Arriving, Adam had decided not to wait for me so I grabbed everything and booked it out and into the fray.


The Old Escape Between The Legs...


The Creature From the Black Lagoon.

Never Give Up.

Turning the corner, Adam was in full hunting mode. He was even sporting hunting camo. I said hello and made a cheap joke about my whereabouts but he didn't respond. Like Kobe Bryant ignoring Chris Rock on the sidelines of the NBA Finals, Adam was not about to be distracted from the task at hand. The pinnacle of carping. The elusive golden bones of the canal. We didn't speak or pay any attention to each other for the first hour. We happened to stumble upon active carp in the wee hours of the morning and there were plenty of opportunities for the both of us. The first words uttered were a profound, loud, and proud "YEA BABY," as a massive boil erupted on the glassy surface of the placid dark water. I had hooked into a nice slab of gold amidst all the debris, glare, and poison ivy.

First Canal Slab.

Broken Favorite Rod <>


All Focus.

The Scene: Fog, Glare, & Rods Bent to the Cork.

Death Rolls.

Boils Get the Heart Pounding.

After awhile, I realized that this was my opportunity to land my first canal carp. I had thwarted all the fish's maneuvers and was now faced with the difficult task of landing a carp in deep water with no place for a safe beaching. It took several attempts before I finally orchestrated an attempt that I felt comfortable enough to put my rod down. As I did this, the carp had a second wind and bolted between my legs. I simultaneously grabbed my rod and lifted my legs over the screeching leader and fly line before my seven pound test broke under all the stress. The line was saved but in all the calamity my favorite fly rod took one last bow before snapping clean in half. I simply looked up at it before grabbing my leader and refocusing on the task at hand. I wasn't about to let a broken rod ruin my first canal carp. I landed the brute which was about an average fish for the canal but still a very large slab.

They Go One Way, You Go the Other.



A Big Scoop.

Golden Ghosts.

As I went back to the truck to re-arm, it was Adam's turn to get back to work. The minor respite re-energized his tired mind and before long, he too echoed his signature, "THERE HE IS," as a monstrosity blitzed across the canal. Adam deftly eased in the golden ghost with his five weight and 4x tippet before cradling her in the water for the two of us to admire. A little while later we both missed several more fish. It was truly a day of days to be out on the canal. It was an early morning on a holiday weekend. It was overcast and drizzly. The carp were a little off guard creating several chances that otherwise would never happen.

Carp Face.

The Best Part: Watching Them Disappear.


A Whole Lot of Green.

Admiring the Bend.


He is Excited. She is Shocked.

Yea Baby.


The Day of Days.

The third carp of the day was also the largest. I switched out rods with the only other one I had with me. The good ole switch rod. I hooked the next one after carefully stalking several mud plumes mere feet offshore. I waited several minutes before the carp ascended in the water column enough for me to finally see her. I had to carefully time the ascension and wait for the bubbles to stop before placing my cast. The fly had to be in the water and descending as the carp emerged out of the mud cloud. She did and my unweighted damsel parachuted two feet in front of her face. She meandered over changing her course only a few degrees before sucking in the mouse trap. The water erupted and my heart began pounding. Sight fishing is the best. Sight fishing for fish measured in pounds rather than inches is even better.