Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ultimate Game Fish.

We normally do not post fly fishing videos, but this little nugget perfectly captured exactly how I felt after catching and holding my first permit. It's been three years since the film tour came to Philly. Yea, the turn out was horrible and the crowd was really lame. But, for the sake of a few good guys, please come back.

"Satori" Trailer: Fly Fishing For Permit from WorldANGLING on Vimeo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Carp & Bass.

Twenty minutes after school is out, I find myself on a muddy pull off gearing up as school buses whiz on past. The weekend is getting started and I am taking full advantage of the remaining sunshine and warmer temperatures before a deep freeze. Added to my circumstances are the fact that March has left me skunked on numerous occasions thanks to the golden ghost. With my goal of 2011 and a carp every month of the year in jeopardy, I am hoping to get one in before the weekend, and the end of the month.

Fresh Beaver Work.

Teeth Marks. 

Anyone Care to ID This Guy?

It doesn't take long to see the carp. With an elevated position above the water and a high sun in the sky, I can see their silhouettes cruising in the shallows and lighter billows of sediment wafting off the bottom. The only problem is access. I can't reach the majority of the fish. I take to the high ground with an elevated position sling shooting casts between thorn bushes and overhanging branches. After a few miscues, I finally get a decent presentation that doesn't spook two feeding carp. The descending sucker spawn is slowly falling before a cloud of muck when suddenly the head of the golden ghost breaks through with intent. From my lofty perch and perfectly illuminated, I am treated to four pounds of golden ghost inhaling my offering head on. The size ten caddis hook pierces rubbery lips and cyprinus carpio is perplexed by his predicament. It is easy to tell that this is his first time hooked. He puts up little resistance before coming to hand.

Defeated by a Bank Feeder.

The Old Reliable Sucker Spawn FTW.

Even a Four Pounder Fights Hard...

Giddy Up.

Small March Slab.

Released Back Into The Murk.

With my carp out of the way and a descending sun on the horizon, I turned my attention to a new quarry. During my hunting, I saw several bass breaking the surface chasing bait. I cut off my 4x and tied on a new streamer to the end of some 2. After awhile, I began to give up hope. Attempting to lure a large bass on an artificial in cold air and water temperatures is no easy task, but I persisted. Finally, in a familiar place, I felt the explosion at the end of three quick strips before my 5 wt. doubled in half. The largemouth bull dogged his way for several tense moments before revealing his full girth at my feet. My frozen hands lipped the first bass of 2011. He was a bruiser that was in great shape from the winter, measuring out at just over twenty inches.


First Bass of 2011.

Fell For A Fish Skull Prototype.

Big Enough To Fit a 7/8 Reel in His Mouth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cats & Dogs.

The windshield wipers are beating back and forth on their fastest setting and I can barely see into the distance. Squinting, I am attempting to avoid the rivers of water along either side of the road. The ground is oversaturated from snow melt and water is all over the place. It is slightly passed noon on a Sunday and I am heading out into the fray. I am hyrdroplaning down the road to my intended destination and its raining cats and dogs with several more inches on the way. More than enough to blow out the local creek for several days and change everything. 

One look is all it takes and I know it is going to be a special day. The water is high and gradually becoming off colored and no one is in the immediate vicinity. I pull off onto the side of the road and the weight of my truck tires sink several inches into muddy soil. I gear up and make the short jaunt to the water, almost guaranteed some fantastic fishing before all the milk and sugar is added in the coming hours. In the deep ravine, with complete solitude, the steady beat of rain is pinging off my rain jacket & intermittently interrupted by a jumping stocker bow, screeching sharkskin, and a few laughs out loud to myself. 

A few days later, I was on the water again. As predicted, the flooding event changed the water and the scenery. Gravel and sand bars were redistributed, new holes were formed, and several downed branches and trees clogged feeding lanes. The trout were everywhere. Spread out amongst the creek & dazed & confused from the previous few days. It was like someone hit a reset button and new game plans had to be formulated. Nevertheless, the stream received a good flushing and gave hounded fish a few days rest. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Off the Grid: Sunday

I slept like a log after spending 11 hours wading the day before. I was up with the sun anticipating another banner day.

Wading as home looms in the distance.

Conditions were almost exactly the same as Saturday, but tide minimums and maximums occurred one hour later. For inexplicable reasons, the fish turned up in almost the opposite places at the opposite times as the day before.

Not a fish was spotted until perhaps 2pm. I had waded through and beyond the entirety of the water I fished the day before without seeing a single fish! However, the first bone I did see ended up on my line and in it's frantic sprinting, aroused a nearby caribbean reef shark.

It zigged and zagged across the flat, hunting the furious bonefish. Finally, it caught up with the bone about 20ft from me. Gnawing on the fish's tail, I thought the bone was a goner. As I got closer, the shark spotted me and bolted. I then landed the bone and inspected the damage.

This is the same fish. Notice the minimal damage to the tail. She swam away fine, albeit a bit traumatized by the whole ordeal, I'm sure. This was probably the smallest fish of the trip, but still up near 4lbs.

Another bruiser. This one inhaled a 4" kwabbit rubber legged monstrosity and took me deeper into my backing than another other fish.

The spare 10wt rigged and at the ready on my side proved itself a few times as I was able to drop my 6wt into the water and unhitch the wired-up rig for a quick cast to a cruising shark or barracuda. I had two sharks explode on the popper but no sets and a nice 'cuda follow the gurlger to the rod tip. No doubt it will pay off in the future. Those are all opportunities that never would have happened if not for the spare rod.

Textbook release on what would be the last fish on the trip.

According to Google Earth, I waded for 2.4 miles on this day before turning around when the sun caused the water to my West to glare over, and wading back the other way. I landed four or 5 fish.

The Pieroway 6wt I was using handled even the biggest of the bonefish with ease. It was bent to the cork more than a few times but had the strength to steer those frantic fish away from the deadly mangroves on each and every occasion. It is the perfect bonefish rod.

The Lamson Konic IV, while not the most high-dollar reel on the market, is the same one I use for tarpon. It can put the brakes on a 60lb tarpon just as easily as it can on a 9lb bonefish. The drag on both of the IVs has not failed me once in two years although the reel itself does not hold up too well cosmetically to the salt water environment.

This was, easily, the best fishing I've ever experienced to date. In those two full days on the flats, I saw not another soul. To have a fishery like that to myself is incredibly special in today's world. I'll never forget this time on the island. From carrying everything on my back, to riding 30 minutes to get to the flats on a borrowed mountain bike, to stringing my hammock up in the only stand of actual trees on the entire island to sight-fishing to huge bonefish, alone, in the caribbean wilderness... it was just an epic experience.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Off the Grid: Saturday

I slept on and off during the night. Intermittently woken up by howling winds and cold rains. Sunrise was at 6:30, but I didn't unzip the bug net, stepping out into a cloud of no-see-ums, until 7:15.

I ate leftover cold pizza that kept me company in the hammock as I readied my pack with gear and 'lunch.' (energy bars, peanut butter) I walked the bike to the road and starting pumping it to the flats. My destination was 30 minutes away, East.

I walked the bike through the rubble towards the flats and parked it in some mangroves. The only footprints were those of cattle and I wasn't too worried about them making off with my bike.
I then hoofed it as far east as I could penetrate along the shoreline before stopping to rig up and get into the water. I had planned to walk West, overtaking the placement of my bike and thus having a shorter walk back at the end of the day.

One of the most frustrating things that happens while flats fishing is when you encounter something that you are not prepared to throw at. This happens often enough to make you decide to change your rig. Of course, once you change, you stop seeing what you're now rigged for and see only what you used to be rigged for.

I hoped to remedy that problem by creating a rod holder out of PVC that would connect to my backpack. It would hold a 10wt fully rigged with a monstrous foam gurgler and 10" of wire for the big 'cudas and sharks that I knew I'd see. I'd planned to strap it to the right side of my backpack, as I cast with my left.

I stepped into the water and within 15 minutes had spotted, cast to and hooked my first bonefish of the trip. The reel screamed and the fly line scorched the surface of the water as the fish tried to leave the flat and I smiled to myself. They're so damn fast.

Within an hour, I had landed two more fish and two become unbuttoned. I wasn't laughing anymore. I don't even remember what I was thinking. I was just shaking my head back and forth in disbelief. This was better than anyone would dare hope for.

By 11:00am, I had landed 6 bonefish. The smallest of which was probably 5 pounds. I am not going to attempt to quantify that experience with superlatives and hyperbole, for once.

This ended up being what I think is the biggest fish of the trip, although 4 others came pretty close to matching it. I spotted her tailing from 70 meters off. The water was so shallow and she was so tall that her back was above the surface. 9lbs? Brutally powerful runs from this one.

All of these pictures are video stills. I am going to create a short video of the trip soon.

No one can hope to see their backing so many times in such a short time period.

The release.

Twice on this day, I had landed fish, released them, washed my hands of bonefish slime, picked up my rod from the water and, without moving my feet, was able to cast to another fish as it cruised within range, resulting in another landed fish.

The fish came in singles and doubles. I had to change flies only once after cutting my line but I think they'd have eaten anything if it was presented carefully.

The fishing cooled down between 11am and 4pm. I had hit the flats at Magic Hour. The million variables that you try to analyze when figuring out the perfect time to fish somehow lined up for me on that morning.

The fish returned in the late afternoon and I brought to hand a few more. By the end of the day I probably caught 9 or 10 bones. I lost count.

Pedaling home in the setting sunlight I decided to skip the tarpon for the night. I was pretty satisfied, and tired. I was dead asleep by 8pm, rocking in the hammock as the wind whispered through the pines I was hanging between.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Off the Grid: Friday Night

There exists a little slice of land within bearable ferry distance of our home island that can be described as a big bonefish mecca. A long weekend came up that aligned itself perfectly with the oft broken down ferry schedule. Miraculously, the highest and lowest tides would occur during darkness, allowing me to maximize my time in the fish, and the weather looked cooperative. It was all I needed to stuff a backpack full of food and gear and make my way there.

I arrived at the dock after skipping out of work at 2pm. My girlfriend dropped me off and I purchased a ticket. I laid my borrowed mountain bike and bursting backpack next to the dock and walked across the street for some take-out food that I hoped would last me through the night and serve as a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning. I chose a large pizza.

The ferry ride sucked. The boat pulled in a little after 5pm, giving me an hour and half of light. I rushed to the only stand of trees on the island and threw the ultra-light hammock up between two of them. I then got back on the bike and rode as fast as I could to the nearest flats, 15 minutes away, for a few casts.

I got there just after sunset and was treated to an ultra-low tide and a blood red sky. I spotted two tailing bones in the sea of red and made one cast but the fish disappeared. I knew a bonefish in a minute of trying would have been just too much.

I sat on the sand and watched the sunset, reflecting on my being there, alone, on that tiny, barely inhabited island about to hunt for bonefish in a pristine place and thought of how lucky I was to have the opportunity.

As darkness overtook the setting sun, I lazily rode towards the ferry dock by the light of my headlamp. I arrived and peered into the circle of light from the one streetlamp, illuminating a pod of laid-up tarpon. The 10wt came out.

A few casts later at the laid up fish and an unseen small tarpon took my fly. I set the hook as it did it's best to acrobatically dislodge the Owner Aki from it's lip. The fish was maybe 18-20lbs and was quickly exhausted. As I led it around the dock to an area where I could land it, the unexpected happened.

From beneath my feet, under the dock, the largest barracuda I had ever seen or heard of ambushed the vulnerable tarpon. The 'cuda was larger than any tarpon I had seen in the past two years, the top of its head had to be a foot across.

My tarpon thrashed and disappeared into the murky depths as the weight on my line increased considerably. I held on, and the tarpon popped up again, thrashing and twisting for it's life. The 'cuda struck again, this time near the tarpon's head.

They both vanished, then the tarpon reappeared at the surface, lifeless, as I dragged it towards shore. I landed the fish as it bled out in my hands. The pictures do not capture the carnage that was the fish's gill plates. They were gone and pouring blood. I dumped the dead fish in the sea and sat watching, waiting for something to pull up and make a meal of the meat.

I retied my knots and made a few more casts at laid up fish that had now moved considerably farther away from the dock, just at the edge of my reach. Ten minutes later and I packed the rod up to ride back to my hammock. The dead tarpon was gone.

It was an beautiful and savage start to what would become a trip full of the best fishing I've personally experienced, thus far. I tried to not think about wading the flats in the morning if I wanted to get any sleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Morning Glory.

In keeping with the spirit of our "fly that changed the game" post, here is a recent article published on the FlyFishingPoint website detailing my trials and tribulations hunting carp on our home water. Due to the popularity of the fly, we will be offering up more details, variations, and instructions on how to fish our damsels for smart carp in the coming days. Check the article and gallery out by clicking on the website  here: FlyFishingPoint

Morning Glory.

The coming of summer brings a change to my morning commute. Gone are the days of heading to school early in the morning and chasing salmonids on my days off. With high temperatures and a summer drought, trout are off the menu.  The long hot days of summer are spent hunting solitary common carp. Ever since my first slab of gold, I have become hopelessly addicted to the golden ghost, as do most who stalk them with a fly rod. After all, why target a fish that is measured in inches, when one could stalk and sight fish to a fish measured in pounds and fights like a bonefish? It is a game where my profession changes from teacher to student and even though school is out, class is still in session. This summer I am hoping to earn my PhD with some graduate-level carping by catching my nemesis: the ever elusive canal carp.
As I speed along to my destination, the sun’s rays are slowly creeping over the horizon, piercing through a vast blanket of fog. With an empty pull-off ahead, the world around is still asleep and the streets resemble a ghost town. Exiting the fish mobile, the morning’s battleground is displayed in all its glory. The coliseum of dark, placid water reflects the immediate surroundings, creating a mirage of green, hiding what lies beneath. My pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: Cyprinus carpio. A fitting name that creates visions of an ancient Roman gladiator that makes quick work of visiting fly fishermen. These carp are wild, ten to thirty-pound torpedoes that are battle hardened from a life spent evading predators. On a daily basis, they face fishermen of all skill levels that vary from bow hunters to an eighty year old woman who has been known to gives her catches to a local Chinese restaurant. After a year of trial and error, heartache and tears, it has been discovered that the only possible time to catch them on the fly is in the morning gloom of first light.
As in all fly fishing situations, this is easier said than done due to a variety of conditions I like to call carp blocks. These occur during three distinct time periods: before, during, and after hooking up. Before one even steps foot on the canal path, your fate can be predetermined by the resident canal junkie who is there for a morning stroll or to walk the dog. The moment the first person’s vibrations are felt trudging down the path, or a resident turtle or waterfowl flees, the carp scurry for safety not to be seen again until the next morning. Often while stalking fish, joggers, dogs, and even old Grandma have carp blocked me. If you are fleet of foot, and successfully maneuver into position where you can get off a perfect cast, you have reached the point in time where the most can go wrong.
 For one, you need to be fully focused on the task at hand to see through the deep water and locate the coffee mug mouth of a carp slurping your fly. While this process is played out, hundreds of marauding mosquitoes, seemingly immune to 100% deet, are boring their way into any exposed skin. In the thick of summer, especially after a hard rain, the mosquitoes have been known to force people back to their cars and send errant casts and curse words across the still waters.   The next thing that could go wrong is every child’s favorite: the sunfish. They are eager to pick off any and every viable food item that crosses their path. The most annoying of all carp blocks is when a hog johnson sized carp meanders over to your damsel only to have a three inch eating machine snatch it away at the last second. Once in a blue moon, one can successfully evade all carp blocks and become locked in mortal kombat with a creature from the black lagoon.
The path to the mountain top revealed, one of the final hurdles is the angler. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the sport is when one takes it upon himself to find out the answers to all the challenges fly fishing has to offer. Taking the time to solve the riddle, make the cast, hook and land the fish amongst flotsam and sunken debris is more than challenging. After I landed my first canal carp, I exited the water soaked through with a grin from ear to ear. As I walked down the canal path, the first beams of sun crept through the trees and onto the water. The first jogger of the morning ran down the path and gave me a look from head to toe. Little did she know, but I had just received my diploma. I had passed the test and broken down the proverbial wall, opening the door to more opportunities at achieving morning glory.