Monday, January 23, 2012

A December To Remember

Christmas was only a few days away and up to this point I had spent the majority of the holiday season away from home pursuing steelhead. Feeling a bit guilty, I decided to spend what was left of the holiday season at home with my loved ones…

The thermometer read 14 degrees. I just smirked and put on an additional layer. This addict was three months clean and desperate for a golden fix. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, winter carping remained a mystery to me. Since I've used the words “It isn’t over until it ices over” to describe carp season in the past. It was about time to back up those words.

Rigging took forever as it was mandatory to stop every few moments to clutch my hand warmers. I wondered if what I was doing was even plausible? My question was soon answered. As I approached the pond I noticed a carp slowly making its way along the shoreline. Already in position I just knelt down and waited, it was too good to be true. I took a deep breath and placed my fly. The fish slowly changed course as my fly reached the bottom. When the time came I set the hook but there was zero resistance. Shocked, I watched as the fish continued to search for my fly even though it was somewhere in the grass ten feet behind me. It spooked moments later and disappeared into the gloom.

Two identical scenarios later I picked up on the winter learning curve. At first it seemed as if their depth perception was off. Inaccurately mouthing at the bottom numerous times before the fly was engulfed. The more I thought about it, this behavior was most likely a result of a reduced metabolic rate. I noticed they were using less energy to obtain their food. They inhaled significantly smaller volumes of water while feeding, each fish making multiple attempts before successfully obtaining my fly. During the summer months only one attempt was ever needed.

Once I got the hang of things I did quite well. So well that I spent all of Christmas day on the water too, only to be carp blocked by a feisty rainbow.

So far 2012 has been…for lack of a better word, hellacious. I’ve spent 60+ agonizing hours on the water without seeing a single carp, and loved every minute of it.

January carpin’ is for the birds

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Omen

Back in the day, Adam and I frequented the Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown, PA several times a month. It was our proving ground as teenagers learning the nuances of casting, presentation, and matching the hatch. Every now and then, we head back to check in. On probably the coldest day of the the winter, we awoke around 7 a.m. and made our way to our familiar haunt. The goal was to catch a few fish and make it back to our warm houses to watch some playoff football. When Adam picked me up, I nearly fell over laughing. He was decked out in his Green Bay colors. Adam isn't afraid to let everyone know that  he is a diehard Packers fan. As a prelude to their eventual defeat, Adam didn't catch anything despite using variations of the same flies as I did. Meanwhile, I pulled out stocker browns and rainbows mixed in with the occasional wild fish. Adam's decision to rock the green, yellow, and white with no shame proved to be a bad omen for the Packers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


As we made our way over the mountain, clouds enshrouded barren trees in shades of blue and purple. My hands reached upwards and over a swollen face, a product of wisdom teeth removal less than 24 hours before. A few impacted teeth and a mouth full of stitches weren't about to keep me down. I had a long weekend and I intended to fish.

The temperatures were in the low 20's and dropping with the sun over the trees. We descended into a favorite ravine under evergreens and atop leaves covered in the slightest hint of snow. The roar of the stream could be heard below as it tumbled downhill over and around large boulders.

Stream-side, we rigged under a canopy of rhododendron. Settling on nymphs, when we should have been sorting through streamers. We felt outgunned throwing two weights in the high, deep water, no doubt home to a few hogs hiding in their lairs. Our efforts were somewhat futile but today was more about the surroundings than anything else.

Besides the aforementioned green, brown, and white courtesy of mother nature, man had left its imprint as well. A bridge connecting a trailway above a deep pool looked like it had aged well since its inception. Names were left carved into green stained wood. A sluggo lure hanged on a tree with a rusted hook penetrating its midsection. The plastic and mono remained unchanged as the hook slowly withered away. Assorted trash was left wedged in between boulders, no doubt remnants from summer swimming sessions.

My lone chance came at the base of a fifteen foot waterfall. The water fell into a deep basin and flowed briskly to its escapement along a vertical ledge. I casted my double nymph rig in vain, knowing full well my flies weren't about to reach the zone before they exited the pool. Just as they were about to go over the lip, a brown ascended from the depths and took the lead fly.

The lone fish used the current and made his way downstream as I brought him into the slower water. Careful not to fall amidst the large granite slabs, I cradled twelve inches of salmo trutta briefly before releasing the fish back to his short stretch of home.

Atop the waterfall, we expected greater results but left empty handed. The ravine left us cold and tired from the hike. She kept her secrets on this January day. We will no doubt be back some other time to unlock them and enjoy the company of the river and the ravine it calls home.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Beard Weather Day 2

The grip of winter has a way of slowing things to a crawl. Common fishing tasks such as waking up early in the morning, rigging a rod, or wading across a river take time. The bitter cold has a way  of doing that to you, and the fish.

We awoke around 10 a.m. in New York, and soon stepped outside to a thermometer reading a balmy eight degrees. Outside the truck, I squeezed Red Bull slushy into an insulated bottle for the day. The temperature would later climb into the high teens in the afternoon, but that didn't really matter. It was cold, and along with it came a host of fishing related cold problems. Due to my inability and lack of determination to grow a beard, I had a hard time talking because I couldn't feel my face.

Other problems occurred during my first fish of the trip. The small buck couldn't take out any line and I couldn't reel any in. It thrashed in the current, while I was bending down defrosting a reel and line with my breath. I defrosted in enough time to prevent the fish from breaking 4x and I recovered the only ground I needed to land the fish as my rig refroze. A word of warning, do not use Sharkskin fly line under any circumstance in freezing weather. Thankfully, the cold made the fish lethargic enough to not break me off.

Aside from a few select holes everyone was fishing, the fish were hard to find in the higher flows of 1700-1800 cfs. Not one to join the bottom bouncing majority, we only caught a few. It seemed as though we had to drift the flies into the fish's mouths to get a take, as they were soft and few. Our best luck came in side channels where we could easily find holding lies. Our unfamiliarity with the river in high water made this our best bet, so we tried to take advantage of it.

If you can brave the low temperatures, fishing in the winter time can provide many advantages. For one, there are lighter crowds that can yield moments of solitude amongst snow covered pines. This environment provides quite the scene to enjoy catching a lake-run fish. Even if things are slow, all you have to do is take a look around and imagine a day at work. That should put things into perspective as your hopping on the bank trying to restore feeling in your toes.