Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Native Subterranean Carp

You read that correctly.

While researching a brief trip to Istanbul, I learned that the underground Basilica Cistern, an archeological attraction built by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, was full of carp. I stuffed an old 5wt and some proven patterns from my brother into my bag and prepared to thwart the Turkish polis in an attempt to land a carp in one of the most unique settings imaginable.

Sadly, the hoards of tourists and antiquities employees thwarted me instead. There were many more people than I anticipated willing to descend underground to see the engineering marvel that is the cistern. There were probably very few who were looking at the carp as hungrily as I was.

Justinian commissioned the cistern to provide a reliable water supply for the growing city, and specifically the newly constructed Hagia Sofia. The ceiling is held up by something close to 340 massive columns, collected from throughout the eastern Roman empire and brought back to the city, then known as Constantinople. Two of the columns are supported by gigantic medusa heads, the origins of which are unknown.

The cistern was abandoned when the city changed hands over the years, and not rediscovered until the 1950's, when archaeologists learned of residents catching fish by lowering baskets through holes in their floors, into the water stores below.

Hundreds of native golden ghosts cruise the darkness, feeding on who knows what. Most were less than 10lbs, but we observed the Hog Johnson of the cistern, and estimated it as probably pushing 30lbs. They were all mirrors, and very pale due to generations spent in near perpetual darkness.

The ghosts of the cistern may be untouchable to fly anglers, but actually seeing carp within their native range was something I felt very fortunate to experience, indeed.


Hagia Sofia - good luck doing that justice with a camera.

An actual whirling dervish... 

 The Blue Mosque

Antique carpets 

 Plundered columns

Hagia Sofia at night 

Blue Mosque indoors. Again, good luck. 

Enigmatic Medusa-headed column.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Serenity Now

The last day of our excursion north to the Salmon River came fast, leaving us contemplating a return home to friends, family, and that "W" word fly fishermen don't like.

The plan was to fish a scenic portion of the river and enjoy what mother nature had in store. We knew that walking this stretch of weather meant blazing trail through over a foot of a fresh powder, but it kept us warm on a pretty cold day. We also fully understood that large portions of the river were void of fish and that we might experience some difficulty zeroing in on them. Nonetheless we persevered and carried on.

On our way upriver, we fished likely holding water and Adam was able to mine up a small feisty fish in a boulder garden. Other spots were full of anglers, chairs included, so we hop scotched them looking for some seclusion.

I was able to find it on one of my favorite runs. Flanked by towering pines and covered in fresh snow, I had a hundred yards of awesomeness to myself. That was until a drift boat floated by close enough to high five. I parked it and waited for my brother, Adam, and Parry to arrive. Once they did, they nymphed the top of the pool while I slowly worked the middle and tail out swinging a mini-intruder. My only action of the day came at the end of a swing as my fly arrived in the slow stuff. I had a precious few seconds of head thrashing and cart wheeling before the fly flew back at my face. I was pumped.

Up on a popular bend, we finally finished our mini-migration. It was now the afternoon and it began to snow. Soon, no one was on the river besides us and we nymphed and swung our way back. On one particular stretch we stood silently listening to the river. The only sound came from the water slowly moving between our legs as we gazed off into the the winter wonderland. It was as if time stood still for a minute or two. I rudely interrupted the silence as I set a sustained anchor and arched up into a d-loop. I couldn't resist.

As the light faded and the snow continued to pour out of the sky, Parry hooked up one last time. His first fly fishing trip ever came to an abrupt halt as the fish broke free. We hiked out of the ravine and walked the rest of the way back to the car on the road. We reminisced, laughed, and took our grand ole time in the parking lot. No need to rush when your leaving an empty snow laden river.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness - Day 2

We slept the sleep of fisherman who had spent the previous day staving off hypothermia. The waders dripped in the shower, the heat on full blast, our faces and hands red, stomachs full.  We awoke to a fresh 20" of snow covering the world.
The forest on the riverbank was a silent as an abandoned house and the snow covered everything like a thousands years' worth of blinding white dust.  We broke trail and stumbled over the muted shapes of logs for a mile, finally arriving at an undercut bank formed by a bend in a tailout.  There was room for two to fish at a time.
The snow depressed and conformed to our bodies as we sank into it, finding the most comfortable of seats from which to rig or take in the silence.  Two did each.
It was cold and the fish weren't going to move much.  The snow was comfortable and the forest was at its most beautiful. We'd already landed some screamers the day before, so we weren't going to move much, either.
We took turns fishing each run.  Experience and patience won the day, but luck showed up as well.  Each person fishing concentrated for 45 minutes or so before yielding the water to someone else.

We caught a few fish, at least one for each of us. Included was a larger fish that surely pissed off a previous angler by breaking off a beautiful blue intruder that still hung from its jaw.

Parry continued to learn on each and every cast as his improving mends brought to hand a smaller brown.

We retraced our prints back towards the truck but passed it and continued upriver to the honey hole from the previous day. We pulled one out of there as the sun sank.

Surely satisfied, we returned to the lodge, plugged a few DVDs into the TV and gorged ourselves on pizza and wings. There was one more full day to go.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Carp Flies 2

Adam's Fly Box: Out of pure respect, all my flies are barbless...

(#10 TMC 5263)

This fly is my go-to pattern. Over the years it has proved to be my top producer. Everyone has their “confidence fly", and this is mine. It’s a weightless rendition of a damsel or dragon fly nymph. I’m able to target feeding, cruising, and laid up fish with this pattern, making it very versatile. I fish this fly to mudders’ and cruisers by leading the fish at an estimated distance so that the fly has time to slowly parachute down in the water column directly into their line of vision. I fish the fly with no additional action what so ever. I just allow the fly to free fall to the bottom. This fly is best fished with a loop knot to insure it falls unrestricted and perfectly horizontal in the water column. If their interested and willing, they’ll meander over and grab it…if not they’ll ignore it. If ignored, the fly is non-intrusive so the fish will usually not be alarmed by its presence, allowing another cast to be made. Also, if ignored don’t think they haven’t seen it, they have excellent vision. As for laid up fish, I fish this fly with an 18+ foot leader insuring that my fly line lands nowhere near the fish. I will over shoot my target, but never directly over top of it, always at an angle to one side or another. Once the fly lands I will SLOWLY strip the fly into the fishes line of sight, never directly up to the fish itself, remember, they have excellent vision. I will bring the fly within three or four feet of the fish at eye level and then let the fly free fall. Like I said before, if their interested they’ll come and get it. If not try again. If you bring the fly up on the fish too close or too fast you’ll never get a second chance. Laid up fish are my favorite because there is so much room for human error. Challenge Accepted.   

Assorted Damsels
(#10 TMC 5263)

"Hover Damsel"
(#10 TMC 5263)

This pattern is just a modified damsel. Instead of scud back I tie it with craft foam. If I’m in a situation where the majority of fish I’m targeting are laid up, I will use this fly. The foam back modification allows the fly to free fall slower than my original damsel, giving the laid up fish more time to make a decision.

"Articulated Damsel"
(#10 TMC 2457)

The articulated damsel is another spin off my original. I’m always looking for a slightly new profile to show the fish because the small populations of carp I fish for become conditioned to a certain pattern after awhile. All it takes is something a bit different to rekindle their interest. 

Articulation does the trick

"Carp Dragons"
(#8 Daiichi 2451)

Unlike my damsel pattern that I created to resemble either a damsel or a dragon fly nymph. My dragon pattern is a more species specific rendition of a dragon fly nymph. Like I said before, fish populations will become conditioned to a certain pattern overtime. This one really saved me in the latter part of 2012. This pattern is also weightless and fished in the same manner as the damsel. It free falls slightly angled, nose down. Exactly like a fleeing dragonfly nymph trying to reach the safety of the benthos. A perfect target for a prowling carp.  

(#4 Owner Mosquito)

One can't resist a fleeing dragon

(#8 TMC 7999)

(#10 TMC 2457)

This open water cruiser fell victim to a damsel presented mid-column 

Damsel Variant
(#10 Gamakatsu SL45) 

Various Crayfish Patterns
(#4 Gamakatsu SC15)

(#6 TMC 2457)

(#10 TMC 105)

This concoction is a unique attractor pattern I whipped up while bored one night. As crazy and outlandish as it looks, it actually works. I fish this fly as I would the damsel, leading the fish and letting it slowly sink. If they don’t see it, there is a good chance their blind, haha!

"Quick-Sight Jumbo Spawn"
(#4 Gamakatsu SL45)

This pattern I use on occasion when I have to present a fly at an insane distance. It's a simple sucker spawn with an opaque bead secured in the center. The pattern is large, bright, and sometimes terrifying. The bead acts like a parachute post on a dry fly, giving it excellent visibility. Making it easy to see when the fish eats. This pattern will only work a few times on a specific body of water before each and every fish knows whats up. 

This pretty much sums up the entire contents of my fly box. Keep scrolling to take a journey through Mark's fly box. 

Mark's Fly Box: 

My number one carp fly: Carp Spawn
TMC 2457 Sizes 8-16

Over the years, my number one fly has been a larger more compact version of a sucker spawn imitation. This fly is tied with egg yarn. The importance of the egg yarn is paramount. On the backcast, it dries out and lands softly for a good presentation. However, it quickly saturates in water to sink to the bottom where it is fished. This pattern is deadly sight fished to mudding carp. I like to wait for the fish to go down to mud to present the fly. As the fish emerges from his mud cloud, the spawn should be waiting for him on a platter. I also fish it to slow cruisers. I lead the carp a lot and have the spawn waiting on the bottom of their projected path. The bright colors allow for some really long presentations in the clear water of some of my home waters. Carp that have not been targeted (virgins) by fly fishermen will take this pattern on the descent.

Carp Spawn FTW

Damsel Bugger: Heavy, Medium, Light
TMC 5262 and 5263

 This is a modified woolly bugger tied to somewhat resemble a damsel/dragon. The Schlappen on either side is meant to slow its descent and create a parachute affect. This pattern is tied in three different styles: Light, Medium, and Heavy. The light and medium weight patterns can be fished in the middle of the water column. The light is designed to hover and descend slowly. The medium will sink slow but can be stripped in the column for more aggressive fish. The heavy is designed to be fished on the bottom. This can be tied large or small depending on the scenario. Very versatile.

Perkiomen Creek stripping the damsel bugger...oops did I just say a location?

Flat on the top and bottom. 

Another stripping mid-column...

Damsel in Distress: Partridge Authentic CZ Czech Nymph Hook Sizes 6-10
My take on Adam's "Damsel"

Looking pretty in a big guy's mouth...

Easily my second best producer and the fly responsible for almost all of my large fish. It is tied on a thin wire barbless czech hook and is basically weightless. My largest fish have been taken in deep water, 1-2 feet below the surface where this fly hovers. It can be tied with a lead under body or with bead chain eyes to adjust the sink rate and dap for bank feeders. For more information on how to fish it just read Adam's synapsis of "the damsel".

Be aware that this pattern is designed for still water carp. Fish found in areas with current will be able to put a lot more pressure on the hook than a still water fish.  This hook is designed for European nymphing and I use it because it is extremely light and slows the descent of the fly. Keeping this in mind, I have caught carp close to 30 lbs. on 3x using this pattern with no problems. I have never had a carp bend this hook but I am 100% positive that a big river fish will.

Shorter, Lighter, Arched, Different Materials, and an Epoxied Frame

Flooded bank caught fish...

I'll never forget having my damsel hovering on the edge of some floating weeds as this guy cruised beneath the flotsam completely unaware of my presence...

The Carp Crab
Gamakatsu Stinger B10S 4-6

This is a crayfish imitation designed to replicate a crawdad in the defensive position. It is as wide as it is long and is inspired by Diablo Crabs for saltwater species and several different popular carp imitations. The use of long webby Schlappen for the body material creates its width. It easily collapses on the descent and strip and juts out whenever stopped. It is heavily weighted by dumbbell eyes to get it down quick, ride hook up, and perform a slight headstand. It is designed to be used for large and aggressively feeding carp in rivers that are looking for a big meal. It can also be tied with a weed/snag guard for uneven terrain. 

Subtle UV Under-body

Mini-Version FTW

Flat Bottom

Defensive crayfish position.

River Carpin...

Weed/Snag Guard...