In late May I was invited to fish the Big C. with two guys who clearly know what there doing. I hooked into a decent number of carp under some pretty nasty circumstances, enjoyed the trip thoroughly and learned a few things along the way. This video demonstrates two of them well, if your going to hook a ~15lb carp in a mine field of debris make sure you don’t give him enough line to hang you. What you can’t see in this video is the backwater slosh that is outside the frame, this fish tried as hard as he could to get there, to break me off. I couldn’t get him to turn into the open water and was thus forced to wear that fish down in a couple minutes. Second lesson, flex the entire rod or risk breaking it. Watching it again I’m pretty surprised it didn’t break, that 8wt looks like my 3wt when I’m tugging on a snag. I look pretty green in this video but I learned alot from this trip. John Montana is credited with taking the video, a good guy who put Wendy B. and I on fish for several days, who let me botch a net job that his little girl could have handled without thinking. Man, can’t wait to get into something like this again.
22 Nov 2011 / Tailing Carp
09 Jun 2011 / Tailing Carp
Day 2: The Big C. Started at 7am, wake, dress, brush teeth and head for coffee and a quick breakfast. Long hours were about to be logged in search of puffy lipped prey. Down a backroad and parked at a spot with a sign full of bullet holes we geared up for the day. This meant waders, boots, rod, reel, long sleeves, plenty of flies and the buff. I was advised to purchase one before this trip and damn am I glad I did. Saved me from being one fried carp angler. Concerned about the potential for rain I went for my raincoat which incidentally contained both my camera and fly box only to find that I had left it at the freakin’ coffee shop. Rather than let this rookie mistake ruin my mood for the day I made a quick phone call to ensure the return of my gear by the days end then turned to Montana and Wendy B. for a handful of flies. With that said all the photos from day 2 come from Wendy B. and Montana.
A short hike and we were slowly stepping foot in a flooded portion of the Columbia river backwaters. The three of us came upon carp almost instantly. The Big C was up and what would have been dry land was close to thigh deep but the carp were here, pock marks were felt through boots, wader and sock. Within minutes dark shapes could be made out searching the sand and rocks for food. The depth charge would be critical here, with the combination of high turbid water and the unfortunate lack of sun for the morning we moved slowly again attempting to spot a carp, determine which end to put the flies on and wait for any sign to set the hook. As we moved into the flooded bay we split up each slowly moving off in a different direction. Again Wendy B. was the first one to have the smell of carp on his hands and it didn’t take long. With the morning progressing the sun eventually made it to the party and helped make the day a bit more angler friendly the wind, however was hanging out with us as well making things tricky at times.
My two fly rig consisting of the Worm and “Black Softhackle” fly required that one have a tungsten bead attached to it to make the count to the bottom less than a three. We fished turbid water with a bit of cloud cover early and wind to boot. Basically we were attempting to spot a dark shape a couple feet down (before it spotted you and spooked off), gauge it’s direction and speed then plant the flies in a spot you felt would get them to the bottom right about the time the prey was passing over. This was no easy task but when it came together it was glorious. We fished a couple bays and a long stretch of big boulder shoreline that if taken slowly enough one could spot some big fish feeding between the rocks. Got some good opportunities and some good takes despite the difficulty of searching turbid water for feeding carp. A double was seen and Montana scored a beast that was feeding with it’s ass in the air with a long armed bomb drop, the fish moves in and a short moment later backing was clearly visable. He made it look damn easy too.
One aspect of this trip was making good choices regarding which fish to present flies to. Often pods of 2-5 or more carp would be moving close togather, these are the spawners that are interested in perhaps something other than eating a big ole fly. The temptation to put flies on these groups was great but often futile. I learned to look for the single fish, the tailing carp and concentrate on those fish. We each landed a handful on the Big C. then pulled out to check another location, this resulted in perhaps the most hilarious moment in the trip. As the three of us search flooded backwaters we spot a handful of carp closer to the surface. One was sent in, Wendy B., as the other two watch from a distance. Wendy creeps in, he is maybe thigh deep when he spots the fish he wants. Just out of reach he takes a single step forward and demostrates why one should be wary when you can’t see the bottom. With no bottom Wendy went swimming in his waders and John and I tried not to bust up laughing on the bank. It was close to the end of the day and probably felt pretty good but an unfortunate event none the less. Smiles were shared all around, thanks for that one Wendy.
02 Jun 2011 / Tailing Carp
After a couple months of planning, tickets purchased, flies tied, gear prepped, packed and flown 1,427 miles west Wendy Berrell and myself woke at ~5am to begin the first of four days with John Montana fishing the Columbia River for Cyprinus carpio. The 3wt was swapped for an 8wt with a fighting butt needed to wrestle powerful beasts into submission (Thanks to Sershen for the use of the gear). Greeted at the airport by Montana the day before we were given expected news, weeks of prior emails had given rise to concerns over the stage of the Columbia and John being the guy he is saw fit to spent the day scoping the situation out driving miles along the river while we flew through the air to make better decisions which would save precious time over the next few days. The situation was grim, the river was up…way up and turbid as all hell but we were on the ground with rods rigged ready to take the Columbia river carp on, high water or not. First stop was was a small pond we spied looking for dark shapes. I can say right now it took me almost a full day to really begin to spot these fish in deeper turbid water. Day 1 saw us scoping what would have been a nice flat on the main channel but other than vauge shapes ~4ft down I spotted only one tailing carp, thinking it was a stick I did nothing and kicked it up as I approached. We spent only the briefest of moments lingering on the flat, the fish were here but we couldn’t see them and thus we couldn’t effectivly present flies to them.
The three of us drove further to a pond that Montana had scoped the day before and gotten permission from the landowner to access and fish. Had we not had this opportunity Day 1 may not have gone down as it did, thanks to John for taking the time to find the water and ensure we would be able to fish it. The night before John explained we would need to alter our tactics a bit to fish this pond, this required a ~12lbs Steelhead leader rather than the typical 1x leader that would typically be employed. When fishing a flooded pond for fish that can bend you over, spank your ass and send you home with a limp line or a bent hook it is best to come prepared, had we not had those leaders far fewer fish would have been landed. Boots in the water we moved slow, so slow it was almost painful. Note: If you think your going slow, go a third the speed. Slow here means take about a 3inch step forward and pause, look in all directions and be confident that you haven’t been spotted before you think about moving again. We spread out a bit, Montana hung closer to me as I had only fished for carp on one other occasion and not under these conditions. He put me on fish as Wendy B. was already getting into his first of many carp. I was attempting to present flies to puffy lips in 2 feet of water with a long armed dapping approach without spooking the carp. My rig consited of a San Juan Worm trailed by a “Black Softhackle” fly that John had been slaying fish with just the day before. The first few attempts were botched and frankly ugly but within a reasonable amount of time I had hooked my first of the day. The 8wt doubled over like I tied it to a cinder block and started walking towards it. The carp ran straight for the nearest debris field in an attempt to bust me off. A bit of force and a strong ass leader saved the day, the fish was turned to deeper water allowing me to get the feel for these strong beasts. I got a decent run from the first one which scaled out at ~15lbs.
With one to hand the pressure was off, we had all gotten a carp and we now began splitting up slowly searching the water for dark shapes to present to. I worked on getting flies down fast, the depth charge as it were. When the conditions are so that you can only see the carp when they are right up on you one must have a fly weighted like a tank to get it to the bottom before your target moves on or changes direction. Enter the LOD, that’s Legion of Doom for those of you who have yet to witness the awe inspiring power of this carp fly. Tied heavy by the Minnesota man himself Wendy Berrell this fly simply out shined this trip. We got into a handful more then attempted to cross a flooded area which led to filled waders and three soggy fools along with quite a few smiles. I dumped my waders out and we moved to a second location near by. Spying carp from the bank I was sent in to retrieve one without allowing it to run to the rest of the fish sending them running for the depths. Not sure how I managed it but a long arm and a very subtle presentation put my fly about 4 inches from the mouth of a carp that was facing away from me when I witnessed the flies levitate into the mouth of the beast like something out of a sci-fi movie. The hook was set and the rod bent. Brakes were immediately applied as this fish had any number of obstacles less than 10ft away to tangle up in or bust me off with, that combined with the fact that I did not want the fish to let his buddies know what was coming their way I had to keep it contained to close quarters. I didn’t give that fish an inch and although I felt like I came close to breaking an 8wt or breaking the fish off fate would have it that I wore the carp out beforeanything could bust. It only took three minutes but it seemed like alot longer. Wendy B. came to net the beast and after the release he approached the fish I had tried not to spook. I spotted a grey blue basket ball, clearly larger than any of the other fish around and I brought it to Wendy’s attention. His fly put into place yielded one of the greatest moments of the trip…”the biggest f*cking carp you’ve ever seen” and then tragedy. Shortly after the carp took off and the brakes were applied the blue basket ball had vested Wendy B. by busting him clean off, a consequence of fishing flood debris for powerful fish. Something we would learn again and again as the next few days progressed. We rounded out the first day by splitting to the previous pond approaching the water one more time hoping we had given it enough time to allow the carp to move back in. We picked off a couple more with Wendy B. clearly leading the count, Montana had given up a majority of the opportunities to allow us to get into fish. He was more concerned we have a good time than himself catch a bunch of fish. When he saw one he wanted though…watch out carp, do not mess with John Montana. This concluded Day 1, sports, food and sleep soon followed. Day 2 was coming.
18 Apr 2009 / Tailing Carp
The plan for this outing was to experience something new, the invitation came and the opportunity arose to learn, study and hunt. This time not for trout but something different…the carp. I hooked up with with Wendy Berrell Friday morning in the mid-early am, grabbed coffee and were off. A few things to note right away, this trip was drastically different from my usual routes. We drove rather than hiked, we fished in populated areas often with others (not a bad thing), saw more trash than I’d ever seen while fishing (a bad thing)…humans, and fought harder than I’d ever done before to land fish. I used an 8wt rather than my usual 4wt. Funny how I use a rod thats just one or two wt. over what it should for trout in my area and I did the same for the carp but I was greatful to borrow a rig to fish with for the time I had. I will be changing the rod situation, that will involve a 3wt and 6-7 wt. I will be doing this again.
So we started fishing and almost immediately I was onto carp. This is was my first time attempting to catch this species on a fly rod and it has it’s own unique twists. The way carp feed, the approach, the casts and the flies are all similar but different. I made my first attempt to carp on the banks of a river. I could see the fish, they were less than ten feet from the bank. We stood high above on the bank and tried to sight fish carp without snagging or spooking them, funny how fast there bulbous asses can scoot when motivated. My 1st was snagged, in the upper fin while trying to drift a fly basically straight into the target zone, within 6 inches of the vacuum hose (the carp snout). The second was all fair right in the mouth, hard fight even on an 8wt and I was getting into it right away.
We moved after presenting flies to several carp, the timing was good but we were searching for bigger tailers, actively feeding carp. These fish can be seen with their tails high peaking out from below. Finding sight fishable carp feeding like this is ideal, one can present the fly and attempt to observe notable changes in behavior to cue the hook set. We might have seen more of this but this is still early in the season and the carp need more time to warm before consistently activly feeding so we moved from location to location in search.
We stopped at several dams along the way and I had a blast blind nymphing for carp. In the space of three hours Wendy and I got onto several carp, one after another. A few were hooked foul and when this was observed I deliberately tried to get the carp off the line but after learning the depth and the needed weight to sink the flies to the carp I was consistently catching carp, and loosing flies (bummer). We caught not only carp but several species, including an 8lb Walley, I watched this fish run Wendy around the bridge pylons before he landed it. At one point, in the sun with two very taught fly lines, we were both waist deep in carp. Casting the 8wt was very different, gave my arm a hell of a work out, that and the constant carp action running me all over the place. After hours in the sun the action cooled down and we moved on with the search for sight fishable tailers.
Finding many, many carp but few actively feeding, we got some grub and headed for camp. We decided ahead of time to camp at a location near water on the way home to save time in the morning. Camping lite we pitched the tent (incase of potential rain), made a fire from the scraps around us in the dark and fell asleep under the stars. Waking early we hit more carp water before heading home. Wendy was spot on taking two morning tailers, including the Bertha of the trip, at 15lbs this was the fish we were looking for. We moved to one last location to try blind nymphing another dam.
I caught several small fish of varied species all trip and this morning saw a bullhead, perch, whitebass (I think), and a large mouth bass. Wendy caught a few more but I hadn’t felt the pull I was looking for, thats what it is, more of a pull, they pull back once the line goes tight rather than with a trout that tugs on a streamer, I was looking for one last fish before the trip was over. It came, standing in the spill way of the dam, once hooked the fish ran, and then ran some more, more than I’d ever felt before. Wicked, damn wicked. I held tight, tried to give him breathing room but not let him man-handle me, I for some reason knew we were close to the time we wanted to leave and with the watch on my chest pack I noticed the time, 10:55. The time of the hook up. In and out, left, right. 11:05. Pull. Hard. 11:15. I just played and at this point I was getting worked, with an 8wt. I started really leaning into this fish. 11:30 We saw the fish, it looked big, it should have, and then the pop. Slack line and a scale on a hook, his momento for me to remember him by. Must have been a foul hooked fish but it sure seemed close to his mouth. I would have really liked to land that fish but I know there will be more sight fished carp in my future.
I learned alot from this trip. I know I like the challenge of taking tailers. I know I don’t appreciate the locations as much but it has its place and time. Interesting how this happened over the trout opener, made me stop and think about the tag line under the title at the top “Learning to Fly Fish in S.E. MN” this is me being true to that. This summer there are many plans in the works to take warm water species as well as trout. Thanks to WB for the company, guidance, flies, gear, dinner Friday night (made it up with breakfast), and being a like minded person.