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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 [singlepic id=2649 w=320 h=240 float=left]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.

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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 [singlepic id=2638 w=400 h=320 float=left]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.

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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 [singlepic id=2648 w=440 h=360 float=left]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.

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  1. I am headed there next weekend and can’t wait! After reading this great post I am going to have a hard time getting to sleep tonight. Big ol carp lips and Legion of Doom flies will be dancing in my head.

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