Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Cottonwood Hatch

Since I first took an interest in targeting carp on the fly, I have been enamored with rumors of the fabled mulberry and cottonwood seed "hatches." Visions of carp sucking off the surface with abandon tempted me to consider destination trips. Where I'd once planned vacations around salmon flies and salmo trutta, I was now planning them around mulberrys and Cyrprinidae. 

Well, yesterday I finally happened upon such a hatch, and I didn't even have to leave the city limits.

I came through the woods in the early afternoon to find the sun high and the flats well lit, if only a little dingy.  The view from my favorite lookout point revealed chaos, the water boiling with orange lips pac-manning little white puffs off the surface. There were literally dozens of fish working in unison ranging from dinks to fish that would have easily exceeded Shop Vac status. With shaky fingers I clipped the oversized bass popper from my leader and frantically combed through my fly selection for something small, white, and fuzzy. I briefly considered MacGeyering some match-the-hatch concoction with white marabou and monofiliament, but in my haste I settled on the closest thing I had, a tiny white BoogleBug slider.

Both of my first two casts got eaten by monster grass carp. Unfortunately, I tried to play it cool and wait for the inhale before setting. Instead, both fish instantly spit the fly and flipped me the fin as then went back to sucking seeds. I did manage to stick and land a handful of smaller fish, but it was extremely challenging and I saw far more refusals than I would have expected given the circumstance. Unlike trout, surface-feeding carp are extremely erratic and unpredictable. They do not follow the same line for long. They are also extremely efficient, and won't move far out of their way to take an offering, even if it is a bigger meal. I also noticed that of my first dozen or so casts, each one was inspected and considered closely by one or more fish. After that, the majority of them were completely ignored, or flat-out spooked the pod. 

These fish continue to intrigue me in new ways, and the release of Kirk Deeter's Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing For Carp couldn't have come at a better time. We finally got our copies into the store today and I will be be leafing through mine for the first time this evening. In conjunction with that release, Orvis has also announced an entire web page dedicated to scales and whiskers - Carp Central. Take some time to check it out and get in on the photo contest, which will tie in with our DW contest to be announced later this summer. You might even recognize a handful of images from previous posts.

Sunday I pull chocks for the mountain west again and after that it's back to the North Country where a smorgasbord of warm water quarry awaits. It's shaping up to be a pretty spectacular couple of weeks in Dudewater Country so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Flip Side

"Excuse me sir, are you traveling alone?" - I stopped in my tracks on the jetway.  Dammit - I thought I'd made it past the random international flight carry-on luggage search.  Then again, after a week of scruff plus due to a razor that didn't make the flight down, and a rod case that looked like it housed RPGs instead of Xi3s, I guess I couldn't blame the Federales.  Not even halfway down the jetway, and the sinking feeling of a great trip ending had already hit home.  

Less than twenty-four hours before, the previous day began by bouncing around on a panga, watching the sun come up over a small, hardly-discussed archipelago, with the throttle of a sixty-horse two-stroke outboard full open.  A day after staying close to base and fishing with my old man, the Mexican guide dream team assembled, and over a few Dos Equis and Sols we decided that the next day we'd chase the sun, make a long run to a remote and seldom fished flat, and try our luck again for the hardest fish to catch on feathers and fur - permit.

 As we sped out of the Gulf and passed the landmark that signifies the beginning of the Caribbean all of us were thinking the same thing.  Our goal was to find permit, but considering the success we'd had earlier in the trip, I'd be lying if I said that any of us really thought we'd catch lightening in a bottle twice in the same couple days.

When we reached out flat-du-jour, Sandflea killed the motor, and swung the Yeti onto the panga's transom.  He unhinged the Stiffy, shoved it into the mud, and began scanning the horizon for telltale black sickle-shaped fins, or the sign of water pushed around by a permit cruising the flat with the incoming tide.  After spotting a couple of fish without being able to get into position to make a cast, we spotted a "v" of nervous water snaking it's way across the flat.  A minute or so later the boat had been expertly positioned, and I launched a long cast that led the fish by just a couple feet.  Two slow strips, and the permit was on the fly - two or three more and he ate.  After a quick but subtle strip-set, the permit made a beeline away from the water that barely hid his back.  Line shot off the deck, and the reel's whining and bitching told the rest of the story.

After a spirited fight, I swept the rod back to the right, and the exhausted permit came alongside the boat.  Lightening had struck twice in the same trip - simple as that.

With the most difficult part of the slam in the bag, it's safe to say that all of us started wondering if we could do it again.  However, on a light colored bottom and partly cloudy skies, slam part B was anything but a sure thing.  But, with the guide dream team assembled, and four pairs of eyes scanning every inch of water for anything and everything alive, we found a few.  

But, I 'effed up the first one.  Decent cast - couple strips - hooked fish - fish runs - goodbye.  It was two hours before we saw another one, and with each minute that went by, my blood pressure ratcheted up a point or two.  Finally we spotted a pair of striped shadows slowly perusing the edge of a flat, and after a couple of blistering runs, part B was in the bag.  


As soon as that bonefish was released, they arrived in droves.  For a bunch of fishing guides that rarely get to fish themselves, this was a-ok by them, and they joined in on the fun as school after school moved past, doing what bonefish do.

After a couple hours of fun, with the sun well past noon, it was time to get back to business.  With a permit and bonefish in the boat already, everyone's mind - and to be honest, especially my own -
 returned to thinking about completing the trifecta

As we killed the motor and the boat settled down off of plane, immediately all of us noticed that the wind had picked up, and the sun was hidden behind clouds.  Fuck.  But, lucky for us, we hit the jackpot again, and found a couple of different pods of rolling fish that were happy, happy happy, and more than willing to eat. After jumping a few, and losing them painfully close to the boat on last-minute head shakes, powerful jumps into the mangroves, or hooks that just didn't seem to hold, a purple toad found a rare soft spot in the tarpon's jaw, and he was ours.  Another slam. Conclusion: I used up a lifetime of fishing karma in one trip.

Originally intended as a tarpon trip, we spent drastically more time chasing permit and bonefish than we did anything else. After being commercially overfished for decades, the local bonefish and permit populations are on the rebound - and these sought after species are slowly, but surely, making a comeback to places that they historically called home.  Now that it's been a couple weeks, it's honestly just kind of funny how things worked out.  
 As water disappears where we live - and in most places in our country - it's a refreshing thought that somewhere else the fish are staging a comeback of their own.

After the Federales were satisfied that my rods and reels posed no imminent security threat, I took my window seat, opened a book, and waited for the plane to take off.  As the plane banked and leveled out heading north, for a few minutes I had an amazing view of every flat I'd fished over the course of the trip.  Some of the best fishing I'd ever traveled for already seemed very far away.  

For those of you who remember Dudewater's beginnings - and our first experience as movie stars - will certainly remember RA Beattie - one of the best filmmakers in the fly fishing industry (and just an all around good dude).  He came to Cleveland looking for jumbo trout in a blizzard, and all we'd had to show for a few days of effort was water you could jump across and a some sporadic action - not really what you'd want to see on the big screen.  I don't remember his exact words, but the gist was more important.  When you travel to fish, more likely than not the fishing isn't at it's best, and sometimes it's just plain tough going.  However, this more common experience makes hitting things just right that much more memorable.  The last day of his trip, and the filming that came along with it, was perfect.

All things considered?  This trip was too. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Waderfunk Returns

I gotta' tell ya'... my job is so much easier when y'all do it for me.

Couple of reader submissions for this week's Waderfunk installment:

The best way to address environmental concerns in your local fisheries? Take action yourself. This guy is doing his part to address the "low flows" in his local ditches by giving back to the watershed...

And then of course, we've all been here...  this one arrived in my text inbox with the caption, "Say one was to hook ones self with a fly. How would one get it out?" 

Reminiscent of another classic Dudewater moment - arguably the original Waderfunk installment.

To that end, I've noticed we've had some new visitors to the blog... welcome! If you're just joining the party, take some time to look around. We're almosts 300 posts deep and I'd like to think that whatever your fancy, there's a post to tickle it: Tarpon, Trout, Carp, steelhead... life. If you've been with us for a while, thanks for stickin' around - we like the company.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We Want YOU!

... To buy a CARP hat. Follow this link. Send the caysh. Acquire instant big fish mojo. It's that easy.

Regarding those mini-trips I referenced last time:

Monday evening was an after-work exploratory in search of toothy critters. Pretty River. Pretty flies. Pretty Casting. Tasty sandwiches. Shitty beer (shame on you, Alex). One missed fish (shame on you, Aaron).

Tuesday, return trip to the Erie Flats. This time with vessel in tow. Mark and I had been planning this trip for sometime and were finally able to make it happen. Fishing was just good enough to hold our interest for most of the day, but the real treat was fishing out of his super-pimped-out-flats-style Old Town equipped with casting decks, stabilizer pontoons, poling platform and trolling motor. The rig enhanced the whole experience 10-fold... visibility, casting, line management, water coverage. Really made me consider stepping up my watercraft game. By the time the sun crested, the majority of fish were up skinny so we ditched the motor and picked up the pole. It was truly a saltwater flats style experience as we cast to cruising smallmouth, carp, and gar. Had a couple incredibly visual eats from chunky bronzebacks and my first shot at a bowfin, which I failed to convert.

My favorite carp water is still clearing from recent rains but the forecast is favorable for some hit-and-run action later this week. I've added another trip to the docket between now and the Tour-De-Mitt which could yield some exciting blog fodder, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Too Soon For June

Another lapse in posts and just like that, the month of May is behind us. I stayed busy and made time to be on the water more days than not last month. Sometimes only in very short intervals, but just enough to stay refreshed and of sound mind.

Made a visit to the lake where all this craziness began for me many moons ago. Fishing is always an important part of the lake experience, but it happens at a different pace than I'm accustomed to on my home waters.

The simplicity of standing (or better yet, sitting) on the edge of the dock, making the same cast over and over again, working out the kinks and taking the occasional sunfish on a popper is in an ironic sort of way, liberating.

By my estimation we're about a full month behind last year in terms of the seasonal activity of our local warm-water quarry, at least in my neck of the woods. Carping has been good but not great on most days, as many of the fish are still finishing up their spawn. I have a feeling that the next stable warm weather pattern will set off a feeding frenzy and dramatically increase the number of shots in an average outing. In the mean time, we're picking them off one by one when we find 'em...

The first batch of CARP hats went out last week, so I expect subsequent fish porn to be streaming into my inbox any day now! My own lid continues to build good mojo. The brute pictured above came from some big water that I shared for a brief stint with our buddy Greg Senyo - water I've driven over for years without visiting. I won't be making that mistake again! We spotted the fish sliding up a rock ledge to feed, tailing back out of the water. He sucked up a new fly that Greg had loaned me which I was eager to copy until I lost it on an errant hook set. So I went back to the drawing board with borrowed ideas and cooked up a fresh batch...

I've been having fun testing new carp bugs this year and have landed fish on well over a dozen different patterns. Still haven't dialed in a sure-fire "closer" but we're getting there.

June holds a lot of promise and some big plans, most notable of which is the grand tour of the state to the north that Alex and I have dialed up for the end of this month. Skipping the Trout Crusade this year and opting to stay a bit closer to home for a multi-species affair that could include carp, smallmouth, muskie, and pike. Who knows? We might even cast at a trout or two for good measure. Departure date is 3 weeks out, so stay tuned for the play by play.

We're also excited to be participating in the August 17th Three Rivers Carp Cup, hosted by 3 Rivers Angler fly shop out of Knoxville, TN. Going to make a full-on roadie out of it and sample some of the local water while we're down there, before hopefully returning home with a custom-made H2 carp saber...

Few mini-trips lined up in the interim and I'll try to be a little more prompt with the subsequent write-ups. The offer still stands for anyone who wants to join me on the Big D this summer or The Upper Mississippi this fall!