Sunday, September 14, 2014

CARPTIORIOUS: When The Fat Lady Sings

When it snowed Friday morning I was ready to mail in the season.  Picture a grown man in the fetal position crying in the corner while sucking his thumb.  Pathetic.  Being a carper I did what carpers do though.  I scraped myself off the floor and hit the water, because, like, you never know. Right? Right?

And when it comes to carp you really never do know.  Their active temperature range is so beyond any other freshwater game-fish that sometimes we sell them short.  Yes, even after catching carp in the last 32 straight months I sometimes under-estimate them.  By the time I walked up to a local pond Friday morning it was a frigid 41 degrees, and I really just thought I was out for a glorified walk.  But there it was, a tail.  And another.  And several fish feeding lethargically on top.  What.  The.  Hell.

I didn't manage to catch any of those fish - but eventually I did manage to catch A fish - and on a day like that? Snow in the morning, carp in the afternoon?  Dig it.

There it is though.  Snow.  Yikes.  Is it time?  Is the season over?  Well, I for one am not quite ready, and just two days later it was definitely NOT snowing.  85 and sunny, so I loaded up the Standamaran and hit the flats this afternoon.  

Yeah - the season may be on the way out.  The fat lady is probably humming but that's OK, because I am tone deaf.  No.  Really.  I am honest to goodness tone deaf.   So to heck with the fat lady.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fly Fishing For Carp Survey Results: Carp Fly Preferences

In this post I would like to review the results from our fly fishing for carp survey as they relate to carp fly preferences.  You can see the Google auto-generated results from the survey here.

There weren't many earth shattering surprises when it came to preferences on carp flies, and frankly I don't think this post is going to change how any experienced carpers look at their fly box much.  I do think that it will be very helpful for beginners looking for a starting point.

The first question in the survey relating to carp fly preference was favorite size.  I don't think anybody would be surprised to see that size 6 and 8 dominated.  Eighty Percent of the participants favored size 6 or 8!

I was a little surprised, however, that size 14 even made even a modest showing - not because they are not productive, but because it is hard to have faith in such a small fly for such a large fish.  The truth is that every serious carper I know of who has given small size 14 flies a serious try has been successful and one of my personal goals is to explore the lower limit of the size spectrum this winter.

We also asked participants for their favorite carp fly color.  Olive, Rust and Black accounted for over 75% of the participants preferences!  For me, the only real surprise there is that black was so close.  I have only this year really discovered how extremely effective black can be.  I actually responded with olive for this question myself but black has been making a massive push for my top affection all year.

Also note that I lumped all the egg colors together to accentuate the fact that there is a small but VERY passionate sect of the revolution that swears by various egg yarn colors.


The only other point of interest is that I suspect Red is a little under-rated.  I recently took the time to figure out what percentage of carp I have caught on different colors and Red was right up there. I suspect that with how popular the Hybrid is that these days allot of people are probably treating red as the secondary color in their flies.  I hope so, because I guarantee you that if you don't have some form of red worm in your arsenal you are missing out on what can be at times the most deadly carp weapon.

The final survey question relating to fly preferences asked what the angler's favorite carp fly was and let them fill in the blank.  Survey nightmare!  It turns out that everybody and their brother has their own custom carp fly.  The answers were all over the place!  In the end all I could do was dig through the data and try and find common themes.  The next chart has any flies where I could find a common theme repeated more than three times.  For example: 
  • If the participants said "blah blah blah bugger blah blah blah", well I called that a Woolly Bugger. 
  • If the participant said "My version of a hybrid", well I grouped that with Montana's Hybrid. 
  • If the participant chose different random ways of saying "Un-Named Damsel Fly" that got grouped with "Various Damsel Fly"
  • Etc. Etc.
The post-processing on this one was very very manual - and had some subjectivity involved. Additionally almost 50% of the participants couldn't fit into this graph.  Many favor their own unique creation, others quite honestly didn't know yet and so many of the well known named flies only had one or two participants name them that the chart would have been fifty feet wide if I didn't cut if off at 3 or more repeats.  
In other words the data is pretty sketchy, but nevertheless it is clear that Montana's Hybrid, Zimmerman's Backstabber and about a zillion different variants of the venerable Woolly Bugger are very very popular carp flies.  

Egg flies also made a shockingly strong showing....shocking unless you know somebody who consistently kicks your ass with them.  Lookin at you Medina.

So what does this all mean?  Well, like I said, probably not much for experienced guys.  Most anglers with more than a couple of years of experience fly fishing for carp are going to find this interesting and possibly thought provoking but far from earth shattering.  For newer carpers I hope this helps allot.  It certainly would have helped me about 15 years ago.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carp Slam VIII Recap

The last couple of years some of the pros have been dropping strong hints that it probably wasn't very fair for me to be in the amateur category. They were correct, but until last year I wasn't budging until they made me.  To be honest, I actually found it hilarious that I was a total ringer, and I wasn't sure I was ready to teach fly fishing for carp.

You see, Carp Slam is a pro-am tournament where 15 "pros" get randomly paired with 15 "amateurs". The basic guideline is that if you have never guided for money you are an amateur and it is that way for good reason. The whole intent of the competition isn't actually to have a competition.  The actual goal is to have a fun framework in which to raise money and awareness to benefit the river.  By having the pros teach the amateurs you develop more anglers with the necessary skills to go out on their own and develop an emotional connection to the resource.  In that context it becomes more important that the pro be a good teacher and ambassador for the sport than a good carper.  

Well, after last year I finally decided that it was ridiculous to be in the amateur category and asked to be moved to the pro category.   I am so glad I did.  For the past three years I have felt intense pressure to live up to my ringer status.  I think in those three years I managed a grand total of 1 hour of sleep the night before the slam.  This year I slept like a baby.  I felt like even if we didn't win, and even if we didn't have good shots or good beats, my partner would walk away with a new-found appreciation for the Denver South Platte River and Carp.  

Don't get me wrong, I like to win but in this case I just felt that it was just as, if not more, important to me that my draw partner Sam Doyle had a good time and learned a thing or two. Not only was Sam a good guy and passionate about our fishing resources, but he had done an absolutely brilliant job of raising money to benefit the Denver South Platte in the amateur fundraiser competition.  A ridiculously awesome job.  We are talking over $5000 dollars of a good job.    

Well, let me tell you - that lack of pressure was GREAT for my game.  I really felt like I fished great. I was absolutely NAILING presentations, I put us on as many good shots as was humanly possible given the huge drop in water temperatures the river had seen prior to the slam, and I felt like I did a great job of teaching Sam (and our controller Jim) a thing or two about carp.

We did not, however, win.  We had our chances.  Good chances.  Early in our afternoon session I hooked two above average size carp but lost them both to hook pullouts.  Was my drag too tight? Maybe.  Did I apply too much pressure?  Maybe.  Did I just get a little unlucky?  I don't know.  I don't know.  

At the time I felt like those two fish would have put us on the podium (I was right) and I was a little upset.  I got over it pretty quick though, because soon after that this happened:

Sam Doyle's First Carp On The Fly
And there you go.  Sam Doyle's first carp on the fly!  Mission accomplished, tournament saved.  I was on absolute cloud nine.  All it took was one carp for a good man to make this one of my favorite Carp Slam tournaments ever.

Of course by the next morning it fully sunk in that my two lost carp plus his landed one would have gone for the win and several days of dejected depression set in.  Ah what the hell, that's the carp slam for you.

And yes, congratulations to the winners - Frank Smethhurst and Brett Graham and thanks to the organizers for such hard work to benefit our beloved river.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fly Fishing For Carp Survey Results: The Epicenter

Update 9/4/2014 - New York wasn't getting counted in my spreadsheet.  Fixed.

This is the first in a series of posts giving some of the results from the fly fishing for carp survey.  With more than 200 participants we have enough data to have some fun with the numbers.  First we will try and find the regional epicenter of the revolution.

If we look at the raw numbers by state Colorado had the most participants by a very wide margin.  I think there is no real surprise to those of us chasing carp in Denver.  After all, it can occasionally be difficult to find an open hole on the Denver South Platte.  The reasons are pretty easy to understand.  First of all, Colorado has the highest concentration of fly fishers in the country.  The more trout fly guys the more bored trout fly guys looking for a new challenge.  Additionally we have had our own in-state fly fishing for carp living legend Barry Reynolds spreading the gospel to local guys for over 15 years.  On top of that, Denver hosts Carp Slam - one of the oldest and most successful fly fishing for carp tournaments.

Instead of looking at the raw participants we should probably look at the number of participants on a per-capita basis though.  Colorado still comes out on top but the next biggest (Idaho) may be a big surprise to some .  Colorado and Idaho have allot in common though.  Primarily Idaho also has many bored trout guys and also hosts a carp tournament with a long and proud heritage.

The next one in line (Vermont) is a big surprise - especially since it sits smack dab in the middle of a region where the fly fishing for carp revolution doesn't seem to have much of a foothold.  I have no idea why, perhaps we can blame Lake Champlain which is reputed to be an excellent carp on the fly fishery.

Of course, the truth is that 200 participants is not enough to really split 50 ways.  Some of the states that are high in the per-capita list only had a couple of participants but don't have allot of population.  Instead we should step back and look at the big picture, so I re-calculated the per-capita by region instead of by state.

The trend is clear. The western mountain states region is the current epicenter of fly fishing for carp by a large margin.  I cannot say how much of this is due to the fishing and how much is cultural but it is interesting.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Chicken's Motives

The absence of something often goes unnoticed.  I doubt you have realized that I have never once tried to justify my love for carp on Fly-Carpin.  No top ten reasons my favorite fish kicks your favorite's ass.  No discourses on all the very real advantages carp have as a gamefish.  No knicknames designed to borrow cool from other species.  Just a celebration of fly fishing for carp and the cultural revolution it represents.

Why do I feel so utterly uninspired to justify my (our?) love of carp?  I saw a random shirt on a random dude today that explains it perfectly:
"I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fly Fishing For Carp Survey

UPDATE:  The poll is closed as of August 24th.  Stand by for processed results, although auto generated results are available at the link below.

I want to know more about the fly fishing for carp Revolution.  No.  I NEED to know - so do me a solid and fill out this survey.  You can either go to this link or fill it out below.  It is probably a little easier if you go to the link.  If you fill it out here you just have to page up to the top everytime you submit a page.

The current results can be viewed here at any time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Can McTage Even Cast?

Carp Caught On A Trouser Worm Carp Fly
A friend who knew Fly-Carpin before he knew McTage recently told me he used to wonder if I could even cast.  That blew me away at first, but upon reflection most of my posts and videos talk about getting close to carp.  Getting REALLY close.

No surprise there.  You see, I learned how to fly fish where the Rockies meet the sky.  We are talking dry flies upstream to rising trout on bamboo in 10,000 foot high creeks small enough to jump across.  It is a game of stealth, guile and finesse.  It is oddly similar to how I fly fish for carp on the fly, just on much smaller water for much much smaller fish.

I learned at a very early age that if I had more than three feet of fly-line out I was doing it wrong.  I learned to crouch, to crawl, to dink and dunk and dabble and bounce my fly off a grass bank and drag it into the seam.  I learned that sometimes they like it when your dry fly sinks or even makes a wake being dragged across the top.  I learned that pride has no place in fly fishing and that the ends justify the means and those lessons have never left me.

So the question hangs out there - can McTage even cast?  Beats me man.  Beats me.