Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Win Some Carp Flies: Selling Out for The South Platte

For the Carp-Slam this year DTU (Denver Trout Unlimited) has set up a system where individuals can "sponsor" a competitor through a donation to benefit improvements to the South Platte.  That is something I am more than willing to sell myself out for, so lets have a contest!

THE PRIZE:  The winner gets a fly-box filled with 15 of my favorite carp flies

  1. Go to my competitors page and make a donation.  
  2. Optionally leave a comment here or on my facebook page indicating you are in with a donation. 
  3. Contest ends August 1st.
  4. DTU will help me tally up the totals.  I will work some super geeky excel magic and randomly select a winner.  Your odds of winning will be proportional to your percentage of the total donations.  In other words, the higher the donation the better your chances. 
If we get to $750 total dollars (250 entry + 750 in donations), DTU will offer to refund my $250 entry fee.  I am way too lazy to re-balance my checkbook and will refuse the refund.

  1. Enter or volunteer for the Slam.
  2. Put your money on a dead horse and donate through other competitors pages.  
  3. For an additional donation you can also attend the after-party Evening On The South Platte.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

CARPTORIOUS: Feeding The Addiction

I met up with the CarpDawg otherwise known as TroutDawg from Fly Fishing Addiction for some fly-carpin this weekend.  He is a great guy and is very experienced chasing many species on the fly in both fresh and salt water.  Of those species carp are among his favorites and it was a great chance to hit up some local waters with a fellow hard core carper.

TroutDawg???   Is a name-change in order?
Things started a little slow.  The lake we picked had gone from carp stacked on the flats to small numbers of isolated and paranoid cruisers in less than 24 hours.  We had a couple of shots, but only one that you could really sink your teeth into.  Naturally I blew that one up with a slightly errant cast.

This is going to be a risk we take on many Denver Metro lakes over the next couple of weeks.  In some of my favorite lakes with clear water it seems that there is a 2 to 3 week post-spawn period where the fishing is unbelievably good.  Then in late June / early July the shallows become suddenly and inexplicably deserted for the rest of the season.  The word from those more knowledgeable is that the carp don't really come back.  At least not in fly fishing range and fly fishing moods with any regularity.  That makes me sad. 

Fortunately TD had a good backup plan with a little honey hole he likes to call home.  I was a little pessimistic since it involved bucking up and facing a recently blown river but it proved to be a good idea.  We walked right in on tailers and he hooked a really hot mid to high teener almost immediately.  It is that time of year and the carp are getting spunky, but I was a little surprised by the strength of that fish.  Things seemed somewhat under control until the fish simply decided to put the wood to him and run directly downriver.  Right when TroutDawg made to call that he was getting in to give chase the hook pulled out under heavy pressure.

Ten minutes later I hooked into a bruiser that was tailing hard within a foot of the bank with a Primordial Crust.  One of those stop, pop and gently lower the fly 4" in front and 4" to the right kinda shots.  Casting not required, crushing take easily identified.

Thank goodness the Dawg had given me a free preview because by the time I was gleefully screaming "backing" I was already on my way in to give chase.  I was just barely able to get far enough across and down-river in time.  By the time I had gained a little angle on the fish it was just in time to pull it out of a dead-fall about 150 feet downriver.  It was a great battle, and at a couple of ounces over 18 pounds this is my second largest carp from the river and by far and away the hottest!   

Thanks TroutDawg!
Thanks to TroutDawg for the company, showing me a thing or two and sticking to your guns about the backup plan.  Looking forward to the next outing!  Not looking forward to July which can be a pain in the ass in CO.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Soft-Hackle Flies For Carp - 2011 Big C Trip MFV (Most Valuable Fly)


What is now my biggest fish  of any species (23lb) on a soft hackle! 
John setting the hook on one of many (60ish?) he seduced with the soft-hackle
John from Carp on the Fly is a big fan of soft-hackles for carp and this was by far and away the most valuable fly last week on the Columbia.  The Primordial Carp-Stew caught me a couple.  The Leather Worm,  Backstabber and Rubber-Legged Hairs-Ear coaxed a few more.  In comparison John caught dozens on various soft-hackle color/bead combinations.  Heck, I caught twelve carp on one single soft-hackle fly that John showed me how to tie up in the hotel room after day 1.  That fly was a mess by the end of the trip!    

I have been a little confused for quite some time about the soft-hackles the Columbia River carpers (I.E. Mr P's Carp CarrotJohn Montana's Green Fly) espouse.  I was confused about what feathers from a pheasant to use and what the point was.  I have tied and fished a couple of what I thought were carp carrot-ish flies with hen-back or kneck and had success, but they did not bring anything new to the table in terms of presentation or action when compared to a Backstabber.  With the proper hackle in place these flies are very sparse yet have an incredibly subtle and seductive action in the water that is totally unique.  And deadly.

In terms of presentation, given the conditions we were mostly using it to coax passive cruising or sleeping carp by dropping it into or very slowly sweeping it through the field of vision mid-column.  John uses it for tailing fish too when conditions permit, but because of the ever-present heavy flooded vegetation you really needed a fly that would work above bottom and this one sure did the trick.  Several even rose up, followed and then gently sipped the fly as I slowly planed it upward past their head.  "On the rise" represents a totally new presentation for me.  I think John was probably surprised and slightly embarrassed when I started screaming like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Beiber concert the first time it happened.

This fly kicked so much butt on this trip that the first impulse was for it to go straight onto the favorites flies page, but I wanted to at least get one tight line in CO before I did.  Mission accomplished.  On Sunday morning I had three clear takes and hooked one - on the rise!  I lost it, but who cares, it was on the stinkin rise!

Materials:  Bear with me, but John varies the bead-size, body material and hackle color to match different situations. 

Hook:  Gamakatsu Size 6 Octapus
Weight:  Varies.  5/32 to 3/16" brass or tungsten in black, silver or copper colors.
Body:  Cactus Chenille or dubbed body in all the typical colors (olive, black, orange, rust etc).  In the pictures I show a dubbing loop body with orange-ish dubbing to make it interesting, to mess with John who loves simplicity, and because that is what the one fly I caught 12 on had. 
Hackle:  Pheasant rump in all the typical colors (black, olive, yellow, rust, natural etc.).  This can be hard to find, at least in CO fly shops.  I had to order some and will just use natural (which seemed to work Sunday) until it gets in.


1)  You want these feathers.  Just one!

2)  Feathers Prior To Prep.

3)  Prepped Feathers.

4)  Add bead, wrap hook.

5)  Fill a dubbing loop. 
I have over-filled this one to
make it easier to see

6)  Spin dubbing loop.

7)  Wind dubbing loop forward.

8)  Brush dubbing out and back. 
This fly came out a little bulkier than I wanted.

9)  Add pheasant hackle.

10)  Fold hackle.

11)  Wind hackle and finish fly.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Big C 2011: Invasion Of The Carp

I spent the past four days fly fishing the Columbia river for carp with John Montana.  It is difficult, if not impossible for me to give a full blow-by-blow of my visit.  There is too much.  To many visions of fish ghosting into view through waving flooded grass, brambles, tree trunks and even barbed wire fences.

Only fair to release it to it's side of the fence.  Looks awkward? You should have seen us land it.
Dreamy slow motion images of fish gently sucking in the fly amidst total chaos run non-stop through my weary head.

At times it was kind of creepy, but it was also beautiful
There were at least 20 carp in front of me.  What, can't you see them?
The most remarkable aspect of the trip was the situation we faced due to the high water in the Columbia River.  If, like me, you have never been there things looked fairly normal from the road.  A really big river looks like a really big river.   Evidently for those that know it the river defied recognition with the main river flooded to the point where scuba fishing with a spear was more realistic than fly fishing. 

The grass carp are soooooo jealous
Once you got down to the level of the river the extremity of the situation became more clear.  Any and all low-lying planes of vegetation near the river were hiding a dirty little secret.  Two dirty little secrets.  First, they were all flooded.  In many areas the flood plane ran at least a quarter mile from the river.  Second, carp had marshaled the stinking hordes and performed a massive invasion of this low lying flooded vegetation. 
John Deep Deep In The Shit - And Yes, He Hooked Up!

For now and the foresee-able future any nearby parks, grass fields, shrub-land and farm pastures are no longer the purveyance of man.  This is now carp country folks.

The carp were totally game for a picnic

Turtle grass in Oregon?  Nah, just good old park lawn

I remember as a child having dreams of how bizarre and interesting it would be to live through a flood.  I am sure that most kids have had these visions at some point.  Pictures of floating a canoe down main-street and fishing from your front porch.  The reality is no dream of course.  Floods ruin many lives and livelihoods every year.  Nevertheless, I could feel that childlike fascination creeping in many times over the trip and it truly was amazing to not only fish, but have significant success in these conditions.  Thank you so much John, I will never forget this experience!

How significant was the success?  We will get to that eventually, but if you just can't stand cliff-hangers take a jaunt over to Carp on the fly for the skinny.
Obligatory one-hander.  Eat your heart out WFF, I found a 6lber!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Welcome to the jungle

We fished way back in the shit today on the Big C. John Montana really put us on amazing numbers of fish. It was total dinkin and dunkin as we worked our way through hundreds if not thousands of carp piled up in crazy conditions. Piled up in grass, over roads, under barbed wire and even in flooded picnic areas. John caught fish nearly at will through it all. I had to adjust a little and overcome the most serious case of buck fever I can remember but eventually chilled out and started hookin up at a decent pace.

If next you see me I have full face paint and wearing a gilly suit don't worry. Its just jungle fever, it should pass.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Big C

T-Minus 4 days and counting to the Big C!

Last summer I made a decision.  I was going to start to participate in the vibrant and sometimes bizarre fly-carpin community on-line and on-the-ground.  I was done lurking in the shadows like a thief eager to absorb others thoughts and knowledge without contributing any of my own. 

In December this sometimes awkward but enthusiastic participation payed off when an unbelievably generous offer came my way.  John Montana at Carp On The Fly contacted me out of the clear blue and asked if I would like to come on out to Portland and taste a little Columbia Carpin.   

I accepted immediately.  Why?  Because the fish are enormous and plentiful?  Because I feel like John shares many of my philosophies about fly fishing for carp?  Because John is clearly a great guy and a master of the art?  Yes, yes and definitely yes, but just as importantly this was an opportunity to participate.  To gain a friendship with a fellow enthusiast.  To gain new experiences and expand my fly-carpin horizons.

At some point perhaps I will get a chance to take a lesson from John and pay back or pay forward this generosity.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Algae-Scum-Green With Jealousy

My carpin buddy Miles from MI sent me this today -

"Finally off the schnide with a good fish...Rust colored crazy carper...I wish I would have had the 8 wt as he got very near the backing a couple of times on the 5 and took me into some sparse lily pads in about 7 or 8 feet of water where I thought it would be unworthy knot held!"

Odds are low of me getting out for some carp this weekend, I am algae-scum-green with jealousy.

This is an awesome lake he got this fish out of.  Miles is a really nice guy, he would probably give up the spot to anybody in MI who asks.  Just email him at