Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting Motivated to Write More How-To

Last weekend I ran into another carper named Paul on the river and something he said really made me feel good.

I had met him earlier in the season at a local lake.  On that occasion I stopped to talk and learned that this was his first season. He was struggling while he had seen me catching several carp and he asked what I was doing differently.   I felt like it would be easier to show him than explain so we took a walk around the lake trading shots and I showed him how I was presenting the fly differently.

When we met up last weekend one of the first things Paul said was that the advice I had given him and the different methods for presenting the fly I had shown him had made a huge difference in his efforts.  That was awesome and really made me feel great! 

One of the main reasons I started blogging was to add a different perspective on how-to advice for catching carp on flies.  It has been easy to lose sight of those intentions.  Honestly it is incredibly hard to write how-to information.  Much harder than I expected.  Meeting Paul and his kind words reminded me of that so I buckled down and finished a how-to fly fish for carp page I have been thinking about for a while that provides a little bit of information and links up a bunch more.  I am still learning myself.  Hopefully the page and I can improve together.  In the meanwhile, any differing opinions or additional information anybody has to add are welcome in the comments section of that page!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Getting The Sage One and Lamson Lightspeed Stankified!

One of the cool things about Clint and I winning the Carp Slam V  is that the amatuer champion gets showered with cool prizes.  Among those prizes was a Sage One 4 peice 7 weight rod which was delivered to Trout's Fly shop this week.  When combined with the Lamson Lightspeed reel and Scientific Angler SharkSkin line I also won it is undoubtedly the most state-of-the-art combo I have fished in years.  The rods and reels I currently favor date to before father-hood and even before the turn of the century!  I couldn't wait to break this rig in on some carp and stankify it!  Mission accomplished!  Big thanks to Sage, Lamson and Scientific Anglers for supporting the slam and in the process bringing my rig into the 21st century.

My New Sage One Rod and Lampson Lightspeed Reel Get Stankified!
I didn't just break in a new fly rod and reel, I also learned a couple of lessons.  These would not necessarily all be new lessons but are important ones.

Trout's doesn't open until 11:00AM so I had a little bit of time to hit the river prior to picking up the rod.  I arrived at the river at 9:00AM anxious and in a hurry.  In my rush I immediately walked right in and right through a small pod carp feeding in 8" of water.  I did manage to hook and land a decent carp an hour later so all was not lost but those would have been the easiest shots of the day by a large margin. 

LESSON 1:  Fly fishing for carp and being in a hurry just don't mix!

Upon arriving at Trouts I received my new rod and also had them switch the Lamson reel to right hand retrieve.  They seem to be good guys there and I could have probably gotten them to put on the Scientic Anglers Shark-Skin line and adjust the amount of backing but once again I was in a hurry.  I made a bee-line to the river and threw on the super-cheap (15 dollar cheap!) shortened 7 weight line I had on my cheapo backup rod.  I guess they didn't spend much time developing the 800 plus dollar Sage One to cast 15 dollar lines and the line and rod really did not work well together. 

LESSON 2:  Your new super spiffy and super expensive (well, free for me) rod deserves at least a decent line to go with it.  Skip this step and you risk disappointment.  Footnote:  I rigged and tried out the Scientific Anglers Sharkskin today.  That's more like it!

Upon arriving my favorite section of river gifted me with the most amazing sight of five large (all high teen!) carp tailing in plain view.  Based on the lack of cover and some very complicated currents they were actually very difficult shots but based on their body language I fully expected to hook up.  Until I started casting.  These fish were amazingly tolerant and I had shot after shot after shot.  I was a frazzled mess and blew shot after shot after shot.  Bottom line, I needed at least a little bit of practice with the new rod before facing such a high pressure situation.

LESSON 3:  Upon receipt of your super spiffy and super expensive rod the very first cast you make with it should NOT be to a 15+lb carp!

After flailing that pod of fish into hiding things got tough.  The day was getting late, the sun was getting high and the carp were getting sulky.  I kept at it though and eventually got just one more shot.  No worrying about the cast.  No stressing about the presentation.  My mind finally shut the heck up and let my body do what it has done hundreds of times this year.  I threw a perfect lob-drag-drop and had the fishes attention.  One small strip and it charged.  I threw the 4" strip set too early but it was OK because the fish really wanted that Trouser Worm and charged again.  A slight pause on the second strip-set and minutes later the rod and reel were broken in on a nice strong carp. 

LESSON 4:  All it takes is one truly incredibly awesome visual take and all else is forgiven.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Carp Ninja and The Crouching Tiger Stalking Heron

I didn't make up the "carp ninja" term.  I am not sure who did but I absolutely love it and will continue to shamelessly steal it.  Carp Ninja perfectly describes what is among the most critical skills for regularly catching carp on flies.  Carp aren't quite as spooky as people make out but they certainly posses more awareness than the average fish.  It takes a while but with some pretty simple skills and changes in behavior you should have the capability to regularly get much closer to feeding carp.

Walk Like This
Walk Like This?
More than anything else carp sense the vibrations that we make as we walk on the bank or in the water.  We must compromise between maintaining silence and covering water but in general an experienced carper will make every step slow, controlled and in a deliberate fashion.  Remember back to childhood when you would heel-toe into the kitchen for a late night snack after bed-time with every step full of suspense and tension.  Go back to that time.  Recapture that feeling and you are on your way.

Some surfaces will defeat the most experienced carp ninja and it may be a good idea to actually plan your approach around them as much as possible.  Heavily entangled undergrowth can be frustrating as every step seems to snap twigs no matter what you do.  Gravel and Cobble is even worse.  As you become aware of the your vibrations walking on cobble becomes almost physically painful.  If you cannot avoid these kind of surfaces take your time and tread lightly.

Wading introduces additional problems and many experienced carpers avoid it whenever possible.  When you push through the water you make pressure waves that travel through the water.  These pressure waves can frighten carp from a significant distance.  Additionally you cannot directly hear the noise and vibrations that your feet are making on the bottom.  Learn to feel the noise you are making on the bottom as it transfers up into your feet.  Your feet give you constant feedback and every vibration that you feel is like a klaxon warning to carp.

I have an old ratty pair of shoes with the soles worn almost all the way through.  I absolutely love fishing in these shoes because I feel everything.  Unfortunately they have betrayed me twice this year leading to wet, dangerous and embarrassing encounters with the bottom.  These shoes are now relegated.

That dang turtles beats the rabbit every time
All creatures sense motion.  Notice sometime that it is easier to see a carp in motion.  Carp also see you better when you are in motion.  The slower the motion the less observable.

When working to very close carp it can be helpful to avoid over-hand casts as much as possible.  At close range I will hold the line to load the rod and perform flip casts, under-hand pendulum casts or slow overhand lob casts.  At medium range I will often roll cast even when there is nothing behind.  I posses more accuracy with a roll cast or single handed spey cast but the casting stroke is also less sudden and visible.

When walking the bank and making your approach it is a good idea to concentrate on keeping your motions controlled and slow.  Walking slowly reduces your vibrations, makes it harder for the carp to detect you and reduces the occurrences of stumbling right up to a tailing carp.

Cover your arse
There are several forms of cover that make it harder for a carp to get wise to your presence.  Dirty water provides the absolute best (or worst depending on your perspective) cover.  Best because the dirtier the water the closer you can get to carp.  The worst because the dirtier the water the harder it is to find carp and detect takes.  It can be hard to feed carp in dirty water, but you can get much closer and must take advantage of the opportunity!  This video was filmed in water with about 1" of visibility.  I laid out dead still on the bank with just my hand sticking out patiently for a good half hour trying to touch tailing carp.  I managed to touch two which goes to show that you can get very close in the right conditions!

Foreground provides another valuable source of cover.  Hiding behind a bush, tree, shopping cart or whatever you have available works great.  Fishing from behind a bush will drive you crazy at times but take advantage of anything that breaks up or hides your profile.  I caught my biggest fish last year completely blind while hiding behind a 6 foot bush fishing in crystal clear water to super-spooky cruising carp.  When I saw a carp cruise under the bush I lobbed my fly up and over the bush, counted one thousand one and set the hook.  Seeing the take rocks but the mystery of blindly setting a hook into 31" of resistance brings it's own satisfaction.

Background cover may be the most critical and commonly missed for of cover.  Next time you are fishing with a buddy pay attention to how easily you can resolve a human figure highlighted against the sky or a distance backdrop.  Objects in the foreground stand out like a sore thumb in these conditions.  Then have your friend move right up against some brush.  Regardless of how he/she is dressed they become much less obvious when the background is close.  Pay close attention to what is behind you.  Open sky is bad.  A cliff, tangled mess of brambles or even cement works nicely and the closer the better.

Shadow gives even more cover.  Direct sunlight makes you easier to spot.  Much like the ninjas of yore try and work from the shadows whenever possible.

Maintaining a low profile
Sometimes no cover can be had.  Perhaps the fish are in the middle of a crystal clear flat.  Perhaps they are tight against a barren shoreline.  Your odds of getting really close to a fish go way down but as much as possible you still need to put the stalk on.  Beyond moving slowly and quietly the you can add reducing your profile to your toolbox.    Moving in a crouch or even on your knees helps as long as you can still see the fish.  Anybody who spends much time fishing high country trout streams spends a significant amount of time fishing from their knees.  Why not do the same for carp who are at least as skittish?  My biggest carp to date took the fly while I was on my knees.  I hooked and landed my second carp in this years carp slam after I crawled 50 feet on my knees to get into position on a large open sand flat. 

Blending In
Camo hasn't made it into my wardrobe.  Yet.  Whatever it takes right?  At this point I focus on wearing drab natural colors like tan or a light olive in cover.  Some carpers switch to a light blue shirt to better blend in with the sky if they expect to be in the open.  I have followed suit but I cannot say if it makes a difference.  I did accidentally wear a bright red jacket to the water once this winter.  I will never make that mistake again!

Crouching Tiger Stalking Heron
During this summers Oregon carping trip with John Montana I often stopped just to watch John fish.  On one occasion he suddenly switched from casual stalk to full on crouching tiger stalking heron.  The difference was startling.  I broke out the camera and managed to catch this sequence.  That my friends is a carp ninja in action.
Every move was slow and deliberate with a low-profile posture.  Money.

Like I said, Money!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fly-Carpin is ditching the .blogspot

On a whim this weekend I switched from www.flycarpin.blogspot to the custom domain www.flycarpin. Fly-Carpin is no longer under the thumb of blogspot. Picture a kilted man on a hill holding his sword on high. Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedoommmmmmmmmm.

When mom would ask "If your friends jumped off a cliff would you?" I never knew quite what to say. Too little data. How high is the cliff? Why did they jump off the cliff? What is so cool down there? I will let you know.

Of course it actually means very little. Neither you the readers nor I the faux-wannabe-journalist should notice any appreciable difference. Hopefully.

If you feel like it you can change your bookmarks or any links although I am not sure that is even necessary since all traffic to the old .blogspot subdomain gets re-routed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Carp Spririts Are Angry

It has been a heck of a month and an incredible season fly fishing for carp.  As a result I have been feeling pretty full of myself.  I think this has displeased the carp spirits.  Call me pagan, but sometimes I think the carp spirits are speaking to me.  The conversation Friday morning would have gone something like this:

CS:  "Feeling like hot stuff lately aren't you?"
McTage:  "Yeah, pretty pleased.  Heading out to target some big fish."
CS:  "Repent!  You are just a man!  How would you like a 15deg cold front?"
McTage:  "Well, OK.  I can adjust to that."
CS:  "Hundreds if not thousands of carp in relatively shallow and clear water."
McTage:  "Now your talking!"
CS:  "Except these will be ultra spooky carp that detect you to 30 feet."
McTage:  "I can be pretty sneaky"
CS:  "On an overcast day where you can only detect the carp to 4 feet."
McTage:  "Torture!"
CS:  "While we are at it lets throw in a thunderstorm that rains and lightnings over you and only you.  At about a half mile in diameter you will be able to see dry people on the far side of the lake.  When you give up the storm will immediately dissipate."
McTage:  "Plan B?"
CS:  "Yeah, we better algae bloom plan B while we are at it."
McTage:  "I repent!" 

I better wash my lucky hat or something.  It worked in March on a day where I felt similarly eaten by the bear.