Friday, December 30, 2011

CARPTORIOUS: Running the Gauntlet and Reviewing The Year

It has been a heck of a year.  I caught a ton of carp on flies and made some good friends in the process.  For a while now I had a silly personal goal for 2011.  I had hoped to run the gauntlet and catch at least one carp in every month.  With this 11lb carp on a proto-headstand this morning I caught my first carp of December and my last carp of 2011.  Mission accomplished, I can cast off 2011 and welcome 2012 fully satisfied.

This blog and I have accomplished many things in 2011.  Some are only personally satisfying while others were surprisingly important even in the big picture.

In April I won the MFC / OBN Fly Designer Contest with the Primordial Crust.  That was really cool because at some point this year people will be able to buy one of my flies and catch some carp on it.

In June I went to Oregon to visit John Montana from Carp On The Fly.  We had a blast in some unique conditions and caught many carp including my personal best at 23 pounds and his biggest carp of the year at 33lbs. 

In July I happened upon what I call the carp bubble of 2011 and had my best day ever for carp where I hooked 24 fish in 6 hours.  There were so many fish tailing close to shore on that day that I took an hour break to lay out on the bank, take some video and see if I could reach out and touch a tail.  It was awesome.

In August Clint Packo and I won the 2011 Denver South Platte Carp Slam.   We had incredible luck on the beats and hooked a ridiculous number of fish while supporting a good cause.  That good cause is starting to come to fruition.  We also lost a ridiculous number of fish but landed enough to bring home the victory.  It was really fun to win (who doesn't like to win something every once in a while) but as much as anything I have to admit that it was fun to be a big deal at the after-party.  Five minutes of fame for a wall flower such as myself is always fun.

In November I found the Sand Creek Oil Spill.  I and the Denver South Platte got a little bit lucky on this.  Without the voice that this blog gives me and the help of Gregg the spill may have gone un-contained for days or weeks longer than it did.

Which brings us to the end of 2011.  It has been a great year, I am looking forward to the next.  Here is to a happy new year and many fish landed for Fly-Carpin and all it's supporters.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Zack's Fly-Guy Fly

I have had a hard time with the blog since the oil spill.  The best part about blogging about something trivial like being obsessed about fly fishing for carp is exactly that.  In the grand scheme of things it is meaningless.  Lets face it, the only real profound thing about fly-fishing for carp is that in this country we have the time and freedom to obsess about ridiculous pursuits of passion.  

Then this pleasantly trivial blog had to actually go and accomplished something profound.  It has nearly ruined it for me.  I am about over it, truly profound is not what I signed up for.  I sat down to write a post about the disturbing amount of residual contaminant that Will Rice and I found scouting around the South Platte on Tuesday but I simply can't.    

Instead here is what my son and I did today.  We sat down and tied a fly together for no good reason beyond a sudden curiosity on his part.  He wanted an orange and red tail with a blue body and eyes.  He also wanted fins and even made me a diagram.  I was actually stumped on how to help him add fins.  I havent tried to add fins to a fly pattern in years.

He is old enough now that with a little help he was able to do most of the work with some help from Dad.  Pleasant big-picture triviality with a hint of personal import. 

Zack's Fly-Guy

Next summer we should be able to coax a trout or two from the kids pond at Tin-Cup with Zack's Fly-Guy.  For no good reason except that we can.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Fly-Carpin Year In Review - By The Numbers

There is a thought process out there that fishing should not be about the numbers.  I guess the theory states that there is something immature about tracking the quantity and size of fish that you catch.  Guilty as charged.

As we near the end of the year I though that people might like to see some of my numbers.  In order to maintain a pretense of maturity I made these charts in percentage of carp landed in order to gloss over the total number.  I will say that the total was somewhere between 100 and 200.   

First off lets look at percentage of fish I landed this year by type of water.  I almost would rather not!  It almost hurts that I caught 20% of my carp in 2011 in 4 days on the Columbia River which is several thousand miles away.  What a fishery, I cant wait to get back!!!!

Next lets look at some flies.  Tracking numbers on flies can be misleading.  As you can see I caught most of my carp on four patterns.  These are good patterns but I have confidence in these flies and fish them allot so you are really dealing with a chicken and the egg scenario.  That being said, I really do believe that these are stellar patterns.  Right now I am really excited about the column named "Proto HeadStands".  This is a new series of fly I have been working on and they were pretty hot for me in October / November.

And finally lets look at the percentage of carp caught by month.  Anybody who looks at this chart should really ask one question.  Why on earth does this idiot bother fly fishing for carp anytime but June and July?  First off, May was really stellar, particularly for big fish.  I just had bad luck with weather in May this year and didn't get allot of time on the water.  August really went better than it looks as well.   I just had my worst month in terms of landing percentage ever.  Otherwise I worked hard for the carp for the rest of the year but it was worth it.

You may notice that I am ofer in December.  Geesh, less than 10 days to go to catch a fish in every month of 2011.  It aint looking goodn for our hero.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mr P's First Fly Fishing For Carp How-To Video

Mr P has posted his first fly fishing for carp how-to video from his "Lessons From The Carp Lodge" series.  Really cool and he has worked hard on this.  What I particularly like is that it highlights some tight-quarters methods. 

Too much stuff on the Internet about fly fishing for carp focuses on glory crap.  You know, young and tanned dude-brahs dressed like they just slipped tripped and fell of a Bahamian island somewhere bombing 60 foot casts semi-blind to uber aggressive tailing carp that find and hammer the fly as it is stripped back in.  Don't get me wrong, I fish at range with an active fly whenever I can and aspire to dude-brahedness but at least in these parts, most of the time it just doesn't go down like that.

As a total bonus Mr P is hilarious.  When I get the chance I am gonna tell my wife I am excited to spawn.  Not sure if she will get the joke though.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Upper Denver South Platte To Get a Face-lift

With the recent desecration of the Denver South Platte it is good to get some good news about unrelated pro-active positive action.  It is official, the section of the DSP below Chatfield is to get a big face- lift that will significantly improve the ecosystem.  Congratulations to the Greenway Foundation, Denver Trout Unlimited and the various local and state agencies involved. 

One interesting aspect of this is that the original feasibility study was paid for by Denver Trout Unlimited using funds from the Carp Slam.  About six years ago DTU formed an unholy alliance with the carp and fly-carpers in their backyard and good things have happened ever since.  For those that adhere to the carp spirits this is no coincidence. 

This presentation detailing the enhancement plan is fascinating and informative.  Amazing really.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sand Creek Petroleum Spill: Boots On The Ground

On Monday I couldn't stand not knowing if we are getting the sunshine pump on the Sand Creek spill any longer.  I took a half day to put my boots on the ground and take a look for myself.  It was freezing cold (17F) but I spent a good amount of time giving the area the once-over and I am very glad I went.

No matter how hard you look you cannot count parts per billion benzene on your fingers.  Nevertheless I have to admit that from what I can see, smell and feel there does appear to be major progress in containing the spill.  I wouldn't go drinking the water until tests indicate otherwise but I could find nothing to dispute the assertion that the contamination is contained.

Here is what I found:
Looking down the deadly barrel of Sand-Creek from the DSP you can see a giant vacuum crane in the distance.  That is at the spill site.  The fog coming off the water made for a surreal atmosphere.
Looking right up the deadly barrel of Sand Creek, the crane vacuum in the background is at the spill site.
This bird of prey showed up and gave me the evil eye while I was giving the river my own evil eye.  I also spotted a large Eagle less than a half mile away.  This is not really pertinent beyond highlighting the unusual amount of nature hidden in the industrial armpit of Denver.
He digs fish, I dig fish, so I hope we are cool.
Hundreds of critter tracks ran through the snow down to the river.  I would like to call that a good sign, but I suspect they have to drink daily regardless of the water quality. 

The birds carpers love to hate were swimming in significant numbers below the 270 bridge. I refuse to credit these carp-spooking terrors with too much intelligence but Ducks can easily move on if they do not like the conditions.  I take that as a good sign.
Yup, I was actually happy to see ducks for once. 
Unfortunately all was not well on the critter front though.  While closely inspecting the water in the DSP for sheen I saw at least 20 dead bugs of about 4 or 5 varieties float by in under 5 minutes.  Some had wings while others looked to be stillbirths.  I guess I may have witnessed some kind of crazy natural hatch, but since it was 15deg out I find that unlikely.  I hope it was, because otherwise I worry that the carp will survive the contamination only to starve through the winter.

Dont mind the foam, that is from the warmwater treatment plant.

I brought this one home in a water bottle for a better picture.   It almost worked.

At the spill site itself the activity was fast, furious and completely indecipherable from a safe distance.  They do have some serious equipment in play, you can see a sense of urgency and the now famous "trench" would appear to be a little more complicated than a simple hole in the sand.

At the confluence the work at the source appears to be paying off.  Sand Creek still sports five booms but the full time guy vacuuming up gunk behind them has been replaced with somebody keeping an eye out for escapements.  I could see one small (less area than a bathtub?) clump of contamination trapped behind one of the booms but that was it.  I hope that they periodically hook the vacuum back up to get the remnants, but from what I have heard about the early mitigation this appears to be a huge improvement.
Residual Crud
I spent much of my time getting my nose and eyes up close to the water down in the South Platte.  There are no petroleum odors emanating from the water.  I could not see the main current because of the waste-water treatment suds and fog coming from the water, but saw absolutely no evidence of sheen.    
No sheen or smell from the margins
I took home some of the water in a water bottle.  I wanted to see if anything separated out over time and if any smell accumulated.  I opened it today and there is no visual or olfactory indication of contamination.  It smells like normal slightly urbanized DSP water.  In other words it does not smell like flowers and butterflies but at least it doesn't smell like a gas station.
So seperation or odor 2 days later.  Very encourang.
All good news so far, expect for the possible bug kill.  Unfortunately I was not done.  After so carefully inspecting the surface of the water I decided to dig a little deeper and reached in and pulled up some vegetation trapped against a rock.  There was a definite petroleum odor in this muck.  Once again I captured a sample in a water bottle.  Several days later I see no sign of anything separating out, but there is no doubt that it smells strongly like gasoline.  It would seem that at least on the margins the muck, gunk and vegetation has trapped some of the contamination.  Although the spill may be contained this is a strong indication that there are significant residual condemnations in the river itself.

Two days later and this vegetation smells like a gas-station

Overall I am encouraged.  The evidence I found of residual issues is disturbing but not surprising.  The fact that I can find no indications of significant contamination flowing into the Platte makes me feel much better and at least in my opinion it would appear that as of Monday we are not getting the sunshine pump about containment.

Friday, December 2, 2011

More Thoughts on The Sand Creek Oil Spill

The Suncor Sand Creek petroleum disaster has profound implications on many levels.

On a purely personal and emotional level I have found the whole experience extremely distressing.  The DSP is my river, my shrine, my temple and being the one to find it being desecrated was crushing.  I love this river and am far from alone.

Will Rice from the Drake has a talent for capturing the odd emotional connection so many of us have with this river.  I really enjoy his work which often manages to combine a series of quirky thoughts and images which seem oddly or even trivially connected into a profound package that speaks to me.  He touched a nerve in this slide show video that I highlighted just less than a month ago.  I refuse to watch it right now because this time I really will cry.  Will published an article today titled S. Platte Bitten by Benzene AttackThis article perfectly captures the knot of emotional confusion and distress juxtaposed with a unlikely sense of hope that I am feeling in a way that I probably can't communicate.  

I am also concerned with what this says about the capability of our government to enforce and regulate the environmental laws that protect our precious natural resources.  I fear that this and other trends are indicators that we as a nation are on the path to in some small way repeat history.  In previous generations the Denver South Platte could not support higher life forms, the Cleveland River burned and environmental disasters were buried wherever somebody could find a convenient rug to sweep them under.  This is a grave thought.  When considering such thoughts our emotional fears have validity but there is a time and place to set them aside.   

I could be biased because Bruce Finley was a key player in getting the ball rolling on verifying the spill.  Nevertheless in the area of fair, balanced, detailed and accurate coverage I have yet to find anything even remotely approaching his Denver Post article Cleanup orders at Colorado's Suncor refinery spill into Sand Creek officially issued.  When Bruce interviewed me he continuously made a point to steer the interview away from conjecture and emotion towards the facts and it shows in his article.  He has provided the most accurate and complete coverage I have found.

This article contains a significant amount of information that is disturbing or even frightening but I see something else right now.  I may just want to see it.  It may be that despite my best intentions I simply cannot discard emotion.  Nevertheless I see some hope.  Some indication that at least once the shit hits the fan our environmental agencies still have teeth.

I see other reasons for hope. 

Denver Trout Unlimited (of which I am a member) was already working hard to protect the DSP.  Without their influence I would have not have known that I could, and perhaps no even that I should call somebody.  That knowledge should provide a level of gratification that can only galvanize and energize the effort.

The Greenway foundation is still here and they are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Finally the fishing and other recreational usage of this wonderful resource will continue to increase.  As more and more people discover and grow to love this unique urban oasis polluters will find it harder and harder to accidentally or even maliciously desecrate the DSP.  We are the front line.