Monday, June 24, 2013

Lake Michigan 2013: Day 2 (AKA "The Goods")

It was about 11:00 Saturday morning.  In the past day and a half I had suffered an eight hour flight delay resulting in an all-nighter, we had struggled for a full day to catch one carp (an awesome carp, but still only one), I had ruined my phone, and we had suffered a tic infestation.  A tic infestation of epic proportions including one disgusting specimen that had to be pulled out of my left butt-cheek.  Its a good friend that will do that for you without laughing.  Without laughing until he cries at any rate.  (click here for more details on Day1)

Back to "The Goods".  It was about 11:00 Saturday morning.  A dramatic shift in wind speed and direction had completely shut down our one productive spot from the day before.  We were inspecting our second spot (back in Lake Michigan) of the day from shore with a lack of optimism brought on by previous failure.  Then suddenly we saw it.  A single hell raiser jumped nearly out of the water far out in the massive bay. 

In small water I usually ignore such behavior.  At best it is irrelevant and at worst a bad omen.  In big water it is a very good sign though.  In big water this kind of behavior usually means allot of carp are in the area.  With any luck it means you have found a ton of carp, now you can start to identify where the positive targets are.

We waded in with a new-found enthusiasm and withing 15 minutes are trip was saved.  We were in the middle of a hard-packed mud flat with decent numbers of singles, doubles and triples cruising through with highly predatory body language. 

Once again Ty led the way and was quickly into his backing with another 20 plus pound carp.  As I was netting it I kept joking that Ty "only catches twenties".  It seemed incredible at the time that our only two carp in the net were both so large.. 

Now, I know people will be twitching to know Ty's magic fly at this point.  No magic my friends, no magic at all.  Just the right angler with the right presentation at the right time.  Both Miles and Ty caught almost all their Great-Lakes carp on a 1 to 2 inch olive Jaime's Crazy Karper similar to this one that Miles submitted to this years carp fly swap.

So there it was.  That is big water people.  You either have targets or you don't and there is very little in between.  Very shortly after Ty landed that carp I caught a "small" fifteen pounder.  I almost always consider 15lb a big fish.  At the time it was small, aint perspective a bitch?  Then Miles followed it up with his own personal best.  A beast weighing in at 29lb!

Needless to say I was feeling a little left out of the huge fish department when I stumbled upon a series of cobble bars snaking their way through the mud bottom.  It didn't take long to decide that I really liked that bit of structure.  Large carp would cruise up to the edge of these bars in a bad goby killing mood and I was there too meet them.  In no time at all I too had crushed my personal best with this 27 pounder.  

I know, I know.  That is a whole lot of grip and grins.  You have to understand though.  In the first five fish of the trip all three of us had beaten our personal best.  It was surreal and mind-boggling but believe it or not the best was yet to come because within 45 minutes I hit big. 

I had found a carp casually approaching a bar in water just slightly shallower than most of the fish we had seen so far.  I could see the carp from a long distance and I placed a 60 foot cast (massive for me) right on the edge of the bar 10 feet in front of and in the path of the carp.  It almost didn't work out.  With three feet left to go to my fly the carp started to veer down the edge of the bar and had I not given one small strip it would have missed my fly.  Instead it veered back, moved those three feet with an excruciatingly casual attitude and inhaled my fly (The sculpin helmet bunny shown below) from a good distance.

The first two runs were pretty lame and due to the range I really had no idea how big the fish was.   The third run was bone crushing and I had my first clue that this was something special.  My second clue came a couple of minutes later as I sat staring at my net and then the carp thinking "This is NOT going to fit".  Somehow it did though.   Sort of.  Kind of.  Not really.

Not only was this 34.5lb carp my second personal best in under an hour, in all likelihood I will never surpass it.

We all caught several more fish that day in the 17 to 22 pound range but eventually the wind shifted, the sun dropped and the best 5 or so hours of my fly fishing career was complete.  How good was it?  Well, for perspective I will typically expect to catch one or two carp around 22 pounds in my home waters a year.  Our two day, dozen fish average after the end of Day2?  22lbs!

Thank you Carp Spirits!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lake Michigan 2013: Prelude and Day1

Last weekend I met Miles and Ty (THE Carp Aficionado) for our first fly fishing for carp pilgrimage to Lake Michigan.

In telling the story I would prefer to skip straight to the end of Day1 but I can't.  Triumph without struggle is like Superman sans Lex Luther.  


On the way to the airport my phone was giving it to me from both ends.  On the one hand Miles and Ty simply couldn't wait.  They were starting the party early in the Detroit area.  The carp pictures showing up in my inbox (including a nice pre-trip 20-something pounder for Miles) were bitter-sweet torture that only a punishment-loving carper can enjoy.   

At the same time Delta Airlines was sending me a steady stream of emails.  It started innocently enough.  An hour delay here.  An hour delay there.  That is travel right?  Well, eventually my flight would be delayed almost 8 hours due to a mixture of mechanical issues and lack of stewardesses.    

I didn't end up getting on the road out of Detroit until 5:00AM the next morning.  The delay cost me a rental car, a full night of sleep, the first two hours of fishing and my first red-bull binge.


I finally met up with the crew around 10:00AM Friday morning in the far North-West reaches of Michigan.

We were starting in an area with countless bays, fingers and cuts - all of which were as empty as our rapidly fading delusions of grandeur.  Between the freakish wind direction out of the NE, the four degree cold front and lack of intel or experience with the area we appeared hosed.

We walked.  Then we walked.  Then we drove around a little.  They I think we walked a little more but that part is lost in a sleep deprivation haze.  By the time the day was nearly gone all we had to show for our trouble was two shots at surprisingly spooky carp and eight or nine nice small-mouth bass.  I would show you a picture but I didn't bother to take any.  Who reading this gives a damn about a 2lb SMB?

Now, we are a little slow but not stupid.  Eventually we loaded up and headed for an inlet in an Easterly opening bay.  We prayed to the carp spirits that lining up an on-shore wind with warm inlet water would set us up to finally find some carp.  And we did, or I should say Ty did.

Ty's new personal best 26lb beast of a carp saved the day and brought a sense of energy and purpose to the entire team for Day2.  Now, this begs the question: "If Lake Michigan is the fly fishing for carp promised land what does this fish mean for Lake Huron!?!?!?"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bump in the road

Lake MI better be worth it (it is) cuz recovering from this is gonna require a rental car and an all-nighter.  Except I am getting a little old for that and will probably just lose a chunk of day1

And they just indicated it might delay ANOTHER two hours. #%&&$$&$%&%*&%$#

Monday, June 10, 2013

Orvis Carp Photo Contest

Orvis has initiated a carp central page on their website and is putting on a carp photo contest and they are NOT messing around.  This contest is going to have the kind of backing that only a company of Orvis' stature can put on.  They are going to have several sub-contests with different themes and prizes culminating in a grand prize of an H2 fly-rod.

This weeks theme is "biggest" carp and I would really encourage everybody to participate.  The more participants the more the fun.  Just as importantly Orvis has shown a strong interest in participating in the fly fishing for carp revolution this year.  If we want Orvis (and by extension the rest of the industry) to maintain or even grow that participation we need to support this fun promotion.

Now, frankly I am ineligible because I was consulted an eensy weensy tiny bit along with many of the other carp bloggers.  I really want to participate anyways so as a show of solidarity I am going to submit my smallest carp.  OK, I admit - I like being a bit of a smart-ass too but don't be a smart ass and vote for me.

Friday, June 7, 2013

CARPTORIOUS: Mission Dumb-Luck Grass Carp Accomplished

I haven't spent much time intentionally targeting grass carp.  Chasing common carp on a fly is a sadistic enough pastime for me thank you very much!  Instead I have taken the basic position that I will probably blind dumb-luck myself into that particular species at some point.

Mission blind-dumb luck grass carp accomplished!  

I was working my way down the inside a long shoreline of cat-tails when I saw a long dark shape laying on the bottom facing the cat-tails in about 8" of water.  I was only about 15 feet away and was able to pitch my fly underhand about 2 feet past its nose, pull it across the top and drop the fly 4" directly in front of the fish.  The response was an immediate ,brutal and extremely un-vegetarian like surge forward to take the fly followed by a massive explosion of 16 lb of grass carp going crazy.

The first natural question is what fly did you catch it on?  Grass carp are primarily vegetarians of course and the answer might surprised you.  Earlier this week Eric at Catch Fly Fishing was inspired to add some Fishskull mini sculpin helmets to my McLuvin and sent me a couple to try out.

Make no mistake about it...this is meat!  No way the grassie mistook this fly for a potato, tofu or even soy burger.  Instead this was what I would call a trigger take where something alive appears in front of a resting grass-carp and they instinctively eat.  This is my fourth grass carp take (the other three came up dry) and all but one of them was similar in nature.  

A little more on the Sculpin Helmet McLuvin.  The mini sized sculpin helmets are pleasingly small but this is still a very heavy carp fly.  At long range you are going to scare every carp within a city block if you try and over-hand cast this fly directly to shallow carp.  If, however, you are working in-close with flipping, lobbing, dragging and dropping type presentations at any depth the weight is perfect.  It will also work out quite well in current and directly presented to deeper (knee deep or deeper) tailers.

In other words, if you know when, where and how to apply a heavy meaty carp fly like this it can be very successful.    Today was when, lake YouGottaBeKiddingThisIsTopSecretShit was where and I certainly know how.  As a result I had one my best carpin day of the year so far, all on the Sculpin Helmet McLuvin.   

Sunday, June 2, 2013

CARPTORIOUS - Glorious May

Between moving across town and enjoying my wonderful family and still finding some time to enjoy my favorite carpin month I didn't have much energy left over for blogging this past month.Lazy or over-whelmed.  Take your pick but either way May 2013, which was one of my best carpin months ever - can only be viewed in retrospect.  Enjoy.

I caught allot of carp this month with allot of different flies.  I started the month hammering pond carp.  And I mean hammering.  I found a new pond near my new house that I doubt has ever been fished.  The carp certainly acted like they have never been harassed.  Unfortunately the carp in this pond range from small:

To REALLY small:

Fly fishing for carp is often such a sadistic struggle that it was very refreshing to just go out and catch carp.  I had one half hour span where I caught 6 carp on roughly 6 casts.  It was a riot.  It was also a great opportunity to stankify some swap flies.  Nolan Majchers Egg-Worm did quite well for me in this small pond as well as John Montana's Hybrid Worm.

Small pond carp are fun, but after a while you crave something more significant.  Something with a little more gravitas.  This is particularly true in what I call "Big Fish Month".  Fortunately for one glorious week in May we finally got what I consider the perfect big fish flows on the Denver South Platte.  The water was up and dirty but I was down and dirtier.  I know how to handle it and have the perfect fly for it.  The Trouser Worm with a 5/32" tungsten (AKA like fishing an anchor) is money here.

You have to work your butt off to find the fish in these circumstances, but when you finally do they are almost guaranteed to be feeding hard.  They are also much much more likely to be the big girls who have come out of their hidey holes to play.  And play we did.

And there it is.  Oh yeah, wait.  The place where we will probably live the rest of our productive lives.  I almost forgot about that.  Of course the readers of Fly-Carpin really could care less about the bathrooms, bedrooms blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Instead how about showing off my new and improved fly-tying station!