Sunday, July 28, 2013

Its Raining Its Pouring, but the Carp Spirits are Smiling

When I woke up I was so stumped as to how in the heck I was going to catch a carp today that I took my time getting up and getting going.  It had been raining all night and the weather man was predicting overcast skies and temps 15 degrees below normal.  So I slept in a little, tied some flies and even worked on some new graphics for the site before hitting the road.

I can't remember ever fishing these kinds of conditions in Colorado in July.  My best guess was that the low pressure front would push them deep in still-water so I headed to the river. 

The flows didn't look totally out of line on-line but when I arrived it was clear that the river was completely blown.  Chocolate milk.  As I approached the river my first thought was "If I don't find carp with their backs out of the water I am...".  That thought was rudely interrupted by "Holy crap that carp's back is three inches out of the water!".  And thus began one of my best day on the Denver South Platte to date.

I have experienced this same pattern several times in the winter and early spring and it is so much fun.  It had not even occurred to me that it would hold true in July.  The pattern is this;  The fish will be very very very hard to find, but every single fish is eating somewhere in the river.  The few fish you do find will be feeding hard withing dapping distance of shore,  If you put your fly in the right location and a carp sees it, the carp will eat it.  Period.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trivial (but fun) Milestone

The biggest, smallest, fattest, longest.  Sometimes it seems as though tracking such artificial milestones is a little frowned upon in the fly fishing community.  Not me.  I think milestones are fun and harmless.

This was not my biggest, smallest or anything-est carp on the fly really.  Decidedly average.  It was, however, my 100th carp so far in 2013. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Colorado Carper In King Trout's Court

Denver Trout Unlimited president Cory Stansbury told me a funny story last night at the Carp Slam kickoff meeting.  It seems that him and his family recently had an extended stay in England.  While there he managed to wrangle a couple of hours on the river Wye.

It didn't take long for Cory to score his first inter-continental trout.  This triumph of DIY fishing came on a lime Humpy of all things.  Because, well, it's limey right?  Had to be done.

Shortly there-after he noticed three very large browns sipping top in the middle of the stream.  Now, Cory is a fishermen not a casting champion and despite his best efforts he could barely get within range.  It turns out that barely in range was enough though and on his first cast he miraculously placed that same lime Humpy just a couple of feet upstream of the rythmically rising trio.  A slurp and a set and an extended battle later and Cory landed the biggest brown of his life.

Bugle-Mouth Brown that is.

Cory lives within biking distance of some of the best carp sections of the legendary Denver South Platte but has had a heck of a time catching his first carp on the fly.  It turns out that sometimes all you need is a change of scenery.  And a lime Humpy.  Who knew?

EDIT:  The story gets more ironic.  Evidently this is in fact a Chub not a carp!  So poor Cory is still on the carp shnide!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sculpin Helmet (SH) McLuvin Carp Fly

The Sculpin Helmet (SH) McLuvin is an adaptation of McTage's McLuvin thought up by Eric Bebee at CATCH Fly Fishing.  As you may know I often use a tripod of bead-chain and a bead to create a headstand effect for my carp flies.  In late May Eric had the idea to replace the tripod on the McLuvin with the new Fish-Skull "Mini" sized sculpin helmets.  He sent me a few for testing and with the exception of asking for a hook change I liked them so much they are going directly onto my favorite carp flies list.

The head-stand attitude and swimming action is perfect but at first I was worried that they would be too heavy.  They ARE heavy, but this June/July I spent allot of time slow-wading knee and thigh deep water for pre and post-spawn tailers.  It turns out that the SH McLuvin is perfect for that, and I ended up fishing it almost exclusively for over a month.  I even broke them out on Lake MI and caught two nice carp on it there.  I had such a good month that there is no way I can keep this fly off my favorite carp fly list.  It even landed my first grass carp!

(click to enlarge)

This is NOT the fly that you want on the end of your like if you are fishing 8" deep flats.  Don't get me wrong, if you are fishing knee deep flats and bump into a shallow fish you can make it happen,

As a matter of fact I have already caught several carp in super shallow water with it using various indirect presentations but that is just not what nature intended for this fly.  Instead this fly should come to mind when you are fishing to to deep (knee to mid-thigh) tailers.

Now, in terms of the presentation this fly seems to be very noticeable to tailing carp.  I don't know if the head makes turbulence on the drop or if the broad flattened profile is more noticeable but the dinner plate seems to be bigger with this fly than normal.  For whatever reason I can make carp move further than I am used to for this fly.  I have repeatedly found that I can drop the fly 6 to 8" further away from tailing carp than I expect and still trigger a response.  Generally making carp move to your fly if they will is a good idea because it makes detecting the take easier.


RECIPE:  This is the recipe for an olive version which is what I have caught all the carp on so far.

  • Hook:  Size 6 CarpPro Gaper
  • Thread:  140 Denier, any color
  • Body:  Spirit River UV2 dubbing Scud Shrimp Olive. 
  • Tail:  Wapsi micro pine squirrel zonker, sculpin olive. 
  • Collar:  1 to 3 wraps of the same micro pine squirrel.
  • Head:  Fish-Skull mini sculpin helmet, olive.
I haven't fished it yet but a rust version seems reasonable (doesn't it always?) with rust pine squirrel, brown sculpin helmet and the "Scud Shrimp Fl Orange" UV2 dubbing. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

MUST ALWAYS Strip-Set Is a Dirty Word

I hear it on a regular basis.  You MUST ALWAYS strip-set carp.  I hate blind paradigms.

When should we not strip set carp on the fly?  For many of you my answer is going to be very surprising.  For some my answer is going to actually be offensive!  I trout set carp most of the time and I am going to tell you why you probably should as well.  Just please read on before you decide I am stupid.

First of all I certainly know how to strip-set.  Before carp I had a long and healthy addiction to blind fishing streamers for predatory fish.  For this style of fishing trout-set is a dirty word and for good reason!  When you are stripping streamers for predatory fish a trout set is just absolutely ridiculous.

So, why in the heck would it be different for carp?  Well, partially because MUST ALWAYS is actually the only dirty word for carp, but there are actual reasons.  Really good ones.

First of all 90% of the time you are not stripping streamers for carp.  You sure as hell shouldn't be at any rate.  There are exceptions.  There are always exceptions.  Remember, MUST ALWAYS is the only dirty word.  At certain times of year in certain bodies of water you can and should present a steadily swimming or stripped fly to carp but it is the exception not the rule!  Unfortunately this exception means that guys from Lake Michigan or Blackfoot Reservoir and similarly freakish fisheries are gonna think I am stupid.  So be it.

In general you are better off presenting the fly on a dead drop onto the dinner platter with little or no action.  Even when you do apply action it should be small twitches or strips with significant pauses.  As a result you may not be perfectly tight to the fly when the fish eats.  As a matter of fact it is often better to NOT be perfectly tight to the fly because carp often try and inhale the fly from a distance and If you have the fly under tension it can prevent it from getting to the carp.  The less tight you are to the fly the less effective a strip-set is.

Now second of all carp have soft mouths.  One of the arguments I have heard for strip-setting is that you cannot generate enough force with a trout-set.  That is true.  For Tarpon!  That is true for a whole lot of predatory species, but not Carp.  A Carp's mouth is tough but fleshy and not too dissimilar to the flesh on a persons hand.  So, I will make a deal for anybody who doesn't believe that I can trout-set with enough force to set the hook in a carp's mouth.  We will make a little bet.  You hold a hook in your hand.  I trout set.  Here is the bet.  I betcha it is gonna hurt like hell when I bury that hook all the way into the bend!  And no, I do not always remember to de-barb.

The third reason may be the most profound.  I call it carpin's dirty little secret.  You know how they say that 90% of fish caught fly fishing are within 50 feet?  Well for carp the number is really more like twenty feet.  Now given that you typically have a nine foot rod and a nine foot leader it turns out that most of the time if you have your rod-tip on the water and want to strip set under 20 feet your leader to line connection is going to be inside the guides.  Often when you strip set the leader knot is going to hang up on a guide and you won't set the hook at all!

Being close to the fish creates other issues with the strip-set.  Primarily, when you don't have any significant fly-line between you and the fish you don't have anything to absorb the shock of a strip set.  Unless you are really good at slipping the strip-set you are going to break off allot of close-in fish in the initial shock.   People who have just made the transition from SMB to carp are particularly likely to hold the strip-set too long and shock their leader.  Additionally, when you start to get within dapping range (lets call it 15 feet) strip setting starts to become extremely awkward from a physical  standpoint.  Imagine for example trying to strip-set when you only have three feet of line out and your rod-tip is directly above the carp's head.  It just doesn't work!

Now, another common argument for strip-setting carp is that you some-how get a better, deeper and more positive hook-set and land more fish with a strip-set.  I strongly dis-agree.  I trout set roughly 80 percent of the time and I land a shocking percentage of the carp I hook.  A stunning percentage.  Many people catch more carp than I do but I know of none who land them at a higher percentage.  I fully expect to land every single fish I hook and even though it doesnt always work that way I am legitimately pissed when it doesn't.

Often when I do lose a fish it is either because I had to strip-set and hooked it in the soft delicate skin lining of the roof of the mouth and it pulled out under heavy pressure or because I held the strip-set too long and broke it off.  Trout-setting seems to do a better job at lifting the fly up and burying it deeply into the strong rubbery upper lip, particularly at close range.

And finally, the best carp fisherman that I have ever fished with (John Montana) trout sets even more than I do!  As far as I can tell John Montana catches as many or more carp than anybody else in the country.  I have fished with him on multiple occasions.  His carp catching ability is awe inspiring.  You are going to have to argue hard and fast to convince me he is doing it all wrong.

So, when SHOULD you strip set for carp?

1)  You should usually strip set when fishing to carp at range.  Lets call it > 40 feet.
2)  You should always strip set if you absolutely have no chance of visually detecting the take because of poor or no visibility and must feel the take.
3)  When continuous stripping or swimming a fly.

That is about it folks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

News and Stuff

I have a couple of things to show you.  First off, the latest issue of CarpPro is out and includes an article I wrote about the CarpPro Gaper hooks.  Usually when I get asked to review a product it is not a fun experience, but I was pumped to write this article because I really do love the Gaper hooks.

Secondly we have a winner in the Instagram #gnarlyfishinghat contest.  Congratulations to freestateflyangler.  His hat was pretty disgusting but his story was even better!

Per freestateflyangler:
"sweat stained from hours on the water, scuffed up and torn in several spots where my German shepherd had bitten and scratched with his paws in a successful effort to dig and pull me out of the mud and silt and save me from drowning when a huge section of bank that I was on above a deep section of water gave way tumbling myself and the mass of dirt within the depths of the river, proceeding to suck me under with no footing until my dog scratched his way down to me and biting and pulling at my clothing until I could reach solid roots with my hands and pull myself to solid ground."

And finally, I have been keeping pretty detailed track of how many carp I have caught by body or water, month and fly since 2011.  I thought you all might be interested in this chart.  Double-Click to enlarge:

Naturally there is a bit of a chicken and the egg situation here.  I catch a ton of carp on the Leather Trouser Worm because it is a good fly but also because I am confident in it and tie it on.  Allot!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gnarliest Instagram Fishing Hat?

I recently joined Instagram.  Word on the streets was that the Fly Fishing for Carp Revolution is strong on Instagram.  It is the truth!  There is much much more fly fishing for carp content on Instagram than Twitter and it is much much easier to find than on Facebook.

Now, Fly-Carpin is as much a celebration of the online carp cultural revolution as it is a spot for reports and how-to.  In order to celebrate what is going on at Instagram I have done two things.

First I have teamed up with CarpPro and Trouts Fly Fishing to put on a little photo contest for the gnarliest fishing hat.  Go here for details:

The loot is going to be pretty sweet for such a silly little contest.  Winner will get some CarpPro Gaper hooks, some carp flies tied by me AND a new Trouts Fly Fishing trucker hat to replace that nasty lid with.

The Loot!

Any pics of hats posted with the hashtag #gnarlyfishinghat and/or #gnarlyfishinghatcontest by midnight July 16th are eligible.  No need to like such and such or this guy or the other.  That is not the point.  Just post a pic of your fishing hat for fun!

Here are the hats that have been posted to #gnarlyfishinghat so far (updates whenever you come to this page):

Secondly I have added a new filtered feed to the side-bar (called "InstaLips") of Fly-Carpin that shows recent posts to Instagram with the hashtag #carponthefly.  Sooooooo.....if you are on Instagram and want your pics to show up on Fly-Carpin be sure and use that hashtag.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Token Trout 2013

Three summer in existence and Fly-Carpin already has traditions.  Traditions like the 4th of July token trout post.  This year I decided to throw tradition aside and took my wife out for her first fly-fishing expedition instead.

High country trout streams are perfect for first-time fly fishers!

Armed with size 12 cast-off waders, a five weight, a size 12 royal coachmen and as little advice and nagging as I could muster my Mommacita came through with this year's token trout in no time at all!

Now, this is a very small stream.  You may need a little help seeing this years token trout:

I know I know.  It is a little harsh (and perhaps foolish) to label your wife's first fly fishing triumph "token".  Trust me, I know something you don't.  Shortly after that she caught the biggest trout I have ever seen in this creek. 

Must be a banner year because I caught the second biggest trout I have ever seen in this creek! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lake MIchigan 2013 Day 3 (AKA The Winds of Change)

The cruel heart-less winds of change.  One day they bring treasure, the next they deliver heart-break.  Overnight the wind had changed direction and doubled in magnitude.

On the great lakes the winds are the carp Pied Piper.  They whimsically push around the warm water and where the warm water goes the carp follow.  In this case the wind was now cycling cold water across yesterday's miracle flat and it was a waste-land.  All we found was a couple of stray carp cruising through on their way somewhere else and this odd aquatic worm.

The smart move would have been to find a new flat in a new bay, but leaving the spot where you just had one of your best days fishing ever is extremely difficult.

Fortunately the area we were fishing was large and complicated.  Islands, long points, ridges, sloughs, and small offshoot bays all added up to some of the most complicated hydrodynamics you can imagine.  With enough time putting our boots on the ground we found a small section where the water in a small bay of super-shallow super-heated water was being pushed out into a shallow slough by the wind.  This water was a good 20 degrees warmer than water 30 feet away and that had drawn in at least some carp.  They were neither as large nor as hungry as yesterday's targets but beggars cannot be choosers.  These carp were also significantly shallower than yesterday's and that is Ty's game.  For the third day in a row Ty drew first blood.  And second blood and third as a matter of fact!

Between the high winds, long range and shallow depth I just couldn't seem to get the presentation right.  I never did get it right as a matter of fact, until I totally changed it up.  After switching to a smaller Sculpin-Head McLuvin fly and wading onto an island on the far side of the slough I had a pod of 5 fish swim right up to me in total seek and destroy mode.  Easy money.

And that was that.  We didn't know it yet but that spot and every other spot within wading distance in the area was done.  Believe me, we wasted almost the rest of the day inspecting it all and did not get another real shot.

Once again we had to change it up and we got in the car and dramatically changed spots.  I only wish we had done so sooner.

The day was nearly gone. Miles was slowly working his way down a bank and into the depths of a windblown bay ahead of Ty and I.  I had cast my fly in front of several shadows which seemed to be lazily vacating the area and had turned to essentially tell Ty they were onto us when my my rod was nearly torn from my hands.  The rare accidental semi-blind casted at carp.  Very rare.  Very very rare.

After that Ty and Miles went on ahead to work the rest of the available shoreline while I stayed in the same spot.  After such a lucky fish I was really just considering my day done.  On a whim however I stepped out on to a large rock jutting out into deeper water.  Something about the change in vantage opened a window into the depths and I could several carp feeding heavily in waist deep water.  I was blown away.  Some of these fish were less then 10 feet from where Miles netted the fish in the picture above.  It was shocking.  It was also distressing because I could not seem to buy a take from these fish.  I put my fly right on them over and over and over with no love.

Finally I switched to a larger rust-colored fly with a massive (supposedly medium) sized sculpin-helmet and dragged and dropped it next to a large tailer in waist deep water that was only fifteen feet away.

The take was one of the best I have ever had. The fish absolutely destroyed the fly and from my elevated position I got to watch the whole thing.  It was an amazing moment and a really nice 22lb post-spawn carp.

So Day 3 started with a whimper, had a moment or two in the middle and ended with a bit of a bang when we finally got over it and moved on.  Yesterday's flat is always yesterday.  When today's flat is clearly empty it is time to move on.  Lesson learned, it will not happen next time.

Monday, July 1, 2013