Scouting

19 09 2019

Last night I decided to check out a new stretch of the Huron River.  I had been hitting the other stretch pretty hard as of late so I figured it was time to find a new area.  After do some searching on Google Maps I found a few areas that had potential.  Only problem was that I had about an hour and a half of decent light so this was going to be a quick hit and run trip.

The first few areas I checked showed potential but I didn’t see any fish.  As a matter of fact I wouldn’t see any fish until the very last spot.  Even this area was very hit and miss.  At some access points the bank was 10 feet above the water and no way of getting down.  Other spots were so overgrown I wouldn’t be able to sneak in without scaring everything.  The last area was just about perfect.  Slow moving water, gradual decline to the river’s edge, a few logs and most importantly feeding carp.  I saw the silt trail of one feeding carp but I couldn’t get into position without spooking him.  He slowly swam away and as I was watching him I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  There was another carp, with his nose buried under the log, in full on feed mode.  As I got closer he stopped and started to swim away.  I quickly cast my fly out ahead of him and to my surprise he sucked it in.  I set the hook and off he went.  I had left my net back in my car so while I was letting him tire himself out I was trying to figure out how I was going to land him.  The last time I dragged a carp up on the sand with my fly rod, I broke the tip.  I wasn’t going to do that again.  Fortunately, the splashing fish attracted the attention of two other anglers downstream.  They walked up to see what was going on and one of them was kind enough to wade in and land the fish for me along with take a picture.  He was bass fishing but of course wanted to know why someone would actually be targeting carp on a fly rod.  After a brief explanation of how and why I thanked him again and headed back to the car.  I still have a few more miles of this river to check out but it will have to wait for another day.

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A little rain is a wonderful thing.

16 09 2019

Originally my plan was to spend the weekend up at my Mom’s, take care of some of her chores and do a little squirrel hunting Sunday morning when the season opened.  Unfortunately it rained all morning long on Sunday so I just packed up and headed for home.  It had rained some at home so I was thinking I could get a couple of hours in Sunday evening chasing carp.

Around 6 I headed out with Orvis Helios 2 7 wt in hand.  I didn’t feel like putting my waders on so I grabbed one of my landing nets to save me from jumping in the water.  I really didn’t know what the water would be like.  I expected it to be somewhat dirty after the rains but I didn’t know how dirty or how high.  When I arrived I could see that the water was dirty but just visible enough to where I could see a carp peacefully feeding along the shoreline.  Easy picking, or so I thought.  I dropped the fly right on his head and he didn’t stick around to see what it was.  I worked my way up to a shaded area that is normally to shallow to hold fish.  Today it was about a foot deeper and full of feeding carp.  Spotting one was difficult but I was able to see some silt clouds and a few bubble trails.  I waited until I could see one working towards me and I carefully placed the fly in his path.  A few seconds later he was on it I slowly lifted up and once I felt weight I drove the hook home.  Five minutes later and the first one was in the net.

He pretty much stirred up the whole area so Once I let him go I moved on to another spot upstream.  The bank on this part of the river is a lot higher so I could see right down pretty easily.  As I snuck up there was a carp right below me, feeding upstream.  I placed the fly ahead of him and to the right.  Once he got close enough he saw it and sucked it up.  A quick set of the hook and he was off to the races.  Unlike the last fish he headed for the middle of the river and downstream.  I slowed him up to keep him out of the weeds and the logs.  I was able to turn him back upstream and keep him out in front of me for the bulk of the fight.  After about 5 minutes I was able to get him into the net.

2 for 2 in the first 20 minutes.  I was feeling pretty good but the next spot reminded me that getting to cocky can lead to a very humbling experience.  For the next hour I couldn’t do anything right.  It was getting darker and trying to spot the fish was becoming increasingly difficult.  Add that to the humidity, and my polarized sunglasses continually fogging up, and I ended up spooking more fish then actually seeing any.  I can’t complain though.  I was able to land a couple for about 90 minutes of fishing.  The last two years it would have taken me months to catch a couple.  Now I’ve caught more carp in the last 2 weeks then I have in the last two years and I still have a few more months left.  I’m learning more about catching these fish and how they react to the different water levels and clarity.  Next year should be epic.





Yet Another Carp

9 09 2019

I think I may finally have this fly fishing for carp thing figured out.  Last year I caught one.  The year before that maybe 6.  I’ve landed 4 in the last week and they have been the biggest ones to date.  I still have a lot to learn but I have a lot more confidence now and I know what to do to improve my chances for success.  Just wish I would have figured it out back in June instead of now.  In a few more weeks it will be back to Steelhead and the carp will have to wait.





More Carp

5 09 2019

I had a few hours to myself last  night so I decided to go fly fishing for Carp again.  Recent rains had raised the water levels and dirtied up the water a bit so I was optimistic about my chances for success.  I quickly learned though that my optimism was short sighted since I left out one variable, the setting sun.  I was fishing the west side of the river so the sun was casting a long shadow on the water.  Every time I tried to sneak up on a feeding carp they would sense the shadow and swim off.  I was able to sneak up on one because I used a tree stump to cover my approach.  I got a little to fancy though and I wasn’t able to see the take and I was late on the hook set.  Lesson learned.

With about 30 minutes of sunlight left I moved off to a different area that had more shoreline cover.  As I worked my way to the water I could see one carp feeding in the shallows.  The water was dirty so I couldn’t figure out which way he was facing.  As I got closer the bubbles and splashing stopped so I just waited.  While I was waiting I saw another set of bubbles and a silt cloud off to my right.  I carefully placed the fly in front of the direction the bubbles were going.  I waited until the bubbles were right on top of my leader and I slowly lifted up.  I felt the weight and drove the hook home.  It was a confined area with lots of logs so I never gave him the opportunity to run.  After a couple of minutes of close quarters splashing I was able to get him beached, unhooked and sent on his way.

 

I think I might be starting to get the hang of this.





Labor Day Weekend 2019

3 09 2019

I was able to get out a couple of times this past Labor Day weekend.  Walleye on Friday night and fly fishing for Carp Monday morning.  I probably should have gone walleye fishing each evening but I figured the weeds would be really bad with it being the non official last boating weekend of summer.  From here on in it should be pretty quiet on the water, except for the occasional storm.

I launched my boat around 8:30 pm Friday night and headed to my normal starting area.  The water was clear and their weren’t very many surface weeds.  Boat traffic was at a minimum and after sunset I was the only one fishing.  I though for sure there would have been a few others out, shows how much I know.  Not much happened at first.  I lost a few larger fish and caught a couple of smallmouth.  The fish were barely hitting, I would pull the wire forward and then there would be dead weight.  This went on for the first 90 minutes.  I managed to get tangled up in some old fishing line twice and the weeds were starting to thicken up.  I seriously debated just going in but it had been 3 years since the last time I got skunked and I wanted to keep that streak going.  I’m glad I stuck it out, around 10 the fish got active and I picked up my 5 fish limit in about an hour.  After that I packed up and headed for home.

 

When I went to bed Sunday I had every intention of sleeping in the next day.  I spent the last two days cleaning up and throwing out stuff from my house and I was tired.  I awoke around 6:30 am and eventually just gave up and got out of bed.  I figured I would try for landing a carp again at some new water.  My luck fly fishing for carp this year had been pretty poor so I wasn’t to optimistic.  I rigged my my Scott Flex 8 wt and headed to the Huron River.  At my first stop I soon found out that the water levels were up some and it was a little stained.  I started to feel a little better about my chances.  I saw a few fish out in the middle of the river and I made a few half ass casts towards them.  Past experience has told me that if they aren’t actively feeding my chance of hooking up was slim and nill.  After awhile I gave up on those fish and worked my way upstream.  I saw some bubbles on the surface underneath the shade of an overhanging tree.  I went into stealth mode and as I got closer I could see a pair of carp feeding in the shallows.  I carefully dropped the fly next to them and waited for one to turn my way.  After a few seconds the larger fish did and I gave the fly a twitch.  That did it and he pounced on it.  I set the hook and off he went, towards a log jam.  I jumped in the water after him and tried to steer him away.  Fortunately I was able to keep him clear of the logs and after a few minutes I landed him on the bank.  A quick pic and he was soon swimming away.

Like I said, I jumped in.

After that I took a moment to compose myself.  My Ross reel got dunked and was full of muck so I had to clean that out.  I sat at a nearby picnic table while I figured out my next move.  I pretty much trashed this area and two kayakers just paddled down so that meant they spooked anything upstream.  After about 20 minutes I started hiking upstream to new water.  I followed a drainage ditch to the river and carefully worked my way up to the edge of the water.  Apparently I wasn’t careful enough because I spooked two fish that were in the area.  I slowly backed out and figured I would come back in about 30 minutes or so.  I tried some more areas but I didn’t see anything.  I walked back to the area I spooked the pair of fish earlier and worked my way to the edge again.  I could see a silt cloud in the water so I just waited until I could verify where the fish was.  After a minute or so the tail became visible and I could make out the outline of a decent size carp.  He started to turn away from me and then up went his tail and he went into full on feed mode.  A cloud of much arose all around him so I took advantage of his blurred vision and moved into position.  I dropped the fly about 6 inches to the left and waited.  He started to turn towards it and when I gave it a twitch he pounced on it like a cat chasing a laser dot.  A quick hook set and off he went.  Once again I was back in the water, doing my best to keep him clear of any obstructions.  He ran underneath one sunken branch which I had to clear out of the way before I could even think about landing him.  Eventually I was able to steer him towards the middle of the river where I could keep him under control.  A few short runs later and I was steering him towards the bank.

I was 2 for 2 and feeling pretty good.  It was getting later in the morning though and the sun was clearing the trees.  The fish were hanging in the shadows on the opposite side now so my chances of landing another one were dwindling.  I drove to another section of the river and saw some more carp but they weren’t very cooperative.  I did see one closer to the bank but there was no way I could sneak up on him.  He was in the middle of a log jam anyways so I doubt I could have even got him out of there if I had hooked him.  Bikers and runners were starting to fill the trails along the river so it was time for me to go home.  I’ll stop by next weekend before I head to Schultz Outfitters Fall Kick Off on Saturday.

 





Idaho Cutthroats.

27 08 2019

This past week I had the opportunity to go fishing in Idaho.  I had some friends out there that needed some help so, after a little research, I booked a guide to fish the Coeur d’Alene river in northern Idaho for West Slope Cutthroat Trout.  Turns out this river has the only population of this species (of which there are 14 different ones) of Cutthroat trout.  There is even a sub species of the West Slope trout called the Black Tail West Slope Cutthroat Trout, but more on that later.

I met my guide, Sage Guerber of Castaway Fly Charters, at their shop in Kingston Wednesday morning.  After a brief introduction we were on our way.  Once we launched the boat, Sage gave me the rundown on what to expect today.  August isn’t usually the best time of the year for this but he was determined to make my trip a memorable one.  He told me fish would be active the first few hours in the morning on the surface.  After that we would concentrate on nymphing with indicators and eventually stripping streamers.  We would use several different set-ups throughout the day, most of them rather foreign to me.  I’m a big fish, big fly, heavy rod, heavy leader kind of person.  Today, it would be mostly 5x, 2 pound tippets and size #18 and #20 flies.  Basically stuff the size of a gnat.  Our first rig was a foam hopper pattern and an 18 inch dropper with a #18 nymph on the end.  Sage told me that the fish would concentrate on the nymph but don’t be surprised if one takes the hopper.  I had to concentrate on the hopper because either a fish would grab it or it would sink because a fish grabbed the nymph below.  There was a fair amount of surface activity so I started casting along the seams and into the areas where we saw fish rising.  It didn’t take long and my hopper disappeared.  Of course I set the hook to hard and I missed the fish.  Sage told me to scale it back and set the hook like I was lifting up to do another cast.  A few minutes later the hopper sank again and this time I hooked up.  Sage netted the fish and much to my dismay it was a little Rainbow.  Not what I came here for.

Once he was released we floated downstream a bit to the next area.  Fish were rising again so I went back to casting in the area.  It didn’t take long and I soon had another fish on.  This time it was what I was after.

Not bad for my first Cutthroat.  A quick pic and he was back in the water.  In an effort to boost the populations and preserve the fishery the whole river is catch & release with barbless hooks.  It appears to be working because I would catch fish all day long and see plenty in the deep holes as we floated by.  A little further downstream we came upon a slower section of the river and there was a lot of feeding activity on midges, teeny, tiny midges, like size #20 midges.  Sage asked if I wanted to try to catch one on the surface and I said “Sure”.  He told me it is difficult to catch them this way.  The small hook makes a good hook set difficult.  Throw in the fact that I could barely see the fly in my hand let alone 60 feet away.  I gave it my best shot and about 10 minutes later I had another nice cutthroat.

This is what they call a Black Tail West Slope Cutthroat.  Some of the fish have this mutant gene that gives them a darker color in the tail section.  Still the same fish, just a bit more of a mutant.  I managed to pic up a few more in the area until we eventually moved on.

The next area was a deeper run so Sage had me switch over to a double nymph rig to get the flies deeper.  We didn’t pick anything up so we moved on and switched back to the Hopper rig.  Sage had switched out the hopper though to a purple foam stone fly imitation to see what might happen.  I started casting and now the fish were hitting both the Stone fly and the nymph below.  Mostly smaller fish but at one point I had an experience I will never forget.  While the purple stone fly was drifting down I saw a dark shadow move up from the depths.  I watched this 20+ plus male rainbow swim straight at the fly in slow motion.  I swear my eyes got bigger as I watched him slowly open his gaping mouth and clamp down on the fly.  Once he turned to go back too where he came I set the hook and the fight was on.  Sage let a “Holy Crap” as I was trying not to put too much pressure on him for fear of breaking the light line.  The fish just stayed in place, shaking his head back and forth, trying to shake the hook.  After about 10 second he did just that.  Sage let out a yell of disgust but I went back to casting.  I’m not keeping them anyways and that slow-mo take will forever be etched in my memory, which is what I am really out here for anyways.

For the rest of the day things were pretty uneventful.  I did bust the line on a bigger cutthroat but I expected that.  I was actually kind of surprised I didn’t do it more often.  We were nearing the end of the trip so Sage tied on a grey rabbit strip streamer and told me to have at it.

Music to my ears.

For the next hour I stripped this streamer through every hole and sunken tree I could see.  I had a few bumps and had a few fish turn on it but no takers.  We were near the end when Sage told me to make my last cast downstream of a sunken tree.  I laid the fly in there, let it sink for a couple of seconds and once I gave it a strip I saw a fish come out from under the tree and T-Bone it head on.  No finesse set here, I drove that hook home and the fight was on.  A few minutes later and he was in the net.  This was the kind of fish I was hoping for.  I wanted to get a pic of him in the water next to the rod and reel but there wasn’t any shore line where we could do that.  I took a few obligatory grip and grin shots and sent him on his way.

Not a bad way to end the day.  I wanted to catch a cutthroat and I did, about a dozen or so.  Lost and missed a few and witnessed probably one of the best surface takes by a trout I will ever see.  I had the whole river to myself and never saw another fisherman.  The view wasn’t so bad either.

I did remember to take a close-up of a fish so people could better understand why they are called cutthroat trout.

The reason for the name

Once we pulled the boat, Sage gave me his card and told me to contact him if I ever make my way back out here.  He told me the best fishing is in June and October.  I told him June is a possibility since I may be going back to Alaska in the Fall.  I also told him I want to catch a Bull Trout and he said he can arrange that.

I certainly hope so.





Fringe Benefits.

11 07 2019

You never know when a fishing opportunity may present it self.  Because of this I pretty much have a fly rod in my car 24/7/365.  My Temple Fork Outfitters 6 wt BVK for the little fish, My Scott Flex 8 wt for the big fish and a switch rod for whatever season it is.  They spend more time in their cases then I would like but at least they are there when I need them.  Such was the case last night (7/10/19) as I was helping out at a local river clean-up.  Schultz Outfitters and the Huron River Watershed Council recently teamed up to sponsor river clean-ups every Wednesday evening along different sections of the Huron river.  It’s a good way for me to help out, get some exercise and find new fishing spots all at once.

Six people showed up for the evening so we split up into two groups to tackle both sides of the river.  Of course I was looking for fish whenever I wasn’t finding any garbage.  I saw a number of bass and a fair number of blue gills but no carp.  That was until I found a Mulberry tree.  I heard some splashing and saw the swirls of a few feeding carp near the waters edge.  I looked up and saw the tree and I started to grin.  There were about a dozen carp feeding in the area.  I seriously thought about going back to my car and getting my stuff but I figured they weren’t going anywhere.  The cover was thick in the area and the few fishermen around were casting for bass in more open waters.  I figured they were safe, for now.

Once we finished up I headed back to may car, assembled my Scott 8wt, tied on a Mulberry fly and headed back to the tree.  When I got there the fish were still feeding.  Now all I had to do was figure out a way to get to them.  There was a lot of overhanging branches so trying to feed a 9 foot long fly rod through them so I could drop a non weighted fly into the water was going to be difficult.  Also, because there was so much cover there was no way I was going to be able to land a fish without getting wet.  Fighting him was going to be a challenge as well.  If I was able to land one it was going to be a miracle.

While I was trying to figure this out a muskrat swam up to the bank and starting eating the berries as well.  Great, now what am I going to do?  As soon as I try to move down there the muskrat will spook and scare all the carp away.  I sat there for a few minutes and waited for him to leave.  While I did a berry dropped into the water right next to him and a carp came up to eat it.  That spooked the muskrat and the fish as well, or so I thought.  There was some splashing but the carp stuck around.  I waited a few more minutes to let them calm down and I slowly started to move into position.  5 seconds in and my rod already got stuck on a branch.  I managed to free it but did it again shortly afterwards.  Eventually I made it to the edge and tried to Bow and Arrow my fly into the water.  On my first attempt my fly caught a leaf.  Second attempt hit a branch.  Third attempt made it into the water and as soon as it hit a carp came up to suck it in.   I set the hook and missed the fish.  More splashing ensued and I figured I missed my chance.  I made another cast and out of nowhere a carp came up and took the fly.  This time I was able to drive the hook home and we were off to the races.  I stayed on shore at first and kept my rod parallel to the river.  Fortunately he took off for open water instead of the weeds and logs.  While he was running I started to clear branches away so I could have some room and hopefully stand up some.  Not that I need a lot but it would be nice to be able to life my rod up high when it came time to grab him.  This was not going to be easy.  I got him close but the cramped quarters made getting a hold of him problematic.  After a couple of attempts to get him close I just laid my fly rod down and pulled him in by the leader.  I got my hand around his tail, the fly out of his mouth and in position for a quick picture.

The fly that did the trick.

My first one for the year and my first one ever on a Mulberry fly.  I can see why Fly Carp Anglers love the Mulberry season so much.  These fish threw caution to the wind and still grabbed my fly even though I did just about everything wrong.  After this fight though the fish did scatter.  I sat around for a few more minutes just in case but nothing was happening.  The berries kept dropping and nothing was taking them.  That was my cue to head for home which I did.  I’ll come back another time.  There is another clean-up scheduled for next Wednesday.  Who knows, maybe I’ll find another one.  If so I can guarantee the fly rod will be ready.