Thursday, April 13, 2017

Orvis Pro Tips: How to Catch Grass Carp on the Fly

I was recently asked to write a post for Orvis giving some tips about catching grass carp on the fly (link below).  I faced this scenario one weekend while trying to get some images to accompany the story.

You've paddled across a bay to a nearby flat that you suspect has grass carp feeding on it.  On the way you noticed more boat traffic than usual on the water.  You also managed to spook a couple carp that you did not see. 

As you stand to scan the flat before moving further, you notice a grasser tailing at the back of the flat. This is exciting because tailing carp give you a fighting chance.  As you begin to push pole across the flat being cautious not to make a sound, you see one swimming towards you.  Do you cast at it or try to avoid it?  From experience, I know if I spook that carp it's more than likely going to put that tailer down also.  Here's what I did.

I backed off and avoided the potential land mine.  I knew my best opportunity for getting an eat was getting a fly near the tailing carp.  The moving carp was also an opportunity but the odds were not in my favor.  It was moving towards me and I wasn't sure if it was one of the carp I spooked earlier.  If you present to every grass carp you see you'll likely have a tough outing.  Being selective sometimes increases your odds of success.  This was one of many tips I provided to Orvis found here:

And a short video from the pursuit: 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gotta love the Marsh

I love that smell.  It’ll never be bottled and hanging out on the top shelf of Victoria's Secret, but the marsh has a distinct aroma that I dig.  It’s that smell that first greets and welcomes me to the game.

I love the game.  The search for those elusive reds that seem to appear and disappear effortlessly.  It’s the ultimate game of hide-n-seek.  At times, the sun will have them glowing like fire in the water.  Other times, the eyes search so hard they sting from the strain.

I love the eat.  That moment in time when cause and effect are perfectly balanced.  A romantic vision of tight loops, presenting handsome fly’s, to unsuspecting targets.  The tranquil marsh turned into a battle ground of rage and fury as the offering is victimized.

I love the conflict.  It’s complete anarchy, a tug-of-war between man and fish at the end of a fly rod.  Fly line ripping off the reel one moment.  Then the red turns and doubles back.  While you struggle to reacquire the lost line, you watch the red dive under your kayak.  There’s no tapping out, either clear the bow or watch your fly rod get shattered. 

I love the playing field.  It’s a place of natural beauty that becomes the ultimate obstacle course.  Marsh islands, oyster reefs, pilings and your own kayak are in play.  The winner is the one that can negotiate the obstacles the best. 

I love the surrender.  That moment when the game has been played and the victor chosen.  We shake hands and wish each other well because there are no losers today.  Watching my opponent swim away is the ultimate sign of respect.  The next encounter could go differently.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cold Flows and Wild Rainbows (with video)

I was the first in our group to arrive on Friday.  As I drove down a dirt road being paralleled by a barbed wire fence, I wondered if I was lost.  I was looking for what was described to me as an “airplane hangar” but all I had seen were a few deer and a mysterious glow on the horizon.  After a few more miles, a large building sitting in the middle of an empty field came into view. 

As I pulled into the driveway, I was searching for some sort of welcome sign, a greeting, a dude with a cold brew or anything to assure me I wasn’t about to disturb the guy from, “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”  Over the last 3 miles, the only signs I had seen were no trespassing, keep out and something that looked like the head of a wolf on a stick.  Not exactly reassuring.

Wild fire just over the river

Then I saw what I was looking for, two drift boats parked in the grass.  Confirmation that I was in the right location.  I was trying to locate the lights inside the door when the lights of an approaching vehicle caught my eye.  This could get interesting if that’s not a SUV carrying a raft. 

I was reflecting over my current situation, will it be quicker to dig out of a Missouri jail or wait for my wife to post bail, when I saw the flycraft on the roof.  Thankfully, the answer to that question remains a mystery…to you!  I’m sure the extra high, high fives made the other guys uncomfortable but I was just slightly relieved at the thought of not being a fugitive.

Nice caddis hatch had a few browns rising 
Instead of having an HBO miniseries based loosely off of my illicit fly fishing habits we spent the next two days detangling windknots, celebrating the small victories and losing three flies per trout caught.  The potential complications of life as a criminal were replaced with cold flows and wild rainbows.

Short video from the trip:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jackson Kayak MayFly Review (with video)

I can’t explain the excitement of hearing my new Jackson Kayak MayFly had been delivered.  It was like winning the lottery and the fish god’s blessing you with windless fishing days for life.  I had plans for the next day but those were suddenly replaced with a new one.  

The new agenda was to pick up my kayak the next morning and go fly fishing with a buddy in Hot Springs, AR.  Sleeping about an hour that night, I was awake and on the road before 5 am.  Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters (OOO) is a 3-hour drive from my home in Southeast Arkansas.  I arrived before the store opened and had to wait an agonizing 15 more minutes.  About 8 minutes later, Jake from the kayak shop arrived.  I loaded the kayak and departed with an Irish goodbye.  He understood!

The lake we fished was full of submerged vegetation that housed a healthy population of southern pike (pickerel) and bass.  With an 8wt and 6wt loaded, I paddled out in search of anything that would eat a fly.  The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to paddle.  It took little effort to get started and maintained speed very well.  It's not the fastest boat but certainly not slow.  My buddy was paddling a JK Kilroy and I was able to keep up with him without any effort.  It's not Cuda 12 fast but it only seemed a little slower.

The hull has a slight keel, which helps keep the kayak tracking true.  I found that it started to veer to the port or starboard after about 2-3 kayak lengths.  That gave me enough time to make a good presentation before having to correct.  

The stability is excellent.  Compared to my Cuda 12, which I would never turn around in, I can turn completely around in the MayFly.  It's 35"s wide (Cuda 12 is 31") and offers stand and forget fly fishing.  When the water warms, I'm going to test using my Orion cooler as a standing platform.  I'm almost confident enough in the stability to attempt it now.  Fishing was good but fly fishing from the MayFly was better.  

We each caught several pickerel and a couple bass that afternoon.  Ripping streamers through the grass has never been so much fun.  The MayFly was super easy to fly fish from with its stability and large clean casting area.  The most frustrating part of kayak fly fishing are the snags.  It was advertised to be a fly fishing friendly, snag free kayak and it lived up to the hype.  In 8-hours of fly fishing, I  didn't snag my fly line once.  That's the best thing since fermentation.  Enough with the written review.  Here's a short edit I made from the trip.  Watch it in action and decide for yourself.  (Open the link in YouTube and watch in HD for best results)

I’m not sure if it was fishing with a friend, the 3-hour drive home, or fly fishing from a kayak for 8-hours without a snag but I was disappointed to see the sun dropping.  The day had been a great one, leaving me excited about my future fly fishing trips in my Jackson Kayak MayFly!  

If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments below and I'll answer them best I can.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Good Intentions

I should have been home tying flies for my upcoming trips to the Devils River, Canada or any of the other trips that are planned.  That’s what fly fisherman traditionally do in the winter, right?  Not me, I would rather fish than tie flies any day.  

My intent was only to fish for a few hours one afternoon and get it out of my system.  There was really no way of knowing the impact that one afternoon would have on me. Two weeks later, all I can say is, “I had good intentions.” 

It was a last-minute decision to go.  One of those fishing trips where you’re just happy to be on the water.  With zero expectations, I paddled into an area I hadn’t seen in a few months.  What happened in those few hours has had a huge impact on my ability to think rationally.

There’s a mountain of laundry my kids are playing king of the hill on top of.  Its aroma is a nice addition to the funky fish smell I carry on me.  I’m pretty sure I took a shower this week but maybe it was last week.  There isn’t anything to eat in the house.  But the good news is, I saw food at Walmart while I was there picking up some lures.  It’s safe to say my family is ready for the pre-spawn bass bite to end (that’s the PG version).  I’ll spare you my wife’s, less than enthusiastic, state-of-mind.

In the past, I’ve tried to explain “pre-spawn” to those that don’t fish.  The message never gets delivered accurately.  I think it’s because I’m talking about fishing and they’re expecting a science project.  This year I went a different direction.   

Since pictures are worth a 1000 words, I showed everyone pictures of the bass I caught hoping they’d explain my situation.  This might be the one time when pictures were not helpful.  I went back the next day and guess who was in my fishing hole?  Now his family is mad at me!

I reassured everyone this was just a phase and it would soon pass.  It would be a whole year before I checked out again.  The message was returned to sender with a “failure to deliver” note attached.  What I’ve concluded is you either get it or you don’t.  There aren’t any words that can explain my affliction and pictures just infect others. 

I honestly wish there was someone to do the laundry, buy the groceries and keep the kids from falling off cliffs.  Until cloning is acceptable, the only excuse I have is, did you see the pictures…

Friday, February 3, 2017

40 on the White River

It’s a wonder I have any friends at all.  The kind that take off work for two days for your 40th birthday.  Those that know you well enough to understand that the party should be a fishing trip and nothing more.  Real friends who accept I’m not a birthday party guy or into social gatherings.  Let me explain why I’m amazed by all of this.

Sunday night, I was talking to my wife about a trip to Grand Isle, LA over the past weekend and how the fishing was decent and so on.  As expected, she was only mildly interested.  Her slight interest was mostly because her uncle and cousin were there fishing with me.  The last thing mentioned was how I needed to call my buddy and deliver some bad news.  She perked right up, “What happened?”

Her attention really caught me off guard.  The zombie from two minutes earlier was now all ears and super captivated.  Taking advantage of my newly acquired audience, I spun a great tale of a freakishly huge redfish and the ultimate sacrifice made by my friend’s 9 weight.  All she heard was, “you borrowed his rod and broke it?”  As I’m struggling to understand her concern and attempting to form a sentence, she interrupts me.  But not with the usual “you broke another fly rod” speech.  

Instead, I learned that the guy who owned the 9 weight had been planning my 40th birthday party for two months.  He’s been busy getting his boat ready and tying big streamers for a month.  And we’re leaving in less than a week.  Yep, I’m that guy!  Now you’re amazed I have any friends, right?

Fortunately, and unfortunately, we didn’t get the flows that are typical for late January on the White.   We had minimum flows on the White and the Norfork ran one unit for three hours on Monday.  The big sticks weren’t needed much but that had little impact on our decision to throw streamers.  We had traveled here to throw meat and that was what we were going to do.  Generation was more of a nicety at this point, but we did have a secret weapon; Angela Merkel.  Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.   

We fished the White on Sunday and it rained all day.  Angela initially took her place beside the rear bench directly below my position on the Hog Island.  She hated the rain but loved my fly line.  Like a cat with a ball of string she grabbed it often.  Wasn’t long before Angela was moved to the back of the boat.  At the first shoal, Karma rewarded my buddy with a 22-inch brown.  Unfortunately, that was the only good karma of the day.   It was late afternoon when our sore arms demanded we drift indicators and stick a few fish.  A decision we would later regret.

My opinion of the water depth was, it was too deep to exit the boat.  Someone else, whose identity will remain a secret, saw it differently.  As, his name isn't Brad, departed the boat in what can only be described as a wet exit, we knew Angela was responsible.  About an hour later, while trying to free his midge from a rock, the dude with the broken 9 weight, broke his 4 weight.  Sunday was a tough day for us.  The only sighting of a 30-inch brown was hanging on the wall of a local burger joint, Taylor’s Freeze-King in Gassville, AR.  It became very obvious Angela wasn’t impressed with our group later that night.  While unloading gear, I stepped in cat poop and tracked it into our room. 

Monday, we headed out early to chase the limited high water on the Norfork.  Not wanting a repeat of the prior day, we relocated Angela several times before she found a spot she liked.  In the beginning, she perched on the right oar.  When the anchor line broke sending the anchor to the bottom of the river, we took the hint and started moving her on a regular basis.  She seemed pleased with the attention and in return kept the remainder of trip out of the ditch.     

Bag of rocks is a good substitute for an anchor

The birthday ended at the confluence of the White river sharing fish stories and planning several future trips.  In that last hour of daylight, we worked out all the logistics and the world seemed to agree with our lofty endeavors.  It became clear that this trip was less about the pursuit and more about friendship.  Tomorrow we’ll deploy our secret weapon, Angela Merkel, in hopes of trying to secure permission from our better halves.