Carp: a fly fishing report

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john montana

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Feb 14, 2010
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The river was thick with mist this morning. The sight of the fog was enough to change my original mental odds of finding carp from a coin flip (always choose tails!) to about 3/10. I took my time rigging up, there was absolutely no reason to hurry. Air temps were still in the 40s and I contemplated the vest, knowing it would get warmer, but basically being a big softy about cold weather. I wore the vest most of the day. I was fishing not one, but two brand new pieces of gear today, mostly because my wife is a saint and lets me have my toys. I rigged a beautiful GLoomis Native Run GLX in a 9 ft 6 in ch 7 wt, and paired that with an XL reel by Allen Fly Fishing Company. The XL is their newest reel, and I was anxious to see how both rod and reel would fare against a good size carp. Waders on, boots tight and net clipped to my pack, I stepped off into the river, looking for one more fix before the long, cold winter.

Fishing this late in the fall brings it challenges. The water is usually a little lower, the wind is down (truthfully, I'm a big fan of a decent 10 mph wind when carping...this ultra calm stuff is TOUGH!) but most of all it is the curse of just having finished summer carping. Gone are the hundreds of carp you usually see on the flats, replaced with singles, the odd pair and few tailing fish. The fish are there if you walk enough, but anyone can tell you that the key to carping is numbers. With summer fish, you can flounder around and the sheer mass of fish will still ensure a good day, but in the fall, all of the little mistakes you become accustomed to making in the summer haunt you. Stub your toe on that rock...poof...fish gone. Flub the cast and put it too close...ditto. All those types of things wear on a summer time carper too, but in the fall, you might not get another chance. I blew a few shots today before I remembered lessons learned and slowed way down. I carefully placed each footfall just where I wanted it, and in particular I was cognizant of how much water I was pushing with each step. Carp are sensitive, and in dead calm water if a pressure wave from sloppy wading reaches a tailer...adios tailer.

The first fish on my new set up came together nicely. I spotted the fish moving along the bank from quite a ways away and tucked myself into a little nook of trees, figuring I'd just await the fish's arrival rather than stumble my way to him. The fish slowly moved closer.
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I waited and watched, flies cradles in my finger tips, heart pounding more than a little bit. At 20 ft, with a perfect angle I snapped a cast at the fish. Too far away. I picked it up quickly, but quietly and laid the line back toward the fish. The two fly rig landed in the right spot and I counted to 4, staring at the carp and envisioning the flies sinking to the bottom. I just finished saying "four" in my head when the carp slid forward and puffed out his gills. I set the hook and heard the XL sing!
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It was a good fish. Thick and heavy, somewhere between 14-16 lbs but I kept my scale in my pack and settled for an estimate. The Allen reel sang a nice song, the new backing got stretched and the native run loomis wanted more.

I wandered down the river, stopping now and again to cast at a fish, putting a couple of fish on the bank and in general avoiding any thoughts whatsoever from entering my head. I came to a shallow stretch of river that is often home to some large fish, and I paused on the bank, scanning ahead for disturbances or tails breaking the surface. The fish were there.
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The pictures don't look like much, but this was a big fish, actively tailing in the shallows. I crept to within about thirty feet, stooped at the waist due to a lack of cover on the bank. The fish kept eating and casually tailing. I am a big believer in staying on the bank when possible. In the water, sound travels easily and there is no way I would have gotten within thirty feet of this fish had I been in the water. I snuck along the shoreline, checked my flies for weeds and made a couple of false casts to the side to gauge the distance. The first cast was good, and this fish was active. With a push of it's tail the carp charged the sinking flies and I quickly set the hook. Most big carp fight with less guts than the mid size ones, but this fish fought valiantly. I kept up the pressure and several runs later I slid the big fish onto the beach. I busted out my scale for this one and he weighed in at 22 lbs. A great fish!
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The rest of the day played out well. All told, I landed roughly 6-8 fish. I had a near miss with a really big fish...trust me, I know the stigma of "the big one that got away" but when every fish you catch was spotted, stalked and SEEN it becomes obvious when you have a shot at a really big one. Today, the accursed weed bed cost me a fish that would have been in the running for my biggest of the year. So it goes. I did land some great fish, and stored many visuals to keep me warm through the winter. I am already planning some production tying, and thinking ahead to the warm waters of spring and summer. Sad to say, but that is likely the end of the season for me.
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S

steelhead1

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willamette valley
Uhh,I have to dissagree with you.ALWAYS choose heads on the coin flip:L).I dig all kind of fishin and carp are one of my favorite targets.Thanks for the report and the pics are awesome!
 
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ninja2010

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river right/left
awesome report, great pics, and good job on hunting down the fall carp!

are you targeting these guys near portland? i'm seriously considering trying for these brutes on the fly.
 
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OnTheFly

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Oregon City
Good write up John. Guess now you'll have to gear up for winter steelhead. lol.
 
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bigsteel

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salem, oregon
awesome report, great pics, and good job on hunting down the fall carp!

are you targeting these guys near portland? i'm seriously considering trying for these brutes on the fly.

columbia
 
Raincatcher

Raincatcher

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Less than 50 feet from the Santiam River! :)
Wow,that may not be your fish of the year,but that just might be the Report of the Year! You have at least two talents,fishing and writing. I totally agree with Sinkline,right there with you. Thanks and congratulations!
 
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Spydeyrch

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Beaverton, Oregon
Nice story and great pics. Very well written and quite enjoyable. Thanks for the report!

-Spydey
 
J

john montana

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Feb 14, 2010
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614
Thanks everyone...it was a nice day on the water. I figured with all the carp discussion, we could use a good old fashioned fishing report. Overall, it was pretty slow but the water has really cooled off. The fish are still there, but hanging out a little deeper...you could catch more with bait, but it is pretty tough to get them to eat a fly unless they are in shallow water and you can cast it right to them.

Not much winter steelheading for me! I might go once or twice, but i usually store up some good will hours during the winter with my wife. Maybe a run for winter trout on the D, otherwise i'll tie flies, watch basketball and pray for the spring!
 
troutdude

troutdude

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Wow,that may not be your fish of the year,but that just might be the Report of the Year! You have at least two talents,fishing and writing. I totally agree with Sinkline,right there with you. Thanks and congratulations!

X 2. I felt like I was reading a really nice article in a well known fishing magazine!
 
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TTFishon

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Mohawk valley, Oregon
That was definitely a great read and pics. I felt like I was reading it from a Field & Stream. Oh and nice fish too!
 
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fisherwilly

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Mar 14, 2009
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Bend, OR
John,

Those are some amazing pictures. I have been trying to get some good macro shots close up of fish, but they don't turn out as good as I would like. Great pics and a great story. Last time I saw big carp I thought of sharks because of their massive dorsal fins sticking out of the water cruising around.
 
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BobbiDollPDX

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Milwaukie, Oregon
John,

Those are some amazing pictures. I have been trying to get some good macro shots close up of fish, but they don't turn out as good as I would like. Great pics and a great story. Last time I saw big carp I thought of sharks because of their massive dorsal fins sticking out of the water cruising around.


My mom and I used to comment on how their surface activity reminded us of killer whales performing. She hooked into a pretty big one once and almost got it on the bank but it broke her leader at the last minute.
 
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GDBrown

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Hillsboro, Oregon
awesome report, great pics, and good job on hunting down the fall carp!

are you targeting these guys near portland? i'm seriously considering trying for these brutes on the fly.

I stopped at the Trojan Ponds on my way back from Tacoma and the carp were tailing all over the place. It was 5PM and I was wishing I had taken my rods with me to Tacoma. I'm thinking of going back there for a try.

John, What kind of fly are you using and how heavy is your rod and leader? Will I need more than my 4wt? LOL

GD
 
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J

john montana

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Feb 14, 2010
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614
I fish a 9 ft 6 inch 7 wt, but an 8 wt would be good too. I only fish 1 x leaders, no tippet (carp are tough on knots). I have gone to 0x but I think the carp sense the line. I get more takes on 2 or 3 x but they are tough to land with leader that light, so 1 x is a good compromise. As for flies...San Juan worms, carp carrots, green nymphs, rubber legged hares ears, or small crayfish patterns work. The big key is getting the fly right to the fish and detecting the take. If feeding, they eat most flies without too much trouble.
 
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