July 31, 2008

A roughfisher is born

The beginnings of the day were oddly reminiscent of a recent outing. Red skies, clouds, rain, and the smell of nitrogen and ozone in the air were ironically the backdrop for a rainbow at dawn. I was hoping that the rainbow would be a promising sign among an unsettled atmosphere; I was meeting up with a flyrod carp virgin, who had hoped to pop his cherry before the day was over. We packed his gear into my truck and headed on down the highway, nervous as to how the day was going to transpire. When we arrived at our destination nearly an hour later, we were greeted with a few bolts, and gentle claps of thunder. The rain was still coming down, but it was getting lighter off in the horizon, a sign of hope. We rigged up under some shelter and made our way down to the river. The rain had stopped.

Flows had dramatically dropped off on this stretch of river. They were nearly half of what they were just two weeks ago. I was excited with the possibility of finding quillbacks. When I made my way down the river bank, I was quickly bummed, as one of my prime carp spots was now nearly exposed due to the low water, and nary a carp were to be seen. I worked a stretch of water that had previously held carp before. The water was much clearer, and unfortunately no carp were spotted. I found a few shorthead and greater redhorse foraging in the river bottom, tails up. I could not entice a single one to take a fly. It was frustrating, but I know that this is often the norm with these fish. I looked upstream behind a boulder and found a few fish hanging in the current break.


I tossed my rubber legged X Factor nymph and instantly hooked up.

Those other fish were holding tight in the current so I threw my fly back out there and managed to hook up with another one.

I finally spotted a few carp so I grabbed my 8 wt that was rigged up with a San Juan Worm and did some dredging. These fish were off a ways, so I was not able to make a visual on the take. I blind nymphed up a couple carp in this manner before handing over this spot to the carp newbie.

Shortly after I hooked up with this fish, the rookie caught himself his first carp on the fly. Well done.

I moved on to a bunch of different spots and managed to hook up with all sorts of fish. I even managed to find a white bass. They are pretty rare in the Red River drainage, and are mainly found on the North Dakota side. To find one this far inland in MN was pretty impressive.

I found a spot that had probably a hundred carp clooping and sunning. There were a few feeders mixed in there, but I knew I had my work cut out for me. I tossed my SJW out there and managed to find a stray feeder to take it.

This badboy was snagged in the mouth.

After a few fish, the SJW was turning cold, so I rigged up another X Factor nymph. I had eyed up a boatload of quillbacks but could not interest them in anything. The X Factor was no different. Thinking about Wendy Berrell's post in CAG about clooping fish, he recalled my advice to try fishing a scud in these situations. I tied on a size 10 orange scud that I tied with cactus chenille. I found a pod of cloopers and cast off to the side of the group. There were a few outcast fish outside of the pod that were seemingly feeding. I quickly found out that they were indeed feeding as a carp slammed my scud.

I continued to work these fish and managed to find a few willing takers. One fish took my fly so aggressively that he inhaled my fly and swallowed it. I literally had to put my finger all the way down its throat to dislodge the barbless hook. I was able to get the hook out without any harm to the fish, but I had a sneaky suspicion that the fish was going to puke all over me. Thankfully it did not.

All in all, the day turned out well. Apparently that rainbow was indeed good luck, as the fly carp rookie managed to catch several carp and his first bigmouth buffalo. He commented on how lame carp fishing made brown trout look. I concur. Looks like another roughfisher is born.

White Bass, Morone chrysops

July 30, 2008

I managed to scavenge a few pools over the week during breaks from work on a stream restoration project. Flows were pretty low on this stretch of river until the other day, when a couple inches of rain jumped it up a bit. Nonetheless, there were plenty of shiners, dace, darters, and chubs present in the pools. I did not spot any game fish or roughfish. I dragged a size 1 spinner with my ghetto travel rod through a of couple pools and ended up with these creek chubs.

Not the quite the fight of a bruiser buffalo, but a tightline is a tightline. This roughfisher will take anything he can get.

On a positive note, flows on the Otter Tail downstream of Orwell are down to 522 cfs. They haven't been this low since spring melt in mid-April. Flows finally dropped below the 80th percentile the other day. Hopefully this will help improve visibility and enable access to a few fish holding areas that have been off limits since spring melt. The higher flows forced quillbacks, redhorse, and other species like bowfin to move on to different areas. With some luck, they will migrate back upstream and forage in these spots again. I'll get a chance to find out in the next day or two; I hope I get a chance to snag one in the mouth.


July 26, 2008

roughfisher.com launch

roughfisher.com has been launched. The site is still in its infancy, with the bulk of the site consisting of this blog. I hope to continue to develop a good database for roughfish fly patterns, fly fishing tactics and techniques, and a decent species photo collection.

With other fly fishing sites out there like Singlebarbed and Buster Wants to Fish, the bar has been lowered; even brownliners like myself can now publish on the web. There is no such thing as dignity online anymore. It's a 'bubba' world out there.

I am no web guru or html/script writing genius, so if my code is sloppy and all messed up, tough. I respect any constructive comments or criticisms of the site; utilize the "Contact" link if you feel the need to express your mind. Of course, if I don't like what you have to say I'll just tell you go to funk-off. Nice right? If you want to add or contribute to the site in any way you are welcomed to do so, at the modest price of your self respect and reputation. Hey, nobody said that being a roughfisher is easy.

Serious inquiries only; no spam or I'll kick you in the nutz.

I gotta quit spending time behind the computer and hit the stream already. Tight Lines!

- the roughfisher

July 22, 2008

A brief follow up to the snagging post:

I spoke with a local Conservation Officer yesterday at work, and discussed the whole lip and mouth issue. His interpretation of "in the mouth" was on par with my mine: the inside of the lip would be considered in the mouth; outside of the lip would be considered a foul-hook. He understood that the radial nature of the lips on many sucker species could present a gray area of interpretation, but if the hook was embedded on the "tip" of the lip there would likely not be an issue. If the fish was able to close its lips and the point of entry of the hook/fly would be concealed, it would be a fair catch. From a legal standpoint this would all be inconsequential if you are planning on releasing the fish.

The grim reality is that the general consensus of the public is these underutilized "rough" fish do not hold as high a regard as game fish species. A citation would likely not be as readily issued for "snagging" rough fish compared to game fish, and a judge would likely not hold the same gravity on the case. Technically, there is very little protection offered these fish under MN statute and rule so it is not the judicial branch's fault for treating cases as such.

Ultimately, it is up to each angler's own conscience to determine if a fish was fairly caught. For all us roughfishers' sake, let's not cheapen the sport and our accomplishments by counting a snagged fish as caught.

July 20, 2008


Recently a few of us folks from the fly fishing underground had gotten involved in a heated debate regarding foul-hooking fish and ethics among angling techniques. We were called “pathetic flyfisherman snagging suckers because [we] can't get them to take [our flies] in their mouth”, and were insulted and questioned as a “true Roughfisher”. The crux of the argument revolved around the take, the hook set, and the location of the hook. The secondary debate over ethics was an offset of techniques and the methodology utilized in the pursuit of fish.

Due to the nature of the medium we were using to debate this issue, an internet forum, there is a high likelihood that our intentions were misinterpreted by the other party, especially since body language and voice inflection, two big keys that help convey emotion and the nature of our intentions, are not present in this format. Nobody was arguing that a fish caught foul-hooked, i.e. hooked outside of the mouth, was not a legal catch. The debate was more reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings and the definition of what “is” is. We were trying to define what constitutes “in the mouth”. Does the mouth include the lips? If so, does it include the entire radius of the lips, or just the portion of the lip that faces inside when the mouth is closed?

Upon researching the National Freshwater Hall of Fame and IGFA rules and previous case denials for records claims, it was determined that:
1) An intentionally foul-hooked fish is case for disqualification, and
2) The definition of “foul –hooked” resides in the state/provincial regulations where the catch was made.
In the MN Statutes and Rules, there is no clear definition of what constitutes “the mouth” of fish, nor a clear definition of foul-hooking, other than the fact that when fishing Lake Superior tributaries a fish that is hooked in any part of the body, except the mouth, must be immediately returned to the water.

By catching a fish with the hook inside the inner lip, we, the underground, were accused of setting the hook too late and snagging the fish. I've seen the dynamics of how circle hooks, octopus hooks, and curved scud hooks turn/roll out of the fish's mouth on the hook set, resulting in a lip hook. Even though you fooled the fish to take your fly, due to the nature of the shape and orientation of the hook, it moved from inside of the mouth in to the lip. Would that be considered a late hook set and a snag? It would be interesting to see how a Conservation Officer or judge would interpret the catch. I have a feeling the lip would be considered part of the mouth.

Many roughfish species are difficult to catch because of their subterminal or inferior mouths. In addition many species have small mouths and/or thick, fleshy lips. Just getting a hook into their mouths sometimes requires an act of God. I can see how a fish hooked on the outside of the lips can be considered snagged. A likely scenario would be the fly drifted along the bottom of river, came in contact with the fish, and the angler sensed a strike and set the hook. But a fly hooked in the inner lip clearly had to have the fly enter the fish’s mouth. If you are fishing to fish facing upstream with a traditionally tied beadhead nymph, i.e. fly tied hook side down on a hook with a down turned eye, the fly likely drifted along the bottom hook side down. This fly has a better chance of snagging bottom than snagging a sucker’s lips. That’s why flies like the clouser minnow are tied hook side up, so that they don’t snag in the rocks. A nymph riding hook side down won’t be able to hook the inside of a lip, or fish’s mouth for that instance, without having to change its orientation. This orientation is most likely changed when the fish takes the fly and sucks it into its mouth. Even while tightline nymphing, a strip of the fly line should not be turning a properly tied nymph upside down. It’s possible that bouncing the fly on the bottom may change its orientation presenting a situation that could have the hook catch on the sucker’s lips. To “snag” the fish on the inside of the lips with a nymph, the fish would have to move off of the bottom, have the fly hit the bottom directly in front/underneath the mouth and turn upside down, and the angler would need to strip the fly almost vertical into the fish’s mouth for the hook to stick in the inside lip. It seems like a lot of things need to happen for that scenarios to occur. Not saying that it never happens, but the fish actively taking the fly is the more likely scenario. [I have foul-hooked pike and walleye with a clouser minnow in this manner though]

So where does the practice of bead fishing or lining steelhead/salmon lie? In my opinion, that is snagging. An angler is just trying to thread a hook into a non-feeding, spawning fish's mouth and setting the hook. Yet this practice is accepted by many as ethical and legitimate. From my experience the other day, this is oddly similar to fishing vegetation or algae flies to clooping fish. An angler is basically trying to cast a fly into/near a fish's mouth and waiting for the fish to close its mouth before setting the hook. One of the so called “true Roughfishers” admittedly spent hours on end casting algae flies to bigmouth buffalo feeding in this manner. His definition of “catch” was such that, “unless you know that you fooled the fish and got it to take your hook into its mouth, it's not a catch”. True, but in this case it seems to be more of a challenge of casting skill and accuracy, more so than tricking a fish to take your fly. The buffalo I observed clooping were feeding in no distinct pattern or direction and were hardly interested at all with the flies I offered. They were more interested in sucking the foam and scum off the surface of the water. I was in a position with some fish to literally be able to drop my fly directly into their mouths from about six feet above them. I dropped my fly in front of several fish and watched them suck in and immediately spit out the fly, all without closing their mouth. In fact, the one fish I hooked up with didn’t even respond to the hook dropped into its mouth and having the hook set. Only after I attempted to steer it towards shore for about 30 seconds did the fish respond and attempt to swim off. This method of angling seemed infantile and was definitely of no challenge as there was no interest shown at all by the fish in taking a fly. The only reason a fish was “caught” was because a fly was literally put it in their mouth and had the hook set. This was about as enjoyable and challenging to me as catching them with a dip net or shooting them with a bow and arrow.

There were a few more bullshit statements thrown around, questioning the ethics of us fly fishing snaggers. We were called disgusting and disrespectful towards fish. I don’t know about you, but the members of the underground have all fished together in one way or another, and we are anything BUT unethical anglers. These guys in exile are some of the most respectful, dedicated, and insightful anglers that I know. I have never witnessed them perform any act that was disgusting or disrespectful to fish. In fact, several members of the underground work for public agencies and have dedicated their careers towards maintaining and preserving the environment through the pursuit of clean water, stream restoration, and responsible fisheries management. It seems contradictory for any one of us to be abusive to the very resource we’ve spent our lives trying to protect.

In the end, the basis for argument was really quite asinine as likely all that were at issue were our egos and sense of pride. I don’t believe that any one of us wanted to harm or disrespect the resource, and no one from the underground had any intentions of harvesting fish. It was a moot point. All that was at stake was our interpretation of fair catch. Nonetheless fishermen tend to have big egos and we were not to “go gentle into that good night”. As the great John Montana once noted, “I'm just another "pathetic" fly fisherman out to snag suckers and carp in the mouth. Good fishing everyone”.

Tight Lines!

July 19, 2008

Mini swap

John Montana, Wendy Berrell, Mr. P from the Carp Anglers Group, and I are participating in a mini fly swap. It will be nice to exchange flies, mid-season, of patterns that have been producing fish for us so far. My entries to the swap are the Golden Ghost, San Juan Worm and X Factor nymph.

Golden Ghost

San Juan Worm

X Factor nymph

Here's a squad of Marines ready to wage battle. I can't wait to see what the other guys are tying up.
Light Cahill, Stenacron sp., female spinner

July 17, 2008

It was the makings for a busted day. Even though the weather forecast was to be fair with light wind, a large system of thunderstorms and showers loomed in the horizon. As I made my way south, the sky darkened and the occasional bolt of lightning electrified the sky. I was already halfway there and it was too late to turn back. I was going to make the most of the day, come rain or shine.

When I arrived at the river, I donned my rain gear and put on my boots. There was a light rain falling and an occasional boom of thunder off in the distance. I kept my eye on the clouds, ready to retreat if the storm threatened near. I took cover under a shelter and assembled my 8 weight. I tied on a San Juan Worm, the armored car version, and made my way up the hill to the river bank. As I approached the bank, I wondered if the carp would be put off by the rain. A quick scan of the shoreline revealed a bunch of carp and buffalo up near the surface. The only problem now was to decide which one to offer my fly to.

After some deliberation, I finally found a fish worthy of my fly. The only problem was that this beast wanted to feed under the security of a sunken tree branch. A pesky beaver had just fallen a young cottonwood. After a couple tries, I wasn't able to thread my fly in between the branches and into the hot zone without snagging some wood. I didn't want to spook the fish, so I held off. I figured my patience would pay off with a fish, unfortunately, the dozens of fish that were previously near the surface slipped off into deeper water and disappeared. Things weren't looking good. Not being able to make a visual on a fish, I blind nymphed the current seam in front of me. My rod doubled over with the first fish of the day.

This wasn't a big bruiser, but it was a nice start. My armored SJW performed flawlessly and held up great to the fish. Now to test it's durability on multiple fish. Of course, hooking a fish is always good for spooking the crowd. They might not be up near the surface, but I now that those sneaky fish are lurking near the bottom, just below me. I dunked my SJW and dredged up another fish.

Those two fish effectively turned off the bite momentarily. Occasionally a pod of buffalo would cruise through, but I could not present my fly in a manner that would entice them to take it. By now, the rain had stopped and it was starting to get warm and muggy. The sun began to peek through some clouds so I shed my jacket and figured it would be a good time to switch tactics. I grabbed the spinning rod and immediately hooked up with a big fish. This was easily the biggest carp of the day.

I drifted a crawler a few more times and ended up catching bunch of goldeyes, some bass (smallmouth and largemouth), a couple of decent eater sized channel cats and some freshwater drum. I caught one lone redhorse today, a golden.

Quickly bored with the spinning rod, I moved downstream in search of fish. I found the motherload of all buffalo! There must have been a hundred fish clooping on the surface. They were taking in the foam on the surface. I tied on a cream/yellow colored cottonwood seed pattern and dapped my fly. I found a nice-sized buffalo and offered my fly right in front of its mouth. It sucked the fly in slightly and I hooked the fish in its lower palate. I fought it briefly until the hook pulled loose. I tried fishing the fly for a while longer before realizing how stupid this was. This was not sporting*.

I went back upstream and looked for more buffalo. I tied on a rubber legged antron nymph and carefully studied the water for any silhouettes. I finally found a feeding buffalo and began to work my fly on it. The fish moved over my fly so I could not see if it took it or not. I set the hook and immediately realized that I snagged the dorsal fin. Ugggh. This was a nice fish to boot. After landing the fish I released it, hoping for a legit hook up.

I moved to the other side of the river and settled in to my trusty spot. I casted my fly into the current seam, and shortly thereafter, my line went taut after a few strips. A nice carp had taken my fly and bolted upstream. Things were picking up. I quickly released the fish and casted my fly out again. After a brief drift, my line tightened up and a nice buffalo was on the other end. Another snag. That made two now. I was getting bummed. I caught some bass and a couple bluegills when I decided to cast to the pool in front of me. My line quickly tightened and again the recipient was a buffalo. Once I got the fish near the surface I looked for the mouth and found my fly buried in it. Yes! Finally a fair hook up. This fish was not to be outplayed. After some time, I finally managed to get the fish near shore to land it. This was the biggest buffalo of the day.

I was pumped. My persistence paid off. It was getting close to quitting time so the next fish was the last. A few drifts through the seam didn't produce anything, so I casted back in to the pool again. Right on, another carp. It was the smallest carp of the day, but that was alright with me. I "snagged"* this fish right in the mouth. I really buried the hook good in this one. It took me some time to get the barbless hook dislodged from the upper palate.

This outing was another success. The crummy weather quickly dissolved into a warm sunny day. This day wasn't about numbers, even though I caught a fair amount of fish. It was about quality. I brought some big fish to hand, including a nice bigmouth buffalo. Not too bad for a fly fishing "fish snagger"*.

[*To be addressed in a future post]
Largemouth Bass, Micropterus salmoides

July 12, 2008

Urban Roughfishing

I joined up with Wendy Berrell last Wednesday for some urban roughfishing. WB scouted for carp on his way home from work and picked me up. At our first stop there were some fish near the surface. We tied on carp woolies and tried to cast out to them off of a 20 foot retaining wall. The wind was merciless and my casts looked like crap. I had difficulty getting my fly to the fish. I eventually snagged a huge branch of brush in the lake and spooked all the fish. Time to move on.

When we visited Wendy's other haunts, the fish were no where to be seen. Bummer. We decided to walk the shoreline on the South Fork of the Zumbro and look for fish. No carp were spotted but we did find some redhorse feeding. The shallow water was gin clear near shore, so I did everything I could from spooking the fish.

It didn't matter as these fish were oblivious to my presence, and unfortunately, every fly that I presented to them. I worked the area for about 20-30 minutes. I finally got a few looks with a gold ribbed hare's ear nymph. I saw a lone fish near my fly and appear to pause and hover over it. Not knowing if it had taken my fly or not, I set the hook and the fish turned into the current, my line went taut. I landed the fish after a few minutes, and found that I had snagged some cheek meat in a silver redhorse. Double bummer.

We moved on in search of carp. We headed over to Cascade Creek to see if there were any fish holding above the low head dam. There was a group fishing below the spillway so the fish in the area were cautious and very spooky. No fish of interest were spotted. I blind nymphed near a few branches that were submerged in the water. I managed to catch a white crappie, and finally added it to my lifelist.

We fished the upper pool to no avail. We moved and tried one more of Wendy's haunts before calling it a night. Unfortunately the outing was a bust on the fish front. It's hard to catch fish when you can't find any. The one shining light to this is that I now have a couple of new spots to check out next week. Wish me luck.

photos courtesy of Wendy Berrell
Gray Drake, Siphlonurus quebecensis

July 7, 2008

Cascade Creek Carp

I'm down in Wendy Berrell's neck of the woods for the next couple of weeks, poaching on his territory. After satisfying my duties of employment for the day, I grabbed some BBQ and headed down to the Zumbro to do some scouting for my outing with WB on Wednesday evening. I parked, rigged up my six weight and headed down for the South Fork. There was an Orvis boy down in there river, fishing for what I can only imagine are smallmouth bass. I didn't see him set the hook on anything.

I decided to hit the bike path and walk the river, looking for active feeders. Strangely enough, I met a fellow angler from Detroit Lakes, who was in town for bone marrow donation. Small world. We exchanged a few words and tactics and went our separate ways, he with his can of corn and me with my San Juan Carp Assassin.

I headed up to Cascade Creek and noticed a small low head dam. Figuring there had to be fish in there, I perched up atop the bank and looked for fish. I didn't notice anything, but I crept down the bank anyway. When I got my fly ready to cast, I noticed a bunch of shorthead redhorse and a carp make it over my way. I dropped my SJW in the water and the fish swam by ignoring it. I switched out the SJW for my golden ghost soft hackled wet fly. I waited for a fish to swim near enough for me to reach it by dapping. A pod of about five carp swam near. I lowered my fly in to the water, just in front of two fish that were swimming neck and neck. I lost visibility of my fly as it drifted near the grass on the bank. Figuring it was now or never, I pulled on my line and set the hook.

I guessed right, because a fish pulled back. Right near where I was fishing was a big snag of branches and a bunch of jagged limestone. It was my mission to keep the fish out of this mess. Initially I don't think the fish realized it was hooked as I was able to play it near shore with ease. Once I tried to land it though, it made a run for the channel and never looked back. This wasn't the largest fish by any means, and probably fared more on the small side of things, but this fish was determined not to be played out. I fought this fish for 10 minutes before realizing I was going to have to change tactics in order to land it.

I walked down the shoreline hoping to beach it on the rocks. This only made the fish run up the pool a bit and take more line. I eventually worked the fish back to where I had hooked it downstream, sweat pouring down my face. My T-shirt was soaked. It was a typical July day in Southeast MN, hot and muggy with a chance for thunderstorms. I looked back at the pedestrian bridge, wiped the sweat from my brow, and noticed a crowd of on-lookers watching me fight this fish. I figured after watching me fight for 20 minutes, I probably shouldn't lose this fish. I ran up up the bank, keeping tension on my line, and grabbed my lippa out of my chest pack. I made it back down the bank and got aggressive on this fish. I played it over the edge of the dam and into the spillway below. I played the fish up the concrete slope and tried to grab its lip without slipping on the mossy surface. Easier said then done. After some wrestling, I finally got a hold of the fish and made it up the bank.

The crowd was cheering, possibly even more impressed than I was with the catch. They thought it was the catch of a lifetime. It was just another day in the life of a roughfisherman. Another onlooker noticed I was grabbing a photo of the fish before I released it, and offered to take one of me and the fish.

I was exhausted and sweaty, but there were still a few hours of daylight left. The fish were played out in this section, so I tried a few different areas. I found another low head dam upstream and spotted a carp in the plunge pool. I got my fly in the water and immediately hooked up. Black Bullhead.

I sat there for another 15-20 minutes and caught another bullhead. I didn't spot the carp again. Figuring I had already fared better than I expected, I walked the trail back to the vehicle and headed back to the hotel.

It's always a good day when you can bring a carp on the fly to hand. I hope Wendy's ready to catch some fish.

July 5, 2008

San Juan Worms - Reprise

Frankly, more discussion regarding roughfish fly patterns and fly tying techniques is obligatory, especially in light of the recent interest in creating a more durable San Juan Worm pattern. John Montana sparked the conversation by creating a SJW worm thread on the Carp Anglers Group fly fishing forum. He and I must be on the same wavelength right now, because earlier this afternoon I sat down at the vise, a rarity at this time of year, and whipped up a few new variations on the SJW pattern.

I started with the basic SJW pattern. I opted for the microchenille and threaded a piece through a bead and onto a size 8 Tiemco 2457 scud hook. Here's where it gets interesting. I tied on a red wire body, the length of the hook shank. I tied in the chenille at the rear of the hook, whip finished, and tied off. I put head cement on the thread wraps and coated the entire wire body. This fly should now be as tough as an armored car.

I realize it might not matter to the fish, but I still burnt the tips of the chenille. Fly tying can be a selfish hobby, as sometimes the tyer ties flies for his or her own sense of satisfaction, and not necessarily to increase its effectiveness. Besides it only takes me a few seconds.

I adapted adding the wire body to the lethal San Juan Carp Killer pattern. I think it turned out fabulous. I now dub thee the San Juan Carp Assassin.

I'm going to play with more pattern variations this evening. I'll try tying the patterns with the wire body wrapped over the chenille. Hopefully a few more folks will call in to John Montana's challenge and provide us all with some good ideas. The roughest part will be having to field test these patterns.

Roughfishing. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Part II

Friday morning was the best fly fishing outing for carp yet this season. There were good numbers of fish and they were willing to take flies. Life was good. Here's the rest of the story:

The group of fisherman that were previously in the spot I had wanted to fish finally left. Even though the action was good where I was, I headed over the spot to try my luck. I saw the shadows of buffalo herds roaming the area. I typically see buffalo here frequently, but can rarely get them to bite. Now would be no exception. Flies weren't working well on this stretch of water so I grabbed my spinning rod and bottom bounced a crawler cross-current. I quickly got a strike and landed a spunky little goldeye.

Oddly enough this spot that has produced so well for me earlier in the season has slowed down quite a bit. I caught a few more goldeyes and a couple of channel cats. I had to work for those fish. Wanting a bit more excitement, I moved back over to the other side. Those fish have had enough rest.

I got the San Juan Worm out again and proceeded to catch carp after carp. I even managed to catch the same fish twice. After I shredded the fly I had tied on, I grabbed the spinning rod to see what they'd do with a crawler. Maybe I could get another buffalo to take it. Nope. But I did manage to catch a few more nice carp before the masses came.

I don't know what the deal is with anglers these days, but it seems like too many of them have no about qualms moving in and fishing right under your nose. They show no fear. A group of guys came over and literally settled in right where I was fishing. One of them made a comment, while I was releasing a carp, that if there's white on the fin, then it's a walleye. OK, thanks there Sherlock. This guy's a freaking genius. He even had the nerve to ask if I was fishing for walleye. If he had paid any attention to the last half hour before butting in right in front of me, he would have noticed I was fishing for and catching carp. NOT walleye. When I told him, "No I'm not fishing for walleye", he turned to his son in astonishment and said in bewilderment, "He's not fishing for walleye!?" I packed up my shit and left. Enough of that BS.

I moved over to the backwaters. It was already getting late and I only had about an hour left to fish before having to head home. I still had the mission of trying to sight-fish for one of these slough-bound fish. I wasted my time fishing a section only to catch a half dozen bullheads. I've never caught a carp there, even though there were fishing tearing it up all over the place in here. Don't know what I'm doing wrong here. I can catch fish in the identical stretch of water on the other side of the road.

I moved over to the road culvert. Last time I was down here, Derek, the Esoxer, caught a few bass hanging downstream of the culvert. I found a few carp feeding near the surface and walked back to the truck to grab my fly rod. I tied on the venerable San Juan Worm and began nymphing. I had a few hookups, a couple of snags/scales, and hooked a few branches. My fly kept getting caught in the tall prairie grass on my back cast. This was a pain in the ass. I lost a fly in the grass and tied on my last SJW. Still snagging and losing fish. Finally lost my fly in the minefield of twigs and branches that surrounded the culvert outlet. Dejected, I moved on with the intent to return next time and avenge the loss of my flies and patience.

I trekked down through the brush, tall grass, and cut trees to the slough on the other side of the road. The water looked tepid and stagnant. No signs of fish actively feeding. I casted to the middle of the bay and waited. I was getting eaten alive by those pesky mosquitoes. I didn't realize that I had volunteered to donate plasma today. I now had ten minutes left before having to leave. I had hoped to catch a fish before leaving, but to be frank, it wasn't looking good. My line twitched a few times and it was likely due to black bullheads. I swatted mosquitoes, gnats, deer flies, black flies, and no see-ums for those entire ten minutes until my line finally moved again. Figuring it was another bullhead, I half-heartedly set the hook only to realize that it was a carp. Not wanting to donate any more blood, I quickly played the fish, took a quick photo, and released it.

That was good enough. I headed back to the truck and packed up for home. My afternoon had not gone quite as good as the morning, but I still managed to catch a bunch of fish. The weather was great, and I'm sure that if I would have dug out the bug spray, the mosquitoes wouldn't have bothered me so much. It was nice to be able to sight-fish for those carp in the river. It's not something that's able to be done most days on this turbid river.

My quest to catch a carp on the fly in the silt choked backwaters was once again busted. I came about as close as I ever have fishing near the culvert. I'll have to re-supply my arsenal of San Juan Worms, including stocking some San Juan Carp Killers. The case is not closed on this mission. A new sense of vigor and hope, and perhaps a bit of luck, will hopefully allow me to finally execute this task this season. Mission Impossible.

Tight Lines.

July 4, 2008

San Juan Worms - revisited

Thanks for the comments on tying the San Juan Worm JB and JW. I tie my SJWs the same way as John Montana, with the chenille through the bead, and the bead slipped on to the hook shank. I even use head cement on the thread wraps. Nonetheless, my flies got abused yesterday; those fish were just way too hard on them. Like John mentioned, after a couple fish the whip finish would start to give way. Also, the chenille starts to come off of the cord. Most of the time it seems, that the glass bead on the hook shatters, leaving just the chenille behind. I need to find some plastic beads or use a beadhead instead.

I typically tie my SJWs unweighted. Depending on if fish are rising to the surface or not, I can adjust the weight with a split shot to get it down to tailers, or let the fly hang weightless if they are up near the surface or are clooping. I encountered both scenarios yesterday afternoon in the same area of water, both at the same time.

I like the San Juan Carp Killer pattern that my friend Marc shared with me. The marabou tail on this pattern is deadly; it has a good profile and movement in the water, and acts just like a fish magnet.

The beads on the hook shank provide a rattle effect. I don't know if the beads really move around on the hook shank that much underwater, so I may try tying this pattern with the chenille through the beads.

I know that the wooly bugger is considered by many to be the granddaddy of all-around, go-to flies. You can pretty much tie one on in any situation, in any color, and flat out catch fish. I believe that the San Juan Worm is quickly becoming the go-to fly for carp fishing. I don't know what specifically triggers the predatory response in fish to take this fly, but it works. It works so well in fact, that I would recommend to anyone just getting in to carp fishing, to invest in a box full of SJWs, all in different colors. This is also an extremely quick, cheap, and easy fly pattern to tie, especially for the novice tyer. This should be the first fly you should tie on when searching the water for fish.

It's a carp killer.

July 3, 2008

Part I

The carp were bumping today. They were taking flies like nobodies business.

I hit the Otter Tail today. You couldn't have asked for better weather. Seventy degrees, no humidity, calm wind, sunshine, perfect. Flows were still high downstream of Orwell at 964 cfs, well above the 80th percentile. When I arrived at the river, a car had just pulled in ahead of me. Low and behold, they headed right to the spot I wanted to fish. Nobody else on the entire stretch of river and they go to the one spot I wanted to fish, the good roughfish holding water. I regrouped and tied on a blue and white clouser figuring I would fish for smallies until the group left the spot I wanted to fish.

I made my way upstream and checked out an area that might have potential for roughfish. When I got down to the bank I noticed a ton of carp stacked up near shore. Bingo! I quickly cut off my clouser and opened up one of my bugger barns looking for something juicy to tie on. Thinking back on John Montana's recent carp slaying adventure, I had San Juan Worm on my mind. I dug around my flybox and found my last San Juan Carp Killer. I tied on the fly and a pinch of shot to get the fly down and dropped the fly in the water. Right off the bat a bluegill attacked my fly. Not exactly what I was hoping for; I quickly pulled the hook out of the fish's mouth hoping not to spook all the carp in the area.

I found an active feeder and presented my fly: a couple of missed takes. Damn. I blind nymphed the current seam along the near bank while I looked for more feeders. I check-set my line and felt resistance; fish on! I quickly walked down stream along the bank as to not scare the fish upstream. I played the fish to the surface and found that a nice carp had taken my fly. After five minutes, I finally tired the fish enough to land it on shore.

After releasing the fish, I walked back upstream and found some tailers. I dropped my fly down a few inches in front a carp and watched its tail. A quick change in direction and I knew it was on. I set the hook. Round two.

After I'd catch a fish, most of the surface feeders would scatter and go deep. I'd be able to catch a bunch of those bottom feeders blind nymphing. I'd try and work a different section of water until fish would start becoming visible again on the other stretch. These fish were fairly aggressive. I would drop the fly to the bottom, and slowly lift it up to the surface. The fish would turn and change direction to take the San Juan Worm, even following it to the surface. The best take of the day was nymphing to a tailing fish. I dropped the fly in front of its mouth and lifted the fly. I watched the fly turn its head up, open its mouth and flare its gills. I pulled my rod back and played a little game of tug o' war.

All morning long, I watched pods of buffalo cruise by. I nymphed all I could to try and get one to take my fly to no avail. I had a few false hookups, probably snags, and likely a few takes from some carp as well. Carp on the fly are great fun and all, but buffalo on the fly, well that's just divine. My luck finally turned when I spotted a dark profile swim upstream along the current seam. I dropped my fly in front of the fish, counted to three and watched for a head turn. The silhouette faded and disappeared. I thought I saw it move off to the side. I set the hook just to be sure, and was justly rewarded.

Man I love buffalo.

I proceeded to catch more carp throughout the morning, I lost count of how many. What I do know is that I easily burned through a half-dozen SJWs and I need to tie more before my next outing. I wish these flies were just a bit more durable. About three or four fish is all my ties can take. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but those fish really do take that fly hard. Look at this poor battered fly. Literally, hanging on by its last thread.

Second half to come.