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.


  1. You found some good water and pounded away. I'm envious. Sounds like things really came together to make for a great outing. Buffalo is a great addition to a load of carp.

    Check John Montana's pattern for the SJW - he pushes the chenille through the bead, then hook through the bead.

  2. Good stuff JP. I have some issues with durability on the sjw as well. All in all, it holds up really well but my problem is i'm too lazy to use head cement. If i used head cement, they'd never break down. After a batch of carp, the whip finish starts to unravel.

    Wendy is right, I tie mine by pushing the chenile through the bead, and then putting the entire apparatus on the hook. Nice thing about that is if/when the thread gives out, the fly just slides around on the hook!

    I've also gone to a "super" worm. Basically a big, heavy tungsten bead instead of a small brass bead. Bottom line for me is i catch more fish when I can sink the fly RIGHT in zone, rather than playing the intercept game. We fish totally different water though, i don't deal with my current, and basically still fish the worm. When in MN fishing current, i'm partial the rubber legged nick's walking hare's ear. ask wendy about that pattern...it is a killer.