August 30, 2008

Day Two

In true roughfisher form, I hadn't showered in three days, and my pathetic scraggly excuse of a beard was nearly a week old. At daybreak, I still wasn't sure where to start my plan of attack. I headed down to the different spot, further upstream from my usual place. I spotted a juvenile smallmouth bass near shore, but no signs of carp. The area I scouted was still shady; it was only 0900 and still early for carp activity. I gathered some notes in my head and determined that this would be a better spot to try in the afternoon. I made my way back up the trail and drove over to my usual spot. When I arrived, I noticed that a fly angler I met yesterday afternoon was there again with his tandem pontoon. We chatted for a bit about some spots, hot flies, and fish. I gave him a couple antron nymphs, wished him luck, and headed on my way.

There were a half dozen flies that I wouldn't have minded tying on first. However, I haven't hit the vise in a long while (since the swap), and certain patterns in my box are depleted, including my trusty X Factor nymph. I "settled" for a clouser swimming nymph on my 8, and a San Juan carp assassin on my 6. It's been a while since I've fished both patterns. First up, I grabbed my 6 and rolled an underhand cast to the edge of a weed patch. I let my fly sink for a few seconds and slowly stripped it back a few inches. My line went taut and I had a big fish on. This was a great start to the day.

That was definitely one of the bigger fish I've caught all season, maybe not in length, but in girth and weight. That fish was a chunk; nothing like John Montana's orcas from the Columbia, but a respectable fish for Northern Minnesota. I switched off between the carp assassin and swimming nymph all morning long and proceeded to catch fish. The swimming nymph was definitely the more productive fly, and one I often overlook in my fly box. I need to fish this pattern more often.

The afternoon was rolling along great until I made a snap T cast into a shallow area that was being fed from a tiny spring creek. I had noticed a bunch of buffalo schooled up among the carp in this area to feed. The water feeding into this areas was crystal clear, however, there was a brackish mix of silt and vegetation from the fish rooting around. I stripped my fly back into this muddled mess and lost all visibility. I ended up hooked into a little runt of a carp. I wasn't sure if I had snagged it or not since I had lost contact with my fly. When I played the fish over to where I was standing, I noticed I had hooked it in the mouth. I tried to play the fish over to my landing net when it happened. At first, I didn't know what just took place; I was caught off guard. But the eerie pop and snap of high modulus carbon graphite breaking is unmistakeable, akin to fingernails scratching a chalkboard. The sound of a high end rod crumbling in your hands is enough to make a grown man cry. Thank you for lifetime warranties.

I pulled the line in hand over hand and landed the fish. This little pipsqueak was so not worth it.

The middle section below my tip had broken into three pieces; I now had a six piece rod instead of a four. They were fairly clean breaks with one piece breaking just above a guide wrap. The ferrules were tight, and there were no nicks on the blank from where a beadhead nymph could have possibly hit. Maybe the guide was wrapped too tight? I just hope that the rod can be fixed, rather than replaced. Those ARC series Scotts are hard to find, and the fact that Scott brought them back for their Classic Series in 2007 was a blessing.
I love that rod.

I dumped my shattered hopes and rod over at the truck and went back to the river with my 6. There was no use crying over spilled milk. I ran a couple of snake rolls into the veggie patch where I had caught my first fish of the day, and let the carp assassin marinate for a while. I pulled back to find a nice carp on the receiving end of the hook. That made me feel better.

I managed to catch a couple more fish throughout the rest of the afternoon. I should have switched over to the swimming nymph, but I kept the carp assassin tied on, in defiance. I retired the swimming nymph for the day, and proved to the carp that I could still catch fish, even though they had kicked my ass and broke one of my favorite rods.

I may have had the last laugh with a caught fish to end the session, and over twenty carp brought to hand over the last two days isn't bad. But it is a seemingly hollow victory when a soldier lay fallen as a casualty. There will be no retribution, other than the hopes that the rod will one day return to redeem itself and prove its place among men.

Good day.

August 29, 2008

roughfisher 20, carp 1

Here's my new 6 piece rod, and the bastard responsible.

How this little guy snapped my 8 weight is beyond me. I should have dispatched him on the spot, instead I showed compassion and let him swim on, to brag to his buddies on how he got even with the roughfisher. I just hope that Scott can repair/replace this ARC since it was a 2007 Classic Model. It would be hard to replace that stick.

Chalk one up for the carp.

August 28, 2008

Mirror Carp, Cyprinus carpio

roughfisher 10, carp 0

I named names today. It had been several weeks since my last roughfish outing, and I had been long overdue. I was jonesing. Bad. To make matters worse, I had a full tin of carp flies fresh from our mini-swap, and was subjected to witness the carp massacre by the hands of John Montana. A 30 freaking pound carp on a fly. Insane. Props John.

I didn't know what quite to expect when I awoke; rain littered the radar. Knowing that I had two days left of vacation to make it count, I grabbed my gear and hit the Otter Tail. The river level has been falling since last month, due to drier seasonal weather patterns. Recent rains, however, left the waters turbid. This would squash any attempts to successfully sight fish carp. At least it was now sunny out. Undeterred, I tied on my trusty X Factor nymph and hit the water. Right off the bat I was hooked up with a fish, unfortunately, I couldn't see what it was as it took my nymph blindly. I was blessed with a first: My first mirror carp!

I didn't even know if mirror carp were present in this watershed or not, as I've never spotted one here before. I was psyched.

Bass truly are dumb. I spotted this poor bastard sitting right next to me in the water. I knew it was a big fish, so I dapped my fly right in front of its face. I saw it go for a take and I pulled the fly back to watch it chase. I pulled the fly out of the water and hovered it just above the surface. I knew the fish wouldn't be able to resist; it was just like a buck in heat. I watched the fish break the surface meniscus and take my fly three inches above the water. Bass are too predictable and almost no challenge to catch. This is the third such fish I've caught in this manner. It's a wonder they even survive to get this big. They only think with their stomach. This bass taped out at 19".

During the next hour stretch, I proceeded to lose a handful flies. Normally this wouldn't bother me, but these were my fly swap extras. They never saw their fair share of duty. It's a good thing I kept the originals at home. I tied on John's Rubber Legged Hares Ear and the carp couldn't resist. This fly is killer.

After losing the RLHE on a snag. I tied on Mr P's red spider. The fly look so unassuming, you almost wonder how it can even catch fish. I don't know how it does it, but this fly was hot. I finally managed to hook up with those elusive quillbacks. I haven't interested one to take a fly since this spring. I scored a deuce.

A lousy hammer handle pike bit me off, and my fun with the red spider was over. I tied on the spider's cousin, the venerable carp wooly, but it was not nearly as productive as the red spider. No more quillbacks. I definitely need to tie up more of those red spiders.

As the day unfolded, I managed to catch a bunch more carp using my old standbys: a brown antron nymph, and black buffalo soljah. I was able to give my new collapsible landing net plenty of action.

The only question is, do I go back tomorrow or do I fish new water? I'll figure it out in the morning.


I'm back from vacation, and recharged. Like every other holiday, this one ended much too soon. A touch of fall is definitely in the air; many parts of the Arrowhead received their first frost of the season last weekend. Fall colors are starting to appear, and the kids are all headed back to school, a sure sign that summer is over. One of the perks of Fall is that most of the tourists abandon the local lakes and streams, and leave them to the residents through ice up. Nice.I didn't even stow away a rod this trip. Frankly it was nice to just be able to relax and savor my last few moments of peace and quiet before my son is born next month. I found these chubs taking refuge in a tiny pool off of the Baptism River. They were spared any harassment by this roughfisher. They can run but they can't hide, the famous falls of Tettegouche lie ahead.

I'm going on strong, and will be charging hard in September. My fishing days are numbered and I've got a score to settle.

Fish beware.

August 21, 2008

Goose Egg

I officially got the skunk for the trip, by finishing 0 for 3 this week, with only one showing. No trout for the smoker. My two week fish count = 1 lost lake trout at the surface. Ouch. On the bright side, due to delays with our project work, I may get a couple more nights of salmon and trout fishing in at the beginning of next month. Bonus. I just hope I'm finished with work on the North Shore before my wife goes into labor; she's due in early October.

The roughfisher will leave for a much needed vacation this weekend. Ironically, I'll be going back to the North Shore for some R&R with Mrs. Roughfisher. Nothing like a two day turnaround to make the 5 hour plus trip back to Duluth and points North. The rods will be left at home; some brief hiking, sight-seeing, agate hunting, an auto tour, and relaxation are on the itinerary. I'm looking forward to some beach time with the wife. Of course, if I'm hard up, I can always grab a rod out of the work truck in Two Harbors and hit the breakwall. I doubt I'll need to resort to those measures, though. I've got about a month or so left of some peace and quiet before my world changes again. I've got to make the best of it.

I'll be back in full force at the end of next week, and hope to report back good news on some roughfish outings. I need to put those carp swap flies to the test. With my daughter going back to daycare next week, my Fridays will once again be free until Thanksgiving. I've only got a couple more weekends left to take advantage of before Jr. Roughfisher comes along. Looks to me like a good excuse to hit the water.

You all behave while I'm gone now. Cheers.

August 19, 2008

0 for 2, 1 to go

Well, I've been blown out for two days straight now. The wind has been pounding high surf into the North Shore; you'd be more akin to donning the wetsuit and long board than fishing in this weather. Definitely a beautiful day out, but the waves crashing the breakwall were gnarly.

The view from Park Point, Duluth

I fished for about 10 minutes last night before determining two things: I needed to keep my eyes on the water or I'd be in big trouble, and two, if I managed to catch a fish in the howling wind, I'd be hell bent on getting it landed without taking my eyes off the waves. After watching nearly a foot of water clear the concrete walkway one step below me, I packed my shit and got the heck out of the there. I didn't want to be fished out of the Twin Ports with a gaff by some swabbie donning corpse handling gloves.

Today was just as windy, with a small craft advisory, so I've had to bag the last two nights of fishing. I've got one more shot tomorrow evening to bring home some trout or salmon. The wind is expected to switch to the south, so hopefully there will be some relief and the waves will not be that bad. My plans for having some smoked trout and salmon are quickly fading, and frankly, it's not looking good. If all else fails I can bring home some smoked fish from a famous smokehouse just down the highway, but it just not the same.

I'm beginning to smell a skunk.

August 17, 2008

Dog Days

Whoever came up with the term "dog days of summer" anyway? Apparently it was the Romans and Greeks in reference to Sirius, or "Dog Star", and the period of its heliacal rising. Thanks Wikipedia. Swedes and Finlanders often referred to the period as the "rotting-month" due to the tendency of perishable items to spoil in the high heat. With the advent of refrigeration I doubt that this phrase holds much cultural significance anymore other than meaning that it's damn hot. American interpretations of the phrase are often more literal (folk etymology), relating more toward the behavioral tendencies of dogs to be lazy or "doggedly" during periods of high temperatures and humidity. Regardless of the origin of the phrase, it is hot and humid here in northwestern Minnesota.

The only thing spoiling right now is my mood and my t-shirt. I hate sweating. The winter climate here in northern MN definitely suits my tastes. It's days like these that I wish I could be pulling up to my favorite fishing hole on my snowmobile, portable fish house in tow, ready to ice some ciscos through three and a half feet of ice. I know some people marvel at the act of ice fishing, heck some people don't even believe that you can actually drive out on a frozen lake. And don't let the makers of Ice Road Truckers fool you either. That program is so sensationalized that even Nanook would be afraid to venture out on the ice. Yes, there is no such thing as safe ice, but with a little common sense (which most people seem to lack these days) 5" of ice can easily support the weight of an angler and a snowmobile, 8-12" for smaller vehicles, and 16"+ can support the weight of a full-size pickup truck. The winter ice typically tops out at around 36-48" around here. It was around 42" last season (even under the thick cover of snow), the same thickness as the plowed ice roads on the Arctic Ocean featured in Ice Road Truckers. I could go for a bent ice rod right about now.

Not much in the means of angling excitement going on around here lately. I've got another couple weeks to seek refuge from the heat on the cool North Shore of Minnesota. I have three more shots at bringing home some lakers and salmon this week, and finally a return to some fly rod action with a shot at some carp and buffalo upon returning from vacation at the end of August. I look forward to ringing in the cooler fall airs of September. I even noticed a few of the leaves starting to change color along the canopy edges last week. Right on time. We are just about past the hump of warm weather, with relief in sight. Before I know it, I'll be dusting snow off the windshield of my sled, hooking up the portable to the hitch and heading out to the lake. Until then, don't turn off the AC.

August 13, 2008

NBII fish ID site

I was just referred an excellent web resource at work this week, the EKey Electronic Key for Identifying Freshwater Fish.

The ID Key is provided by the National Biological Information Infrastructure, or NBII (administered by the Biological Informatics Office of the U.S. Geological Survey ), and allows users to search freshwater fish ID database by taxon, dichotomous key, text-based search, and a shape and text-based search. The latter is an interesting and unique means of searching for fish, one that I have not encountered before. While not every species found throughout the US are listed, the database contains a very thorough and comprehensive species list. This is an excellent reference and web resource for assisting with fish identififcation.

August 12, 2008

The results are in

The mini carp fly swap that was conducted between John Montana, Wendy Berrell, and Mr. P is complete. My wife called to inform me that my flies arrived in the mail yesterday. Sweet. These are some killer fly patterns, that have been proven in the field by some outstanding and accomplished anglers. It's been a privilege to participate and contribute to the mini swap with these fine anglers. Thanks.

It may be a few weeks before I'll be able to chase after some carp and buffalo, but these flies will provide plenty of inspiration. These flies are unlikely to ever be fished, but they will serve as a template for future ties. I typically don't fish the flies I receive from a swap; I keep a copy of each fly to use as a master pattern for tying clones in the future. Photographs and a recipe are great, but nothing beats having the real thing in front of you. I have heard the lament of many an angler that lost their only copy of a favorite producing fly they received in a swap. I will not suffer the same fate.

Check out Wendy's photos of the fly swap entries at his blog.

August 11, 2008


I'll be working on the North Shore over the next few weeks, so I can't pass up an opportunity to take a shot at some salmon, char, and trout. The carp will have to wait.

My first evening on the big lake did not start well. As I was unpacking my gear, my fillet knife was put in its sheath backward by someone, not me, and happened to poke through the sheath, and the cordura sling pack I was carrying it in. The knife was not dull. When I grabbed my pack, the knife literally sliced right through my right index finger and pierced the ring finger next to it. Luckily, I had a first aid kit in the vehicle and did some quick medic work before making my way out to the breakwater. This cut was deep, it's possible some would have gotten stitched for it, but not this roughfisher. Fish were to be had.

When I got to the end of the breakwater, I casted a orange and chrome 1/2 oz spoon into about 100 FOW and after a few retrieves found a beautiful Salvelinus namaycush on the end of my line. Unfortunately, while trying to land the fish it got off and was able to swim another day; that fish was headed for the smoker. It was approximately 22-24" long. Perfect. In hindsight, that was the most action I would see all night long. My coworker managed to catch his first lake trout, a 8" specimen. Not the largest fish, but you have to start somewhere. At least he didn't get the skunk.

When I got back to the hotel, I applied steri-strips to my wound and some neosporin. Hopefully I can let this heal up quickly. Fortunately, with my baitcaster set up I was using, I am able to avoid using my right index finger while reeling and grip the rod with my left hand, something I would not be able to do with my flyrod. I guess I am fortunate to be throwing gear. Hopefully I'll be able to fill my cooler with a few fish this trip. Daddy's got to eat.

August 7, 2008

Jinx, modesty and hypocrisy

I swear the post from the other day is messing with me. As if it was some sort of retribution for mentioning something about being in rhythm and harnessing the flow, I have a terrible outing on the water.

In my tribute post, I spoke of all things [coming] together. My outing couldn't have been more contradictory. It started out promising with a couple of small bass (smallmouth) taken on Mr P's carp carrot. I was hoping to see how this assassin of a fly would fare with the carp and buffalo. Well I can tell you that it works, but the resulting humility that ensued was insulting.

I hooked a buffalo to start off, and when I grabbed the line to land it (without my lippa tool), it gave me the mother of all splashings. I was soaked from head to toe and covered with silt and algae. I could barely see through my glasses. The fish flopped around in the water while I fumbled around to grab it. I made my way up the bank leaving my pride, and what I can only allude to as a circus act gone wrong down at the water's edge. I grabbed a photo and released the fish. Over the next several hours, I proceeded to snag my fly in every overhanging branch possible, in blades of grass overhanging the waters edge, get my line tangled in milkweed plants, pigweed, and thistles, and get hung up on rocks, breaking off flies. I got my line wrapped around my rod countless times and couldn't get my leaders tied right not matter what I did. They were limp, lifeless, and refused to turn over. As a result I couldn't buy a decent rollcast for the life of me. Drastic measures needed to be taken. I clipped a few sections of my leader and retied. It helped a little but not a lot. In order to avoid the branches I moved, but not before catching a carp.

After relocating, I settled down for a bit. Things were better, but my internal rhythm was still a bit off. I managed to hook up with several nice carp, until they came.

Here we go again with anglers that lack any courtesy. Two youths approached where I was fishing and proceeded to set up within rods length of either side of me. Now I know they're youth, and that they are important to the sport to retain as anglers for life, but something needs to be done with parents that don't teach their kids respect or manners, like a swift kick to the nuts. It is just not polite to cast right under someone else's line, let alone set up right next to a fly fisherman who needs room to cast his line. I realize that they may know exactly the mechanics of fly fishing and how a line is cast, but for god's sake, it is just common decency to give someone a little room. Besides, who dresses their pre-teen kid in a t-shirt with the logo, "Drinking beer and shooting bucks. That's how I roll."? Really!? This is when I realized the hypocrisy of my last post and the selfishness of my own actions.

I hate other anglers.

Strong words, and true for the most part. I have no problem with internet anglers, as they are not on the stream in my spot, hogging my river. I can give internet anglers all the tips and advice they need. Great if they learn something. But if some chump is out there on the river and infringing on my personal space, get the fuck out of the way. It's bad enough that this roughfisher despises most people to begin with, but if you wanna chat on stream about if I've been "catching anything?" or "oh, you're fly fishing?", here's a newsflash, I don't have time for you.

There. I said it.
I am a grumpy, arrogant, elitist, roughfisher.

I moved back to the other side of the river due to the fact that I couldn't cast with an 8 year old literally standing in my shadow. The only fly that really had any success today was my rubber legged X Factor nymph, which I coincidently lost my last one in a snag. I tied on an orange scud and noticed a a bunch of large buffalo holding in a stretch of water downstream of a boulder cluster, catching a current break. I pinched on a shot and with my best underhand cast (forward spey) on my weak side I shot my line upstream and across, right across those fish. The second my fly drifted over the pod, I instantly hooked up. It was so instantaneous, that I was for certain that I had snagged a fish. It turns out that I did indeed snag the fish, in the mouth.

The rest of the outing was miserable. It was warm, the sun was relentlessly beating down on me, and no matter what I did over the next two hours, I could just not catch a fish. Did my fly have carp stink or what? I was hoping to catch just one more before having to leave. No dice. I clipped of my fly and packed up, reeking of failure. I felt like the day was a failure.

A couple buffalo, a half-dozen carp, and another half-dozen smallmouth. Not a bad body count for any angler. Yet, I deemed the outing a bust because I was out of sync all day and couldn't get a fish to bite at the end. In hindsight, I should have been pleased with the results. It's not like I got skunked. However, a little humility every now then keeps us modest and humble.

Me? I'm just a grouchy, cynical hypocrite. Cheers.

creek chub

A fat creek chub from the other day, somewhere around 8" long. I've caught trout smaller than this.

August 5, 2008


"His job is to shed light, and not to master"
- Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia

It has been nearly 13 years since the soul of a brilliant musician, Jerome J. Garcia, left this world. Though his lifestyle may not have been approved by many, he left his mark on most of his followers; his poignant guitar playing touched many of our souls. I cannot recall a single fishing outing in recent memory where I did not listen to the Grateful Dead, or one of Jerry's offshoot bands, on the way to and from the river. In fact, on some expeditions I recall listening to a killer show more than the actual fishing itself.

A tight set will get me into the right frame of mind, and things just seem to flow better on the river. All things come together. A crispy Help/Slip/Franks from May '77 or a funky Shakedown from July '78 just begs for a tight loop. With the advent of satellite radio and Sirius' Grateful Dead Channel, I am able to have Grateful Dead music piped in 24/7, everywhere across the country. This has been fabulous. Now I am connected.

During a recent show celebrating Jerry's life on the Grateful Dead Channel, a fan had commented on a lyric from the song Terrapin Station (Lady With a Fan), "His job is to shed light, and not to master". Wow. I have listened to this song hundreds of time and only the other day did it finally hit me on what that lyric meant. It was profound. It is not the responsibility of this roughfisher to conquer all roughfish with a fly, but rather help others along and enlighten them on their path. Life isn't just about me and my journey, but interaction and connection, and helping others along the way find their light. In this "me first" world that we are currently living in, this is a point easily overlooked.

I just hope that through my ramblings and postings, I've been able to help someone along their way, and that they've been able to find success, whether it be through fly fishing, or life in general. This has been an enlightening retrospective and has really illuminated a guide for living out my future endeavors. Sometimes we all just need a little perspective.

"Goin' home, goin' home,
by the waterside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs,
to rock my soul"

-Robert Hunter