July 25, 2013
Carp Camp 2013 Beaver Island, MI: The Setup
The two hour ferry ride over to Beaver Island from Charlevoix is always a pleasant experience. It gives me an opportunity to clear my head, anticipate my arrival, as well as get myself into the right frame of mind and acclimate myself to island time. Beaver Island Boat Company provides the ferry service, and just a week or so prior to my arrival, word of a failed port engine on the Emerald Isle posted on Facebook, putting she ship out of service indefinitely. The Emerald Isle is BIBCO's flagship boat, the bigger, younger ship in the company's fleet. Service was to resume on the Beaver Islander, a ship I've yet had the pleasure of cruising on. The ferry ride over was nochalant, with little difference between the two ships apart from capacity and vending options, a true testament to the professionalism of BIBCO and their staff. Upon our entrance to St James harbor on the island, we were surprisingly greeted by a biplane, cruising around the island at a low altitude. The familiar sights of the harbor and the bright red roof of the Central Michigan University boathouse brought back pleasant memories of my last visit to the island. It was like visiting an old friend.
Upon arrival, we made our way off the dock and over to the Fisherman's House where we were to make home for the next five nights. I had caught wind of the terrible conditions that plagued Cameron's TFM hosted trip. A few of the guests from TFM's trip stayed back a bit longer and fished an unscheduled day in hopes of breaking the funk now that the weather had cleared up considerably. After meeting and chatting with a few of the carryover guests, I walked over and met Cameron at the boat landing as he was coming in on Kevin's boat. A fine day on the water, but no carp. Hard to believe that between threes boats, six anglers, and four days out, only two carp were landed. Brutal. Although brief, it was nice to chat and catch up with Cameron before he headed off to the air strip to catch his flight out.
I made my way back to the house and unpacked, settling in before all of the campers arrived. There were many thoughts running through my head, wondering about how the fishing was going to be over the next several days. We were slated to have a nice stretch of stable weather, though we were unsure how long it would hold out past three days. Conditions were certainly better than for the TFM group, but was weather the only factor at play regarding the tough carp bite? Photos of hex and large drake mayflies started popping up on social media a few weeks prior to Carp Camp. Hex popping around the end of June/early July was common so there wasn't much cause for alarm. On the boat ride over, the ship was covered with hex spinners, still wasn't worried. As I sat down to a grilled dinner with the campers, we chatted and speculated throughout the evening of what was to come of the fishing. Much anticipation.
Day one started with a great breakfast courtesy of the Dalwhinnie. We met up with the Indigo guides and constructed a game plan for the day. We were going to follow the wind and the warm water, fishing the windward sides of the islands and the cups and bays that would catch and hold the warm surface water as it blew in to shore. I had my fly selection picked out and my rods rigged and ready. We grabbed our lunches from the deli, and I saddled up with Sweet Chili Martinez for my first day. We launched the boat and made our way out of the harbor, headed to the west. What we would find when we got to the flats we did not know. The plan was to fish from the boat as much as possible, allowing us to sneak up to the fish as close as we could. This isn't always the easiest tactic. Drifting boats, the wind, weary, deep carp changing course as you cast to them, and water currents, this can all be a challenge. At one point I had done a complete 360 from a fish I was targetting from when I had started my backcast to when the fly was delivered. Disorienting to say the least.
Over the following four days we covered a lot of water and saw a lot of fish. We all hauled a lot of line, got our boots wet, and casted plenty of flies. Sometimes we found ourselves in a complete cluster of tangled line and knotted leader, other times, in a perfect zen like trance of enlightenment, fishing to a pod of fish circling in a pool of bathroom temp water. I would be hard pressed to say that we didn't fish hard. We were thorough. We were complete. We had brought our A game.
To see how the fishing went, stay tuned for Parts Two and Three.