Balance

Trying to balance life is a funny thing.  Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, something unexpected gets thrown in the mix and that delicate balance quickly become chaos.  Spending a meaningful amount of time focusing on my faith in God, my family, my friends, and my schooling are all part of the balance.  Throw in my love for fly fishing and rock climbing, and things can quickly become overwhelming.  Three or so months ago I came to the realization that my life was anything but in balance.  I was out of school and fishing WAY too much.  I know, fishing too much?  How could such a thing ever be possible!  When it gets to the point that you are breaking other important commitments to spend every extra moment of time on the water, you are definitely out of balance, and this is exactly how I was living my life.  I would make plans with friends or family, only to later send out a text informing them I was going fishing instead.  Upon realizing I had been living my life rather selfishly, I began working towards fixing things.  I did what I could to make things right with those who I had hurt.

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“A life that gets out ofbalance is much like a car tire that is out of  balance.  It will make the operation of the car rough and unsafe.  Tires in perfect balance can give a smooth and comfortable ride.  So it is with life.” – M. Russell Ballard

I started by taking some time off from fishing and instead focused on the aforementioned things that matter most to me.  I spent more time doing meaningful things with my friends and family.  I worked on strengthening my faith and relationship with God.  I made my blog private, along with my Instagram account.  I also took down my blog’s FB page and spent significantly less time viewing social media.  I felt by eliminating these distractions from my life I would more easily be able to focus on getting things back in balance.

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Dry Dropper For the Win

After a month had passed and I felt that things were finally balanced in a way acceptable to me, I decided it was time to hit the river again.  I knew that salmon flies would be hatching on one of our local rivers and made the short drive.  Upon arriving, I immediately went down and inspected the grassy banks.  To my surprise there wasn’t a single big bug in the grass.  Undeterred, I tied on a salmon fly and dropped a rubber leg a foot below it, just in case they didn’t feel like eating on top.  I threw a cast to a promising run and on my second cast watched as a big head broke the surface and inhaled my fly.  Shortly after I set the hook, the fish shot down river and began using the current to its advantage.  Eventually, as all trout do, he tired out and was brought to hand.  Few catches in my life have brought me such happiness.  It wasn’t the size of the fish, or the fact that I caught it on a dry, or even that it was a nice fish for the river it came from.  It was the realization that I finally had my life back in balance and that I was no longer putting fishing before the needs of others.  I didn’t have anywhere else I was supposed to be.  I hadn’t promised anyone I would help them with something or hang out with them.  I wasn’t skipping out on homework or other responsibilities.  I was exactly where I wanted to be and knew that there was nothing wrong with that.

IMG_20140514_192756  My First Fish After my Month Hiatus From Fishing

I continued fishing a couple more hours, covering just under a mile of water.  I picked up a fish or two every few minutes, including a couple more decent browns.  Although I enjoy throwing dries, it isn’t my “go to” method, so it was a nice change of pace.  Even tiny bows get your blood pumping when they strike explosively on a fly that they might be two or three inches bigger than.  Eventually evening set in and I decided to call it a day.  I had homework I needed to finish and other responsibilities to get back to.  A month free of fishing might not seem like very long to most people, but when you are used to fishing at least three or four days a week, it feels like a very long time.  With that said, I could not have asked for a better first day back on the water.

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Little Brown, Big Black Spots

As of late, most of my time on the water has been spent fueling my addiction for carp on the fly.  There are so many things that I love about fly fishing for carp, many of which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts.  It’s hard not to respect a fish that offers such a great challenge.  I discovered an area last, September that is home to a healthy population of carp, but unfortunately I only had a small window of time to fish it.  All winter I looked forward to going back.  This area does not have any springs, so the level of activity the fish are at really depends on air and water temperatures.

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River Gold

One of my favorite things about the area is the unique array of challenges it has to offer.  There are some places in Idaho that I’ll admit the carp are not all that challenging to catch, so long as your presentation is decent, but this is not one of them.  Snake River carp always seem to know you’re up to something.  If you step on the bank too loudly, they spook off and quit feeding.  If you cast a shadow in the wrong spot, it’s game over.  There are only two occasions that I have found tailing fish here.  Most of the time there are a handful of cruisers and a bunch of sunners.  Deep pools, with some over 30 feet deep, are where the fish hold most often.  I also believe the area is frequented by bow fisherman.  All that aside, it is one of my favorite places to chase carp because I enjoy a challenge and I’m a sucker for big fish (Pun intended).

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Incoming Storm

This semester has been busier than usual, but I have tried my best to make time for fishing at least once or twice every couple weeks.  Sometime during the last week of May I had an open afternoon and took advantage of it.  I arrived at the river to stormy skies and temps in the mid to upper 70’s.  The wind blew and and thunder rumbled every once in a while in the distance, but I didn’t think much of it.  I’ve caught carp in worse conditions, so at least the temperature was on my side.  I headed over to my usual spot, scanning the water for any signs of life along the way.  After the brief 10-minute walk I arrived at the flat and noticed a few carp slowly cruising the banks.  I did my best to put the sneak on them but ended up scaring every last one of them away.  I made my way over to one of the pools and found a pod of carp feeding a few feet off the bank.  They were feeding deep, so I would only catch a glimpse of a tail or fin every once in a while, but never saw where there heads were.  I decided to risk spooking the pod and threw a cast into the middle of the cloud of dust.  I waited until I knew my fly was in the zone and slowly began my retrieve.  The line became taught and I set the hook.  Line ripped from my reel as the fish darted into deeper water.  Eventually showing itself, I discovered it was a fat little mirror, somewhere in the 10 lb. range.  I landed the fish, snapped a couple pics, and sent her on her way.

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Biggun’

The once distant storm slowly worked it’s way towards me and the lightning strikes and thunder were no longer that far off.  I decided it’d be best to head back to the truck and call it a day.  On my way back, I noticed a pod of carp actively feeding and couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  I picked out the most active of the fish and made my cast.  She slowly worked her way over to my leech and inhaled it.  I set the hook and in typical carp fashion she took off to the deep.  I fought the fish for several minutes,  the storm continuing to work its way closer with each passing minute.  After a few more minutes I landed the big gal and snapped a few pics.  I don’t carry a scale on me, so it’s hard to say how much she weighed, but it was by far my biggest fish from this section of river.  After releasing her, I realized the storm was right on top of me and I hustled back to my truck, avoiding anymore distractions.  Even in fishing there are things that must be balance, such as risk and safety.  When lightning is directly overhead, it is usually best to call it quits, no matter how good the fishing might be.

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Sunshine, Carp, and Jurassic Park

Since I’ve started fishing again, I have been able to keep things in balance, the way it should be.  Fly fishing is good for the soul.  It allows time to think and reflect on the things that weigh upon my mind from time to time.  True happiness can only be found by living a balanced life, and this truth has recently become more apparent to me than ever before.  The Fish Hunter Chronicles blog is back up and running and I will once again continue posting on a regular basis.  Many thanks to all those who support and follow the blog.  When I began writing on this blog, I only intended it to be a journal for my own personal use.  I had no idea about the people it would allow me to meet and the impact some of my writings would have on people.  I have also added two new tabs, “Carp on the Fly” and “Night Fishing”, so be sure to check them out.

Brown Town

One of my favorite things about fly fishing is the different places that it takes me.  I love exploring new water.  Having only lived in Eastern Idaho for three years, I still have a lot of exploring to do.  There are so many miles of water here, it would take a life time to explore it all.  My buddies and I are always on google earth, sharing screen caps through Face Book messages with comments such as, “Have you ever fished here before?” or “This run looks like it has to hold some serious hogs”.  Often times places end up being a total bust, but every once in a while everything comes together and you find that perfect spot.  There is something about finding a new run that is chock full of fish eagerly waiting to eat your fly.

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Dirty Water Brown

Anyone that knows me knows that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the South Fork of the Snake River.  Most of the year the flows are too high to reasonably wade fish.  If you know where to look, there are side channels that can be fished without the use of a drift boat, but they are pretty few and far between.  Late fall through early spring is prime time on the South Fork for the wade fisherman.  Three years ago, fishing was phenomenal on the South Fork.  It was not uncommon for me to go out in the afternoon and fish til dark and land 30+ fish, with at least a handful in the 16″-18″ range.  The past two years have been a different story.  Aside from night fishing, I have had a terribly difficult time catching very many fish.  Even my usual spots were not producing the normal numbers of trout they did in years past.  I attribute this partially to the fact that we have had terrible winters the last two years.  Unusual fluctuations in water flows have messed with insect life and have also reshaped the river, causing fish to hold in different runs than they did previously.  Simply put, I was a bit put off with the idea of fishing the South Fork.

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Last Light Brownie

Last week, I decided it was time to give the South Fork another chance.  I went and fished a couple of my old haunts and quickly caught a couple of small cutthroat trout.  I was much more interested in catching brown trout, so I decided to do a little exploring.  The South Fork is riddled with side channels and almost every one of them holds a lot of fish.  I decided to go fish a new side channel that I had not explored much before.  The last time I had attempted to fish it I had been run off by a couple moose and was a bit hesitant to return.  The deep cut bank on one side and gravel bar on the other made any route of escape a difficult one.  After checking the area and deciding there weren’t any moose near by (at least none that I could see) I decided to jump down into the channel.  Within a couple casts I was hooked up on a decent little brownie.  I quickly released the fish and slowly worked my way down the channel.  At one point in time I was catching fish on every single cast.  The fishing continued like this until dark and I ended up with 30 or so fish to hand, most of them between 12″-16″s.  I considered staying to night fish but didn’t want to deal with fishing in the rain in the dark.  I was content with the day and already planned on returning in the morning.

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Chromer

With my faith somewhat restored in the South Fork, I was excited to return to the newly discovered run the next morning.  Unfortunately, conditions were not going to be as prime for streamer fishing.  A couple inches of snow had fallen, the wind was blowing, and the temperature had dropped about 20-25 degrees.  Water clarity was also beginning to return to normal.  I arrived at the river with the air temp somewhere around 15 degrees, and with windchill, it felt somewhere in the single digits.  Undeterred, I made my way down to the run and began working my wooly bugger behind some boulders.  It didn’t take long to hook up with a healthy 16″ brown.  I worked my way down to the tail out, only picking up three fish along the way.  I figured the fishing would be slower with the change in weather and decided it was time to move elsewhere.

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Blizzard Fishing

After deciding where to try next, I made the short drive to one of my favorite spots on the river.  It was immediately evident that the fishing was going to be better in this location.  After only a couple casts I had hooked up with a fish.  I worked my way down river for 1/2 a mile or so, picking up fish the whole way, but most of these fish were smaller.  Things eventually started to slow down and I decided to start heading back to my truck.  On the way back, I planned to stop and throw to one of the deeper pools one last time.  In years past I had seen some very respectable browns in this hole, so I knew there was most likely a nice fish in there.  I cast my streamer, this time letting it sink much longer so I could work the deep run more effectively.  I began stripping the fly slowly towards me, and on the third or fourth strip felt the take of a noticeably larger fish.  When big browns hit, they don’t hold anything back.  They attack your fly with a vengeance and there is no mistaking that they are there.  After the initial take, they usually dive straight for the bottom or the river.  As I fought the fish, I did all that I could to work him up from depths of the river bottom.  He did not want to budge at all.  I fish with pretty heavy line, so I wasn’t too concerned about breaking him off.  Fly fishing for carp really teaches you how much pressure you can put on a fish before your knot will fail.  Eventually he came to the surface, throwing a huge wave of water.  I finally caught a glimpse of him and let out a shout of excitement.  Big browns are not very easy to come by, especially in the light of day, and I was face to face with the biggest one I had ever hooked on the South Fork.

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That Head…

I scooped the fish into my net and sat there for a minute, admiring his monstrous head.  His kype was so large that it kept his mouth from closing all the way.  I had never seen such a large head on a trout before and was quite impressed.  I quickly snapped a couple pictures and sent the big guy on his way.  I can’t help but wonder what he might have looked like in October, prior to the spawn.  Sometimes after catching a nice fish I decide that it is ok to call it quits for the day.  This was one of those days.  I looked up, thanked the Lord for the opportunity to catch such a beautiful trout, and made the hike back to my truck.

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One of My Biggest Browns To Date

Sometimes you catch a fish and the entire experience runs through your mind over and over again, like a scratched DVD stuck in a loop.  While fishing today, I couldn’t help but re-run the experience of catching that brown through my mind.  I was already content with the day before I ever stepped out of my truck.  Fishing was a little slower today, but I still managed a nice 22″-23″ hen.  She was still skinny from the spawn, but a healthy and beautiful fish none the less.  Brown trout hold a special place in my heart, and it was nice to take a break from the ‘bows I’ve been more accustomed to this Winter.

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Torpedo

Sometimes all it takes is a couple good days of fishing to restore your faith in an old favorite spot.  Other times it might take only a single fish.  Through a combination of both, my faith in the South Fork of the Snake is once again restored.  Snow pack is looking great for this winter, so I am hopeful that brighter days are ahead for the South Fork in the coming year.

Calculated Risk

Fishing is full of choices.  Some are easy to make, others not so much.  Eastern Idaho has so many different options this time of year and that often makes it difficult to choose where to fish.  After a pretty serious warm front rolled in last Thursday, I had one fish on my mind.  The mighty carp!  As I sat inside sick all weekend, I day dreamed of warmer days on the carp flats.  Monday’s forecast called for a whopping high of 48 degrees.  This might not sound that warm to most people, but in Eastern Idaho where temps well below zero are the norm this time of year, I was ecstatic.  Sunny and 48 sounded like perfect carping weather to me.  I arrived at the flat I had in mind around 12:30 with the air temp somewhere in the low 40’s.  To my dismay, there wasn’t a fish to be seen in the flat.  I decided to hike a good ways downstream where the flat connects with the river and is also home to a large deep spring.  I began blind casting, hoping that there might be some carp holding deep near the bottom of the warmer spring water.  After casting for several minutes with no luck, I finally saw the first carp breach the waters surface.  Although breaching carp aren’t fish that I attempt to catch, they are a sign that there are other fish near by.  I worked my way down the shoreline where I had seen the carp jump and began casting again.  A few casts later I felt a strong take, strip set the hook hard, and felt the line start peeling from my reel.  Carp are slightly lethargic in chilly water, so after a short but fun fight I brought my first fish of the day to hand.

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First Fish of the Day

After landing my first fish of the day, I was content with achieving my goal.  Last year, my first carp of the season also came to hand in February, but I know now that they can be caught year round here in Eastern Idaho (contrary to popular belief).  Tactics and locations just change a bit.  Last February, Brent and I decided to check a local flat during a snow storm and happened upon a handful of fish that were heavily concentrated around a spring.  We each picked up a couple fish before they all decided to leave the flat.  I was expecting a similar experience this day but was presently surprised when I picked up my second fish of the day just a few casts later.  I could tell immediately that this fish was heavier than the first one.  I did all I could to work the fish to the service so I could catch a glimpse of it.  The fish continued to run for quite a while but eventually tired out enough to be landed.  Because I was fishing in such deep water, I saw no need to put my waders on was just fishing in my jeans.  Although a little hard to tell from the picture, this fish was one of the largest carp I’ve ever landed in my life.  Some times self timer shots turn out like that.  It’s not often that a fish is physically difficult for me to lift from the water, and this one was very heavy.  I don’t carry a scale on me, so it’s hard to say how heavy it really was.  Carp weight varies so much that it can be very difficult to tell the weight without a scale.  Needless to say, it was my heaviest fish of the day.  After a couple of quick pics I sent the fish on its way and continued working my way down the shoreline.  I had one more hook up that quickly came unbuttoned and then things really slowed down for a couple of hours.

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Biggest Fish of the Day

Since fishing had significantly slowed down, I decided it was time to look for fish elsewhere.  I continued to work my way down the shore line, back towards the flat until I once again come across some breaching fish.  My suspicions were confirmed and the fish had moved much shallower than they were previously holding.  The only problem was that the fish were holding on the far bank, which was at least a 15-20 minute walk.  I waded out as far as I could but my casts fell short of where they needed to be.  I decided to make the walk, only to find that the wind had once again changed directions and the fish had moved back to the bank I was originally on.  A bit disappointed, I began the walk back to where I had just come from.  While walking near the shallowest part of the flat, I noticed fish beginning to breach all around me.  Not only were fish breaching, but the occasional tail could be seen, sticking straight up out of the skinny water.  I found the closest pod of tailers I could and began working the water.  Within a couple casts I was hooked up on another healthy fish.

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Crawdads in Yo’ Face

As I mentioned earlier, cold water carp don’t fight nearly as hard as they do when the water is warmer.  I quickly landed the fish and began working another pod of fish.  Over the next 15 minutes I landed two more fish almost as fast as I could get my fly back in the water.  I would cast, make a few strips, feel the fish attack my fly, and quickly follow with a strip set.  The fish were on the feed and they were holding nothing back.  I continued working the flat, picking up the occasional tailer here and there.  Eventually the water became so discolored that it was hard for the fish to locate my fly without it being directly in front of them.  I decided to head back over to the springs located close to the shoreline and target fish in the clearer water.

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Lonesome Mirror

Making the move to clearer water quickly paid off.  I was even able to dap one fish, which happens quite rarely at this particular spot.  After landing a few more fish, the sun sank low enough in the sky that most of the flat was no longer receiving adequate sunlight to keep the fish interested in sticking around.  My amazing day of early season carping was slowly winding down and coming to an end.

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Last Fish of the Day

After all the incredible trout fishing I have experienced as of late, it felt great to get out and chase some tailing carp again.  Although taking “Selfies” with big awkward carp isn’t the easiest task, it still felt very nice to get out and fish by myself.  As much as I love getting out on the water with my fishing buddies, there is something about fishing solo that helps clear the mind.  This week is calling for even warmer temps and I am looking forward to getting out to the carp flats again very soon.