2012: A Year of Learning

When I think about my fishing experiences this past year, the first word that comes to mind is learning.  Throughout this year, I was able to learn so many different things about fly fishing and how to become a better fly fisherman.  I made a lot of great friends along the way and was lucky enough to find a few nice fish as well.  This post is a little picture heavy ,but it consists of some of my most memorable catches of the year, as well as fish that helped me learn important lessons.  Before I forget, a lot of these pictures were not taken by me and I want to make sure my friends get credit for their great photos.

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I learned how rewarding throwing big meaty streamers can be

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I caught my new personal best mirror carp.  I also learned that carp can be caught very early in the year if you fish the right places.

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I learned how fun and effective throwing eggs can be

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I spent many days on the flats in search of carp and learned many new techniques

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This is the most beautiful brown trout that I have ever caught in my life.  The amazing colors a fish can have never cease to amaze me.

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I landed my personal best cutthroat and learned that heavily pressured rivers can still put out some great fish

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I landed my personal best brook trout and learned how hard they fight when they are bigger than 6″

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I had the chance to fish with John from “Carp on the Fly” and Jim from “The Mr P Blog”.  I learned from them that the carp we have in Idaho are far more aggressive than most carp elsewhere.  I also learned that most people do not blind fish for them like we do.

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I learned to always expect the unexpected.  There are not supposed to be brown trout in the river this fish was caught.

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I learned that big fish can be found in rivers that are only supposed to have little fish

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I learned that summer evenings are a great time to throw streamers

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I learned how useful a canoe can be for covering a lot of water in smaller rivers

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I learned to never take myself too seriously.  Fishing is all about having fun!

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I learned how much harder it is to catch carp post spawn vs pre spawn.  I also learned how much harder they fight during the middle of summer vs spring.

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I learned that a girthy trout will fight much harder than a snaky trout

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I learned that contrary to popular belief, spawning Kokanee Salmon can be caught on the fly rod.  In fact, they love chasing down big streamers.

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I learned that night fishing brings out the big boys

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I learned that whitey’s need lovin’ too, especially the big ones

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I landed my personal best brown trout.  I learned that stinger hooks help solve  the issues that short strikes can create.

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I landed my first lake trout on the fly.  I learned that they like flies that have some pretty crazy colors to them.

B2Qc7loKr6YVr02gGskrUD1U2imX15XSJrmfTYRV76UI caught my personal best hybrid.  I learned that even if a fish has been hooked before, he’ll bite again.  This poor fish had a couple copper johns in him from other anglers who had broke off.

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I caught my first ‘bow night fishing.  I learned that a camera flash in the dark and a little excitement can lead to me making some pretty ridiculous faces.

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I caught my personal best ‘bow.  I learned that big fish can be caught and landed on little flies, even if it takes a little more effort.

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I caught the biggest sucker fish I’ve ever seen in my life.  I learned that even a sucker can’t resist the swing of a streamer. 

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I caught my first Salmon River steelhead.  I learned that steel heading requires a lot of patience.

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I learned to always carry a net with me when I decide to go exploring a good distance from whoever I’m fishing with

Another year has come and gone and I am already looking forward to what 2013 will have to offer.  I’d like to thank everyone who follows and supports the blog.  Have a safe and happy new year!

The Path Less Traveled

A few weeks ago I received an exciting invitation to go on a backcountry fishing trip with my friend Brent from Uprising Fly Fishing.  All of us spent the weeks leading up to the trip in great anticipation of what we might catch.  The location was fabled to have large lake trout and trophy browns that would readily chase down a well placed streamer in shallow water.  Like most places that are worth talking about, a little bit of work would be required to get there.  When your mind is so caught up on catching what could quite possibly be the fish of a lifetime, all logical thought processes seem to disappear.  For example, instead of thinking about resting so you have the energy to hike 14 miles, you pull an all-nighter tying up some new patterns that you think might work for lake trout.  The logical thinker would go to bed but the obsessed angler sticks to the vise until it’s go time.  Chris, Brent, and I were scheduled to meet up at 4:30 AM so we would have plenty of time to make the hike in.  Despite the blue bird skies that have been the norm this entire year, we received a warm welcome with one of the wettest days I have ever experienced in my life.  Rain, sleet, and high winds would be the norm for 90% of the day.  I quickly reminded myself why I was there and the weather didn’t seem so bad anymore.  A couple hours later we made it to our destination and got to fishing.  It was neat to look into the crystal clear water and see schools of lakers swimming together.  Most of the year, these fish are in the depths of the lake, nowhere to be seen.  I decided to tie on one of my new creations and went to work.  It didn’t take long to hook into my first laker on the fly.  I was really caught off guard by what a strong fish they are.  The fish we caught were only small fry.  I can only imagine hooking into a monster.  Unfortunately, the streamer only produced one fish.  We all made the switch over to eggs and proceeded to catch a few more fish.  The mack fishing started to slow down a little so we decided to explore some more of the river and went in search of some browns.

My First Mack on the Fly

Chris and his First Laker (Note the Torrential Downpour Taking Place)

The brown trout fishing started out slow to say the least.  They were extremely skittish and not interested in anything we had to offer.  I tried a small streamer and eggs, while Chris and Brent stuck to the bigger articulated streamers.  Eventually Chris decided to tie on his Magic Dragon Pattern and that did the trick.  We walked down a good ways until we stopped seeing any fish and decided to fish our way back upriver.  Chris continued to catch a few more nice browns and during this time, the sun decided to come out, the wind died, and we were all able to warm up a little.

Chris and his First Brown of the Day

An Awesome Underwater Shot From Brent

Chris With Another Dandy Brown – Check out Those Teeth!

We eventually made it back up to where we had first started and I had yet to land a brown.  I had multiple chances and just wasn’t able to capitalize on any of the opportunities.  In fact, shortly after Chris hooked his first brown of the day, I had the same fish hit my fly three time!  I just couldn’t connect with him.  The first area we had fished was in the shadow of the trees and full of whitecaps and I figured the fish would be way less skittish.  My first cast in I missed what felt like a great fish.  I hurried and punched out another cast in the 30 mph+ winds and whitecaps and was able to connect with a fish this time.  I was expecting it to be another laker but upon closer inspection it was a beautiful brown.  I had accomplished both of my goals for the day and was pretty dang excited to have finally have landed a brown.

My First Brown of the Day

Another Shot of the Same Brown

We only had a short time left before it was time to head out so I hurried and threw out again.  A couple minutest later I hooked into my second brown of the day.  It was another beautifully colored male that made all the efforts of the day worth it.  Brent was still downstream from us so I hollered for him to come up and explained that the browns had moved into the hole and were hitting like crazy.  He threw out a few casts and was able to hook into another nice brown.  It was a hoot watching the browns crash up in to the waves to hammer our flies.  It was as if a switch had flipped that said “feeding time!”  We all missed a few more fish and then the fishing eventually slowed down again.  We didn’t want to be hiking out in the dark and decided it was probably best to hit the trail.

My Second Brown of the Trip

Brent with his Brown Trout

About ten minutes into the hike out, we realized we had taken a wrong fork in the trail.  We quickly turned around and made it back to the main trail.  Throughout the day, we heard and saw massive trees crack in half and fall to the ground.  Nature can be very brutal.  The wind caused many of the massive trees to snap in half like twigs.  As we made our way up the trail, it became evident than many trees had fallen along the trail that had not been there earlier in the day.  One tree was balanced in such a way that I have no idea how it was still standing.  I’d have taken a picture but I didn’t want to be anywhere near it, for fear it would fall over.  As we hiked back towards civilization, I reflected on how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  People travel from all over the world to come and visit in what could be considered my “backyard”, so to speak.  Fly fishing is all about the experience for me.  If I wanted to catch brown trout, I could just go to the Henry’s Fork or the South Fork of the Snake.  I love both of those rivers but there is something about being in the middle of nowhere that is hard to describe.  We didn’t find any of the fabled Ten-Pound browns or monster lakers, but we all agreed we’d go back again in a heartbeat.  Spending a day on the path less traveled is exactly what it is all about and encompasses everything I love about fly fishing.

The Setting Sun on the Hike Out

Faith and the Land of Giants

Day One: Blind Casts

Blackfoot Reservoir is one of those places that I have always struggled catching carp at.  I have no problem getting into trout there, but the carp have always seemed to evade me.  I have always showed up when it was too cold or the fish were not actively feeding at all.  Early last week my buddy Chris invited me to go and do some carp fishing with him at Blackfoot.  Adding to the excitement, we would be fishing with John from “Carp on the Fly” (www.carponthefly.blogspot.com) and Jim from Mr. P’s Blog (themrpblog.blogspot.com).

Chris and I both had class until noon so we didn’t get to the reservoir until 3:00 in the afternoon.  We first went to a spot where Chris had done pretty well a few days earlier.  A cold front had come through a day or two before so I was a little worried the water might have cooled down again.  To our relief, it had managed to stay pretty warm.  We waded out and started seeing fish right away.  Most of them were cruising around and not necessarily feeding very actively.  We managed to pick up one fish there pretty quickly and then the bite died.  Most of the fish would spook before we could even get a cast off.  We decided it was time to move elsewhere.

An Average Sized Carp for the Day

     We spent the next couple of hours scoping out some places that looked like likely spots carp would be.  Carp love shallow flats, especially when they are next to weeds.  We found a great looking spot and slowly worked our way into the water.  This spot had a lot more active carp than the previous spot we had been too.  With that said, it still took a couple of hours to really start getting into any fish.  It really turned on for a little while and we picked up three fish.  We only had a couple more hours of daylight and we wanted to scope out a few more spots for the next day.

Chris with the Biggest Fish of the Day

     We found one more cove that looked promising.  The road down was a little sketchy but we were able to make it all the way to the water.  There were carp jumping everywhere in this cove.  The sun had already gone over the hill so it was all about blind casting.  Blind casting to carp is still pretty foreign to me.  Before I started fishing with Chris, I would only sight fish to carp.  Now I have learned to look for mud lines and look for the type of water that carp like to hold in.  9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to pull out fish if you work a mud line.  I worked my way over to some weeds and started casting blind.  It didn’t take long to get into some fish.  We pulled out a couple more fish before it was too dark to see and decided to call it a day.  Although the fishing wasn’t easy, we managed to pick up quite a few carp between the two of us.  All of the fish were caught blind casting which like I said earlier is still an adjustment for me.  It is crazy how much effort a carp is willing to put into chasing your fly.  When they hit, there is no mistaking it.  If you aren’t holding on tight, you very well could get your fly rod ripped out of your hand.  Day one proved to be successful and I was already looking forward to day two!

Day Two:  Sunlight and Taliers

Chris and I woke up early this day and headed off to Soda Spring to meet John and Jim.  John was kind enough to buy us breakfast from the restaurant at the hotel they were staying at.  We made quick introductions and small talk over breakfast and quickly headed up to the reservoir.  When we first showed up the water was still pretty chilly.  There were a few carp jumping around but not much else going on.  John got into a fish pretty quickly while the rest of us struggled to pick up anything.  The fishing continued to be fairly unproductive so we packed up and went looking for some more active fish.

John with the First Carp of the Day

     The second flat we went to check out had a few fish but none of them were very active.  The water was still a little too cold.  However, we did see a couple of very nice sized carp swimming around.  We decided to move again and headed to a spot that Chris and I had a lot of success the day previous.  By the time we got here, the water started to warm up a little.  By noon it was like a light switch had turned on.  Carp started tailing and it was on!  John and I quickly picked up some fish before the water became too muddy to see anything.  We kept fishing but it had become nearly impossible to see what was going on so we headed over to see what Chris and Jim were up to.  Christ had landed a pretty nice carp and he was helping Jim sight fish to some pigs that were cruising a rock ledge.  John notice a pig of a carp and hooked up with it no problem.  As I was going out to net it, it made one more run and John’s trailer fly got stuck on a bush in the water.  The fish jumped at the opportunity and snapped the line like nothing.  It was really too bad because this carp was well over 20 pounds and a beast of a fish.  We continued to fish this area for a little while longer and saw a few more HUGE carp swimming by.  None of them were real interested though so we decided it was time to work our way back to the cars.  I will definitely be back to this rocky ledge in the near future.  I have never seen so many huge carp in one spot all swimming together.

More Average Sized Fish

Chris With Another Pig Mirror Carp

My Best of the Trip Weighing in @ 15 LBS

     As we worked our way back to the cars we started throwing bigger, more streamer like flies.  It was still too muddy to see any fish feeding but we knew they were in there.  We managed to pick up a few more before making it back to the vehicles.  We only had a couple more hours of good light so we headed to a spot John had done pretty well the day previous.  It started out slow but we eventually started to get into a few more fish.  Most of these fish were in spawn mode though and weren’t feeding too actively.  It was nearly impossible to cast without snagging up with a few of them.  It was also pretty difficult to take a few steps without stepping on any of them.  Even though they were spawning, John and Chris picked a couple up.  By this time it was starting to get cloudy and most of the good light from the day was gone.  We decided it was time to call it a day and worked our way back to the cars.

     It was great getting out and fishing with some new people that are so knowledgeable about fly fishing for carp.  I learned more in those two days than I think I have learned in most of my other carp outings combined.  Blackfoot Res truly is the land of monsters when it comes to carp.  I know that my best chances at a carp over 30 lbs are there in the Blackfoot Reservoir.  John and Jim fish the Columbia River over in Oregon and Washington.  I hope some day soon to be able to make it over there so I can learn a thing or two more.

Day Three:  Dry Carpin’ and a Little Piece of Humble Pie

After the fun weekend I had of carp fishing I decided I wanted even more.  Josh had a lot of things going on so we weren’t able to leave Rexburg until 1:30 or so.  We spent the next hour and a half driving to a spot that had previously been very good to us.  Upon arriving we got out and looked around.  To our surprise there was not a single fish to be found.  We were both pretty disappointed determined to get into some good fish headed elsewhere.  An hour and a half and over 100 miles later we were finally near some carp.  We suited up quickly and headed for the river.  Unfortunately the water was very cloudy and a little cold as well.  We saw a few tailers but were unable to pick any of them up.  Josh did manage to catch a really nice brown trout but it got off at his feet so no pics this time.  We decided that it was time to move to bigger and better things and headed elsewhere.  We made one more quick stop on the river but it was too murky to see anything.

As we drove by a spot on a nearby reservoir, we began to notice what looked like hundreds, if not in the thousands, of carp tails poking up out of the water.  We quickly pulled over and went down to investigate.  To our surprise, they were not tails at all.  The carp were swimming around in large schools sipping midges off the lakes surface.  For the most part, they would just swim around with there mouth open, eating whatever got sucked into their snout.  I didn’t have a dry on so I threw out and managed to pick up a fish pretty quickly.  As soon as I got the skunk off I decided it was time to try my luck at a carp on the dry.  I had caught grass carp plenty of times on dry flies but never a normal carp.  I threw on an adams and a griffiths gnat.  It didn’t take very long to get a take but my hook was so light it bent out.  A few minutes later I heard Josh hollering that he had just gotten one to take on the surface as well.  His hook was a lot bigger and he was able to stick it pretty well.

Josh was Catching the Heck Out of Them on Dries!

Love the Gold

     A couple more hours went by and Josh continued to catch the heck out of them on dries.  I on the other hand was struggling quite a bit.  Every time that I would get a good take my hook would bend out on me.  Every time that they took my larger fly I would pull it out of their mouth before a hook set was even possible.  I very easily could have thrown my normal carp flies back on and done well but this was such a rare opportunity I wanted to take advantage of it.  Unfortunately for me it just was not going to happen.  We continued to fish until we couldn’t see anymore and the fish were still rising.  If we had headlamps I am sure we could have fished even longer into the night.

Yup That’s a Royal Humpy Hanging out his Mouth

Dry Carpin’

My One and Only Carp of the Trip

      Sometimes with fishing everything works out in your favor.  The stars are all aligned and you have a banner day.  Other days you are delivered a big piece of humble pie.  Yesterday was a pie day for me.  So much of fishing depends on faith.  You have faith that there are going to be fish where you are fishing.  In our first attempt, there were no fish where we thought they would be.  With that said, we regrouped and moved on to plan B.  Unfortunately, Plan B didn’t really pan out either, so it was time for Plan C.  Plan C was perfect and we found plenty of feeding fish, but even then faith is required.  You have to have faith that the fish are going to eat what you throw at them.  Without faith and confidence in your flies, you won’t catch very many fish.  I had a great time watching Josh hook up with so many fish on the dries even though I was struggling.  I had multiple opportunities to hook up but it wasn’t meant to be.  It’s ok though, getting a little piece of humble pie every once in a while keeps you from getting cocky and helps you keep the faith!  I am already looking forward to my next trip to the land of giants.