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.

Gear Review: Redington Sonic-Pro Waders

Waders can make or break a good day of fishing.  Finding a decent pair of waders without spending and arm and a leg is often a difficult task to accomplish.  Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to use the Redington Sonic-Pro Waders.  I’ve gone through many different waders over the years and can honestly say they are some of the best waders I’ve ever worn.

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Redington Sonic-Pro Waders – No worse for the wear

Wader Specs and Features:

Redington offers a unique array of features when it comes to the Sonic-Pro’s.  For starters, they are made of a 100% nylon material that also happens to be very breathable.  This comes in handy, especially for those who like to hike a lot while fishing.  Sweating inside your waders is just as annoying as leaky waders, and the Sonic-Pro’s breathable material prevents that from happening to a large extent.  By using four layers of material in high wear spots, areas that are normally prone to leaks are significantly more durable and abrasion resistant.

The main feature and biggest draw of the Sonic-Pro’s is the way the seams are built.  Instead of using the traditional needle and thread sewing methods, ultra-sonic sound waves are used to weld the seams together using a special glue.  Every seam is double taped to prevent any leaking.  On top of that, the materials used are also waterproof and treated with Redington’s DWR Finish to ensure they stay that way.  Simply put, they are built to keep you dry!

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Warm Spring Day on the Henry’s Fork

There are a few other important features to take note of.  One of my favorite features are the micro fleece lined pockets.  On breezy and chilly days, they warm your hands right up.  There is also a front pocket and and inside pocket, so there is plenty of room to store a few things.  Although I didn’t use it very often, the inside pocket also features a tool pocket with individual places for your forceps, nippers, and tippet.  Just be careful not to put your cellphone or any other electronic device in any of the pockets because they are not 100% waterproof.  I forgot about this one time and my phone got a little wet.  All of these features help set the Redington Sonic-Pro’s a step above the competition.

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Field Testing:

Comfort is one of the most important things to me when it comes to waders.  One of the first things I noticed while fishing in the Sonic-Pro’s is how comfortable they are to move around in.  Many waders are too tight in one area, or far too loose in another.  This is not the case with these waders.  Wading boots slip right on with little effort and the neoprene booties fit perfectly.

Durability is extremely important to me with any gear that I am using.  I usually fish 3-4 days a week and whatever gear I am using is going to take a beating.  One of the first areas to fail in waders I’ve owned in the past has been the neoprene booties.  Because Redington uses a high density neoprene, this is no longer an issue.  Not only are leaky waders and cold feet annoying, it can also be damaging to your body and put you in a dangerous situation.  The only issue that I’ve had is a broken zipper on the inside pocket.  However, this does not really affect the overall functionality of the waders and is not a huge problem.  I’ve put many miles on these waders, and they still function just as well as they did the first day I used them.  I’ve taken a few falls in them, including through thistles, and they still keep me completely dry.

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Wild Idaho Cutthroat Trout

Versatility is also important to me.  There is a lot to be said about a product that can be used in a wide variety of situations.  I’ve worn the Sonic-Pro’s in temperatures in the mid teens while steelhead fishing and they kept me warm the entire time.  On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve worn them all day while chasing carp at Blackfoot Reservoir with temps in the mid 80’s and never got too hot.  It is convenient knowing that my waders will work fine no matter what the weather is like.

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Conclusion:

I have been nothing but pleased with Redington’s Sonic-Pro Waders.  As I mentioned previously, I have put them through the ringer and they still work great.  If there is one thing to take away, it’s that Redington has created one durable pair of waders.  I plan on putting many more miles on them in the months to come and I know they will continue to work well.  I would highly recommend them to anyone who is in the market for a new pair of waders.  Good waders are hard to come by, and I already know what I’ll be getting when this pair wears out.

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Blackfoot Reservoir Carp

Redington’s Sonic-Pro Waders have a retail value of $299.95.  At that price, they are pretty hard to beat.  Want to get your hands on some Sonic-Pro’s of your own or any of Redington’s other great products?  Head on over to their website at www.redington.com.

Carp Overload – Lessons Learned in Carping

At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to improve my overall level of skill at fly fishing for carp.  With fall beginning to set in and cooler nights becoming the norm, the carping season is slowly slipping away.  I already know that I am going to be going through some major carp withdrawals when the dead of winter sets in.  By focusing more of my time on carp, there are many important things that I have learned about carp and their behavior.  I’m no expert by any means, but there are many things I’ve learned this year that have helped me catch significantly more carp than ever before.  Here are a few of the things that have helped me increase my catch rates when it comes to carp on the fly.

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First and foremost, be stealthy.  If you don’t know how to wade quietly through a flat or a gravel bar, learn how or you’ll spook every single carp before you ever get a cast off.  Carp are extremely sensitive to motion in the water, and it doesn’t take much for them to know you are there.

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Chris with a Blackfoot Reservoir Mirror

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Second, short casts are better than long casts.  Trevor from the blog Fly-Carpin made mention of this in a recent post and I couldn’t agree more.  Early in the season, I was having a blast bombing 60-70 foot casts out to tailing carp.  While I was catching plenty of carp, the fact of the matter is you’ll catch far more carp by shortening your presentation.  Takes are easier to detect and you are less likely to spook the fish with a splashy cast.  I learned this lesson the hard way while fishing the Carp Classic at Blackfoot Reservoir this Spring.  Conditions were miserable to say the least.  Fish were very few and far between.  When I finally located a feeding carp, I tried to bust out a long cast rather than sneak up on the fish.  I ended up getting snagged on a rock and spooked him before he ever saw my fly.  The entire situation could have been avoided if I had chosen to shorten up my presentation.  Of course, there will always be situations that require longer casts, but generally speaking shorter is better.

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More Mirrors

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Third, as John from Carp on the Fly says, “know your forage”.  This is key.  What might be the money fly at one location will do nothing but spook fish at another location.  My “Go To” fly is a black Simi-seal leach.  As much as I love fishing this pattern and the aggressive takes that usually come with it, there are situations where it simply does not work.  One such situation is when fishing for carp around springs.  They do not like the leech at all.  It is too heavy and is not something that they are used to seeing.  It is also too flashy to use in the crystal clear water and the flash scares them away.  In those situations, something very light, like a san juan worm, usually works great.  Be willing to change flies and adapt to different situations, rather than get stuck thinking only one fly will work.

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Doubled Up at Blackfoot

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Fourth, Presentation is key.  If there is one area that I’ve learned more about than anything else, this would be it.  Successfully catching carp on the fly is all about the presentation.  I have made an effort to get away from blind casting and have started seeking out fish that I can see.  Sight fishing is so much more enjoyable than blind casting.  There are two techniques that I have found to be very helpful.  First, dapping.  Dapping is simply placing the fly right in the carps feeding zone without casting much at all and letting it drop.  You softly lob the fly where you want it to be.  When done correctly, the fish will usually eat your fly quite readily.  Dapping requires a lot of stealthiness but it is very rewarding and your stealthiness will usually pay off.  The second technique is the “drag and drop”.  This technique is particularly useful when fishing for carp that are cruising near the surface.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  You cast slightly past the carp (be careful not to line them), drag the fly over their head, and lastly let it drop down into their feeding zone.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve have a carp that was slowly cruising along, not really feeding, immediately charge and engulf the fly.  This technique is deadly when done correctly.

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Inhaled The Leech

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Fifth, don’t hesitate on the hook set.  Many carp are missed because the take is never seen or felt.  Carp are able to inhale and spit out your fly very quickly.  If you hesitate, you will miss them.  More than anything, this takes time and practice.  There are a couple things to look for when trying to detect the take.  First, try to keep an eye on their head.  Sometimes water clarity does not make this possible.  On of my favorite places to fish for carp is the Bear River.  It also happens to be notoriously dirty.  Often times you can see nothing more than a shadowy figure.  Look for small movements, or a change in the way they are swimming.  Second, watch the tail.  Because a carp’s mouth is located facing down (unlike a trout) they will often “dive” on your fly.  By watching the way they move their tail, you can often tell if they have taken the fly.  Third, if you think the fish took your fly then set the hook.  This will significantly increase the number of fish you catch.  Confidence is key.

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Bear River Mirror Carp

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Sixth, don’t pass up a fish just because they don’t look like they’re feeding.  In Eastern Idaho we are lucky to have some very aggressive carp.  Even a sunning fish will fall victim to the “Drag and Drop” from time to time.  I have also found that carp are very opportunistic feeders.  Just because they aren’t actively feeding doesn’t mean they won’t eat a well-presented fly.

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More Carp from The Bear

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Seventh, don’t be too hard on yourself.  It is nearly impossible to get a perfect presentation and detect the hookset every time.  Successfully catching carp requires you to be on your A-Game, and that’s not always possible.  In the end, fishing is about having a good time, and fishing for carp is always a good time, even when conditions are tough.

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Fully Scaled Blackfoot Mirror

As I mentioned before, I am no expert on fly fishing for carp, but I enjoy it a lot.  These are just a few things that I’ve learned this year and that have helped me up my game.  If you haven’t fished for carp on the fly yet, I highly recommend you give it a try.  It will put your fly fishing knowledge to the test and ultimately make you a better angler.