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.

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.

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.