Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Surprise brookies

This past weekend Jerry wanted to get out on some water - and so did I.  It's the middle of June but the streams and brooks are still running cold.  Even the Winooski is ranging from 56-61!  Good for the fish for sure. 

We decided to take my car since his jeep was having troubles and didn't end up leaving my house until 9:30 ish...oh well.  I knew the spot I wanted to fish wouldn't be bothered by any other angler - I've never seen anyone fish it.  It's come to be my favorite little trout hole.  Jerry and I have both caught quite the amount of fish from the stream in the past, and that day was no different.

Jerry started things off with a bang by landing this brookie!

After that, it was my turn!  I drifted a black stone with a hares ear dropper through the same pool and had a tight line pretty quick.

Ugh, so pretty!

These fish were an awesome surprise since we almost always only get bows and browns in this water.  The first time we fished a few years back it was the best - we both landed a collective 20-ish trout...from just two big plunge pools!  Only one was a brookie.  This time was the opposite, all of our fish seemed to be brookies.  No complaning from me though, it was awesome. 

The fishing slowed down in the afternoon, and we opted to go and fish some little Winooski tribs in search of more brookies with hopes of some pretty big bows and browns that are known to reside in those waters. 

Upon leaving, Jerry ended up stepping on a board with a bunch of nails sticking out of it!!  Went through his boot, wader, and into his foot!  Ugh, it sucked!!!  Our options were limited in terms of water, but he was a champ and still wanted to fish even though he had a hole in his foot from a rusty nail.  Lucky he's up to date on his tetanus shot and I had a first aid kid in the trunk of my car!  We went to the same trib I had landed a big wild brown in last year but it was loaded with people swimming - ugh.  We opted to fish upstream but things didn't look too great.  We hiked for a while but didn't feel any tugs or even spook any in the crystal clear water.  We left that area and hit a different trib, but this time Jerry was at his limit.  We only fished a bit upstream of this trib.  The water was crystal clear which made things tough.  It didn't seem like it held many fish(at least in the lower part, I'd have loved to see what it was like upstream!), we ended up only spooking one which was probably the only one in that section of water.  We ended the day early and came back home.  The morning was just awesome, and I'm glad we both got some quality brookies from one of my favorite spots to fish!!

Hiking for Salvelinus fontinalis

Chris and I made plans again last weekend to target brookies, this time in a bit of a different area in a brook he's fished in the past and caught brookies again.  Again, it had rained prior to our trip so we had our fingers crossed that the water wasn't blown out.

We got to the closest parking area to the brook, geared up and were on our way.  We hiked for at least 30 minutes before taking a turn into the woods and heading for the brook.   Once we got there, it was beautiful and looked like text-book brookie water, awesome!!  It was still early in the morning, pretty cloudy and it had just rained a few hours before we had got there.  Still, the water wasn't too bad and there were plenty of pocket water to fish!

We both worked our way up the brook, slowly fishing our way to the upper stretches.  It didn't take long before Chris was landing brookie after brookie!  They're such beautiful fish!  Every once in a while, Chris or I would get into a nice rainbow like this one!

Finally, I started getting my own fish.  The brook wasn't big enough to fish together, so we started taking turns at different holes - it seemed like we got fish from every hole on this brook, wow!

 One of the many bows landed

 High-sticking a dry in the faster stuff - I ended up getting whacked by a bow at the end of that run....saw him chase it and commit!
 This waterfall was a little tributary of the brook that Chris went to check out.

It was such a great day of fishing I'll let the pictures do the talking.  The water we fished was so beautiful, I couldn't believe it.  We had hiked for hours, and it seemed like we ended up walking over 5 miles into the woods to chase these brookies.

I had done something I'd always wanted to do, get brookies on dries!  I tied on a size 12 Royal Wulf once the sun had hit the water, and right away got smacked by a brookie.  It seems like we had landed dozens of brookies with bows mixed in, and I got quite a few of mine on dries, how much better could it get?!

We ended up having to stop since the walk back to the car was a good 2 hours and it was getting dark soon.  The last hole we stopped at was probably the best one we'd fished.  I had landed about 5 brookies and 1 bow from the one hole and had many more slashes at my dry.
At the top of the pic was one of the best holes we'd fished...at least 5 feet deep and held plenty of wild brookies!

The only thing I regret that day was that my camera didn't take any good footage.  I had some of condensation on my lens - and all my video taken for the day was worthless...it was heartbreaking to watch the video when I got home.  I had captured so many brookies slamming a dry (even on some pretty far casts of 50+ ft on this brook just to have a gorgeous brookie slam the dry off the surface.  It would have made for some awesome footage....)  I couldn't believe how many fish were in this brook.  It was so ridiculously gradient I just couldn't fathom fish making it up some of the obstacles we had crossed.  You could tell the average size of the brookies were smaller which I think is because of Irene.  We saw quite a bit of what Irene did to the brook in terms of habitat - really bad!  It seemed like they were making a great comeback, and I can't thank Chris enough for showing me this gem of a brook. 

A great day of fishing(pretty much my first time fishing for and catching brookies, and on dries at that!), a long much needed hike for myself, and fishing with a great friend.  Another great memory made.  I now know why the Salvelinus fontinalis is the states cold-water fish.

Not only are the fish beautiful themselves, but the scenic wilderness they are found in is just unforgettable.

Hitting the small stuff

Chris and I made plans a few weeks back to go out and fish some little streams we'd been talking about for some possible brookies. 

"Finally, BROOKIES!", is what my 3 wt would say if it could talk.  The poor thing has been through a lot with those big wild trout in the NEK.  Of course, I'm not complaining, it is engraved in my mind and I'll never forget the experiences I've had this Spring.

So the days prior to our trip, there was quite a bit of rain.  All of the main rivers and even some of the bigger streams were pretty high.  We finally found some lower water with much better clarity after driving for a while.  The rain we were getting turned into snow on the mountains, and the high visibility made for an epic view. 

After soaking up the scenery, we hit the water.  It was water neither of us had really fished before, so we had our fingers crossed it held brookies.  It wasn't as gradient as normal brookie water but we figured we'd try it since we have caught fish in the lower section, and the water we could see looked very promising.   We fished it for about an hour before realizing they were most likely not in this section if stream, I think there just wasn't enough cover for them to be comfortable holding.  We got back in the car and headed upstream. 

On our way to the next stream we noticed what looked like a big beaver dam - we hopped out and started hiking through the marshy area to get to the beaver pond.  It was chalk full of chubs and got pretty deep in some places - probably 5-6 feet.  Seemed like there were no brookies in this beaver pond, but it was worth a try!  We checked out higher upstream of the previous stream and things still didn't heat up.  We gave up on the stream and got the map out in the car and decided on our next location.  A stream that was relatively close.  We arrived and the stream looked great in terms of clarity, maybe even too clear. We took off and fished separate directions and both ended up coming back to where we started an hour later and had no action....on to the next one!

Back to the map it was!  This time we were heading to some bigger water with some very nice looking falls.  The only thing was that it hadn't cleared up and lowered as much as the streams around it.  It was quite high and the clarity was less than ideal.  We fished it anyway, hoping for one of those dirty-water big browns....no such luck!

We headed back to the lower section of the first stream we fished - it looked pretty high in the morning when we got there so we didn't fish it.  It had gone down a little, so we opted to fish it.  Clarity was good, but was a bit higher than I'd like.  Nonetheless, Chris managed to hook up first into a great looking wild bow, probably 11-12".  He opted for no picture and released the fish, things were looking better. 

Shortly after, it was my turn at landing a fish, this time a beautiful brown!!

Afer the brown, things died down.  Two decent sized fish from the same pool....good enough for us!

The day ended and we were happy to wash the skunk off.  Even if we did get skunked, the scenery alone was worth making the trip.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First batch of carp flies

After looking at different patterns that I liked, watching a few how-to vids, I decided to tie up a few carp flies in these past few days.  I added my own twist on every one and made up a few based on others, but overall I'm happy with them.  Can't wait to get them wet!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carpin' ain't easy

I got a phone call in the middle of last week from my buddy, Chris.  He had stumbled upon a relatively large school of carp out on Lake Champlain while out for a walk!  He called me after work to let me know since I've told him before I'd love to chase carp on flies.

He gave me the location of the schooling carp.  I knew right away they were in that area to spawn - I have never fished for carp but know a bit about their behavior since they are, in fact interesting fish.  My only carp experience was a few years back, sitting on the bank of the Winooski, drowning a worm.  I had a lengthy fight with an average sized carp and ended up landing two at once.  Another carp following it swam into the net when I netted the one on my line!

I've always said to myself I'd like to target carp on flies, but never really followed through for some reason.  This phone call was a good push towards the right direction for sure.  I called up Jerry and asked if he wanted to hit the Lake on Sat to target carp.  He always tells me stories of running into a couple of people on the Lake and they're catching carp after carp, some over 25 lbs!  He was in.

Friday night I did a bit of research on flies, technique, and behavior.  I tied a couple of carpy type flies like some crawdad patterns and big bugs along with a few sucker spawn flies in yellow.  I got my gear ready on Friday night, my 10' 7 wt Hydros, a few packs of leaders, and added a spool of 8 lb tippet to my packs holder(heh....yeah only 8....)

Jerry was unable to make it in the morning, so I went solo - and without a net.  I guess that's just me being cocky and thinking I didn't need one.  Needless to say I was completely wrong not to bring one. I was dropped off by my lovely girlfriend who for some reason didn't want to go carpin' with me!  Maybe it's because of the reputation of the carp? (ew, gross!) I walked quite a ways to reach my destination, and upon arriving quickly spotted a huge school of carp in about 3 feet of water.  I had the advantage of being about 3-4 feet above water level where I was standing on shore with a bit of casting room...a very ideal spot.

I rigged up, tied on a crayfish streamer I had tied the night before. I stood there a while before making my first cast - I wanted to see what I was dealing with.  I knew right away the fish in front of me were all the same species, but were divided into different behavior groups.  Some were slowly working the bottom of the lake with their telescopic-like mouths.  I classified them as feeding fish (?).  Others were swimming faster than others, in small groups of 3-5.  They all seemed to be chasing the same fish (female?) and could care about nothing else.  Then there were the cruisers.  They just seemed to be swimming at a medium speed around wherever they pleased.  They didn't seem to be feeding, or interested in chasing a female.  It took a bit before I spotted a few feeding fish facing the same way.  I peeled off line, made a few back casts and then landed a fly about 20 feet in front of them.  I made sure to cast a good ways in front of them because I read that carp have poor eyesight but great senses, so a weighted fly smacking the water could spook and scatter them.  Once the fly landed, the fish didn't budge - first step complete.  Since they have poor eyesight, the fly had to be pretty close to them for them to see it.  It was a little windy, so the lake was a bit choppy.  It took a few tries before I got the fly placement right.  I made sure to slowly retrieve my fly, making sure I didn't whip my fly out of the water.  When I got the fly right in front of a feeding fish, I saw it scoot forward and then let the fly drop more to the bottom.  After a few seconds, that telescopic mouth opened up and sucked my fly right in.  I strip set the hook and let the slack line peel through my hands as the fish ran. 


That sweet sweet sound of drag from my reel being robbed of fly line - and then backing.  I was into backing after the first run.  It was a great moment...my first carp on a fly!!!!  I decided it was a proper time for a picture of my half-naked spool. (the fish took another 30+ yards of backing after the picture before I decided to chase it along the shore.

The fish would just not stop, and my drag was cranked down pretty tight for having 8 lb tippet.  I put the side pressure to the fish pretty regularly, but it just kept going and going and going (These fish obviously have an energizer-battery-rich diet.) An hour later (yes, an HOUR) I finally got the fish to tire to where I could turn it's massive head.  Since I had no net, I was going to have to tire the fish enough to be able to cradle it to shore since beaching wasn't an option because of the terrain.  I lost count in the first 30 minutes of how many times I felt my tippet rub on either a stick or the fish's fins underwater.  I knew it was only a matter of time before the winner of this long fight was determined.  By the end of the fight, I had a crowd gathered on the shore, watching me trying to land this huge carp without a net (I probably looked stupid!)  In the end, the carp won.  I felt the dreaded slack to see my tippet missing a fly on the end.  My tippet failed after being rubbed on everything possible in the water.  The fish had won, fair and square.  I've not much experience with carp size and weight, but a conservative guess would be that the fish was in the mid 20 lb range.  I was humbled, and kept my composure.  I stood in the water for a little while to comprehend what had just happened.  I walked out and started walking back to the area where the carp were, knowing I'd get into another one. 

I rigged up again with a similar looking fly, and within 20 minutes my fly disappeared into the telescopic mouth of another carp.  Another crazy run into my backing was followed by a dead stop.  I felt nothing but immobile weight.  I kept good pressure, but knew what had happened.  The fish hung me up on something on bottom.  I tried pulling from every angle I could get to but it was no go.   I had to break off and start over.

This time I tied on a yellow sucker spawn fly and added a tiny bit of weight 18" above it.  The fly itself sank really slow, which is what I wanted.  I spotted a few feeding fish, but they were moving quite often.

Before I knew it, the wind had picked up, and the waves were getting bigger, making things pretty difficult.  On top of that, a bunch of foam had made it's way to the area I was fishing, covering most of the water on top of the carp.  I could no longer sight fish for them, so I decided to put a tiny indicator above the sucker spawn and blind fish where I knew the fish were patrolling.  Surprisingly, it didn't take long to hook up.  My indicator dipped, I set the hook and had another carp on the end of my line!  I could tell it was smaller than most of the others in there, but I was still pleased!  The fight was about 15 minutes, and the carp even went airborne!  I was able to beach the fish safely and what a great time to - a passerby was walking near the shore.  He was able to take a pic for me holding the small carp.  I was still happy nonetheless, it was an awesome fight!!

I left my phone in the waterproof bag, so the picture isn't ideal quality, but oh well

I had no other takes on the sucker spawn, so I gave it a little break since I noticed the foam was slowly making it's way off the area.  Finally the water was clearing up, so I put on a big buggy looking fly but I wasn't able to sight cast like I was when I first got there - the waves were too big.  I could only see what looked like darker spots on the bottom of the lake.  I blindly casted out and stripped the fly near the dark spots and let it fall.  About 20 minutes after doing this, my line got tight.  I set the hook and holy smokes my drag screamed for about 15 seconds straight.  The fish took off to my left, went into my orange backing, stopped running for a few minutes.....then peeled off more line until I was into yellow backing!  I was about to get spooled AND schooled!  I took off  and chased the fish about 100 yards, gaining line as I took chase.  After about an HOUR, the fish decided he wanted to take off in the opposite direction.  It then ran back to where I hooked, and so did I.  It didn't stop there though, it peeled off yet more line, and I was into yellow backing again.  This fish was relentless....holy cow!

I took off again, this time traveling over 200 yards along the shore, chasing the fish.  At the same time, a bunch of white pollen-ish stuff on the top of the lakes surface was getting caked on my leader and fly line.  As I reeled in line I tried to pull it off, but it was like it was tied tightly around my line...it was stuck on there!

I finally got to see the size of the fish at the 2 hour mark (yes 2 HOURS)  I was regretting bringing a max of 8 lb tippet after the first fish, and especially during this one....it was massive.  Bigger than 90% of the fish I had spotted throughout the whole day.  It looked like it had eaten a fully blown-up beach ball, no joke!

After another 20 minutes, I realized I was unable to even reel in the first 15' of my fly line because of all the white gunk that was wrapped around it.  What was I supposed to do?!?!  I managed to steer the fish over to a part of the shore where I could try beaching it.  After a 2.5 hour fight, I was praying in my head that the idea I had was going to work.  I finally managed to pull the fish in towards shore by walking backwards as far as I could, which was in the woods!  I pulled it on the rocky/sandyish beach as far as the 8 lb tippet would allow, dropped my rod, sprinted over to the fish, jumped on it like I was in the WWF and tried to grab it's tail.  Bad idea, the diameter of it's caudal was bigger than the stomach of the carp I had landed early - my hands weren't big enough.  I then resorted to trying to bear hug it enough to bring it on to dry land.  The fish was just so strong I couldn't hold it...it ended up slipping out of my arms, landed in some deeper water, flapped it's giant tail a few times and started taking off back into the lake.  I was frantic, got out of the way of my fly line and grabbed my rod as quick as I could.  I noticed right away my fly line was wrapped around my rod tip.  The fish started another run, and I frantically tried to untangle the mess around my rod tip while pointing it towards the fish so it didn't end up snapping.  I ended up waist-deep in the water, trying to unwrap the fly line from my rod tip as the fish took off.  What seemed like years was only a few moments....I wasn't quick enough.  "plink" went my tippet. 

I threw my rig in the water and just stood there.  I couldn't believe what had just happened.  Why didn't I bring stronger tippet, OR a net?!  What the hell was that stupid white pollen crap caked on my line, and why was it SO stuck?!  I should have landed that fish, which I genuinely think was a 30 lb fish.  I was mad, upset, disappointed in myself....I ended up leaving after losing that fish.  I just didn't have the right equipment to land these fish properly. 

I checked the forecast for today last night, it said rain off and on all day...guess I was just going to relax for the day.  I decided to whip up a couple more flies like the one that had taken fish.  

(picture automatically turns to this angle for some reason?) Pretty crude, but they worked for me.  They're pretty much my first attempts at carp flies.  I also used dark colored weighted and unweighted buggers but the fish didn't seem too interested. 

I woke up to sunshine, checked the weather and the forecast had changed.  It now called for rain later in the day, and it was a small chance.  I was so sunburned and my hands were so sore from fighting the carp for hours, I didn't mind a day of relaxation.  

My buddy Mike ended up calling me later this afternoon after I told him about the fun day I had.  He wanted to go chase carp - BAD!  Like me, he'd never targeted carp before.  I also wanted redemption..so we made plans to hit the water around 4:30.  The forecast looked good, 15 mph winds tapering down to about 3-4 mph around 7 PM with a slight chance of rain for about an hour.  I think it was something like 30% chance when we left.  

I took a few packs of 12' 8 LB Super Strong leaders from one of my drawers and shoved them into my sling pack before we left.  I also brought my extendable net that was big enough for a 30 lber.  I was ready this time.  We arrived at the spot after a long walk and saw fish right away.  I immediately realized that I only had ONE leader out of the two packs I grabbed.  One was empty, and the other had only one leader in it..ugh....  I gave mike my only good leader since he didn't have one on his rod....  (cut off a few feet so it was more like 10 lb tippet) told him to cast beyond the fish and then strip the fly in front of them, he caught on quick.  I was stuck with my leader from the day before.  A beat up leader that was only about 5' long (I was adding about 5' of fluoro tippet to it yesterday) but I knew that the 8 lb tippet wasn't going to cut it, and since I didn't have any tippet at the house over 8 lbs to bring I was pretty much screwed.  I ended up throwing on the 8 lb tippet anyway, it was the only choice I had.  The end of my leader was probably 30 lb test and that just wasn't going to work, especially at 5' long.  The Lake was pretty choppy which made things even more difficult.  We weren't seeing many fish that looked like they were feeding.  Mostly some that were chasing a female(?) and others were just cruising around randomly.  Every once in a while a few would creep through, mouths going at it.  Less than 10 minutes after he started fishing, Mike was hooked up into a respectable carp.  Yeah baby!!  It made a great initial run, but mike put the brakes to the fish.  The SS leader was allowing him to handle the fish great and gain line quickly.  It was a relatively short fight, about 10 minutes.  I netted his first carp ever, and we fist bumped like a pair of college kids.  I was excited that I aided in him getting his first carp, and on a fly at that!

Believe it or not, this fish was pretty small compared to the majority of the other carp in the school.  Either way, an awesome fish!!

After landing his fish, things took a turn for the worse.  The sky coming our way was blackened, and wind started howling (20-25 mph steady)  Our flies were being carried by the wind, we couldn't even see fish anymore because of the white-caps.  I was determined to get my revenge from yesterday.  Before long, the dark clouds were pretty close.  The sun that aided us just a few hours prior was now behind dark clouds, and it started to sprinkle.  We kept fishing in hopes of another hookup, but things were just not in our favor.  It was too windy, too choppy, and was starting to rain.  About 5 minutes after the sprinkles came steady rain.  The sky was now completely blackish grey, and we had to end the day short.  We started walking back to where the car was parked and the heavy rain started.  We were soaked by the time we got to the car.  It sucked...I didn't get to even really fish much today because of the rain and wind. (Yeah, 30% chance of rain with 3-4 mph winds....so accurate) but I felt accomplished.  Mike had landed his first carp, and that was enough excitement for me to feel good about the short-lived trip. 

We've got plans mid-week to head back out after work since the weather is looking pretty good.  I've also got a trip planned with my buddy Jerry (I'll be letting him use my 9 wt!)and I'm trying to get my girlfriend to go, so this week should be pretty fish-filled.  I learned quite a few things this weekend, and now I know that carpin' ain't easy.