Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cheating Mother Nature

October 26 & 27

There’s nothing like fall fishing. However, I’m not much for winter and at first I get bummed about the onset of fall. Winter is just too close. But the truth is, like most sportsmen, the fall is the best and by October 1st I completely forget what follows. I love the change in the landscape, the crisp mornings and best of all, the great fishing.

These past two days I spent with friends Scott Smith, Tom Montgomery and Bill Happersett. Scott is a long time friend, former employee but now head guide for Snake River Fishing Trips. Scott was last on my blog in May when we got the great privilege of fishing on Legacy Ranch. Tom has been on the blog many times. He’s my photographer buddy whom I last fished with in July on the Green. Tom and I also have a habit of frequenting the South Fork many harsh weather days in late November. Bill is a long time fishing guide and friend whom I’ve known forever but somehow we’ve never fished together.

While most offseason anglers of the Yellowstone area love to target brown trout this time of year, we set out to find some lunker rainbows. We got an early start Wednesday and drove and drove. Then we did our own shuttles and launched our two boats about 11 AM. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, the wind was threatening and temps were a chilly 27°. Fortunately the wind subsided and the temps rose fast so we only shook ice from the rod guides during the first hour.

Fishing started lousy. I lucked into an unusual looking cutthroat, possibly a Bear River strain on a streamer, but other than a few small rainbows that’s how the first few hours went for all of us. By lunch time between the four of us we’d caught a mere five trout dragging streamers. Tom and Bill decided it was time to put away the streamers and start nymph fishing. Scott and I noticed the beginning of a baetis hatch so Scott rigged up a dry rod. We still didn’t exactly slam the fish but we found pods of risers and caught a few. Most of these fish were 13” to 16” rainbows and cutthroats.

The mediocre fishing Wednesday was easily acceptable because of the fantastic weather. Although it never got too warm, the day was just one of those that every time you looked up from your fishing you were excited to be alive. Not only was the scenery spectacular but there was plenty of wildlife including numerous bald eagles to enjoy. There may have been a few cigars smoked as well. And really the fishing wasn’t bad. Tom and Bill caught several trout on the nymphs including a 21” rainbow. Scotty nailed several nice rainbows and I pulled a Snake River Cutthroat from and amazing little nook of an abandoned beaver lodge. He was an easy 16” and so fat he should with no trouble make it through the winter.

Getting back-to-back pleasant weather days in this part of the world in late October is unheard of. But it happened. Today the weather was even nicer than yesterday. We awoke to warmer temps and barely a cloud in the sky. There was no wind, and the slightly different float has more trees that somehow are still preserving their leaves. It was like we were set back to early fall again – something we all dream could happen for real!

The fishing was much better, in fact it was superb. The day began with five quality fish from the first good looking spot – one solid cutthroat, a rainbow and four colorful browns all on some silly looking yellow fly Scott had. Meanwhile, Bill and Tom were nymphing the run below us catching some chrome colored rainbows. Each one not only looked like mini steelhead, but they fought like them too. The river was on fire!

Our fishing didn’t slow down until about 5 PM. All day we steered clear of the wind and I’ll bet temps were in the 50°s. We spent most of the day jacketless wondering if we’d died and gone to heaven. And once again the scenery was breathtaking in every direction. Although we didn’t catch any of the giant rainbows we set out for, we caught more than our share of respectables including another fantastic bow on the nymph.

As promised, October has been one heck of a blogging month. From grass carp to largemouth to musky and pike and finally back to trout, this has been a memorable month. Now it’s back to work. Tomorrow night I’m hosting a showing of “Connect” and next Wednesday (November 2) I’ll be the guest on Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio. I’ll be talking peacock bass and other exotics of the Amazon so I hope you get a chance to tune in as these shows are always great fun. Then it’s catch up on artwork, a writing project and update my PowerPoint shows for my speaking tour that starts on January 4th. I will be on the road most of the winter. Luckily, the South Fork River is close to home. For me, working more than a few days in a row isn’t feasible so not to worry; there will be at least a couple fishing blogs per week. Stay tuned. . .

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Connect" Tonight in Jackson, Wyoming

Don’t miss “Connect” at the National Wildlife Museum of Art 
Friday Night
October 28, 2011 7:30 PM

Tickets available at HCF & JD or online

You may remember exactly a year ago I left for Africa to fish for tigerfish for a segment of Confluence Films latest movie, “Connect”. I lucked into some incredible tigerfish and the Confluence crew not only captured the fishing but the true Africa. That was just one of many great segments they filmed including Japan, Cuba, Maine, Alaska, Yellowstone and more.

I caught the movie premiere in Bozeman earlier this month and all I can say is they have made one heck of a fly fishing adventure movie. Whether you like to fly fish or not, this movie is fantastic!

I’ll be there at 6:30 PM for the pre-screening reception – I hope we can catch up!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Musky from the Flats Boat

On our past ice fishing adventures to Wisconsin the last day usually involves a few hours of fishing then an afternoon pub crawl throughout the Manitowish chain. We play pool, watch sports and just have an incredibly fun time at good old Wisconsin bars. But this years last day was different. Instead of a pub crawl, all of us wanted to musky fish as late as we could.

Last night we wined and dined at Smokey’s, so yes, the morning came fast. It was a cold, gray, windy morning completely opposite of the previous two days. But Bill Sherer and I were on new water in his flats boat sneaking up on muskies before most of Wisconsin moved. At first I was surprised Bill exchanged his pontoon boat for his flats boat because it barely even fit on this river. The river was beautiful like the other, but tiny. The difference was we were headed upstream and would end in a lake. The big boat was to get us around on the lake. Easy enough, using his electric trolling motor, Bill slowly propelled me upstream while I pounded every piece of structure from sunken trees, docks, boats, and rocks and even dredged some troughs. To our delight, it took less then ten minutes for our first exciting moment.

I was looking ahead casting with meaning to every fishy location I could reach. I was feeling confident. I was ready to see that ever so imprinted image in my brain of a musky behind my fly – almost snarling from the tea colored water with glowing angry eyes. Then Bill shouted “there’s one!” At first I didn’t know where he was talking. I looked behind my fly but there wasn’t one. This fish he spotted was close, real close. Ten feet off to the side of the boat was a poof of mud, similar to what several feeding common carp would leave after being spooked. However, this fish wasn’t spooked. He had just nailed some baitfish and stirred the bottom. I dropped my fly just past the mud and stripped the imitation through it. Nothing. Then on my second attempt a 36” musky burst from the mud like some monster and swallowed up my fly.

Just like yesterday the musky took off and showed his incredible strength. The difference was this river was shallower than the last couple days. Instead of dredging a Streamer Express line on my 10-weight, I was using my intermediate line on my 8-weight. This musky schooled me for some length of time. But persistence, concentration and a strong hook held my end of the skirmish long enough, and soon Bill filled his net with my second big musky of the trip. A great start to the day.

Things didn’t slow down much from there. Bill took me upstream for nearly a mile. The river opened up and gradually turned to a lake. I caught two more musky and some pike. These two muskies barely count. They were babies. But the coloring on these jewels was worth seeing. They each had very pretty barring and spotted tails. They were stunning to be honest. I can only hope they go on to live a long musky life.

After lunch we fished the lake itself but for some reason we caught nothing there. Perhaps the musky were deep or perhaps it was just the midday thing and they weren’t eating. We fished Bills hot spots there until about 2 PM then motored back to the river. Sure enough the musky were still there. As we worked our way back to the truck I picked up two more musky including a nice 32 incher – certainly he’s still a baby but a quality fly rod fish nonetheless. We ended at 3 PM and with a total of five musky – a fly fishing miracle. We could have fished till dark and possibly caught even more but tonight is our final night and festivities are big on the last night.

We concluded our fabulous long weekend with our nightly feast at the famous Little Bohemia Lodge restaurant. Every year we reserve the back room where in 1934 gangster John Dillinger and his gang had an epic shoot out with the FBI. The bullet holes are still in the windows and the story of the gangs escape is unreal. We celebrated our fantastic musky fishing that between all of us included landing a total of 15, and Rick, my fellow fly fisherman, landed only one but it was a 47” beast!

This was fantastic musky fishing and a great visit amongst friends. My thanks to George who makes this wonderful weekend happen and John McGraw who hosts us at the Chippewa Retreat Resort. This place is paradise. If musky on the fly is what you’re after contact Bill Sherer at the We Tie it Fly Shop and stay comfortable at the Retreat. I can’t wait to get back next October!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Don't Look the Musky in the Eye

The morning came quick again today. Last night we indulged at the Blue Bayou restaurant. Once again George looked after us like I can’t explain. The food and was incredible and we had lots of fun. On a normal day getting up would have been slow but instead I bounced from bed an hour earlier than I needed. The reason was, I dreamt about catching a musky the size Larry did yesterday. Before I knew it I was casting from the front of Bill Sherer’s pontoon boat.

We went to a different stretch of the same beautiful river as yesterday. I don’t know for sure, but we were probably twenty or so miles further upstream. It was another nice day. The temps were unseasonably warm and we had plenty of sun. Bill and I definitely feared that today was too nice for good musky fishing but luckily some clouds rolled in by mid morning.

As far as fishing goes, there was some action right out of the gates. I had several aggressive northern pike scarf up my fly and missed two respectable unknown fish. One, Bill was almost sure was a good musky. I never saw this actual fish but he definitely pushed some water. Like the musky that ate my fly last night, I never felt anything but Bill saw him eat the fly and I should have hooked him. I was definitely screwing up the musky hook set. That’s when I took a deep breath and asked Bill to go over the hooking method with me.

The way Bill explains it; muskies have a habit of charging towards you when they eat your fly, like many fish. Usually that’s ok because when most fish grab a fly they turn away then you feel them and hook them. But musky often keep charging your direction and you don’t feel them. That’s the problem. Unless you strip set at the speed of light you don’t make sufficient hook-driving contact. The trick, strip set and drill them with a hard side sweep of the rod. This adjustment would help incredibly.

At 11 AM this trip was still fishless. Bill couldn’t believe it. I was surprised too, but assumed “Hey, this is musky fishing”. About then I nailed two pike. Then at Bills lunch hole I missed a fun pike of about 30 inches. I made note of his location and after lunch I waded up to where I missed him and nailed him. The bite was on and my technique was better.

After I released the pike we were back in the pontoon boat. It wasn’t two casts and I hooked up again. We didn’t see anything because I was dredging down deep below a nice riffle but there was some weight there and the fight was much different. There was strong power and although this fish didn’t run, I had trouble raising him to our view. After a couple minutes of fighting him deep, I raised him and Bill netted my first musky of the trip - a gorgeous respectable musky on the fly. We were stoked!

We were catching pike and now our first musky was on the boards. Most importantly the skunk was out of the boat. I went on to land about five more pike and another musky. This would be a memorable day. My second musky was no slouch either; he was a musky you dream about. I was casting and relaxing, just shooting the bull with Bill. I was catching the occasional pike and of course, I missed another musky. But things were good. Then as I stripped my 8” fly towards me from a rickety old dock I saw a face. It was like a famous old musky painting. All I could really make out were the eyes and the white lips. At this point the mouth was closed and his eyes were after my fly. Then on my next strip all I saw was white and when the white mouth closed I stripped and struck with all my might and it was game on.

I can tell you from experience, muskies and pike fight far differently. A pike of this size would have put a hurt on me, but this fish was incredible. But the fight didn’t start that way. The musky hardly fought at all in the first minute. I literally stripped him to me. But he was simply coming over to see what the problem was.

“Don’t look him in the eye!” Bill shouted.

It was too late. This was my first big musky. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. But when our eyes met I knew exactly why Bill told me not to look him in the eye. The anger in this fish’s eye was scary. What I did was challenge the fabled giant and now it was game on. This muskellunge had smoking power. I was using my 10-weight with my Ross Momentum LT - one of my burly saltwater reels and the drag was tight. That made no difference. The massive musky tore upstream then down. My Momentum drag was humming and the line crackled as it left. My 10-weight was horseshoed and I was nervous as hell. I rarely get nervous but I’ve dreamt of this moment since I was a young boy reading old fishing magazines.

This musky toyed with me for over five minutes before I finally gained control. Then on the first sweep Bill filled his gargantuan musky net with musky. I landed my first big musky on the fly!

This spectacular musky made my day, my trip and may possibly be the best musky of my life. They don’t come easy with the fly rod. But the truth is, even though it’s a magnificent fish, they get a lot bigger. Tomorrow Bill is taking me to his big musky spot. Looks like I won’t be sleeping again. . . .

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fly Fishing for Musky

My friend Rick Schreiber and I arrived in Wisconsin yesterday to begin our annual fishing trip hosted by our excellent friend George Hillenbrand. George was once a good customer of both Ricks and I when we worked at the fly shop. Rick guided him on the river and I took care of his tackle needs. But over the years we became great friends and enjoyed fishing and spending time together. These days George takes us to Wisconsin to stay and fish out of Chippewa Retreat Resort in Manitowish Waters. Also enjoying the fun are friends John McGraw (owner of Chippewa Retreat), Larry Burtschy, Dave Baker and guides (longtime friends also) Joe and James Pestka and Brett Jolly.

For years this has been an ice fishing trip. As a group we beat up the pike, walleye, bass and perch through the frozen waters, but this year George thought it would be cool if we caught some muskellunge (musky) from the open waters. Muskies are the famous Wisconsin fish specie and nearby Boulder Junction is the official Musky Capital of the World. But musky are difficult to catch. These legendary fish aren’t common, only eat when they want to and can be extremely picky when they do eat. They also have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, can obtain gargantuan sizes and are hard to hook. And if you get lucky enough to hook one - good luck landing him. These powerhouses don’t just break lines; they break rods and smoke a lot of reels too!

While most our group simply wants to catch a musky, Rick and I are going for them on the fly. To help us with our difficult quest, George booked Rick and I with top musky fly fishing guides. I’m fishing with Bill Sherer, owner of the We Tie It Fly Shop in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin and Rick is with Bills friend and guide John Coolidge.

Despite our excitement, this morning came early after our first night celebrations. George takes great pride in seeing that his guests are well wined and dined. Each night he takes us to one of the finest restaurants in the area and we feast on heaps of scrumptious appetizers, entrees, deserts and great wines. The meals are so tasty and fun that I look forward to the dinners as much as the fishing. Last night we ate at The Dinner Table Restaurant right at Chippewa Retreat and everything was superb.

Once I was up and after a great breakfast (seriously, we eat on this trip) I soon found myself casting from the bow of Bill Sherer’s pontoon boat on one of the most gorgeous rivers you have ever seen. Certainly, I moved to the Yellowstone area because I love the mountains and all that goes with it, but I can promise you, Northern Wisconsin is beautiful. Even though the leaves have left most of the trees the scenery is stunning. The dense forest ground is covered in colored leaves and the birch trees are glowing white. To top it off, the tamarack trees, a deciduous coniferous tree that to me is the symbol of being far north, are vibrant shades of yellow. Beyond the tree line was rich blue sky in every direction, a big change from last nights dreary drizzly cloud cover. Even the cold front the area has been experiencing moved out. Today reached a comfortable 50°.

Because muskies get massive, you must fly fish with no less than an 8-weight rod. Today I rigged up two rods, my 8-weight Ross Rx with an intermediate line and my 10-weight Ross FW with a 300 grain Scientific Angler Streamer Express sinking line. Then I attached one of Bills 8” long sucker imitating flies to each rig. Because of the muskies teeth, between the end of my short stout leader and the super long fly is a 12” piece of 25lb wire shock tippet.

Although the rivers are much different and the gear and fish are bigger, you’re still casting streamers to structure all day long. If it wasn’t for the fact that you need to strip set on muskies like you do a tarpon, the tactics are similar to streamer fishing my home waters for brown trout. Therefore knowing where to cast was easy. Even better, the fact that this is one of Bills secret rivers, I got the heads up of exactly where certain fish lived. But even with all my fishing experience and Bills knowledge of this river, musky fishing was slow. The reason was the weather. As much as we enjoyed the delightful day, the drastic change from cold and wet to sunny and warm is not good for musky fishing. Today I got skunked.

Though fishing was slow and I got skunked, I had two chances. One was a good chance. I landed my fly inches from the bank on a shallow flat and as I made my first strip a hefty wake ripped toward my fly. It was a nice musky. But he ate the fly while accelerating toward me. I strip set as hard and fast as I could but I never even felt him. By the time I realized a strip set wouldn’t be enough to hook this musky it was too late for me to use the rod and my musky chance was over. The only other chance I had was a follow where although it looked like the musky ate my fly, I never even felt him either.

Rick and John had about the same luck as Bill and I. They did not catch a thing. Not only that, they never saw a musky. Today was flat out tough. The rest of the gang did better but for most, not much. Even with muskie lures and live bait their fishing was difficult too. However, in this group there’s always an exception. Larry who was fishing with James caught and released two muskies that fell for a live sucker. One was this inspiring 44 incher!

The muskellunge are here but now we need to wait till tomorrow. It’s good to start slow as long as you end big. Hopefully Rick and I can at least get a few hook ups and even land that musky on the fly. Stay tuned. . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We Made it to Wisconsin

It's cold as heck.  It was raining and the wind was blowing 30.  Needless to say we did not fish for the one hour of daylight we had upon arrival.  However the catching up with old friends, food and drink was incredible!

Muskie fishing should be good to go in the morning.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Muskie on the Fly

Heading to my old stomping grounds of Northern Wisconsin first thing tomorrow.  I should at least land a nice pike before sunset!  This is a short trip but will give me three full days of fly fishing for muskellunge.  I'm crossing my fingers!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Big B-Day Fish, B-Day Cigar & B-Day Beers That's a Great Birthday

Everyone has some sort of ritual for their birthday. For me it’s required that I go stick at least one fish and today was no exception. Just three miles from the house there’s a small body of water that’s loaded with brookies. For me this one fish doesn’t have to be big, just pretty. Brook trout look about as nice as any fish in October with their spawning colors.

When I got to my spot there wasn’t an ounce of wind or a cloud as far as the eye could see. The Tetons were crisp and snow covered and all the hillsides were glowing with orange and gold aspen leaves. There were bugs on the water, mostly baetis and to my surprise there was also a drake of some sort. We have a fall drake we call the “Snake Drake” but usually their long gone by mid October. But this gorgeous mayfly would have to be him.

Despite perfect conditions there were few fish rising. Usually these scrappy little brook trout are splashing around everywhere during a good hatch but instead things were quiet. About then I heard the slurp of a cutthroat. That may sound funny but big cuttys make a slurping sound when they eat a small mayfly. The rings from their rise are micro and can easily go unnoticed, but the slurp is a dead give away for me. Even after the first slurp I couldn’t locate this fish. It wasn’t until his third that in the shade only inches from a tree branch I saw the nice cutthroat.

This wasn’t the brookie I set out for but he’d do. I grabbed a seat in the tall grass and watched. Every so often the cutty would swim a few feet from his cover and take one of the mayflies. That’s where I’d land my fly. After I got done enjoying his show I waded ever so slowly through the muck and weeds of the creek and got into position. Then I let him rise again and after that I uncorked my first cast. Bam! It was too easy. I had on a thorax blue wing olive pattern in a size 18 and Mr. Cutty couldn’t resist. After a good battle I landed and released a respectable 16 inch cutthroat. Then I took my seat in the grass again and lit a nice big cigar. My kind of birthday!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One More Sling on the Henry's Fork

Fall in the Yellowstone region is my favorite. This year has been one of the best in recent memory. Summer temperatures stayed with us until about a week ago and now we have comfortable temps in the 50ºs. We had one quick 4” snowstorm last week but that white stuff is long gone and now everywhere you look are the beautiful colors on the trees and shrubs.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you can probably tell the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork is my favorite place to fish. With time running out on our fishing season I had to get another day there before it was too late. This week my old friend Chris Reinking was out visiting. Chris worked for me back in my fly shop days – some 15 years ago and he now lives in Atlanta. The last couple years he’s made it out to fish in October and we make a point to walk a good chunk of the Ranch.

Today was a spectacular day. Our temperatures reached the mid 50ºs and the sky remained overcast all day. We got on the water a little early for this time of year. Generally hatches don’t start till afternoon but we camped on the river last night and got up early and had nothing better to do than wader up around 9 AM. Fish activity was really dead to start but it doesn’t get any nicer for a morning wade. The eagles were flying a few elk were bugling. At 11 the first mayflies showed. They were tricos followed by baetis, a few mahogany duns and even some mystery mayflies. A few fish got on the feed. Because the bulk of the mayflies were so tiny the rise forms were so subtle it was hard to tell whether you were casting to a big fish or a medium sized one. Only when the occasional size 16 mahogany passed over would the entire head of these trout completely break the surface.

I only found two really big fish to cast too. That was a bit of a surprise considering the area we went. Here I always find the biggest fish. Chris found about the same and unfortunately neither of us could connect. 

The first beast I cast too was moving all over the place. I’d see him rise and then lay down the most delicate cast I could. The presentation was delicate because I was using my 4-weight Rx and about an 18 foot 5X leader. But every time my fly landed the fish had already moved. I’d watch my drift all set to drill the dang fish and then he’d rise 15 feet further upstream. I stayed hot on my pursuit and finally got the first pig to eat. Wouldn’t you know I just grazed him. I was using an old favorite, dandruff. My dandruff fly is a European grayling fly. It’s simply your thread color of choice up the shank of the hook and then a smidgen of CDC. That’s it. Fish this fly in very small sizes in the fall and even the most selective trout can’t refuse it. However I hit this trout too hard and my size 24 dandruff stung him just enough to send him down the road but not enough to keep him buttoned on. That was it. The other big fish I saw rose twice and I never saw him again.

I felt the need to nail a couple trout no matter what size they were after my week of carping and very minimal trout fishing so far this month. Therefore I stuck a few little guys just for fun. As always its great to catch up and fish with old friends and Reinking and I already locked up for next year. In fact we think next year we might have to fish two days.

Somehow I think I’ll see the Fork once more this season. I love it there and should probably handle at least one monster before the snow flies. Time to turn on the NLCS and hope the Cubs win. Oh wait a minute, Cubs, I must be dreaming!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Harder than Steelhead

Even after a major butt kicking yesterday, Cinda, Steve and I were up early and rearing to get back after the ever so difficult grass carp. At least Cinda and I were. With the carping as tough as it was yesterday, Steve opted to relax and catch up on emails. He went with us though and he drove us right back to the canal to exactly where we saw the majority of the grassies rising yesterday. Sure enough their noses were breaking the surface and glistening everywhere in the morning light.

Honestly, I felt like today would be easier. We were several hours earlier than yesterday. I made mistakes yesterday that I didn’t expect to make today. And I was confident in my olive grand hopper. After all, I got three grassies to eat yesterday all while learning the nature of the canal fishing. Today I should fool at least ten right? Wrong. All those good feelings disappeared quickly.

For starters, I pulled out the camera to photograph Cinda fishing to this first group of munching grassies. The sunrise light was stunning. I could get some great photos. Cinda too was feeling confident. We both felt for sure that she’d just drift that dry of hers into them and wham. Maybe I’d even photograph her hook up with a 20lb grassie leaping in the air trying to shake the fly. Well it didn’t exactly turn out that way. These grassies remembered us. They probably were never molested by fly fishers before in their lives and yesterday was traumatic for them. Cinda’s first drift through the happy grassies and it was game over. Once again these carp of the canals won’t spook from a speeding bike, a pair of runners in glow orange or a construction vehicle, but try to fake them out with their food and its like someone sewed their mouths shut!

I didn’t lose hope. I just needed to find the right fish. Just keep the fly in the water over fish and eventually my luck would come through. And it did. But just like yesterday, I had trouble connecting. I set on another three fish and all I got was air. It was painful on the self-confidence to say the least. Was I doing something wrong? Was I waiting too long? Was I striking too fast? What the heck was the problem?

By 10 am temps were in the upper 90°s. Even with sunscreen on, I’m sure my legs and feet and face were broiling. I didn’t notice. Grass carp turn me into a truly possessed angler. Over and over I prowled up and down this particular stretch of canal. There continued to be the occasional riser. Sometimes I’d feed my fly down. Sometimes I’d cast up to them. Both methods gave me the sporadic look but eventually the grass carp knew I was after them and simply sunk to the deep and laughed at my efforts.

Not too far from this stretch of canal was a small dam much like what you’d find for irrigation on a Wyoming river. Below the dam the water gushed out. At a glance you’d assume it was too fast for carp. But upon closer look you could see a few monsters sliding up and down through the current. Their silhouettes resembled huge New Zealand trout more than carp. I strolled down about a ½ mile or so below this water surge and began nymphing my way up it.

My rig was and old favorite. I went with two of Vladi’s Polish nymphs about 8 inches apart. I attached them to 4X Fluorocarbon and fished them without an indicator. Then like a blue heron I made my way up current slowly walking up the concrete edge of the canal. I saw tons of carp. While most were grass carp, there were also common carp and koi as well as some specie of sucker. I made casts to every fish I saw. I didn’t care what they were. Most of them spooked on the first cast because of the bright Arizona sun. Some would allow me a few extra casts then tear out of their lairs like a lightning bolt. And the ones that didn’t spook at all wouldn’t look at my nymphs.

Things were going bad. These carp would have nothing to do with me. Worst of all, when dredging a city canal you snag into a lot of disgusting things. On a river, I hardly ever get snagged when Euro style nymphing. But here there are crates, rags, clothes, garbage, shoes and all kinds of other crazy things you can hook. And with 4X you break off flies way too often. It was so bad that eventually I was out of the measly nymph assortment that I brought with me to AZ.

By now it was 2:15. Steve, Cinda and I agreed that we should be out of there by 3 because I needed to get ready for tonight. (Remember, I’m here in AZ to speak to Desert Fly Casters about fly fishing in Baja). It was looking like this would be my first trip ever to AZ where I did not get covered in grass carp slime – not cool at all. I was only a little ways below the small dam on the canal so I decided to walk up to it and look. About then I saw a common carp munching algae off the wall of the canal. I thought I’d try and get a picture of the armored scaled fish. Then a sturdy grass carp of about 10lbs swam off the bank and rose to a floating willow leaf. The leaf was about 3 inches long and he devoured the piece of greenery and slid back to the bank of the canal. This caught me totally by surprise. My heart accelerated as if I just saw a 100lb Nile Perch. I dipped into a crouch. Then the grassie rose again. He was acting like a monster brown trout sipping mayflies on a remote river. After his third rise I tied on the largest, stupidest looking foam hopper I had in my box. Then I made a very low sidearm cast and flipped the quirky looking fly up into the carps feeding lane. Sure enough he slipped off the bank and nipped it like a Henry’s Fork rainbow eating a spinner. And I hooked him! Miracle!

I was hooked up to a grass carp in shock and he frightened for his life. All grassies are strong. They always put up a great fight. But this current dwelling Amur took his first run to a whole new level. He smoked off line so fast down-canal that he had me in a full sprint. I figured I didn’t have a chance. But this was a canal. There aren’t trees sticking out from the bank. No rocks. There’s junk down deep but if I kept him high I did have a chance. A little luck wouldn’t hurt either and after two days with horrible luck, I knew I’d land this guy. Ten minutes later I was scaling down steep slippery cement steps in order to get close enough to wrestle my prize.

The carp dragged me so far down-canal that Cinda and Steve were able to come to the rescue and snap a few pictures. I say rescue because falling into a canal often leads to a horrible death. Under currents, bridges and the inability to get out of them drowns its share of people. I was now balancing knee deep in gross water on a submerged step in the canal doing my best to get my hands on a thrashing grassie of about 10lbs. He was so thick around the neck that a one handed grab was hopeless. And he was too heavy for a tail grab so I had no choice but to let go of the bank, use two hands and just pray I didn’t fall in. It was risky but on my second attempt I got him.

When I lifted the hefty grass carp for this photo heaps of canal water rolled down my shirt arm and all over me. I didn’t care how dirty the water was. I didn’t care about anything. After a two day mission I’d nailed my grassie from the challenging canals of the Phoenix area – success at last!

My “Fly Fishing in Baja” presentation went great tonight. There was a huge turnout at the Desert Fly Casters meeting and I even got myself all pumped up to get back to Baja soon. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait till May 2012. I have many more presentations coming up in the next six months. Take a look at my schedule and see if I’m in your area this winter. I’ll be speaking at many of the Fly Fishing Shows as well as clubs so be sure and come by for a visit. If not, talk with the fly fishing clubs in your area. I’m still taking bookings for the few available dates I have left.

Expect some interesting reports from here on out. Its home tomorrow and to the Henry’s Fork Saturday. Then next week I head for Wisconsin for three days of musky fishing. Time to enjoy October!