Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Wake up.  Slam the coffee.  On the water at first light.  You arrive at the river hoping a few things pan out.  If it's calm, the sun is shining, and the water has something to it resembling clarity, you know you have a chance.  In this game, to be successful, everything has to work out just right.  Once the rod is strung, the real task begins, find a feeding fish, stalk it, get in position, make a pinpoint cast, perfect presentation, and hope that the fish eats the fly.

The fish are big.  You are sight fishing.  This is likely as technical as freshwater fly fishing gets.  No, this ain't trout fishing.  You probably guessed it, we're talking about carp here. 

These fish are technical
Dawn Patrol
Carp seem to be all the rage these days among a certain group of anglers.  There's a good reason for it as I have discovered.  They are big, strong, spooky as all get out, and are usually extremely picky about what they put in their mouths.  Not easy, but definitely rewarding fishing.  As I've read, carp have the some of the best abilities to detect sound and vibration of any freshwater fish.  They are also equipped with a formidable sense of smell.  Try throwing a freshly tied and cemented fly at them and see what happens!  You probably won't like the results.  Since these formative experiences, I've stopped cementing all my carp flies.  Sunscreen on your hands?  Bugspray?  Better not touch that fly.  If you do, all you may see for the next few hours is the quick snap of a spooked carp blasting away from your fly acompanied by a sudden startling SPLOOSH!  All you will be left with is a cloud of silt and more than a few yards of empty water.

Yes.  These fish are technical.  

There's no sure thing with carp fishing.  Best laid plans can be torn asunder by an unexpected windstorm, rain, hail, or host of other meteorological disasters  inevitably bound to hit the wide open prairie at any moment.  After all, there's nothing between you and the arctic circle save for a few wheat fields and a few Canadians.  This year, incessant surprise thunderstorms muddied the waters for what seemed to be weeks at a time making fishing tough.  

When I went out, I would spot a fish or two gently tailing in several inches of water, and take great care getting into position as to not spook it. By the time I did get into range, often the fish would be nowhere to be seen.  Likely he slid off into slightly deeper water but you would have no idea as to where or in what direction.  Blind casting for carp in muddy water you soon learn, is pretty much a waste of time.   

When you tell folks that you came all the way out to the middle of the prairie in eastern Montana to fly fish for carp you get a whole bevy of interesting responses.  All the way from the mild interest to annoyance, to just plain disgust.  Folks give you quizzical looks, stare in disbelief, or ask "What are ya fishin' for?"  Sometimes all you get is a laugh and a headshake.  

As one gentleman put it when I told him what I was doing, "Fly fishin' for carp!? well ain't that somethin'."     

I think it is. 

Sometimes Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a few Acorns
Did I mention carp can be tough quarry?  Just as you feel like you got a handle on them, these fish quickly humble you.  One day I had double digit hookups in the 2 hours I fished.  All right I thought, I got this figured out.  That success was followed by three straight skunk-fests.  Nice.

To get these fish to eat requires a pinpoint cast at 30 plus feet.  Landing the fly close enough to the fish to get his interest but as to not spook him.  Then you have to detect the take, and this is not often an easy thing.  Sometimes a tailing fish will turn on the fly, sometimes if you are lucky, you will see the fish suck it in.  Often however, all you notice is a brief quiver, flick of the tail, sudden pause, repositioning, or other oddity that alerts you that the fish has eaten something.  Many times it's not your fly but when it is...  

Hold on.  

The Hybrid (courtesy of John at Carp on the Fly) Strikes Back
Trout fishing has got nothin' on this.  Well, at least not very often.  My hardest day of dry fly fishing for trout would equate to about an average day of carping.  Though this perception can, in large part, I suppose be contributed to how lousy a carp fishermen I am.  I tell you what though, carping sure makes you a better, more patient, stealthy trout fishermen.

I'm no expert, but the one thing I've learned is...  These fish are technical

Go get yourself some.  Go ahead.  Do it. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Sorry for the absence.  It's been a busy summer.
This year, a longtime dream was finally realized.  I took the leap and became a bona fide Montana fly fishing guide.  Being my first go around I wasn't sure what this summer would hold.  However two-thirds through it, I can say I've been having a blast.  I've been blessed with some wonderful clients, many greats days on the water, and have stayed surprisingly busy.  Remarkably, despite my best efforts, my folks have managed to catch quite a few fish also.  After a few months, I can say I am really enjoying this guiding thing. 

I have to give much thanks to my Outfitter/Mentor Jed at Sula Mountain Fly Fishing, and Chuck, owner of Chuck Stranahan's Fly Shop in Hamilton for setting me up and giving me the opportunity to learn the craft.