Menu

Michael Gracie

The first catch of 2011

We tromped around, spying just a minuscule number of the capr. And from quite a distance I might add.

To hell with distance I say!

So without further ado, I give you my first catch of 2011…
(more…)

Surprise catch on the urban South Platte River brings new meaning to “brownlining”

Yesterday I took a run down to the South Platte River, just south of the Denver city limits. My good friend Jon Emert in tow, we were ostensibly seeking carp.

The South Platte River is considered a dirty place – people don’t expect to see fishermen there, particularly not fly-fishermen. Par for the course, we were repeatedly (and quite rudely) mocked by passing cyclists. Not just any cyclists, but seemingly die-hard professional racing types, at least according to appearance (denoted by their carbon fiber bikes, sponsor-laden jerseys, and Christmas dinner flab hanging over their ballet tights). If those loft-dwelling, latte-sipping, bluetooth-toting, faux-environmentalists only knew. Actually, some of us would rather they didn’t.

We spotted just two carp all afternoon. Yearlings, maybe ten inches each, scooting across the skinny water. Could the Water Quality Control Commission, who gracefully denied a petition to keep the cold water designation on this section of river, be right?

Unfortunately, there are now at least two [more] anglers that know for certain they’re absolutely wrong. The brown trout pictured here was caught January 10, 2010, on the urban section of the South Platte River, by Mr. Emert. Brown trout are unquestionably a cold water species. This particular brown trout was colorful, muscular, and completely un-scarred. Its fins were wholly intact, unlike the fish you occasionally see who have to fight hard for their meals. It seems clear to us that it had found a way to adapt to its surroundings (foul-mouthed cyclists notwithstanding), and with vigor.

The fish spent a minute or so in and out of the water, while we carefully removed the Rainey’s Carp Teaser it had engulfed deep and snapped a few photos. Not a drop of blood was shed, and upon release it shot back into the pool from whence it came like nothing had ever happened.

Maybe the DOW snuck in while we weren’t looking and stocked the river with a supply of five year old brown trout. But…I doubt it.

Cesspool worthy of nothing but warm-water scavengers? Blech.

Tunes most likely to coax a 30-pound carp onto the end of your fly line

Assuming you have an iPod (you technophile), are willing to risk your so-called thrasher brownlining reputation by carrying it out on the water (you tool), and haven’t been mugged for it yet (you lucky !@#%), the following tunes will very likely put you in the frame of mind to dodge sewage hook some thugs from the urban goldfish bowl.

Scrambled for your listening pleasure…

1 ) No Sleep Till Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
2 ) Torn – Creed
3 ) Delivery Man – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
4 ) Lying From You – Linkin Park
5 ) We Just Wanna Party With You – Snoop Dogg & JD
6 ) Breathe – Sugar Ray
7 ) Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle) – Limp Bizkit
8 ) Cowboy – Kid Rock
9 ) Me So Horny – 2 Live Crew
10 ) Waiting To Die – hed pe
11 ) Guilty – Gravity Kills
12 ) Hash Pipe – Weezer
13 ) Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe – Whale
14 ) La Grange – ZZ Top
15 ) The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
16 ) Bring The Noise – Public Enemy
17 ) Whatever – Godsmack
18 ) Pure Massacre – Silverchair

Warranty against rod breakage is not included. Explicit lyrics are.

MG signing off (to spin some vinyl at a nursing home)

The South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam is just seven days away (UPDATED)

World Fishing NetworkTim “Fishman” Emery and the rest of the South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam organizing crew have been working like mad dogs to put together this event. Fifteen teams of professional fly fishing guide and amateur combinations will stalk wary carp on the metropolitan South Platte River, and raise awareness of the fishery in the process. The World Fishing Network is covering the event, and the purse is bigger and better than ever…

  • First Place – $1,000 split between the winning team; Trouts Fly Fishing supplied that moolah.
  • Second Place – Amateur prize is Simms Rivershed Boots and Headwater Waist Pack; Michael White and Simms River Products provided this gear.
  • Third Place – Amateur prize is Ross World Wide Essence 690-4 Fly Rod and Airius Fly #3 Fly Reel; thanks going to Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and Ross Worldwide for this package.
  • Biggest Trout – $250 for one lucky amateur; cash donated by Denver Trout Unlimited.

Here is the schedule for the event…

(more…)

A most valuable lesson in life I’ve learned from fly fishing: Accept that things change, and embrace it

There are a few constants in fly fishing: a rod, a reel, and line, plus flies and a leader. The rest is up for grabs. You can head out on the water and have an epic day, or wind up thinking the time burned could have been better spent in the garden. There could be a blizzard-like caddis hatch, or you could snag every streamer you own on unseen rocks. You could meet partially overcast skies, a sun high and bright, or two feet of fresh snow. You can catch every fish in the river, or go home ‘hungry’. Such is life. At times jubilant, then melancholy. A walk in the park, followed by aggravation and/or disappointment.

I woke Saturday just before five, and with some restlessness in my mind. I’ve fished almost exclusively for trout and carp this summer, a much too brief and less than fruitful trip to Florida for redfish the only break. And while I’ve had a wonderful time hanging out on river and lake with friends, I also felt a strange desire to head out this morning alone.

A single rigAfter exiting the truck I was immediately greeted by a triumvirate of exuberant Golden Retrievers – they had gotten away from their handler during their morning walk and decided I was worth meeting up close and personal. I considered it as joyful a start to the morning as I could ever hope. Rod rigged, I headed up a canopied dead end road while a faint morning mist whisked between trees where the sun’s first beams had not yet penetrated. At the trail head, I laid my rod and bag down on a bench, immediately reminded that the last time I had visited this place it was not a solitary pursuit. I don’t generally fish by myself, but things change.

A well worn trailDown the trail I went, immediately noticing that it was well worn from horse hoof (and human hoof) traffic. The last time I remember thinking the fishing must be really good, as the path was devoid of wear. At the end of a short decline, a open gate, latch donned in chain long since wrapped round and round itself to prevent fair use, invited me in. Last time that gate had been closed.

Crossing the small field to the water, my sandals immediately became soaked in the fresh morning dew. My recollection of last spring was dry and barren, what grass existed matted down by the weight of snow that only briefly disappeared for the run we’d made. Now, the field was in full bloom, complete with tall blades and thorny underbrush. The sights, the texture, even the smell – all changed.

Once matted, now tall grassTreading on, I noticed blade and spine brushing against my barren lower legs. It wouldn’t have bothered me had I been wearing pants as usual, but it is summer and summer means shorts. Nevertheless, I wasn’t perturbed. In fact, the brush wasn’t so heavy as to cause any injury, and the faint scratching on my lower legs actually felt good against my slightly dry skin.

Upon reaching the waters edge, I spotted no signs of my prospective quarry. So I began casting blindly, hauling as far as I could toward the center of this dead still pond while simultaneously stomping down the grass just a foot off the bank in front of me to prevent tangles and the inevitable short stops of the multi-colored deer hair popper in flight. I was seeking bass, and bass enjoy cover. Why hurl this fly where no cover existed? It defied logic. And then wham!

A bass in hand is safer than one overheadOne gloriously chubby fish had taken the bait, and after a millisecond’s struggle keeping it away from fallen limbs near the landing bay it was hanging off my hand. Nobody around to show my prize to, it was memorialized in zeros and ones, an outcome that wouldn’t generally satisfy this angler. Yet something had changed.

The sun rose just above the treeline far across the field behind me, signaling a new day was well in hand too. It warmed my back ever so slightly, a balancing act for my cold, damp feet. Into the morning I cast that popper, first far, and then near. Every so often I’d see a violent splash around the fly, or a shadow cruise up behind it for a gulp, and reel time would begin. I recall this venue producing fish, but not like this – within an hour thirty I had a dozen bucketmouths in my grasp, and at least two or three more that had been lost midstream. I also recollect that of the times I’d visited the bass were healthy, vibrant specimens, the stunning iridescent green appearing down around their lateral lines making up for the fact that they were, for the most part, small.

Even that had changed.

Things change

Retracing my path to the truck, I realized my own steps seemed lighter, nary a hint of anxiety driving them. I absorbed with precision the sounds of birds chirping and the rustling of leaves in the mid-morning breeze. I also bumped into a German Shepard and a Bernese Mountain dog, they too wanting for my attention. I complied, and tails wagged. I made a quick phone call to confirm some future dinner plans, and then stopped by the fly shop. Thirty minutes of verbal abuse later (some things never change), I was eating a breakfast burrito compliments of one of the shop patrons.

A fly fisherman comping grub for the hell of it? Now that’s what I call change. I accept. But sorry dude, you’re not my type. No embrace.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks go out to Fishing Jones, for cluing me in.

I’ll turn this Australian into a fly fisherman if it kills me

Fly fishing plunger Craig Berg came to America seeking the good life. And outside of a grand career and a happy, healthy family it’s been a unmitigated disaster. If you have to ask why, you obviously have never fly fished with my crew and I.

First and foremost, I’m a drill sergeant. You lob a weak cast, I scream. You snag your flies and try pulling them loose without walking up first, I scream. You allow your line to drag on the surface, I scream. Tangle your leader…scream! Asked me to retie your knots…scream! You get the picture – I’d fail guide school because I’m a terrible babysitter. But over the last few years Mr. Berg has figured out trout, and I take full responsibility.

Alas, it was time to move on to bigger and better things, and today was the breakthrough day. Tough love works…

Berg's first carp on the fly
Gracie rig and fly choice (and a little yelling)

I’m still figuring out this carp thing myself, but it’s always good to have a whipping boy quick study around to test my theories for me.

Editor’s note: special thanks to James Snyder of Primal Fly Fishing for piping his own version of the Comedy Channel into our outing, making for an even finer day. And, no…neither James nor I netted jack. Class dismissed!

Get ready for the South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam

Dave Coulson of Fish Explorer talks carp, in the Fort Collins Coloradan:

Carp get big, frequently exceeding 2 feet and 10 pounds. Much bigger fish are not uncommon. They are such strong and determined fighters that I use them as a warm-up for my redfish trips. These Colorado redfish have trashed more of my tackle than any other fish.

South Platte Pro-Am Carp SlamI’m glad Dave noted that he uses carp fishing as a warm-up for trips after our fine spotted tail friends. It’s a good idea, but I’ve got one better…how about using your upcoming redfish trip as a warm-up for the South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam?!

What the hell is a carp slam?

Glad you asked. The South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam is a fly fishing tournament held each year right here in Denver. This year the contest is August 22nd, and the target is the Colorado redfish, or common carp. The tournament takes place on various portions of the South Platte River, in and around the downtown area.

There’s a good purpose too – proceeds from the Carp Slam go to rehabilitating the South Platte River directly below Chatfield Reservoir as what else…a trout fishery. Hosted by Denver Trout Unlimited, the Carp Slam is now in it’s third year. And now that the South Platte River is a famous brownlining haunt (thanks to the Wall Street Journal) the folks putting on the event are expecting quite a show. In competitions past, big carp have been had, but there have been a few surprises too, including this piggy trout bagged by Dzifa Glymin right near REI. It’s proof positive Denver Trout Unlimited is on the right track with this effort.

If you’re a fly fisher itching for some tough fights against tough fish, as well as a shot at shutting loudmouths such as myself up for eternity  until next year’s Teva Mountain Games  for at least ten seconds, I suggest you get signed up now.

The Flyfish Journal, on film maker RA Beattie, on carp

They may be trash fish, but boy do they swarm when you show up with a bucket of bread balls pocket full of red San Juans. The Flyfish Journal quizzes RA Beattie about filming, and carp.

Carp on The Flyfish Journal

Those goldfish are damn photogenic too, eh?

Editor’s note: The picture above was blatantly pilfered from the pages of The Flyfish Journal, proving that on the interwebs it’s much easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact than permission beforehand. Providing some [sarcastic] credit and then keeping your fingers crossed never hurts either.

How to burn a three day weekend chasing carp on the fly

The internet is full of instructions, but few will direct you how to successfully be a no-show at several backyard BBQs, miss two hometown basketball games, and yet maximize your alcohol consumption just the same. Fly fishing for carp can do that to a person.

Step 1

Find a local park pond teeming with carp. These carp should be in a post-spawn feeding mode, heads to the floorboard and tails held high.

duckfamilyIf you haven’t learned how to spot tailing carp yet, just remember that virtually every stillwater in suburbia has a high probability of holding carp. But if you think your chosen aquifer might be contaminated, don’t worry – carp are known to live in the nastiest places. If that’s not comfort enough then check for other wildlife. Ponds also hold ducks, and around this time of year there may be plenty of them. Ducks like bugs, and so do carp. This will all make sense soon, but for now spend your first day watching ducks while your friends catch big carp. Catch just one small one yourself to keep things interesting.

Step 2

Those carp that aren’t tailing might be milling around just sub-surface, sipping on something microscopic (or at least out of your eyesight range). Don’t worry about them for now – you’re going to strip small leeches. Make them like #8s, with a bit of black marabou up front and a little purple or red tail. You want to want long and steady strips. Now a lot of the carp are going to spook when those leeches swim by, but every once in a while one is going to decide to pound it. These are the carp you want. After a while, you will loose all your leeches – some will get snagged on the bottom, while others will just get pinged the moment you set the hook on some pig. Then the rain will come, and you will decide to go home.

Step 3

spasticbuggerGo to the fly shop and buy more leeches. Then call the folks you are planning on fishing with the following day and tell them leeches are the ticket. Make sure those peeps are fly tying fanatics. They’ll talk smack about all the whiz bang creations they’re about to come up with, when you know it’s going to be a few mods to the standard wooly bugger. They’ll show up ready to do battle, and certain of their superior firepower.

Pray for another front to roll through, slowing down the carps’ feeding habits just enough that all leeches become totally ineffective. Regardless of your initial inclination that your colleagues would arrive for the bank robbery with paintball guns, everyone is now on an even playing field.

Step 4

Dorsal flairGo back to the same pond, for the third day straight. Since that rain has been passing by each afternoon, the water is now a little cloudy. And you have all these leeches that seemed to be working on day one, but aren’t anymore. You should throw those for at least a few hours. This operation becomes more effective if you loan your go-to carp rig to a friend, and pull out an aging 9-weight RPLX strung with a fat GPX line. You can now throw that leech a country mile, which will give you ample fly fishing satisfaction right up to the point the line hits the water and the tip starts to sink. Sinking tips won’t help you recognize the subtle strike of the Carpio, and that has the added benefit of convincing you that it’s not your fly choice but your equipment that is preventing you from hooking fish.

Step 5

Back at step one I mentioned ducks. And bugs. Those carp lingering near the surface are very likely eating the same bugs the ducks are. All you have to do is kidnap one of those cute baby ducks and pump it’s stomach like you would a trout run a seine over the water surface, and find out what’s cooking. Chronomids!

Step 6

Go home, eat pizza, drink beer, and wait until next weekend. And don’t forget your nymph box.

I Just Had To Ditch

It was a beautiful day here in Denver.

The call came in…

…and the rods came out.
ditch-rods

I had to ditch…

…and ditch I did.
ditch-fish

MG signing off (to seek out more ditches)

Editor’s note: It was actually a small pond on the edge of some golf course in the suburbs, but I’m hoping Dr. Ditch will still give me a decent grade.

PS: I’m testing lightboxes – click on a pic and tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I’ll be working into the wee hours of the night to make up for the ditching.