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Michael Gracie

The Summer of Carp Love is in full swing

Summer’s barely gotten cranked up, and yet the flows are at historic lows while the temps climb daily into the upper 90s.

A fly angler’s worst nightmare? Hardly.

While practicing Tai Chi down by the South Platte River’s edge today, I received a couple of phone calls and texts. Yes, they disrupted my zen, and to add insult to injury they all sounded roughly the same: “Them carps are eating everything we throw at them.” Fly fishers being the lying sacks that they are, I returned to form eight, and then pulled a muscle in my left pinky finger. Yes, I’m really out of shape.

Thankfully, there just so happened to be a fly rod laying right beside my cooler full of beer jug of homeopathic tea, so I gave it a cast…

carp on the fly

…and discovered that while fly fishers are still liars, the carp have indeed shifted into high gear. They are visibly following flies, turning back after them, and flat out charging after the faux meals when their buddies are nearby. Nothing beats seeing the eat happen, except maybe seeing the next eat, or the one after that. Even better, the Redington/Rio combo I’ve been contracted to destroy is still looking and feeling good as new, which means I’m failing at the task and must step up the efforts.

MG signing off (because if you can’t beat the heat you might as well join it)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks goes out to Andy “Bondo” Bond, former Gore Creek trout guide, for the transportation, the photo, and the icy cool beverages.

“Tebowing” Carp Angler Style

It could be that my compadre Will Rice is a rejuvenated Denver Broncos fan, or maybe he’s just a persistently enthusiastic carp fishing fan. Either way, he shows us how it’s done within eyeshot of the Mile High Stadium.

Tebowing for carp

I’ve seen the playbook, but I’ll go no further than to say photo credit goes to Mr. Mitch Palin.

MG signing off (because carp fishing always requires hope and a prayer)

Warning: Angler-eating beaver sighted on Denver’s South Platte River

beaversOk, so I exaggerate just a bit – the beaver hasn’t actually eaten an angler, at least not yet. The headline is catchy though, eh?

Backstory

Will Rice and I are tromping around town last Sunday, looking for carp (nothing strange there). We run into Frank Smethurst, who has a buddy in tow and is chasing carp himself (a little stranger). Rice and I take it upon ourselves to give Mr. Smethurst a few tips on where to find said fish (borderline very strange). He relays said tips to said buddy, who plants himself on a bank while we spot from the bridge above (back to not strange).

Run-in, quantitatively analyzed

All of a sudden, all the fish in this big pod spook (carp – 1; strange – 0). Then Will sees this huge blob float through the hole and down under the bridge (carp – 1; strange – 1). I notice the huge blob has a paddle, and immediately identify it as a beaver of magnanimous proportions (carp – 1; strange – 2). I run to the other side of the bridge, but the beaver doesn’t appear (still carp – 1; strange – 2). A minute later, however, the beaver pops up right next to the bridge pylon, and begins eyeballing Frank’s friend (carp – 1; strange – 2; beaver – 1). Then the beaver starts swimming directly towards Frank’s friend, at which point Frank’s friend skidaddles off the bank (carp – 1; strange – 2; beaver – 2; anglers – minus 1). The beaver dives out of sight while we are scrambling for our cameras (carp – 1; strange – 2; beaver – 3; anglers – minus 2). It is immediately obvious, even to the algebraicly challenged, that the beaver got the best of everyone and everything. Much as urban beavers do.

Aftermath

Mr. Rice decides we should get on our way, which yours truly agrees is a good idea since he has already had a nasty run-in with a beaver once in his life. Ok, maybe a few more than that, but who’s counting. On our stroll back to the car we spy a felled tree. I’d seen this earlier in the day but thought it was part of a half-completed river restoration project. On closer inspection, however, we put two and two together – or make that three and three, because by our final count something with big teeth and a lot of time on their hands had gnawed three trees down in the last week or so.

I believe the moral of this story is don’t mess with urban beavers. They spook the carp, chase away the anglers, are camera shy, and chop down trees when nobody is looking.

MG signing off (to tell the DOW to leave that beaver alone, because it’ll keep the anglers in check)

The Pillagers and Plunderers

Without further ado…

1st Place – Clint Packo(1) and Trevor Tanner(1) (111 inches on 5 fish)
2nd Place – Barry Reynolds(2) and Yours Truly (81 inches on 3 fish)
3rd Place – Luke Bever(3) and Nathan Davis(1) (72 inches on 3 fish)

NOTES:
(1) First time participants in The Slam
(2) Reynolds has taken second place three years in a row across six different beats, meaning the man proves beyond a shadow of doubt he can catch fish no matter the conditions. And even though he’s drawn me as a partner twice.
(3) Luke Bever has competed twice, catching the Carp of the Slam on his first pass and all three fish that brought his team to podium on the second. In other words, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

The real winners of the whole shebang, however, are the donors of prizes, the attendees at the after-party, those who forked out cold, hard cash donations, and of course the urban South Platte River itself. Denver Trout Unlimited has preliminarily reported a 50% increase in revenue from the event, and the budgeted net, which goes directly to river restoration projects, should be right on target. Clem Rinehart, Cory Stansbury, Todd Fehr, and the rest of the DTU Board deserve major kudos for knocking this one out of the park.

MG signing off (to retire the carp gear, for at least a few days)

Training Grounds

To catch the carp, you must be the carp. The only way to be, however, is through total immersion…

river warning

Seeing as fishing grounds have been significantly restricted prior to the main event, improvisation was in order.

MG signing off (to step into the decontamination chamber)

There is still time to sign up for Carp Slam

Every fly angler on the planet is a liar. And the 2011 South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam is…

Carp Slam is SOLD OUT

I repeat…SOLD OUT!

The field is a wily, ultra-fishy bunch, and the bounty, which includes gear from Sage, Waterworks-Lamson, Fishpond, Nomad, Redington, and more is going to entice a knock down, drag out competition that makes a fifteen-vehicle NASCAR pileup look like a sideshow at a pre-teen beauty pageant.

Thankfully, however, you DON’T have to miss the party. There are still plenty of volunteer spots available, and you can also grab a ticket to what’s being billed as the charity gala of the decade, An Evening on the South Platte. You’ll not only ensconce yourself as a parader of the red carpet, but you’ll be helping to clean up the South Platte river while scoring some fine eats and tasty beverages. All angling competitors WILL have bathed before they arrive for the festivities, so you don’t even have to carry a gas mask.

Be there, or be sitting on your couch playing Xbox with the rest of the un-sociables.

MG signing off (because my odds of winning just dropped to 100-1)

Carp Slam 2011 training begins…right now

fly-fishingI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – sometimes you just have to go for broke. Throw caution to the wind. And throw your fly at the smartest, spookiest critters lurking in the…gutters?

Some call the urban South Platte River a cesspool. I call it the best thing since the invention of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of whole milk after 10:00 pm – comforting, without moving too far (ingredients are always close at hand) or spending too much (because all you need is a 6-weight, a spool of 3X, and patience). But getting our home water to that level has been a lot of hard work, and there is still a lot more work to be done. The effort requires blood, sweat and tears Denver Trout Unlimited, The 2011 South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam, and a big [fancy] party after the fact. It’s about raising money for a great cause, and I’m all for great causes, particularly when it means I can go fly-fishing.

Carp SlamAfter flipping a coin which ensured a place on the podium two years ago, I took last year off to attend some celebrity’s bachelor party (hosted at Playboy Mansion – Rocky Mountains). And even though such ritzy invitations come my way like clockwork, I’ve pulled the arms off the time-keeping device and entered this year’s Carp Slam once again. The rules committee convened, and they determined that anybody that doesn’t trade beer-by-the-case for GPS coordinates to the finest fishing spots can enter as an amateur. I won’t lift a finger for anything other than cold hard cash, and while I’ve been swapping it for gold bullion and shotgun shells as quickly as I can scrape it together (via my proprietary Finished Adams/Raw Hackle arbitrage – cleared through the New York Merc), I did plunk down a bit of the paper stuff for the entry fee.

You can probably hear Eye of the Tiger playing in the background. That’s because training day begins…right now. I’ll be scoping out the Platte every chance I get. Checking flows, perfecting my cast, drinking raw eggs, and waiting for them to build a statue of me in Confluence Park so I run up to it and jump up and down and wave my hands in the air like I just won something big. Which I might. Someday.

You can be a part of my sequel, which also happens to be the 5th anniversary of this fine event. It’s easy too – just donate some of your hard-earned money to the cause! The powers that be have even set up a donation page in honor of each competitor willing to step knee deep in the river – you can find mine right here…

http://denvertu.org/carp-slam-competitors/michael-gracie/

Handing over a few bucks (particularly in $5 $10 $20 $50 increments) means you bet on a winner, MG the South Platte, while ensuring the river gets the benefit instead of the IRS (donations are tax deductible).

Vegas presently has me at 7-1. Only because I’ve been wagering on myself. A lot.

MG signing off (to find my long lost jump rope)

The only river not blown out holding fish interested in something besides eating

You go fly-fishing with the expectation that the targets are hungry.

Yesterday I found they were just horny.

MG signing off (because he really needs a tripod)

Memorial Day: Team Trout’s works the skinny

fly-fishing for carpFirst and foremost, today is Memorial Day. So let’s thank US warfighters past and present for their efforts to secure the freedoms we all enjoy. Like fly-fishing for carp. Second, Team Trout’s isn’t an official moniker, and in this case it wasn’t the entire staff of Trout’s fly shop either. Nevertheless, business was good. Lastly, skinny refers to water, as in not particularly deep.

In the long-standing quest to get all fly-fishers to quit indicator nymphing (myself included), I dragged Cody “The Kid” Hoeckelberg past the obvious water – you know, the deep holes invariably chock full of fish – and over to a wide swath of river knee high to a Dachshund. In between intermittent cloud cover we made a few casts. But it wasn’t long before Kid Cody was signalling discouragement vis-a-vis calling out for a change in venue.

Patience, young Padawan. Patience.

The skies cleared, and within minutes there was a golden bonefish Colorado redfish in the net. “It was a clean eat,” Kid Cody exclaimed. “Well of course it was. I saw the fish charge the fly.” Head scratching ensued, so I handed the young buck what might be THE finest carp stick ever created by humankind, the Scott S4S 906/4, and told him to get to work. A lesson on target acquisition and quick trigger pulling later, Junior was hooked up as well.

fly-fishing for carp

Like previous successful ventures enveloped in brevity, I then decided to take off. Kid Rock Cody, however, stuck around after bumping into famed stinky water luminary David “Chiquita Mansuelo Swarthout” Luna. Rumor has it Junior bagged a honker walleye not long after.

Let’s hope it was while sight fishing the thin stuff.

MG signing off (because you’ve probably had too many beers to bother reading this whole post anyway)

Carp into lemonade

The river keeps getting cleaner, and it’s all because the anglers lurking around it drink like fish of solid community effort, anchored in no small part by Denver Trout Unlimited’s South Platte Carp Slam.

What say you, Denver Post?

“It’s the classic ‘lemonade’ story,” Denver Trout Unlimited chapter president Todd Fehr said of the “lemons” that dominate Denver’s hometown fishery along the South Platte River. “The Pro-Am Carp Slam started because that’s what we had to work with. And the thing is just quirky enough to have taken off.”

The irony of using the lowly regarded carp to promote and preserve the would-be habitat of the regal trout is not lost on Fehr. But after years of frustration over the lack of a productive local trout fishery in metro Denver, DTU member Tim Emery suggested in 2007 that the group might try to take advantage of the abundant bugle-mouthed fish that reside in the neighborhood.

The Carp Slam 2011 is set for August 27th and 28th. If I were you I’d get signed up ASAP. The entrance fee is now just $250, and the prize packages are going to be all kinds of shock and awe.

MG signing off (to find some “lemons”)