Archive for May, 2009

Who Needs a Truck?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009



The Mexican Restaurant Fishing Club held an impromptu meeting after a scouting trip.  It was one of those “it’s all about the experience / it’s just good to be out on the water” days.

It’s always good to learn a thing or two on a scouting trip.  This day’s lesson:  you can haul hay in a Nissan.

Friends & Boo

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Steve and I were ditch fishin this day and I somehow pushed the “Soft Focus 70s” button on the camera for an accidental effect.


Anyway, we got kind of intense about the whole sight fishing thing and I think he was too busy down the bank to come and take a snapshot so I had to do the familiar “grass portrait” of the fish. 


Nothing like friends, nothing like bamboo.

Apex Trash

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Wikipedia defines apex predator as

…predators that, as adults, are not normally preyed upon in the wild by other large animals in significant parts of their range.

In other words, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle, Great White Shark– most of us would just call them badass.

trashonthefly defines trash* as

Fish species that under-observant anglers leave on the bank to die because they never saw them on the cover of magazines.

Yesterday, I went hunting for Apex Trash.  The day started out pretty much the way every other day in Texas has started out for the last three months:


But it did eventually clear up quite a bit.  When I arrived to my first destination, I got a little distracted and tried to take pictures of lily blossoms.  Hey, I have been looking for this particular brand of Apex Trash for six years, and while my hopes were high, I needed to make sure I enjoyed the ride!


I will admit that I am not the best photographer, but this one came out ok.  I’ll spare you the mushroom closeups and the blurry dragonflies.

Now, my original plan was a high energy run-and-gun scouting trip, stopping to fish only in likely places or where I actually saw fish.  Since everything is high and muddy, I realized that it would be possible to work my way from one end of the map to another without wetting a line, and never have the time to retrace my steps on all the dirt roads, 4WD, and blind corners.

Blind fishing really isn’t my style, but, it’s spring time in Texas, and on the right days, all the fish in the water act like they’ve never been offered a free meal before.  My new plan was to keep the scout fishing to a bare minimum since I was fishing mostly small water.  I eliminated the first spot pretty quickly, although I admit that the bluegill that ate my 4″ Clouser really was pretty big. 

In the second spot I became distracted fairly quickly by something other than a fish.  To a Montana boy, a bear is really not a big deal.  They didn’t walk to school with us, but if you were any kind of outdoorsman, you came across them from time to time.  At first I found it odd that my southern friends were so curious about the bears, and now I understand why.  As children we are fed stories and images of animals that are common in distant lands– distant only due to our age– and since many of us never come face to face with those animals until we are adults, the expectations are pretty high and the images fairly well ingrained, but still with a spooky unfamiliarity to them.

The point is, while I should have left the second spot after a couple of casts produced nothing, I was entranced.  And when I hooked up with this little guy,


I got a serious reaction from this one:


And, while it might be considered by some to be a little on the sporting side, I thought that I might just let the animal have the fish.  After the energy the gator expended to swim upcurrent and catch up with the crappie, I thought it only fitting.  Either the gator would tug the crappie off my hook, or I’d have to time a heck of a hookset/breakoff move in order to free the gator from the end of my line.  Both courses would leave the gator with a full belly, so what could it hurt?


Well the gator spooked when it realized something was seriously wrong with the scenario, and the crappie was released only partly traumatized.

Back in the truck and down some more rutted paths.  I don’t know anything about trees, but I’m pretty sure that this spells exotic reel seat:


I found some ponds and spent about an hour between two of them catching bass and catfish.  This guy deserved a picture for two reasons, it was highly spotted, and extremely aggressive.  These fish were actually darting out from vegetation patches and hammering the fly.


It’s been more than two years since I blissfully casted for such small game and I enjoyed every minute of it.  After the gator incident, I realized my day had already reached epic proportions and anything else was candy.  I hopped back in the truck and checked the time.  Texas really is big, and I carry a map in my truck called The Roads of Texas.  The scale is pretty large, showing basically all the rural routes in the state, but still, it runs 150 roughly legal-sized pages.  It’s no more than an hour from one side of a page to another in most cases, and I realized a good friend lived on the page I was driving in.  If I timed it right, I could take a detour and make a visit before I headed back to Big D.

There really was a moment of debate there.  If I quit then, after a great day, I could visit my friend for an hour or two and get home long before the light disappeared from the western sky.  If I continued on, I was only about 30 minutes away from the other spot I had intended on scouting.  I decided to try and make a short trip to the second location, a visit, and a late return home. 

Minutes after I arrived at the second spot, I saw carp crawling all over shallow flats.  My heart stopped.  I love chasing crawlers.  I found a place to park and got to fishing.  What I found was not carp crawling,  but carp clooping in extremely tight groups.  After embarrassing myself and the carp by snagging one in the head, I decided to leave them alone.

About the time I was going to abandon the patch of water, I saw a roll.  It was impossible to identify the species, but it could be…

A quick tippet and fly change later and I was firing off to rolling fish.  After two solid bumps, the third one hit home and the fish rocketed off through the muddy water.  My fly line was wrapped around a snag that I assumed was in fairly deep water.  I set the hook good and then waded over there and threaded my tip top through the snag.  Phew.  First disaster avoided, the fish was still tight.

I got the fish close to hand and it began performing acrobatics.  I could see that the fish was well hooked, but, during one of its aerial maneuvers the tippet ended up threading through its mouth and exiting on the opposite side as the fly.  Considering the teeth, this was not a good thing.  I changed rod angles a few times and got the tippet back to the correct exit point: off the fly and away from the teeth!  A few swipes with the boga and six years of buildup finally released.



Alligator Gar can get huge… like 300 pounds huge… and specimens over 100 pounds are not that uncommon.  Actually, of the specimens that are caught, I should say, 100 pounds is not an unreasonable number.  There is a lot of debate over just how endangered the Alligator Gar has become, but one thing is for certain: trying to find one in North Texas is the very definition of waste of time.

So my first Alligator Gar catch was, like most firsts, pretty small for the species.  8.5 pounds.  I didn’t have a measuring tape but I’ll guess it went about 30 inches.  What my fish lacked in size, it made up for in cool:  as my friend Henry likes to say, no matter what the size, it still counts as one.  I’ve come to a point in my angling where popping my cherry on any new species is a big deal, and the other thing my gar had that other gars don’t is two rows of teeth in the upper jaw.  You can see that in the picture.  As far as those chompers go, I didn’t stick my fingers in there but I was nervous when the 16 pound tippet was threaded through them during the fight.

I know when it’s time to quit, and after watching that fish swim off I retrieved my fly rod from a patch of reeds and put the hook on the keeper.  Fishing was over.  Back at the truck I dumped the muddy wading boots and zipped the legs off my pants.  I would of course finish looking around the area I had come to observe, but I was done with the water and mud.

As I slowly rounded a corner in a dry patch, something caught my eye:


I jumped out and closer inspection revealed it was a shoal of 4″ catfish.


Back in the truck I felt something tangled in my hair, and laughed when I saw it.  Oh, sweet irony.  I had been trash fishing and found the trout angler’s favorite bug, Hexagenia limbata, smashed into my hair. 


Besides the mayfly, I spotted 7 deer, 2 nutria, 2 alligators, bluebirds, all manner of dragonflies, clooping carp, clooping catfish, clooping baby catfish, rolling alligator gar, crappie, bluegill, and an enormous variety of wildflowers including at least three that I have never seen before.  I put a little ska on the radio and drove to my friend’s house for a much needed visit.  We talked about the economy and life and I was lucky enough to be invited to sit down for a pot roast dinner.

It really does not get much better than that.



*hmmm… I might need to work on that trash fish definition a little.


Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

My friends Alex and Mark were the creators of Laughing Bass– an internet fishing show.  The show and the Laughing Bass site have long since been abandoned, although some videos still exist on YouTube.

Alex and Mark came to Big D to film a carp episode for Laughing Bass in late July 2005, which spawned the following two pictures that have been on various versions of this site since.

“Butterhands” Mark dropped his first carp before we could get a snapshot.  The whole thing was on video, of course, but we failed to get what could have been his proud portrait to hang over his bed… or something.




Now Alex’s fish, on the other hand, was very easy going when it came to the photoshoot.  In fact, his fish was the first carp I’d ever seen that didn’t fight.  It was actually quite pathetic.  On the video you could hear me say something along the lines of “any minute now…”  In fact, I was sure that when I took a swipe at it with the net that the fish would explode.  Maybe even break the tippet.  But it was not to be.  Alex’s first carp would not fight.  Not one bit.




So when Alex told me he’d be back in Big D in late June 2008 and needed a fishing fix, I thought I’d try to fix him up with a real carp- a normal carp.  I don’t remember what this fish weighed, but, the rod was bent double for quite a while and I distinctly remember the surprised look on his face.




 Sorry your first carp was such a wet rag, Alex.

Sucker Punch

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The latest version of the Sucker Punch – The One True Carp Fly.



The new materials list is:


Rust thread.

Bead Chain Eyes – large (5/32″), black.

Centipede Legs – Montana Fly Company, Speckled Orange #801, size Mini #0.

Wapsi Life Cycle Peacock Dubbing, Crawdub Burnt Orange Dubbing.

Hot Orange Pheasant Rump.


Hooks are awfully personal, but, this one is tied on a #4 Mustad 3407 for bonefish*, skinny water reds, tailing black drum, and sheepshead.  For carp I usually use a #6 Mustad 3366.


Other color combinations I’m fishing are a shrimp pink (Softshell Crawdub, natural pheasant rump, and Speckled Tan legs) and a Texas Hill Country olive (Pale Olive Crawdub, olive pheasant rump, and Speckled Olive legs).




* ah, there I done did it… yeah, ok, so I might fish for a “gamefish” now and then.  But let’s be honest:  bonefish were thought of as trash for years, redfish are considered “saltwater carp” by many and I still sort of think of black drum and sheepshead as alternate species… if such a thing exists.

Not Your Daddy’s Backups

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Lucky for the internet (</sarcasm>), when I failed to stay current on my web hosting bill I was forced this week to create a new edition of the infamous– or is it the UNfamous–

Lucky for me, being a packrat has paid off and I have plenty of old versions of the site languishing in the dark recesses of my hard drive.  You’d think that a folder called .carp_guidewwwroot would hold the backups, but this kind of digital poop needs to be carefully hidden in much more obscure locations.

Lucky for you, I have come across two old images that I had forgotten about that need to be shared with the world.

This first was a forum avatar used to pimp my site, kind of a cheap and sleazy free advertising scheme:



And this was the first thing you saw when you visited my site in 2004:


splash screen


 My only excuse for this behavior is that I have never used the phrase “web design” or “graphic design” on a resume.