Friday, January 17, 2014

Carp Resolutions

Unfortunately, I don't live in Montana, British Columbia, Alaska, Scandanivia, Maine, Kamchatka, or any of those other places where fishing opportunities are practically limitless.

No, I live in a particularly densely populated part of an already densely populated continent, and with that in mind, I'm very fortunate to have easy access to some excellent trout fishing. Naturally, that's not enough for me. Once trout season winds down, between October 1st and February 28th (or 29th in a particularly bad year) there's not much fishing to be had, especially for an essentially homebound father of two small kids. As a kid growing up on the east coast, I could choose from countless little ponds within walking or biking distance where I could catch bluegill, yellow perch, pickerel, pike, and others year round. That's much harder here. Switzerland has some larger lakes, but they're pretty deep, not always easy to access, and experience relatively heavy fishing pressure. It was always with great jealousy that I read the endless posts about fly fishing for non trout species, knowing that it's difficult, if not downright impossible for me to do so. Well, thanks to a combination of desperation on my part and the boom in fly fishing for carp, I've found an opportunity very close by. Right across the street from my work, in fact.

This square pond was built about six years ago as part of a large project to turn a once relatively peaceful plot of grazing land and parking lot into a concrete clump of incredibly expensive boxy eyesores. As far as casting practice goes, it's perfect. So much so that the local fly shop holds fly casting clinics here. I always meant to at least do some practice casting here, but never really got around to do doing it. As the years went by though, I noticed the fish in the lake. They got bigger, and more plentiful, and as my desperation for fishing time increased it began to overpower my sense of embarassment at the prospect of fly fishing for carp in a square pond surrounded by bankers and within sight of curious coworkers. Also, these are big fish. They look pretty interesting, almost like living fish skeletons, so I'm not quite sure what kind of carp they are, but they easily exceed 2 feet and there are dozens and dozens of them.

Not only are there a good deal of carp, but during my midday strolls around this long, skinny piece of water I've noticed decent sized pike, as well as yellow perch. Unfortunately, I waited too long last year and by the time I got around to getting some flies together, it was pretty cold, and the one time I made it to work 2 hours early on a dark and rainy morning with the intention of fishing, I probably got just 10 or so chances to cast to visible carp, none of which were particularly interested.  So I decided to give it another shot with some dedicated carp flies, namely McTage's foam trouser worms, from

Gathering all the materials was a pain in the butt, but the fly is easy enough to tie and I handed some out to friends as well. The action, visible at the end of the video below, has to be seen to be believed. I'll be trying it on more than just carp, though for fish with smaller mouths I'm a bit worried about short strikes. Maybe I'll tie some smaller versions. ..

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter desperation

I'll be the first to admit it...I can be sort of a snob about fishing. Aside from eel fishing, I don't fish conventional tackle. During Swiss winters, this stubborn refusal generally means I don't see any time on the water, as the trout season is over and everything else (grayling mainly) is too deep to reach with fly tackle.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that the closest I got to fishing over the holidays was tying a ton of flies. More flies than I know what to do with, enough flies to send more fortunate friends off to faraway places, like New Zealand and Chile, with handfuls of chernobyl ants. I did make it to a river though, a section of the Rhine just over the border into Germany. A few friends of mine regularly fish this stretch year round, and I've been looking not only for winter fly fishing opportunities, but also a place to learn spey casting, and this was definitely it. My friends aren't as stubborn as I am, and although there may be the occasional winter grayling that's catchable on the fly, they both spend the winter using a setup that's apparently somewhat unique to Swiss grayling fisherman on the Rhine, and that's a very long (12-14 feet) float rod paired with a rotating centerpin reel. To be perfectly honest, this is something I would normally have very little interest in, but, upon seeing this rod, I realized that I have something similar gathering dust in the attic. When my grandfather died in 2006, my grandmother gave me all his tackle. He was mainly a conventional fisherman, so other than the sentimental, his tackle didn't present much practical value. I dug it out of the attic, dusted it off, and gave it a look over. All seemed to be in order. As I held this relatively unwieldy rod, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my grandfather, wondering what he fished for and where. Along with my father, he shared and nurtured my love of fishing, and though it sounds overly sappy, I think fishing with his rod is a fitting way to refresh some long forgotten memories we shared together.

The rod is a fiberglass Sealey Aquarius float rod, produced in the early 1970s in the UK.  The reel, a rotating centerpin model produced under the name Speedy, is a little more difficult to find any info about. All google hits point to Swiss websites, so I assume it was produced here in Switzerland, sometime around the same time period.

Sealey Aquarius float rod

Speedy Centerpin reel

Speedy Centerpin reel

Grayling fly of my own creation, looking like a piece of melted Barbie.

After meeting a friend for a quick crash course in proper rigging, I threw on 100 meters of braid, tied a few appropriate flies, made a few leaders, and am eager and ready to spend a few weekends waist deep in the Rhine before the end of January (and with it the end of grayling season) arrives. So what if I'm not technically fly fishing, I'm using flies, not worms, and I'm wading, that counts for something. The only question remaining is what to fish for in February? Fish report to follow...