Sunday, November 27, 2016

What part of Eyjafjallajokull don't you Understand?

I'm sure that many of you noticed my absence over spring break and was wondering where I was. Actually, I highly doubt that anyone noticed. However, while many of you were pretending to not notice or be unaffected by the absence of your favorite fishing blogger I was spending nearly ten days in the unexpected country of Iceland. Yes, Iceland. I acknowledge that my travels have taken me to some pretty exotic and random places over the years but Iceland was never a country I expected to find myself in. More unexpected was that this excursion would take the form of a school related trip with several of my peers and a former teacher. Needless to say, I had absolutely no idea what to expected. For the several months leading up to the trip I lazily neglected looking at the travel itinerary and spent most of my time playing with my band at dive bars or carp fishing (in between the ever-important schoolwork, of course). However, before I knew it I was on a plane with eight other students I hardly knew and an MP3 with a dozen albums I had just downloaded (My Bloody Valentine, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground, among others) so I wouldn't have to talk to said eight students I hardly knew. I settled in my cramped airplane seat and prepared for the next eight hours of flying. Even though I found myself unable to sleep at all, the flight went by at a reasonable pace and I found found myself and my travel companions at the airport in Reykjavik.

I'm not the type to take scenery or city shots, but they did have this dried fish stuff everywhere and it was disgusting.

Actually now that I think of it a blow-by-blow account of the ten days I spent in a foreign country would probably be as boring for me to type as it would be for anyone to read. Lots of interesting things happened over the course of my stay there, of course. I had to speak in front of over a thousand people, including the president of Iceland and the former US Secretary of Energy. I ate rotten shark. I met a guy who wore flip flops in 30 degree weather. I got kicked off of an Icelandic dance floor for doing one of those dances invented by black people but ruined by white people. I showered every day in water that smelled like sulfur. I started what would be an extremely dissatisfying relationship with someone that would end a few months later after we both realized we wanted nothing to do with each other. But none of those things are related to fishing. However, the photo below is:

I didn't want to think about how many people had worn that space suit before me.

On a whale watching trip near the north Icelandic town of (not even gonna bother looking it up) we stopped by a local cod haunt to catch some fish. Everything we pulled up was a ratty looking Icelandic Cod, but at least I didn't fly all this way for nothing. Even though they were much smaller than the Alaskan Cod I had been accustomed to during my numerous travels to the last frontier, they still tasted great and stood as yet another species I had caught in yet another foreign land. My teacher who attended the trip as a chaperone caught a larger one than me, however, and to this date she has not let me forget that.

It's not THAT much bigger.
I admit I was THAT guy on the fishing boat. I made it clear to everyone else that they were dealing with a professional who knew everything there was to know about fishing. I ignored the groans and rolled eyes that came from everyone as I waxed on my past fishing experiences. I admittedly wasn't that much of an asshole, but the fact alone that I was showing fish pictures from Alaska to the deckhand was probably not a good move. I'm just glad I didn't make any unkind size comparisons between American and Icelandic Cod, as everyone knows that there's nothing Europeans love more than Americans talking about how much better everything in America is.

I was gonna keep in contact with this guy but never got around to it.

The scenery was spectacular. Although I've always preferred a picture of a dead fish on the bottom of a boat to a shot of a gorgeous vista, I admit that the natural phenomena of Iceland was almost unbelievable in its beauty. We were only about 60 miles south of the artic circle on that particular fishing trip, and the background scenery we witnessed as we pulled up cod nearly as fast as we dropped our lines down made it all the more incredible. It was also great to meet all sorts of people you never find yourself interacting with when you travel with your parents. I was positioned on the boat between an aspiring jazz pianist from New York and a chef who had been a contestant on Chopped, and we found that we each had our own unique and interesting stories. Mine mostly involved fish, but at this point I find it hard to believe that someone would expect any different.

I didn't feel like writing about everything that happened to me in Iceland, so I don't feel like writing a saccharine conclusion either. However, I can say that despite my initial reservations about spending two weeks on a rock in the middle of the ocean with a group of people I barely knew, it was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. Many of the decisions I made in Iceland weren't very intelligent (notably involving girls and eating that rotten shark) but I will always remember the trip with extremely fond memories.

NEVER eat at a Mexican restaurant in Reykjavik,

Kamran Walsh

Beyond a Shadow of Trout

This is the second post in a row that I have decided to title with a terrible fish-related pun. The last one was pretty terrible and likely resulted in a 70% loss of readership, but I have lost all touch with dignity at this point. However, when you're typing this in your seventh period IB Theory of Knowledge class you tend to find yourself doing anything to relieve yourself from the soul-crushing boredom and desolation. In this case, I decided not to trout my abilities and finally give in to my inner comedic genius. You know, just for the halibut.

For this trout, death was a welcome relief from the barrage of fish-related puns.
 It's late spring, the peak of hatchery trout stocking season in the Pacific Northwest. Although by the time I sat down to write this the vast majority of the lakes have now been fished out, over the course of the last month or so I've done a lot of hatchery trout fishing. I do a lot of fishing for wild trout, and I sometimes feel silly for being so engrossed in catching those born and raised in captivity, but still find myself targeting hatchery fish quite a bit. It honestly would make more sense if the vast majority of the lakes were stocked in the winter, as the trout would be able to survive and adapt to their environment better before the killing heat of summer. Although dozens of lakes are stocked across the Willamette Valley and even more across the state, there are a few in the general area that I find myself frequenting every spring. There's honestly nothing special about them other than their close proximity to my home.

Commonwealth Lake:

Commonwealth's famous fish-stealing blue heron. This bird is so tame that I didn't even have to use the zoom or magnify the picture of him from my camera.
Commonwealth Lake is one of my favorites in the area for a variety of reasons. For one, the lake is only 10 minutes away from my house and I can easily head here for an afternoon of fishing. In addition, it's situated in a nice park near a relatively well off suburban neighborhood and is therefore a significantly safe place to fish. Trout are stocked several times each spring and they last for longer than those in many other nearby lakes due to the relatively cold and clean water.

The two pictures above pretty much illustrate why hatchery fish are sometimes called "clones"
I've only begun fishing this lake relatively recently, and have found that there are numerous other advantages to fishing here. For instance, there is a relative absence of weeds compared to many other lakes in the area. There are plenty of surface weeds, but the familiar impenetrable choking filth of slime that overgrows everything is rarely witnessed here. Granted, I've never fished this lake in late summer and it is likely that the balmy months of July and August could bring upon the green gunk, but as of mid May it's still relatively fishable.

A limit of trout taken from the lake a few weeks after the most recent stocking. This was also from the morning of my junior prom, three hours before I would have to don a suit and try to hide the residual fish smell. Don't judge me.
Granted, Commonwealth still has its disadvantages. The accessibility and niceness of the location makes the lake extremely popular among a large range of anglers, and this can make the lake very crowded. You'll see diehard trout aficionados intent on honing their trout fishing skills and get some action in the off season, old Asian guys trying to catch dinner, and complete beginners trying to just get one on the board. And then there's me. Not sure which category I belong in.

I honestly might as well just put the same picture every time because these things all look identical.
Like virtually any other lake in the area, there's also a wide variety of warmwater species that can be encountered. I honestly haven't targeted warmwater fish here as much as in many neighboring ponds such as Bethany, but I've still done a reasonable amount of exploring around the lake in search of bass and panfish. This lake is larger than it appears; it's very long and snakes through a densely brushed area alongside the suburban neighborhood. Nearly every shallow cove in the lake houses dozens of small Pumpkinseeds, along with some surprisingly large bluegill. While I admit that they might be still very small, when you catch dozens of three inch fish the occasional five or six incher looks and feels like a complete monster! You also begin to appreciate how truly hard these fish can fight when they grow a little bit larger than the average goldfish.

Sunfish are a complete pain to identify but I'm pretty sure this one is a pumpkinseed.
This Bluegill looked so much bigger when I was taking the photo.
As did this one.
Commonwealth Lake is a pretty good all-around lake, both for the seasonal hatchery trout and the ever-present slew of warmwater species. I've found myself fishing it more and more lately. However, there still is another lake that I see plenty of in my spare time. It's a lake that I've written about numerous times, but mainly about the excellent warmwater fishing that it offers. However, during the spring it gets stocked several times with trout and can offer excellent fishing.

Bethany Pond: 

 Bethany Pond is the less glamorous cousin of Commonwealth Lake. Although the two bodies of water are roughly the same size, Bethany is a little more rough around the edges. The water is warmer, murkier, and filthier, the shore is muddy and regularly littered with trash, the facilities are atrocious, and the area generally experiences a lot more crime than in most other places. It's definitely not a locale that you would see on any "Top 10 Global Fishing Destinations" lists, or even "Top 10 Beaverton Fishing Destinations" lists (the seafood section at the Safeway is #8).

Nothing like a trout that's been sitting dead in the sun for several hours.
But I've spent enough hours trashing Bethany Pond for a lifetime. Despite the smell, it still remains an enjoyable place to fish for trout during the spring stocking season. Being a short ten minutes away from my house, I can easily head over to the lake for a few hours to soak some worms or Powerbait in the hopes of convincing a few pellet heads to bite. I especially enjoy it when they stock the lake later in the spring without prior notice, and I find myself catching trout on rigs that I had set for other species. Hatchery trout are among the least intelligent fish on the planet (which makes the number of times I've been skunked fishing for them even more embarrassing) and I've caught them on rigs as varied as corn, soft plastic bass worms. and even bread.

Admittedly not the prettiest representation of an otherwise beautiful species of fish.

I know fisheries biologists who refuse to eat these and I don't think that's a very good sign.

I almost always keep the hatchery trout that I catch from small lakes like Bethany. The trout in these ponds are introduced and therefore a detriment to the natural state of the environment, and rarely survive past a few weeks in the warm, stagnant water anyways. There is literally no point in releasing a fish that's guaranteed to die probably within days of its release. In addition, since I typically use bait for these hatchery trout the vast majority of them end up in no condition to be released anyways. I usually just catch my limit and leave. Nothing like a bland, flavorless meal of pellet-raised fish that have been swimming around in a cage for most of their lives.

There's also the fabled "Powerbait hatch" that sometimes frequents this lake. It usually occurs when some moron either drops an open jar of Powerbait nuggets in the water or deliberately throws gobs of the stuff out as chum. In this instance, trout will actually be eating the globs of green and orange goop from the surface like the mayflies or caddisflies that their wild counterparts consume. I've taken advantage of this at times by bringing a fly rod and fishing chunks of the stuff like dry flies. I've even thought of "matching the hatch" by tying spun deer hair imitations of Powerbait in different colors to use in such a circumstance, but at that point I think it would be better for everyone if I just threw myself in front of a moving vehicle.

Until the next stocking,

Kamran Walsh

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pond Fishing Goals

I think that everyone who regularly fishes has a local pond that they stake claim to as their own, unless they live in an area so incredibly amazing that there is no need for one (here's to you, my friends in the Florida Keys). In most places, these small ponds never really truly theirs, as these urban fishing holes are typically situated in metropolitan or suburban areas. However, when you fish a local haunt regularly and become familiar with the landscape, wildlife, and techniques that consistently produce fish you develop a different relationship with the pond. You begin to become much more involved with the health of the ecosystem, refraining from keeping wild fish and taking the time to clean up litter and dispose that of your own properly. You'll find yourself frequenting the lake just to get a few casts in or try some new techniques, not particularly caring whether you catch anything or not because you know that you'll always be able to come back and try again.

This is right about where they found that body.
For me, this lake is none other than the humble and venerable Bethany Pond, which I've written about before. Like I've said in the past, from an objective standpoint this lake is not unusually impressive. In fact, many people who I know instead prefer to refer to the Bethany as "disgusting," "a putrid mud pit," or one of many unprintable monikers that are as creative as they are vulgar. However, I still like to fish this lake. It's only ten minutes away from my house and actually is home to an astounding variety of fish species. I've caught trout, carp, bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, warmouth, and brown bullhead catfish in the last year alone, and across all four seasons. I've also heard reports about crappie, perch, and suckers living within the lake and the creek that feeds it.

A view of the lake before sunrise. I would have to go to school in about an hour.
Despite the surprising range of biodiversity within such a small lake, most fishermen that are seen at the lake are targeting hatchery trout. A few thousand fish are typically stocked by the ODFW a few times each spring, and rarely survive into the summer months. Some fish are able to escape their weedy, muddy prison by making it to the far end of the lake and swimming into the cooler rock creek tributary it drains into, but by late spring the target typically shifts into other species.

A typical hatchery trout caught on a pair of orange Power Eggs.

To be completely honest, the fishing for most of the species that are year round residents of the lake is pretty crummy. There is supposedly a healthy bass population in the lake, but by late spring/summer the lake becomes so choked with weeds and vegetation that it becomes almost impossible to fish. I've recently caught a few nice Largemouth Bass by the concrete dam near the road on texas-rigged Senkos, but even these fish were unspectacular and not worth all the effort that I've put into catching bass in this lake. However, every time I'm about to give up on them I manage to catch a juvenile that instills hope that there are great bass to be found here.

I somehow caught this one on corn while fishing for carp.
There are also small panfish such as Bluegill and Pumpkinseeds that swarm nearly everywhere in the lake. They're all extremely tiny, to the point where I get excited if I see one that looks like it might approach four inches. However, I still like to sometimes like to spend a warm spring or summer afternoon flicking small pieces of worm under tree branches or near lily pads to try and catch some of these scrappy fish. Fishing for panfish also gives me an opportunity to try and explore other sections of the lake in the hope of finding new species. Every time my bobber twitches while fishing one of these new areas, my heart races in the hopes that I may have found one of the elusive Bethany Lake crappie or perch. However, thus far it has ended up to just be another small Bluegill every time.

As far as Bethany Pond Bluegill go, this one is quite large.
I've also noticed over the years that being an avid Bluegill fisherman becomes less societally acceptable as you grow older. When you're little, it's seen as a great way of getting into the sport by targeting small, easy to catch fishes. The image of a suntanned youth armed with a cane pole and a stringer has been indelibly embedded into American fishing culture. However, as you reach the age and size of a grown man, being found catching tiny fish while wading through densely brushed private property becomes less appropriate in the eyes of others. Even more so when you film your exploits in the hopes of starting a popular web-based fishing series.

You never really notice how small a Pumpkinseed is until you take a picture with one.
When you fish a small pond as much as I fish Bethany, you start to get rather protective and attached to it. You start to look at it as "your pond," even if other people have likely been fishing it for much longer than you. You also begin to learn how much of a varied and complex ecosystem it is. In all the time I've fished this lake, I still haven't explored or thoroughly fished every cove or weed line. Of course, a good portion of the unexplored water is right by private property surrounded with barbed wire or in an area rife with stinging nettle (which I found out about the hard way) but it's still a goal for me to catch something out of every section in the lake. Maybe one day I'll get that crappie.

Until then, there's never going to be a shortage of catfish!
Although most of the fisheries in this pond are lackluster at best, there is one particular species that will bring in diehard anglers from across the state. That fish is, of course, the venerable carp. In fact, I've even been admonished by anglers on the internet for giving reports and/or information about carp fishing here, as well as for posting fish pictures with the caption "giant ass carp from Bethany Pond caught on corn right by the second picnic table GPS coordinates are _________ __________." The carp fishing at Bethany Pond can be excellent, not only because of the abundant population and large sizes of these overgrown goldfish but also because of the challenge. These fish become very wary and difficult to catch in a lake as small as this pond, especially when they reach large sizes. Although many people see large carp here and try to catch them, only a few people have managed to get the really big ones. I've been lucky enough to get ones pushing the 20-25+ pound range.

I have spent innumerable hours fishing this pond for carp, and a larger percentage of those hours than I would care to admit were fruitless. I honestly think that one of the most frustrating things about carp fishing is that it revolves around heavily baiting an area and parking yourself there until a carp finds your mountain of offerings and decides to slurp up your bait. As a result, you often feel leery about changing spots because you could easily be removing yourself from an area that could become a carp feeding frenzy in five minutes. I sometimes try to maximize my efficiency by casting for bass with a second rod, but that usually requires me reeling in one of my carp rods and switching out my hair rig and corn for a worm hook and a senko. As a result, I have a 50% fewer chance of attracting and hooking a carp while I fruitlessly beat the water to a froth with my senko for imaginary bass.

My typical carp setup in action.
The best time to target carp in this lake is probably around mid spring or early fall. During the colder weather that the winter brings the carp typically become inactive and during the summer months the vast majority of the lake becomes too choked with weeds to cast, let alone hook and land a carp. Although the warmer weather attracts more small carp which can be fun to catch on light tackle, I've found that I lose an inordinate amount of fish to weeds and other snags during this time of the year. Earlier in the spring, the lake is largely absent of weeds and there is typically plenty of room to fight large carp. There are also particular spots on the lake that I consider "trophy" spots not because of any increased abundance of large fish, but because of the absence of snags that typically plague any angler trying to land a 20+ pound fish.

Note the woefully inadequate trout net that I had to borrow from a passing fisherman.
One thing you notice about carp in comparison to other fishes is the amount of slime that they produce. It's honestly ridiculous. All fish are generally pretty slimy, but carp take this to a whole new level. I remember the carp in the photo above very vividly, as by the time I was done wrestling him to the bank and working the hook out nearly everything within a ten foot radius had become coated with a thin film of slime, and the fish still had plenty to spare. I carefully released/shoved the fish back into the lake so he could go back into his home and make some more slime.

Although lakes such as Bethany Pond are markedly unimpressive, it's important to remember that what determines the greatness a spot has far less to do with the size and number of the fish that dwell within and has far more to do with the memories that one associates with it. This might sound like a corny modern rewording of something out of a Henry David Thoreau novel, but it stands true nevertheless. In a world where an increasing degree of emphasis is being placed upon traveling to faraway locales and tangling with exotic game fish, it's important to remember that one can gain an experience just as worthwhile in your neighborhood pond. The fish might be carp and stocked trout instead of tarpon and marlin and whatever else you might find yourself catching abroad, but at the very end of the day I've found that these carp and stocked trout have remained in my mind as indelibly as any other fish I've caught. As a result, my advice to the reader remains this: regardless of your skill level, or where you live, or amount of income, fishing can be found anywhere. It isn't about necessarily being on the cover of saltwater sportsman or catching any world records. It's about one of the simplest and most ancient interactions in human history: a fish, a person, and everything that surrounds the two.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sturgeon General's Warning

As a general rule, I hate puns. However, I couldn't resist the one above. It's actually quite surprising that I haven't thought of it before now, especially when one considers the number of sturgeon fishing posts and reports that I have done in the last couple years. I actually hadn't targeted these prehistoric Polaris missiles since last November, as I have been extremely busy with other endeavors and sturgeon fishing is tiring and very time consuming. Unless you're one of those guys who target them from shore, a sturgeon fishing trip is one of those things that takes all day and ends with you groaning in pain while lying face down in the mud back at the launch after spending eight hours fighting monstrous fish from a kayak. It's usually right at that point when you realize how much homework you still have to do and that you forgot to submit a history paper because you were too busy sturgeon fishing and your history teacher won't accept that as an excuse after that stunt you pulled last month with the trout fishing (click here). You could have submitted it last night but you were playing with your band and the primary focus was on looking as "alt rocker" as possible.

The other members of the band and I coordinated the beanie/flannel ratio to reach the perfect ratio of alternative douchebag and regular douchebag.

The next morning I picked up Ethan, the same guy who participated in the yearbook mishap of last December (click here). Being a semi-professional photographer, he had actually been taking photographs at the gig the night before. It was there where I finalized the trip plans, as I had been debating whether to go sturgeon fishing or trout fishing. I eventually settled upon the former upon hearing that none of the lakes I had been planning on fishing had been stocked. As a result, Ethan and I soon found ourselves driving to the Multnomah Channel section of the Willamette River by Sauvie's Island. Unlike last November's grueling death paddle up the entire Gilbert River, this time I would be able to legally launch from the Big Eddy section that has prime sturgeon fishing. However, as I headed past the industrial towns alongside the Willamette, I noticed an unusually bad smell coming from the back of the truck. I had noticed it while loading, but it had become much more pronounced by this point. I initially blamed Ethan for being the source of the smell, which led to a significant amount of arguing as the two of us repeatedly blamed each other for producing the foul odor. Our arguing finally came to a close, however, as we reached the river and immediately saw a large sturgeon breach out of the water.

The fishing was very consistent from the start; the first fish of the day bit before I was able to even rig up Ethan's rod. It was one of those rare sturgeon strikes where they slam the rod down in the holder and set the hook themselves, and after a relatively quick battle I turned a decent five footer loose. Soon after Ethan hooked into his first fish of the day, and it was nonstop action from that point forward. The sturgeon were eating everything we tried using as bait, and we were getting double hookups. However, the whole time that same bad smell continued to be apparent even as we paddled in the open air of the wilderness. I first blamed it on a rotting dead sturgeon that became somehow caught in my rudder, but it continued to come from the boat even after I freed the stinking carcass.

Even a sturgeon that small has the capability to deliver a serious tail to the chops. A heavily armored tail to the chops.
It wouldn't be a Kamran Walsh fishing trip if something didn't go wrong, and in this case it was me losing my anchor. Even though the current in the river was negligible and the depth barely exceeding ten feet in most places, I somehow got dragged by a fish a few feet into a deeper pocket and when I ditched the anchor it immediately disappeared. Anchors are pretty cheap and I even had a spare on the boat with me, but I lost the buoy and rope system that cost twice as much and I still haven't gotten around to replacing them. In addition, Ethan and I had to spend the rest of the day tying our kayaks to shoreline trees in order to keep ourselves in place. Some of these trees had hornet nests.

If anyone finds my anchor, either call me at 503-702-2995 or leave it right by the biggest hornet nest in the river. 

I think that a lot of people here in the Northwest take sturgeon for granted. Even though these fish fight harder than almost any other and grow to absolutely immense sizes, the vast majority of PNW fishermen prefer salmon, trout, steelhead, and sometimes even other types of fish. I saw numerous fishermen who were targeting catfish complaining that they kept having sturgeon hit their baits. Granted, the vast majority of the time this would lead to them getting broken off or spooled (roll credits) by 100+ pound fish and I can easily see where the frustration is coming from.

Ethan bringing a larger than average sturgeon boat side.
Once we finished fishing and begun loading the equipment back into the car, that same awful smell that had been bothering us all day became even stronger. At this point I was sick of wondering whose dog died in my kayak so I decided rummage around to try and find the source. I searched through my tackle box, milk crate, and waders with no luck. I then opened up the hatch of my kayak and searched the interior and storage. Still, nothing. It wasn't until I started checking the exterior of the kayak when I realized where the foul odor had been coming from the entire time. Somehow I had accidentally left a herring in one of my rod holders the last time I had gone kayak fishing for sturgeon in November. At this point it was barely recognizable as a herring, as it had largely disintegrated and had turned into some form of slimy, fuzzy mush. I gagged and my eyes watered as I wiped up the mess the best I could with a towel, then threw away the towel before sprinting in the house to bathe for the next two hours. Although a continuous two hour bath eventually got the smell out, a little bit of it still remains with me to the present day. Ah, the costs we overcome in the name of sturgeon.

Until the next malodorous encounter,

Kamran Walsh

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gone off the Deep End

I've reached that stage where I have become so overwhelmed with the stress of life that I have completely stopped caring. Instead of constantly rushing to get everything done in a stress and caffeine fueled buzz, I've just given in to a sort of dull apathy. It's a sense of nirvana, almost. A Nirvana that doesn't end with Kurt Cobain g̶e̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶u̶r̶d̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶C̶o̶u̶r̶t̶n̶e̶y̶ ̶L̶o̶v̶e̶  shooting himself. For instance, I've started putting less and less attention to everything about this blog being perfect. For those who have never used Blogger™ before, this website has a habit of randomly deleting photos from my posts. I'll check on them one day and just find a bunch of blank spaces labeled "IMG_135" or something like that. Upon finding these in my earlier stages of blogging, I would become furious and go out of my way to replace every single deleted photo with a new one. I would then fire off an angry email in the help forum of this website, in full knowledge that I would never get a reply and nothing would ever be fixed. Now I don't care enough to replace the pictures. If a picture that's clearly supposed to be a sturgeon is deleted, it isn't my problem. You know what a sturgeon looks like.

If this picture gets ironically deleted too, I'll know that it isn't a coincidence.
 People say that bad things happen to good people, but if you're not a good person bad shit will still happen to you. The universe isn't mutually exclusive, nor does it follow any sort of preordained plan. Sure, there might be destiny, but it doesn't follow any sort of logical plan. For some people, their destiny might be to spend every day of the week fishing for carp at Bethany Pond or some other muddy ditch. For other people, fishing for carp at that same pond might just be some random activity they're doing that ultimately won't have any effect on their life or accomplish anything worth the effort. That is, unless they catch a carp.

I seriously need to get around to buying a two rod permit.
I'm not exactly sure what I intend to gain from the hours I spend torturing myself physically and psychologically at the local carp pond. The many hours and hours of fishing time without any slimy, stinking carp to show for it are hours that I consider to be completely wasted. Every time I rant about the fifteen hours I spent watching my rods do absolutely nothing, I hear the same groan-inducing cliche. I cringe internally and externally every time I hear the adage "a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work," a saying I have never bought into or been able to say unironically. For me, a day of fishing without fish is the worst day ever. Unless something downright magical happens to detract for the lack of anything piscine, I'd be lying if i said that I enjoyed being out in the cold without anything to show for it. I've tried living my life through the perspective of someone in a television show; a grim, humorless television show about the life of a self-absorbed teenager who lives in Portland, has a terrible fishing blog that nobody reads, and is an unsuccessful musician.  I expected it to get canceled after the first season but it just keeps going.

The punchable looking hipster on the far left with the banjo is me.
I know that it is popular for old-timers and authors to view fishing from a much more philosophical perspective, trying to find some greater meaning to every menial task that precedes catching a fish. Although a lot of this is strikingly observant and makes me question my role in the fishing universe, a lot of the crap I've read over the years comes across as unbearably pretentious and appears to detract from any reasonable point. I strongly dislike reading about how fishing supposedly is a metaphor of the futility of the human condition or some other far-reaching nonsense. I may not know everything, but I am a teenager and therefore I think that I do. As a result, I feel no qualms about making preposterous declarations about the meaning of a world I have spent less than two decades inhabiting. In my mind, fishing is about catching fish. It's about trying to fool one of natures creations in an environment where you have the disadvantage. When you walk up to any of the several guys at any local body of water and ask what they're doing, they won't say that they're pondering the futility of mankind. They'll say that they're fishing. When you ask them what they're trying to accomplish, they won't say that they're trying to connect with their inner selves and establish a place in their universe. They'll say that they're trying to catch a fish.

Here is an example of such a fish.
Of course, if fishing was easy people wouldn't be trying to delude themselves with grand philosophical notions in the first place. As I've painstakingly recorded throughout my many posts, I have had an embarrassing number of failures over the years. A surprising number have involved carp fishing, and recently I've found myself immersing my meaningless existence more and more into the mucky, watery world of the carp. I still don't really understand how it appeals to me. The best thing that can happen to me in carp fishing is getting to wrestle an extremely slimy overgrown goldfish on the muddy bank of an urban pond while passing families make disgusted faces and tell their children to look away. The worst case scenario is that I don't get to do any of that.

I still haven't gotten all of the slime off.
When you aren't trying to scrape the layers of slime off your shirt before the two  entities form a symbiotic relationship of sorts, you spend a lot of time either pacing back and forth or sitting and waiting. Since carp fishing is typically a solitary affair, the only company I will have in such a situation is mind numbing boredom and the occasional Jehovah's Witness. Since I'm the kind of person who can't just shut off his brain and relax, I find myself the veritable conductor of a violently out of control train of thought. My unstable mind teeters back and forth between the fishing at hand and a motley crew of thoughts, worries, guilts, regrets, and neglected responsibilities. I have homework I need to start tonight. Was that a strike? No, just the wind. I have so much shit to do, why am I spending most of my day here. Maybe it's the boilies, they must not be fresh or something. Paid a shitload for them, total waste of money. I hope the pictures from last night's gig came out ok. I didn't look stupid, did I? I should replace the line on that reel. I swear if I looked stupid...then again I was playing a banjo. Damn that had to have been a strike. Next time I'll respond sooner. Probably wouldn't have made a difference though. Or maybe it would have...holy shit! That's a strike. Here we go!

(Fish dives into the weeds and breaks off within seconds. Sit back down and repeat)

Did I leave the stove on?
To be honest with you, I have found that what has drawn me the most to certain fishing holes are the feelings that they evoke. Granted, a lot of this has to do with the fish that I have caught from such locations. However, what I tend to remember most vividly is what surrounds that moment when I reach into the water and pull out whatever fish I had the skill or fortune to hook into that particular day. The fish is what makes it all count in my mind, but even I can't help but acknowledge that one ultimately ends up remembering so much more. For instance, I recall the very last fishing trip I made in 2015. It was only a half an hour of surf casting in the secluded southern coastal town of Yachats, where I was the only person on an immense beach being broken up by the crashing and volleying of the waves.

It was neither an eventful nor a particularly productive trip; I caught a big female surfperch but couldn't manage to hook anything else. However, when I think of that trip I don't necessarily think of just the surfperch. It stands as the forefront of what I remember about that day, but surrounding it are a series of smaller details that all helped shape and form how I see the trip today. I remember the unusually strong waves that pushed and pulled me with each pulse. The gray whales that I saw spout just offshore as they worked their way down south on their annual migration. The slippery clay that I had to slide down to make it to the coarse sand of the beach, and climb back up again once I had decided the trip was over.  Without any of these things, would the surfperch had still been a surfperch? Of course, but it would have simply been a fish instead of a memory. A memory is much more than just something you can hold or take a photograph of. It's the swirling steam of consciousness that forms in your head, altering, changing, pining, trying to grasp some degree of control over the series of interminable events that form what we refer to as life. Life doesn't follow any sort of predestined order of events, nor does it necessarily make sense or teach us a lesson. These things are not for us to decide as we unquestioningly take part in each of our own miserable lives, and sometimes it's important to remember that life, first and foremost, is about living.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Curse of the Carp and the Dumbest Adventure Ever

As you readers (all three of you!) may know, it's been a little while since I've been fishing. My last documented trip was way back in December and it featured excellent photography, beautiful weather, and an enjoyable experience with friends. The following post contains none of these things. Instead, it will involve road rage, a bluegrass band, and several pictures of carp. If none of those things fit your picture of something you'd want to have on your browser history, let alone read, I'd strongly recommend leave that you leave this blog, shut off your computer, and perhaps find a nice book.

I warned you.
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Now why exactly have I been so unable to wet a line for the entire month of January and February? This largely has to do with my exhaustively painful schedule revolving around brutal schoolwork, competitive swimming, "winter percussion" (look it up and feel sorry for me), and a series of escalating musical endeavors. Normally at this point I'd plug my band "Birds With Hats," but I have found that mentioning those three words in the company of my friends correlates strongly with eye rolling and jumping out of fire escapes. If anyone reading this would like to hear yours truly pass a kidney stone through a delay pedal, click here. If you are like most normal people, wisely ignore the link and continue reading. In the meantime, I'd like to show you a picture of a different band that plays bluegrass, country, folk, and other genres of music with incestuous undertones. Thankfully, I am not related to any of the other guys on stage with me.

There's me on the right demonstrating that playing an acoustic guitar is not indicative of being cool.

 Now, the last couple of months haven't been entirely fishing free. I've taken several trips to my local carp pond in hopes of snaring up a few of these slimy suckers. However, all of these trips have been largely fruitless. In fact, until last week I hadn't caught a carp since October. I was almost beginning to forget the feeling of having to wash a thin film of slime off of your hands and anything you touch for the next week. Luckily, on my most recent trip I was able to hook three decent carp.

Carp are some of my favorite fish to target, but successfully catching them is very hit-and-miss in many places. In small lakes like my local carp pond, these fish become educated and irritatingly picky. The challenge is part of the fun, but it gets tiresome to constantly get skunked and know that the next trip(s) will likely have similar results. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to fish for at this time of the year, especially in the local pond. The ODFW stocks trout in there a few times a year, but the next stocking wasn't going to be scheduled for another couple of weeks. However, I made a few calls and found out that the Mt. Hood Community College pond in Gresham had recently been stocked with a thousand fish. Unfortunately, it was an hour away from my house and I had no time in the afternoon or on the weekends to go fishing. However, I came up with an idea.

An idea almost as bad as turning a surfperch picture into an album cover.
Proving once and for all that teenagers are stupid and have poor decision-making skills, I decided to sneak out of my house and drive to the lake myself at 5am the next morning. I had already snuck my fishing supplies and clothes into my car the night before while unloading my bass guitar after a gig, and all I needed to do the next morning was sneak out and change in the car. I then drove off in the general direction of Gresham, OR, everyone's favorite sewer. This diseased septic tank of a town is known across the state for having a community-wide meth addiction that a reporter once referred to as "ridiculous" and not much else. I also had no idea where it was, despite having driven to and past the Mt. Hood Community College more times than most of the students enrolled in their prestigious academic program. I got lost along the way, and at one point Google Maps instructed me to make a U-turn in the middle of a freeway, but I got there safely before the sun came up. At this point, my parents had awoken to discover my absence and had (angrily) called me. From what I could surmise from the volume and tone of their speech telegraphed over the phone, it could be implied that they weren't entirely happy with my decision to disappear in the early hours of the morning without any warning or notice. When they found out that I was in Gresham, they became even more freaked out and demanded that I get inside my car, lock the doors, and drive as fast as I could home. I insisted that I was safe. I might have been standing alone in a barely lit parking lot in the dark next to a small pond in an area known for stabbings ("random stabbings, not just the regular kind" in the words of a friend who lives there) and frequent sewage spills. However, I was there to do one thing, and that was to fish for trout.

The fruit of my efforts.
The fishing was unsurprisingly unspectacular; I brought a few small rainbow trout to the bank using pink power eggs as bait. However, I got engrossed in the fishing and forgot to check the time. When I finally did, I had realized to my horror that it was close to 7:30, only fifteen minutes before my school was scheduled to start. There were also about a dozen texts from my mother asking whether or not I had arrived at school. "Almost there," I replied before sprinting to the car and gunning the engine. There was absolutely no way I would make it to class on time, so I called a couple of my friends and asked them to facetime me at 7:45, so I could be in class while driving. Unfortunately, it was right then when my phone battery feebly sputtered out and became lifeless. Knowing that I would need my phone to find directions out of this shit hole, "telecommute" with my classmates, and deflect angry calls and insults from my parents, I began frantically searching for someplace where I could buy a phone charger and an adapter for my car's outlet. I tried Safeway, Tan Republic, and two Chinese Restaurants with no avail, but I was fortunately able to buy one at a Fred Meyer. For some reason, certain people who were firsthand victims of my harrowing accounts claimed that I mentioned the word "shoplifted." This is untrue. There may have been a little bit of IOU/haggling business that went on, but I paid money in return for my charger just like any other proper capitalist. Once I bought the charger, I sprinted back to my car and fired off towards the highway. I was able to get a charge on my phone just in time to receive a face time request from my friend.

The call did not go as expected. I had been trying to keep the fact that I was a half an hour late because of fishing a secret, but this did not transpire as planned. Everyone in the classroom knew about my little "adventure," including the teacher, Mr. Brown. I had to quickly explain everything that had happened that morning to my classmates while weaving in and out of traffic at a dangerous speed and shouting unmentionables at other drivers. I tried to participate in class discussions, but it was hard when I was trying to do that while driving, navigating, and deflecting calls from my parents. At one unfortunate point I forgot that the webcam was on and shouted something extremely obscene at an uber driver (who almost hit me) at the top of my lungs. Predictably, it was around then when Mr. Brown suggested that the webcam be turned off and I focus on my driving. Without being distracted by the webcam, I was able to race back to the school and make it back just in time for the last 30 minutes of the class. By then, my exploits had already become posted on social media. To put it mildly, it wasn't something most of my peers had experienced from any of their past classmates, and it was the last way had I expected my first fishing trip of the year to go. Maybe next time I'll take the rest of the class with me.

The reason why Bill Gates is so rich is because he invested a dollar for every hypodermic needle laying on the shore of the Mt. Hood Community College pond.

Kamran Walsh