Guest Entry by Driftless Flyathlete Dave Kuntzleman
After hearing that the Driftless Flyathlon (my favorite event of the year) would be cancelled and it would be replaced with a virtual Flyathlon this year, I quickly decided it was time to do the Chicago Carp Marathon. It’s a ridiculous idea I had been kicking around for quite some time- and now I had no excuse not to do it.
I started out on a nice cool Friday morning on July 31 and was on the road at 6:15 to see the sun coming up over Lake Michigan. The route for the day would follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan up, cross to the Chicago River and follow it down to the fishing spot, then cross back to Lake Michigan and take the trail back towards home- combination of mixed use trail and streets with a little bit of “Chicago single track” thrown in for good measure.
The first 15-or-so miles clicked off pretty easily. It was a beautiful morning as I set an easy pace listening to the LM waves crashing on the shore. Chicago is flat as hell so I threw in a few hill repeats for some “elevation gain” over at Mt Trashmore (65 feet…) on my cut west to another trail along the Chicago River.
I hit my canoe at mile 15 “the turnaround” so I had to have to the traditional whiskey shot. Except in this case it was a local barrel aged Malort- Chicago’s finest liquor. Nothing better than a 9 am shot! I got the canoe in the river and paddled down to my favorite carp flat. Solo carping in the canoe is always tough but it’s doable. I gave myself about 3 hours to fish the area before I’d give up and begin the trek home. My goal was a 24+ inch fish.
An hour-and-change of seeing few large fish and having no good shots at them had me a little anxious. But this is how carping tends to go. I finally decided to just take what I could get and take the pressure off. So I presented to the next fish I saw and quickly stuck an 18”er. Got the photos I needed and was feeling better. But I still had plenty of time so why not try for an upgrade? Soon I saw her- a solid fish cruising looking for a meal. It took a couple casts to get it right and she sucked the fly down on the drop! I set the hook and she tore off towards the middle of the river and deeper water. I started back paddling my canoe off the flat while attempting to keep tension on her. I cleared the flat and tightened up the drag just as I started to see backing coming off the reel. A few minutes and another line peeling run later I managed to bring her in and she’s in the net, in the boat and onto the tape! Just the fish I was looking for- a fat 29” carp! I quickly snapped a few pics and got her back into the water. She gave a good splashy kick and she was off! Mission accomplished and feeling good! Time to head back to the ramp and finish the back half of this run!
On the way out I happen to see a couple tossing something off the pedestrian bridge into the river. “Great” I think “Now I have to go pick up after someone.” I roll over to the bridge to find something that I wasn’t expecting- a Santeria sacrifice. I paddle up on a dozen of yellow roses and four headless chickens floating in the water. I leave them alone. Here’s hoping it helps their loved one recover from whatever is ailing them. The local snapping turtles- most the size of garbage can lids- will take care of it, regardless.
I got back to the launch and get the canoe put away. Now it’s time for the home stretch! Just 11-or-so miles to go with a stop along the way celebratory beer! I head east back to the lakeshore for a few miles, hit Cricket Hill for a few more mini hill repeats (not worth it) then head over to Half Acre Brewing Co. I manage to snag an open patio seat and enjoy a Steve (Kolsch) and a The Art of Holding Space (a 3% “hydrating” table beer).
With the final part of my Run- Fish- Beer finished it’s time for the last mile home! Overall it was a great full day enjoying my 3 favorite things.