I grew up next to an old cemetery on a hill. The founder of the city, Eugene Skinner was buried there in 1864. Back then the city of Eugene was also known as “Skinner’s Mudhole” due to the seasonal flooding in that part of the Willamette Valley. The cemetery was built on a hill intentionally so that the flood waters would not expose the coffins and release a bunch of floating corpses. Not far from the cemetery, Amazon Creek winds through town in a deep, cement-lined canal. The creek collects rain water and prevents the flooding of centuries past. Just west of town the creek meets the Long Tom river and together they fill a shallow reservoir called Fern Ridge. From the Fern Ridge spillway, the Long Tom snakes along until it joins the Willamette River and thence north to the mighty Columbia.
For years I have heard of carp in the Long Tom. I had seen them in the reservoir and nearby ponds but had never really looked in the Long Tom itself. This Summer I found myself below the Fern Ridge dam on a hot afternoon and sure enough, there were carp. The fish were small but plentiful and active. I had my tenkara rod with me and a good assortment of flies so I rigged up and crept down the steep bank. Normally, I would never share such a specific fishing location online, but the Long Tom river below the Fern Ridge dam is far from a secret. The banks are lined with rubbish: bottles, cans, bait, line, rusty hooks, old shoes, broken lawn chairs. That short stretch of brown water looks like it gets more fishing pressure than the whole of the McKenzie River! The carp supported this observation. They were not easily fooled. One mistep, one pass of a rod shadow, one glimpse of line on the water and they disappeared. I put a dozen different flies in front of feeding fish with no luck. Finally, I tied on a super-secret carp fly and, with some advanced kung-fu carp fishing technique, I unlocked the legend of the Long Tom carp!