Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred-twelve

Shutout

Jason Tinling

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA


There was a brief moment of indecision. Nothing much, really. Just a short pause as I headed out the door towards my truck.

"Do I really want to go out in that muggy heat, just to fish for an hour or less?"

Yeah, I know. Stupid question.

I pulled my pickup onto the grass beside the pond. The water was an ugly, milky brown, courtesy of the series of thunderstorms and downpours that moved through the area in the past few days. The wind riffled the surface. Definitely 6wt weather. I strung the rod together, and tied on a #10 brown woolly bugger. Something to move a little water, maybe find a bass or two interested in eating, as the usual pods of carp cruising the surface were nowhere to be seen.

I strain my eyes into the vegetation and see the dark scaled back of a good-sized carp. It lifts its head, kissing up against the underside of the packed vegetation, obviously eating something from the bottom. I drop the bugger on top of the weeds, lifting and dropping it, trying to break through. Lifted too high into the air, the fly falls onto the surface with a splat, and the fish bolts.

I work down towards the inflow to the pond, searching the shallows and weeds for signs of fish. I see the telltale bubble clouds of sub-surface carp, and toss the fly out towards the effervescing surface. I try to lead the path of the bubbles, but the fish are moving in erratic lines, maybe feeding, maybe not. With the midday sun high in the sky above me, the few bits of shade to be found are beneath the weed pads. I explore the holes and pockets, hoping for the boiling rush of water that comes when a bass ambushes the unfortunate thing that just fell into view. My trip down the shoreline remains decidedly uneventful, however.

As I round the corner to head down the far shore, I hear that soft sucking sound again. I scan across the mass of weeds gathered here by the wind. There! And there! Small patches of weed rise and fall, as if carried on an invisible swell. Various carp push up against the bottom of the mats, feeding on something mixed in the salad, or perhaps on the weeds themselves. Last time I came across a carp doing this, I managed to take it on a small, iridescent fry pattern. Maybe again?

The line slides determinedly out of my hands at first. I tighten down, and as the pressure reaches the fish, the line begins to fly. In a blink, the fish is on the reel, and screaming down the shoreline. A mat of weeds, at least as heavy as the fish, drags slowly across the surface of the water, as the flyline shoots through it. 20 yards away, the carp is rapidly running out of shoreline and heads for deeper water. I see weed mats in the distance begin to course out towards the center of the pond. I dip the rod tip to the water, hoping to pull the line loose from some of the accumulated vegetation. As I palm the reel, pressuring the fish to turn, the line goes slack. I retrieve a weed coated fly, checking it carefully. The hook didn't bend out, it just came loose. Bad luck.

The fish has thrown this end of the pond into disarray, so I walk down the shore, resting the water. I work down the bank, trying to peer over chest high shrubbery that is flourishing in the recent combination of warm days and rainy afternoons. I see one carp working a weed pad, but can't get the fly out quickly enough. The fish cruises off, headed away from me up the shore.

I work down to the drain outlet and back up to the corner, and don't see anything except for several dead sunfish, baking on top of the weed pads.

Back in the corner, and no activity. I couldn't have spooked them that badly. I work around the corner and see a couple of mirror carp swimming slowly, working the surface film. I lay a cast out, too far ahead and to the side. A hurried pick up and recast puts fly and leader over the back of the smaller carp, and I lift it quickly, trying not to spook the fish. The line passes over the fish's back, and I wait for the swirl of water as it bolts. Instead, it turns, charging my fly, in a rage at this small thing that has had the audacity to attack it. The fish sucks in the dead drifting fly and turns. I come back hard, and after only a brief moment's pressure, fly and fish swirl apart, moving in opposite directions.

I work back to my spot on the other side of the corner, and do my best impression of a heron. Patience is the weapon of choice, and although I should have already gotten on the road and back to work, I wait. Then I see it. A mass of black edged diamonds that is the back of a mirror carp. He sips gently on the underside of the weed mat, in patches too thick to place the fly with any chance of a take. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a 5 pounder hovering in a 3-foot hole of open water between two weed patches. I flip the fly out, and it lands with a soft splash, about 7-8" away from the fish. I go to pick up the line and recast. The carp turns to where the fly entered the water, and with a swing of a scaled tail, swims over and pulls it out of the water with a sip. I come up fast on the rod, and the fish rolls once, powering towards the deeper water, right towards some submerged branches. I pull up short on the rod, and the carp swerves away, driving though another patch of weeds. I drop the tip parallel to the water, trying to free the mass of weeds from the line. The reel is chattering away as the fish runs, and then I feel it. That same, sickening slack that I felt earlier. Again, I retrieve nothing but a weed coated fly. The point is sharp, the bend good.

Carp 3, Jason 0. Rematch scheduled for after work. ~ Jason Tinling

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