The river or the pond? A tough decision when I'm on my
lunch break. The river's closer, with the potential for
a big carp. The pond has a much better success rate per
trip, though. A quick online check of water levels on the
Conestoga, and I could see it was still up from the rains
at the beginning of the week.
A quick trip up the freeway and pull off to the industrial
park a few miles from work. I pulled the truck up onto the
grass in front of the out building on the road, and rigged
up to fish. The fly of choice was a small weighted brown
woolly bugger. The combination of cool rain water and more
temperate weather had brought the algae back in force in the
pond and out over the deep water, visibility was a couple
of feet down, at best.
I worked around the edge of the pond, looking for cruising
fish and dapping the fly over the tops of the cattails.
Aside from a couple of overzealous green sunfish, the fly
went undisturbed. I saw some mudding up the bank and in a
quiet rush, moved up the high side of the bank, trying to
get to the area before the fish was gone again. One heavy
misstep, however, sent the fish bolting into the clouded
I peered into the submerged skeleton of a small tree reaching
out from under the water. The tree must have been planted
and grown in some low water years, but it's now dead and
saturated, hanging heavy in the water. The carp and occasional
large bass will hide within the tangle of darkened limbs.
Above the waterline, whitened branches thrust to the sky,
bleached and dry.
I continue up the shoreline, hoping to find fish feeding
on the flats in the upper corner of the pond. I spook some
small sunfish fry, but otherwise come up empty. I complete
the lap around the pond. I take a glance at my watch as I
pass the truck, pondering one more quick pass around the
water. I compromise with my better judgment and plan to
fish over to the sunken tree, and then head back.
I find a sizable school of green sunfish in the weeds on
the shaded side of the outbuilding, and harass a few of the
larger ones into taking the small offering. Out of the
corner of my eye, I glimpse a flash of bronze scales,
rolling near the surface of the water, then sliding back
into emerald obscurity. I work over to the drain on the
lower end of the pond and see a few fish out from shore,
working to the surface and then back down again. I cast
to the fish as they near the surface, but can't elicit no
interest. I see more mudding, the same spot as before.
A more cautious approach puts me near the water's edge
with the fish still feeding, but as soon as the fly slides
into the water, the fish turns and heads off down the
shoreline. I stride down the shoreline, trying to keep
pace with the shadow, seen only intermittently through
the wall of reeds. I'm finally back at the drain, and
no fish in sight. I head back up, time to take one last
look at the tree. A dark shape moves off slowly as I
approach, and I flip the fly to the outside edge of the
branches. The fish rolls away, drifting out of sight.
Another dark shape hovers slowly in the heart of gnarled
Should I? Probably not. Will I?
I justify everything to myself. The fish is probably
going to bolt as soon as the fly invades his space.
Even if he doesn't the combined force of the carp and
I can break through the brittle branches.
I lower the fly on a short line, holding it shallow, as
I've got it positioned too far back on the carp's forehead.
I slide the rod tip forward slowly, the fly following. I
lower it a couple of inches, and the fish begins to fin
I knew it, spooked him. But, now he's moving forward
again...and I think...he grabbed it?
A short lift of the rod, and there's a moment where time freezes.
That brief portion of a second when the rod cedes to the weight
of the fish, bending into a curve. That icy moment when the
fish feels the hook and processes its reaction. And then
time broke loose in an eruption from the middle of the tree.
A gold flash, and the carp is flying towards the center of
Just as I planned. Now a little upward pressure on the
line, and those branches will give. Any moment now.
Instead of a fish heading full steam through the pond,
pulling against the rod, I've got a fish heading full
steam through the pond, dragging leader and flyline
across a maze of unbroken limbs. With each pause in
the fish's run I pull the rod tip tight down to the tree,
trying to read the tangle of limbs and counter-thread
the line, like some bizarre, interactive Rubik's puzzle.
With each new run, I have to spin the line back out of
the branches, thrusting the rod tip into the center of
the tree to minimize the contact between the line and
the limbs. 10 frustrating, heart pounding minutes later
and the fish is tiring. I can work the tree for longer
periods of time, but I'm really not getting anywhere.
It's going to have to be brawn over brains now, and
pray the 8# tippet holds.
I lift the rod high over my head, the carp bumping into
the branches and speeding off again on a short run.
Work the fish back, and lift the rod high. Step back
slowly, trying to guide the carp back to the opening
in the middle of the tree as softly and slowly as possible.
Short runs follow any contact that's too rough or sudden.
Finally, the fish is at the surface, in the middle of
the tree. And it's the moment of truth. A quick lift
and move to the side, and the fish slides out into the
open water, and disappears again to the scream of the
reel. I lift the tip high, walking the line over the
top of the tangle and up the shoreline to open water.
Now I can bear down, but have to temper my playing of
the fish, with untold wear and tear inflicted on the
monofilament. Another 5 minutes of back and forth and
the fish is in the shallows. A quick grab with the
forceps and the hook is out. I tail the fish, give
it a couple of quick passes through the water and it
shakes strongly out of my hand. 10 pounds of solid
carp are moving quickly into the verdant depths. I'm
going to need to change tippets before I get out on
the water again. ~ Jason