It's finally becoming summer here in the
Northeast. We've had an overly wet spring,
made all the more impressive in comparison to
the past 3-4 years of drought. Spots I'd
usually be wade fishing by the end of May
are still raging and brown. We're working
on our thirteenth weekend in a row with
precipitation. Great for the plants, great
for the water table. Not so great for the
The week started in the mid 70's, forecast to
be in the mid 80's by the end of the week. I
headed out at lunch to a small industrial park
pond, home to some sizable but very wary
largemouth and a large population of mirror carp.
Here it is, mid-June, and I still haven't caught
a carp this year. I had all intentions of
changing that in the coming week of warm weather.
I got on the water and it was still a little murky,
and the carp were not to be seen, except for the
occasional foray to the surface, only to disappear
back into the depths again. I worked through a
selection of flies with no luck, and finally settled
on a marabou damsel nymph that the crappie and sunfish
were willing to hit. As I worked up the far shoreline,
I saw a carp moving away from me slowly, pausing here
and there to tip down and inspect the rocks for food.
I lay the line out tight to the bank, twitching
the nymph back towards the carp and off the shore.
As the fly drifted past, the fish turned its head
to the shore, and slurped the damsel out of the
water. I came back on the rod and the shallows
boiled hard as the fish shot down the shoreline.
It was about 50 feet down shore to the inflow
pipe that feeds the pond and at about 40 feet
away the fish took a hard left towards the
depths of the pond.
Adrenaline surged through me as the fish ran.
First carp of the year, first in too long. I
put all the pressure on the fish that I thought
the 4# tippet could handle. I had the rod laid
over to the side when I felt it. That disheartening,
sickening slack of a lost fish. There was no "pop"
like a broken line, just that sudden loss of pressure
and contact. I reeled in the line and confirmed
that the hook had pulled loose. I had to get back
to work, but would be back the next day.
The next day was much the same, the water still
trying to clear, the carp few and far between.
The crappie had turned off the damselfly, so I
went to a small zonker minnow in chartreuse. A
short zonker tail, lightly dubbed body and very
small (1/100 oz) dumbbell eyes. Anywhere you had
reed shoots growing up, the crappie would be found,
and they were more than happy to feed on this
impostor minnow. In the clearer water of the
shoreline, I was able to observe some interesting
things about crappie strikes. There seem to be
two types of strikes, and their use was dependent
on the closeness of the fish to the fly. If the
fly was being retrieved within a few inches of the
crappie, they would drift up and take it gently,
often from behind. If the fly was more than a
few inches away, however, the crappie would delay
until the fly was within reach, then burst up on
it and turn immediately back to the area they came
from. Two very distinct feeding methods with two
very different feeling takes.
I finally found a carp mudding along the shoreline,
and flipped the fly out in its feeding path. As
the carp moved into the area of the fly, I twitched
it gently up and down. I felt a gentle tic on the
rod and saw the line twitch. I set the hook and
the fish swirled off into the murky water. Line
peeled off the reel until my backing began to peek
through the flyline. I got the fish turned and
we played tug-of-war over 40-50 feet of flyline.
The carp finally drifted toward shore, shooting
off again every time its back or tail broke
through the surface of the water. I finally
slid the barbless hook out of the fishs' mouth
nd watched it disappear into the safety of deeper
water. Definitely coming back tomorrow.
Wednesday had more of the pond clearing, and the
continuous days of warm temperature finally had
the carp up and moving. Pods of 2 - 4 fish cruised
along the surface, drifting down into the obscure
depths to feed. I found a solo fish cruising and
laid the zonker minnow past it. As the fly stripped
past the fish it turned on the fly, only to turn
away again. I put the fly out again, and as I
stripped the fly in I got the same reaction. It
seemed as though the carp was pulling off the fly
as I stripped it. I made a longer cast to catch
up with the fish and stripped the fly in. Once I
had the carp's attention and it was turned on the
fly I stopped stripping, allowing the eyes to carry
the fly down slowly. Sure enough, the carp tipped
nose down and followed the fly, intercepting it about
2/3 of the way to the bottom. I set the hook and
the fish sped off towards the middle of the pond.
About halfway out the carp turned tail and sped
back towards me. I scrambled backwards up the hill,
rod held high as I tried to catch up on the reel.
I finally got tension on the line again, just in
time to have the carp dive in towards the dead
tree submerged in the water here. I was quickly
down the hill, in the opposite direction of the
tree, trying to pressure the fish away. A couple
of breathless snags and pops later, the fish came
free and we bulldogged back and forth for a bit
before the healthy fish came to hand.
I worked the pond for the rest of my lunch hour,
finding another feeding carp on the opposite shoreline.
Like most of this pond, it's more commando and stealth
fishing than delicate presentations. No 15' 6 X leaders
here. It's all about tucking in behind a stand of reeds,
flipping short casts around corners, or over the tops of
cattails, to wary fish. I picked off a feeding carp
over the tops of some reeds; running halfway down the
shoreline to keep up with this hooked fish that wanted
to wrestle in the mud and reeds. I rounded the corner
of the pond, rod held high, and once I got some pressure
opposite the direction of the shore, the fish rolled
out to deeper water. I brought the smaller (5 - 7 pound)
fish to shore fairly quickly. The abuse in the weeds
and mud took its toll on the light tippet and it snapped.
I had the fish up in the shallow water, and a quick grab
with the forceps latched onto, and removed, the fly.
I tailed the fish, and after a couple of passes through
the water, it slid off.
Thursday was an exercise in frustration, as I
missed two fish early and couldn't do anything
but spook fish after that. The first miss came
on a fish that keyed on the fly as it hit the water,
shooting over from a couple yards away to pounce on
the fly. Slow reflexes on my part, quick ones on
the part of the carp? Whatever the cause, I missed,
and missed big. The second fish hit as the fly was
out of sight behind some reeds, and I didn't trust
my instincts on when to set the hook. I tried to
sneak a quick peek around the reeds and spooked the
fish out of the shallows (and off my fly). As I
headed up to my truck to wrap the day, I saw a huge
patch of muddy water on the opposite shore and had
to take a look-see. I peered past the reeds, and
sure enough, there was a hefty tail, waving just
under the surface. I flipped the fly out, and then
there was a second tail, and a third. No wonder the
mud bloom was so large. A couple of short twitches
of the rod tip and the line jumped. I set the hook
into a feisty mirror that shot out to the middle of
the pond and then rolled around on the surface,
causing all kinds of commotion. I finally wrestled
the fish in, a little too green, and got a bath for
my troubles. I also got the fish unhooked, and it
vanished like all its brethren had before it.
Four days, five hook-ups with four fish landed. Welcome to summer.
~ ~ Jason.