The plan for this outing was to experience something new, the invitation came and the opportunity arose to learn, study and hunt. This time not for trout but something different…the carp. I hooked up with with Wendy Berrell Friday morning in the mid-early am, grabbed coffee and were off. A few things to note right away, this trip was drastically different from my usual routes. We drove rather than hiked, we fished in populated areas often with others (not a bad thing), saw more trash than I’d ever seen while fishing (a bad thing)…humans, and fought harder than I’d ever done before to land fish. I used an 8wt rather than my usual 4wt. Funny how I use a rod thats just one or two wt. over what it should for trout in my area and I did the same for the carp but I was greatful to borrow a rig to fish with for the time I had. I will be changing the rod situation, that will involve a 3wt and 6-7 wt. I will be doing this again.
So we started fishing and almost immediately I was onto carp. This is was my first time attempting to catch this species on a fly rod and it has it’s own unique twists. The way carp feed, the approach, the casts and the flies are all similar but different. I made my first attempt to carp on the banks of a river. I could see the fish, they were less than ten feet from the bank. We stood high above on the bank and tried to sight fish carp without snagging or spooking them, funny how fast there bulbous asses can scoot when motivated. My 1st was snagged, in the upper fin while trying to drift a fly basically straight into the target zone, within 6 inches of the vacuum hose (the carp snout). The second was all fair right in the mouth, hard fight even on an 8wt and I was getting into it right away.
We moved after presenting flies to several carp, the timing was good but we were searching for bigger tailers, actively feeding carp. These fish can be seen with their tails high peaking out from below. Finding sight fishable carp feeding like this is ideal, one can present the fly and attempt to observe notable changes in behavior to cue the hook set. We might have seen more of this but this is still early in the season and the carp need more time to warm before consistently activly feeding so we moved from location to location in search.
We stopped at several dams along the way and I had a blast blind nymphing for carp. In the space of three hours Wendy and I got onto several carp, one after another. A few were hooked foul and when this was observed I deliberately tried to get the carp off the line but after learning the depth and the needed weight to sink the flies to the carp I was consistently catching carp, and loosing flies (bummer). We caught not only carp but several species, including an 8lb Walley, I watched this fish run Wendy around the bridge pylons before he landed it. At one point, in the sun with two very taught fly lines, we were both waist deep in carp. Casting the 8wt was very different, gave my arm a hell of a work out, that and the constant carp action running me all over the place. After hours in the sun the action cooled down and we moved on with the search for sight fishable tailers.
Finding many, many carp but few actively feeding, we got some grub and headed for camp. We decided ahead of time to camp at a location near water on the way home to save time in the morning. Camping lite we pitched the tent (incase of potential rain), made a fire from the scraps around us in the dark and fell asleep under the stars. Waking early we hit more carp water before heading home. Wendy was spot on taking two morning tailers, including the Bertha of the trip, at 15lbs this was the fish we were looking for. We moved to one last location to try blind nymphing another dam.
I caught several small fish of varied species all trip and this morning saw a bullhead, perch, whitebass (I think), and a large mouth bass. Wendy caught a few more but I hadn’t felt the pull I was looking for, thats what it is, more of a pull, they pull back once the line goes tight rather than with a trout that tugs on a streamer, I was looking for one last fish before the trip was over. It came, standing in the spill way of the dam, once hooked the fish ran, and then ran some more, more than I’d ever felt before. Wicked, damn wicked. I held tight, tried to give him breathing room but not let him man-handle me, I for some reason knew we were close to the time we wanted to leave and with the watch on my chest pack I noticed the time, 10:55. The time of the hook up. In and out, left, right. 11:05. Pull. Hard. 11:15. I just played and at this point I was getting worked, with an 8wt. I started really leaning into this fish. 11:30 We saw the fish, it looked big, it should have, and then the pop. Slack line and a scale on a hook, his momento for me to remember him by. Must have been a foul hooked fish but it sure seemed close to his mouth. I would have really liked to land that fish but I know there will be more sight fished carp in my future.
I learned alot from this trip. I know I like the challenge of taking tailers. I know I don’t appreciate the locations as much but it has its place and time. Interesting how this happened over the trout opener, made me stop and think about the tag line under the title at the top “Learning to Fly Fish in S.E. MN” this is me being true to that. This summer there are many plans in the works to take warm water species as well as trout. Thanks to WB for the company, guidance, flies, gear, dinner Friday night (made it up with breakfast), and being a like minded person.