Initial thoughts and a warning: This post is going to be long, a lot to unpack here and a lot to learn. I fished for the same specie in two very different environments, notable the needed change in approach and understanding between the two. The first story is of a location that feels “easier”, opportunities seem to present themselves more readily and despite that I have consistently under performed when it comes down to brass tax. Someone more proficient at this would have nailed many more fish and I walk away with just three to hand but I walk away very satisfied, no, elated if I’m being honest. The second story is one of searching a location known to hold the target but the opportunity to present flies to willing fish seems to be scarce and is eluding me at the moment. Making each viable opportunity to cast at a fish that much more note worthy. As Wendy Berrell has pointed out and rightfully so, there are no guarantees fishing for carp around here and I believe this is part of the reason I am so focused on this challenge.
11:30-2:30pm Location #1 with nearly perfect conditions (for this spot). Bright sun, minimal wind and stained water. I walk the route as I’ve done before, first thing I note is the sizeable fish cruising solo twenty feet out from the bank. I watch hoping it will come in close but no dice. I linger wondering what else may be just out of view. I am quickly becoming addicted to the shadows beneath the glare.
The first two opportunities were missed as a result of operator error plain and simple. Saw the first tailing carp and simply got overly excited, put my fly on the fish and didn’t wait long enough for it to sink. Second opportunity was a slow cruising fish that I should have had but misjudged the speed of the fish and thus put the fly basically on her backside, hard spook. Third and fourth fish were different stories. The first carp I touched was slow cruising, put my fly on her about 6 inches to her left and watched her head turn and go straight down, no question on the eat and hookset. Not a huge fish but it had a gut and it felt good to accomplish the goal. Fourth opportunity was minutes later in the same general area, I fought the first fish hard to pull it away from what I suspected would be other feeding carp. I snuck up behind some reeds to find a hefty tail just wagging in my face. Bubble trail, silt ploom, this fish was mowing, almost comically so. I saw only the tail and the approximate location of the mouth, turns out it was a big mouth and she readily devoured my trouserworm. I note the fly here because it seemed that every fish here would have eaten that fly had I made the casts and hooksets stick. I fought the second fish for a while longer for two reasons, 1. she wouldn’t have it any other way and 2. I was solo netting this fish and it looked significantly larger than the first on the day. I got her in the net and promptly lifted it parallel to the ground instead of perpendicular, this resulted in the unmistakable sound of broken plastic. Net was no more but the fish was in my hands. I couldn’t have cared less about the net in that moment but that would change.
I let her swim away and moved on to search for other opportunities, the sun was hanging high but I could see clouds rolling in. I found a good dozen fish slow cruising in a different area, some of them packed up in groups of 3-4 and a few intermingled eating in the muck. If I could do things over again I would have just watched longer, they were content and not chasing off. I should have hung there and waited until the obvious target revealed itself, the lone fish eating. Instead I picked a target I thought I could make the cast on and she moved a bit when the fly hit causing the two near her to spook a bit. This created a ploom of muck that in turn complicated the visibility a bit more. All in all I missed every opportunity here and I believe a few fish should have come to hand had I played my cards differently.
I walked and had a couple opportunities that I missed, one was a hard eating fish further from shore that I had a tail and bubble trail to go on but hard to gauge the depth. I made two casts before my fly got to where I needed it to be and I just misjudged the depth. I’m very curious what that fish would have clocked in at. Interestingly one entire area where multiple carp have been seen and caught was barren, void of any thing other than sunfish and the occasional small large mouth bass. I took a few minutes to sit in the shade, by this point it was well into the 90’s and the sun was beating down. I typically have a long-sleeve shirt to wear but forgot it. The buff, although looking good plays a much more important roll in keeping the sun off my neck and ears. I looked up and noted the window of remaining sun to be approx. 15-30 minutes. I could hear thunder in the distance. I hiked back to where I started and found a football of a fish just chomping down, difficulty rating 3. Full view of the body and tail, no question where the head was. Cast made, the sink and unmistakable the movement of the fish to devour the fly. Interestingly this fish more or less rolled over and came in easily, I almost lost it fumbling with the broken head of the net, insert regret here. Knee deep in muck, rolling around with this carp while she wakes up and is unimpressed to see me. Splashing like crazy, I walked away just filthy and smiling but I landed that fish and if you’re wondering the net is necessary. Don’t leave home without it.
I took the lightening in the distance as my cue to call it and I headed out. I had a moderate drive to get home and as I was enroute the wife calls telling me I can stay out longer and meet her at our volleyball game. I confirm she’s fine with me showing up filthy and stinking of sweat and fish, she was and I did.
Location #2. Full sun, clear water and moderate wind. The wind is my friend and enemy here. I figured I had 1.5hrs to stop and explore this spot some more. I’ve been here a lot recently and no doubt there are carp, some of them appear pretty large from the bank, problem is the presentation. I’ve only had a few decent opportunities to put a fly on these fish and only one time so far have I found an actively feeding fish. This situation is very different from the previous, the water is clear down almost five feet. The fish are spooky and the opportunities to find a feeding fish are far less. I relish difficult situations. First pass of the one spot I’ve seen a tailing carp was barren. I moved to a small area in a heavily shaded part of the water that I’ve seen small carp cruising, sure enough they are present. I tried to dap a fly on a couple but they flat out refused. I moved to see if the spot I currently believe holds the most promise would have any feeding fish. Nothing. I walk up and down, nothing. I consider other areas I could try to explore but hard to access areas are making this spot more challenging than I had anticipated weeks ago when I started researching these fish. In the distance I spotted a shadow. I watched it come in closer right on the surface cruising, not sure if it would even eat as high in the water as it was. Then I watched something I’ve yet to encounter. The fish porpoised out of the water and ate something off the surface. I continued to watch and it became clear that this carp was actively feeding on small white patches floating in the surface film. I watched this continue for several minutes and I could have stayed and watched much longer but I took note of my time frame and moved on. Later I thought harder about those white patches, maybe a few inches wide. That fish just cruised around eating hard on those patches of? What? My best guess is one of two things, cottonwood seed clumped in the film or possibly dandelion seed.
I hiked back and spied the two previous locations, no opportunities. I hiked further down to scope an area out that just screams carp and opportunity but nary a fish has yet to been found here. Just large turtles bathing in the sun waiting for me to spook them into the water and subsequently whatever else is out of my view. I ended up searching for a good thirty minutes stopping every so often to question a shadow, could be a fish? or is this heat stroke setting in? Nothing, no casts made. I moved back to where I started and saw two fish in the shaded area that were small, very small but carp none the less and they looked approachable. I dapped my fly perfectly on one and it moved right over, searched the fly out and promptly snubbed me. Take away here, these fish are smart bastards and will not have just any fly. The bright trouserworm worked great in the first location but here something about it’s presence just puts fish down and I have to note that for next time. All in all this was good learning experience and good motivation to continue searching out new locations and opportunities. This carp thing is not easy and half the fun of anything difficult is the struggle, put the time and effort in and the reward is much more satisfying and long lasting.