One October Carp
Our town sits on historic floodplain. It’s centered on the confluence of four major tributary systems. The natural setting has been largely deleted – first by urbanization and then further by flood control projects. The valleys remain though; plainly evident looking at maps and topography. Just up one of the valley walls (0.2 mile steep hill bike ride) is my house. It’s a 12-15 minute walk down to the river; would be less if not for one busy road, some buildings, fences, etc. A ray shot straight west from my backyard would intersect the river at a near 90 degree angle at a point at which it has already gathered the waters of four creeks. Also at that point it is a tailwater. The fish in that stretch are bookended: not just a dam upstream but another a ways down; and even the one escape to the west is damned just up of the point of confluence. So the fish are bounded; granted there is still quite a bit of water to roam but they have limits. They live in there and in fact they comprise what has been written up as one component of one of the great “urban fisheries” in the country. Newspaper often shows kids catching SMB, LMB. There are ponds, reservoirs, river reaches to peer into. The carp in these waters have in my mind somewhat permanent assignments, given the hydrology. Certainly things can connect during high water, but in general the carp are probably pretty well confined. The pond carp are there. The fish down of the big dam surely are not getting upstream. Those up of the reach by my place are very likely not belly-skating over the dam very often. The flood control reservoirs and stormwater ponds are fairly well set. By default thinking I have in my head that the biggest carp are to be found in the tail of the first dam upstream of the Big River. Local lore and some firsthand observation suggest that this is likely although not certainly the case. But one should not make the mistake of under-examining the fish very close at hand. I’m working to install this in my considerations and decision making processes when some time comes free. I do like to think about those fish down there in the valley bottom, even if it’s a paved valley bottom, holding in slack water or gentle current at night just like my own family up on the hill. They work through issues and patterns during the work day too, eating periphyton and looking for bugs. They are certainly more at ease than I am during a typical day. And linearly we lay down not far from one another. This all leads to an event of fishing maybe 7-10 days ago; a day on which I set out determined to work through the typical 4-6 chances and land 1-2 carp. In the end the drama was not excessive but I do think the notes are of interest.
10/14/13 local carping
10 AM start; 1600 end
One hour break to eat soup and drink coffee and reaffirm determination to succeed (which was needed because I was pissed and blanked and grumpy)
100% cloud cover, cool temps
Fishes 1 & 2: started at a pond; pond in which I’d never put a fly, but walked. Stumbled right up on two carp, tailing in silt plumes. Barely visible. Gave them a trouser worm pattern. Balked with passion at it. Or, they felt the fly move and/or were touched by tippet and evacuated. This was highly disappointing because I haven’t seen many tailing carp this year; we don’t have endless water of tailers. Used to be I enjoyed counting flies down on these dogs and guessing at hooksets; hooking fish. But that has been a rare occasion lately. I feel a rust build up. Except maybe that one 13 lb fish first thing this year I don’t know if I have had another blind count down fish. These were not big carp but I would have enjoyed holding them nonetheless. Off they swam. 0-2.
Second piece of water: another segment of bounded system that usually shows a couple great opps and at least one big fish that spooks. But, zero carp seen. Apparently a function of bad light and fish in deep slots.
Fishes 3, 4, and 5: should note that for nearly all of the local river fishing, due to aforementioned flood control work, one must walk on fairly steeply sloped, head-sized boulder rip-rap. Most of which is overgrown with chest high grasses and nettles. It is not sandal territory. Boots, or in this case wading shoes by Teva. Walking this stuff is a work out. Not wading, not stepping on nice gravel or sand. Picking along in relatively treacherous accomodations. One can on occasion spot the fish from above the rip rap, but must get down to present. So in the end you become a hopeful hunter, walking very slowly on rock points, peering through grass down into the water under full cloud cover. With good light you can scan broadly and maneuver accordingly. But with bad light, must move exceedingly slowly and look maybe 15 feet up and most. It is a step away from fly fishing and a move toward deathstalker, with any sort of rod that can hold a length of line and a fly. Casting is rarely employed. So that is what I did for approximately two hours. Up the river once. Got a fly on one nice carp; pretty big. Moved over to it and set mouth down on it; I picked up. Nothing. The build up was big there and I was more than a little frustrated by this occurrence. Can’t explain it other than rust. Or maybe the fish tried to eat but did not (flies not always easy to find in those rocks). Or, I was too early or too late. Those are all the possibilities. Whatever the case, the fish moved on. Fish #4 was a very similar situation. Saw her maybe 12 feet upstream. Given the few chances afforded, the absolute death silence came on. Fish was not going anywhere. Better make it count. Same flip presentation of LOD. Same apparent take. Beautiful white mouth opening. Only this time I watched the fly enter the mouth. Things played out well from there, culminating in documentation of biggest MN carp thus far in 2013 (14 lbs). Less than 50% of the mass of the big Lake Michigan carp. Fish #5 was smallish, eating veg from some woody debris. The stalk was good, the presentation was good. The fly hit the water in good X,Y fashion but before the Z could work itself out, the fly was eaten by a bass. They like woody debris too. This was frustrating but mitigated by the fact that the fish was pretty small; nosing around; fine to let him be. Figured I was done. But still had maybe half an hour left.
Half-assed fishes 6 through approximately 10: whacked through nettles and did some walking along a bank that I don’t touch much. Deeper slot; rocks are not as easily fishable; I think the carp tend to feed out in the channel, just barely visible even with good sun. But I was done; this was extra, so commenced to walk. First thing was I walked up on a sow bitch carp just holding still in a belly. Could barely make her outline. But there she was. Calling on the “moods” from the Reynolds book – she was neutral-negative. I put a fly down and across, to allow for angle of retrieve maybe 45 degrees in front of her… and there, she came alive and started following. This fish appeared to me to be 20+ lbs. Following… for maybe six feet. Then inexplicably she stopped and turned away; faded to the river. That was it. Couple more fish really deep got presentations/hopes but no chance. Went home and moved on to son’s flag football. Not a bad October deal.
|A really long carp. Skinny though. 14 lbs now. Fatter in spring.|