Today was one for the ages…. I was out with Bob the other day and outside of a very nice smallie, I was still riding a carp skunk that did not sit well with me. I figured I would squeeze in an hour or so after work but a glance at the weather report was a bit scary…. Severe storm warnings for the entire county. Being that weather people are almost never right, I figured I would roll the dice.
Some recon from the other day found a very nice school of carp holding just below a cliff wall on my favorite stretch of stream. Unfortunately, the water was way too high and fast to wade in so I figured I would try my luck from above. I had commented to Bob the other day that if in fact we hooked into a decent fish that landing it would be a neat trick since we were standing about 20 feet above the water line. I knew I would have to somehow navigate down the trail until it sloped down to the river and manage to keep contact with the fish as I did so. Other than that offhanded comment, I hadn’t exactly formulated a plan…
So I made my way to where I had spotted the pod the other day and attempted to penetrate the coffee colored water but couldn’t see a thing. Just about the time I started casting into the current seam, I felt a few rain drops. The rain drops got bigger and bigger and before I knew it, I was being pelted with chunks of hail. I ducked under what was left of a tree and tried to wait it out. The hail subsided and I made my way back to the seam and started to drift my fly. A few dozen casts and nothing. I saw a nice soft spot at the beginning of the seam and laid down a cast, my line came tight and it was on! I felt that old familiar head shake. I knew it wasn’t the largest carp ever but as I put some stick to it, it must have got pretty mad and it took off down stream.
I started to make my way down the trail trying not to fall off the cliff edge and not get my rod tangled in the overhanging ats as I went. I was doing OK until I came to a large tree right at the cliff’s edge. Shit! What was I going to do now? There was no way to step around it as the tree was growing right out of the cliff’s edge. I managed to shimmy up to the tree and wrap both my arms around it and pass the rod from my right to my left hand. Unfortunately in the process, my backing looped around an overhanging limb and the carp continued to run down stream. Despite my efforts, I could not flip the backing off the limb due to the pressure from the agitated fish. I finally decided to make a move. I grabbed my rod and my line and just ripped it hard. I figured I’d either lose the fish, lose my line, break the limb, or all of the above. As luck would have it, my backing popped off the limb and I reeled in the slack surprised to find the carp still attached to my line.
I made my way down the trail until it started to drop towards the water. I was watching the fish make it’s way to the center of a large pool and as I did so was not watching where I was walking. The next thing I know, my feet fly out from under me as I slip on a mud patch and am sliding down a mud slick careening towards the water flat on my back with one arm straight up in the air still holding my rod high. As my feet hit the water I scramble to my feet and once again take the slack out of my line and am shocked to find the carp still attached to my line.
At this point I think the carp must have been watching this debacle and just run up the white flag because it started to run straight at me. I took in the rest of my fly line and brought the carp to hand. It is amazing what kind of fight you get this time of year from a 6lb carp in fast water! Needless to say, it was the most epic battle I have ever had to land a fish in my life. I took one look at myself covered in mud and I started laughing hysterically out loud wishing someone would have been there to see this fish kick my ass.
After releasing Mr. Big Lips back to the pool, I made my way back up the trail for another go. My wife had just finished work and my cell phone is ringing. I am asked one question…. “You’re not fishing are you”… “You’re crazy! There’s a tornado warning out… get your ass home!”
Yes dear, I will be heading out in a minute… I make a few more casts and look up to see the darkest greenest cloud I have ever seen moving at me at an alarming rate. Before I can even hook my fly to my guide foot and reel in my slack the hail is coming down. This time it is almost golf ball sized hail and I have no cover. So there I am running up the trial and through the parking lot in waders and swinging a fly rod as people look at me like I am crazy. My back is stinging from the chunks of hail pelting me through my jacket. At one point one hits me square on the top of my head and it almost knocked me over. By the time I got to my car, I was battered and stinging. I flipped the hatch to my Subaru up, sat down on the bumper, laid my head back in the hatch and just smiled!
I love fishing epics. Epics don’t often happen when brown lining since I am typically not far from civilization and an easy way out. The carp was far from the largest I have brought to hand but the fight and the circumstances surrounding it will be forever burned into my memory! What a great way to end a day.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
So the weather has been far from ideal. The water has been high fast and dirty… but never the less this brownliner has been waiting far too long! Despite almost drowning myself in the creek and only have a few shots at fish I could see, it felt really good to crack open my home waters again.
I am not ready to abandon chasing trout, but I must admit… it is really nice to be able to fish five minutes from the house again! We are still pre-spawn and the water is definitely quite cold, but I can feel spring coming on and I am looking forward to what this season will bring!
So I have a confession to make…. I used to hate nymphing. I dont’ know why to be honest. I know I did not like the chuck and duck casting and I think not being in touch with the fly was a bit of a difficult transition for me when it came to indicator fishing. Other than that, there just wasn’t much of it that touched my fly fishing soul.
Lately I seem to have had a change of heart. Perhaps I needed to start to enjoy the nuances of it? Perhaps I just needed to become better at it? After a winter of nymphing for trout I can honestly say I look forward to it. The subtle change in the drift, the line tip dipping suddenly, the tension and the head shake that you feel when you raise the rod tip. When water conditions are poor, the mystery of what is going on under the water is intriguing. Nothing against the visual nature of dry fy fishing or popper fishing for smallies, but there is a certain imagination required to extend your line down into the water and make assumptions about what it is doing as you make your presentation. Being that 90% of feeding is sub surface anyhow, I guess it makes sense to embrace all that happens below!
In many of the online forum’s you hear people say that they are only a dry fly person, or only a nymper….. I think to be a complete fisherman you have to be comfortable adapting to the situation. I am learning to take great pride in coming to a day of fishing being prepared to catch fish in whatever format the conditions dictate to me. I recently fished with my friend Tim who is an accomplished angler and his skill in understanding what his drift was doing was beautiful to watch. With much practice and attention to detail, I am hoping I will be there one day as well…. So for the time being, I am dedicating myself to becoming a total “nymph”omaniac!
Good Luck and Tight Lines!