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Part One hundred seventy-eight

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Going for the Gold

Jason Tinling

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA

Wow, what a lunch...it almost makes up for the fact I probably won't get out fishing this weekend.

As some of you may know, I set a few personal goals related to flyfishing at the beginning of this year. One was to increase my trout time, not too hard, as I only made 3 or 4 trips for trout all of last year. One of my other goals was to hook and land a carp on the fly. I had visions of stalking them quietly in warm August twilight, wet wading the confluence of the Conestoga and Little C. I certainly didn't have visions of lunch.

I got on the water about 12:30 p.m., trying to recover from the boss being out all week (no big loss) and catching up after 2 days of seminars at the start of the week. The sunfish are up and beginning to get their bedding territory picked out. They are aggressive against other sunnies in their area, but fairly passÚ about flies...grrr. Walked down to where Deer Run trickles into the river. Carp have been splashing and surfacing for a couple of weeks now, and when I got down to the rocks, there were a couple of dozen fish staged at the backside of the lip of the pool. I'm not sure if these fish are pre or post spawn, but they were tucked in, with some grazers.

I was fishing a neon Bitch Creek nymph (red fiber tail, back half chartreuse chenille, front half black chenille with white hackle), about a #8-10. I had been teasing the sunnies and small bass with it, when my curiosity got the best of me. I had heard that pre-spawn carp were a real challenge to coax to a fly, but I had to try. I let the first cast settle low in the water, bouncing from rock to weeds with small twitches. One carp moseyed over and poked around, but I don't know if it was my fly he was interested in. More casts and I tried to position the fly in front of a cruising fish, using small, moderately fast strips about mid water. A dark colored carp unblended from the weeds and took a swing at the nymph as it twitched by. Hmmm...I dropped the fly about 4 feet in front of a cruising/feeding fish and as the fly settled to mid water began the same retrieve. Sure enough out come the lips, slurp, set! Oh crap, the line's looped under the reel seat! A quick bow towards the fish and pull the loop off as the fish screams for the deep water of the river.

(Insert flyfishing naivetÚ) Never having hooked anything on a flyrod that precipitated a need to accentuate the stopping power of the reel, I got caught. I knew to palm the rim. I'd seen other people palm the rim. Rim, meet palm. In the midst of a freight train southbound, however, all those things disappeared from my mind and were replaced with one phrase...Stop that fish! And I grabbed the flyline... I've occasionally smelled burning flesh, but usually not that close up. The line continued to fly off the reel unimpeded as I dropped to my knees and threw my hand under the water.

I finally got the logical side of my brain in gear and got my palm on the reel. I watched as the last of 80 plus feet of flyline danced off into the water and the 40-pound backing began a disappearing act that'd make Siegfried and Roy jealous. It's about 100 yards from where I hooked up to the train trestle and spillway below me. The fish was easily half way there by the time I got him slowed and turning.

This began a good ten minutes of tug of war that was more a matter of the carp going where he wanted to, than any fair give and take. He made a run back up river at me that had me give up winding the reel in favor of a two-handed strip to get some tension in the line. The end game drew in sight, but the geology of the pool at the mouth of the feeder creek was not in my favor. The river pools deeply directly in front of the feeder, then slopes up to within 6" or so of the surface, and then drops off into the river. I had the carp in control, until he got near the skinny water, and then he'd swing that tail and it was off again. I finally got him over the hump, only to have him shoot out a deeper section of water on the southern end of the pool. At last, he was at the base of the rock I was standing on, and I locked the hemostats onto the fly. I breathed a sigh of relief when I confirmed the fly was barbless as it slid out of the fish's mouth. A nice yellow-metallic carp, about 15-20 pounds, slid off into the deep water and shot off for the depths.

I think there's something wrong with my reel.

After I managed to rein in the adrenaline, I checked the tippet and my watch, in that order.

"I really need to get back to work."

"There's a lot more carp out there."

"I don't think the 5x tippet will hold up."

"It held up on that one."

"There are bigger ones out there."

"There are smaller ones out there."

"But...but...but....ah hell, just cast"

So much for the dominance of the logical, responsible side of my brain. I managed to elicit a couple of strikes, which I think I subconsciously tried to prevent from hooking up, for the sake of my job, arms, and gear. But, I am hooked!

I think my lunch-times just got a lot more interesting for the next couple of weeks until the carp drift off to the cool depths again.

I wonder if my arm will stop shaking... ~ Jason

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