Casual Friday. It's a bit of a joke here at work, where it's
been replaced with "Wild Shirt" Friday. You know, 'that' shirt,
the one with the Hawaiian print, tucked away in the back of the
closet. I had on my favorite today, a pale shirt with small fish
scale patterns drawn in beige. Palm trees and Yin and Yang koi
dot the shirt, in dark and light blue, respectively. Orange
characters that may or may not be authentic scroll along side
the drawings. Fridays, it becomes a contest to see who can, or
is willing to, wear the most 'over the top' shirt. My koi shirt
has already been retired as a past winner.
I had on my retired shirt as I headed out at lunchtime. Weather
is mild, in the mid 70's, with a breeze blowing. Tomorrow, it's
supposed to rain, and drop 15 degrees or so in temperature. I'm
getting in my fishing now. The water in the small pond is still
stained from the soaking rains that fell last week.
I had a Tuck Bugger on from the last time fishing here, a couple
of days ago. I cruise along the shoreline until I'm in the
windbreak caused by the row of trees separating the pond from
the factory behind me. I stalk the shoreline, looking for clues.
A tail breaking the surface here, fresh boils of mud blossoming
over there. But I don't see any of those things. I strain into
the murky water; finally coming upon a tail waving slowly amidst
the stumps of water logged cattails. I flip the fly out a couple
feet in front of the waggling tail, and let it sink to the bottom.
Twitch. Tug. In a swirl of water, the bronze shape plows through
the weeds to deeper water. Must have gotten the line across the
I cast to a couple of fish over deeper water, the ones that get
high enough in the water column to be visible. Every cast is
placidly ignored. I work up and down the shoreline. I'll see
a fish at the surface up the shore from me and quickly work up
the bank towards it. Too often my angle to the water changes
to a point where I can't see the fish, even with the polarized
lenses on. I back track to where I could last see the fish,
and there's nothing there. No swirl, no traces, no anything.
The air is full of fairy blue damselflies, hovering and darting
over the water. A dragonfly or two break through the groups like
jumbo jets lumbering through a squadron of Cessna. Hmmm, maybe
a dragon nymph? I switch over to an olive dragon nymph, and work
back down the shoreline again.
I make several pacing laps, up and down the shore. I'll come
across a carp finning silently against the weed edge, or the
occasional mudder. Nothing seems interested in feeding, though.
As I lift the fly from the water in front of a stand of cattails,
I feel a tug and hear a sudden splashing. I drop the rod tip,
and feel a small fish surging against the rod tip. I work the
fish to the side of the cattails, and lift out a small black
crappie. I didn't even know there are crappie in here.
Well, the carp aren't cooperating, and the crappies are. Got'ta
go with what's biting. I switch over to a small minnow fry pattern;
a #12 dry fly hook, wrapped with pearl cross-stitch braid. Fray
the tail; add a wing of red floss. Simple stuff. I flip a cast
out over the still mostly dormant weed bed. I twitch the fly
towards me, when a shape slices up out of the obscurity of the
murky depth. With a rolling strike, the crappie is headed back
towards the bottom. I pull the line tight and the fish dodges
off course, head shaking. The hook comes loose from the
paper-thin mouth and the fish drifts off into hiding again.
I catch a dozen or so small crappie, all 4 - 6" long, feisty but
thin. Not bad for a fish that, until today, I didn't even know
existed in this water. A quick glance at my watch shows I'm
already running late. I'll work a couple casts on the near
shoreline as I head back to the car. As I work the shoreline,
I see a tail waving slowly in the water. I follow the bronze
back, up and over, to the descending forehead. The carp is
tucked up under a floating weed pad, plucking something from
the bottom of the vegetation. There's a small hole in the weeds,
right near where the fish is feeding. I tight line the fly,
and dap it into the hole. The fly drifts over the fish's head
and the carp drifts backwards.
"Don't spook! Just don't spook," I yell inside my head. The
carp drifts back up under the mat and begins feeding again.
I drop the fly in again, and this time the fish turns its head
towards the hole. Extended lips pull the drifting fly out of
the water, and I tighten the line.
The fish rolls out of the shallows, pulling half the weed mat
with it. Surreally, the only coherent thought to burst through
my adrenaline-saturated brain is "I'm going to have to work
The carp burrows into the depths, a bronze flash seems to linger
in the shallows as the fish disappears. Thankfully, the weeds
slip free of the fly line as the fish dodges and runs. This
fish is very much a bulldog, staying about 20 - 30 feet off
he tip of the fly rod. It's a game of give and take, and it's
not measured in feet lost and winds of the reel gained, but in
inches and lifts. The fish drives back into the shallows,
looking among the waterlogged cattail stumps for anything
firm enough to wrap around. I move up and down the shoreline,
pursuing the fish through stand after stand, working the line
as high and tight as possible to keep it from becoming entangled.
The fish rolls up to the surface, and I can see some fairly
recent scarring, most likely from spawning. I need to get
this fish in and back out with as much speed as possible.
I toss my glasses up the bank. Turn on the digital camera
and lay it in the grass, ready for a quick shot. I put the
pressure on the fish, as much as the 8# test and the small
hook can hopefully stand. After a couple of hasty retreats
from the shallow water when its head comes out of the water,
the carp slides onto the grassy shoreline. Thumb in the
slippery mouth, and a hand around the partially scaled tail.
I lay it in the grass alongside the rod and snap a quick shot.
Slide the barbless fly out of the fish's mouth and back to the
water's edge. One push-pull through the water to right the
fish and it shoots off strongly into the depths. That's funny.
I don't remember this being a wide gape hook.
I never catch carp when I've got a camera with me. Must be the shirt.