Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred twenty-five

Into the Wood

Jason Tinling

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA

The river or the pond? A tough decision when I'm on my lunch break. The river's closer, with the potential for a big carp. The pond has a much better success rate per trip, though. A quick online check of water levels on the Conestoga, and I could see it was still up from the rains at the beginning of the week.

A quick trip up the freeway and pull off to the industrial park a few miles from work. I pulled the truck up onto the grass in front of the out building on the road, and rigged up to fish. The fly of choice was a small weighted brown woolly bugger. The combination of cool rain water and more temperate weather had brought the algae back in force in the pond and out over the deep water, visibility was a couple of feet down, at best.

I worked around the edge of the pond, looking for cruising fish and dapping the fly over the tops of the cattails. Aside from a couple of overzealous green sunfish, the fly went undisturbed. I saw some mudding up the bank and in a quiet rush, moved up the high side of the bank, trying to get to the area before the fish was gone again. One heavy misstep, however, sent the fish bolting into the clouded depths.

I peered into the submerged skeleton of a small tree reaching out from under the water. The tree must have been planted and grown in some low water years, but it's now dead and saturated, hanging heavy in the water. The carp and occasional large bass will hide within the tangle of darkened limbs. Above the waterline, whitened branches thrust to the sky, bleached and dry.

I continue up the shoreline, hoping to find fish feeding on the flats in the upper corner of the pond. I spook some small sunfish fry, but otherwise come up empty. I complete the lap around the pond. I take a glance at my watch as I pass the truck, pondering one more quick pass around the water. I compromise with my better judgment and plan to fish over to the sunken tree, and then head back.

I find a sizable school of green sunfish in the weeds on the shaded side of the outbuilding, and harass a few of the larger ones into taking the small offering. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a flash of bronze scales, rolling near the surface of the water, then sliding back into emerald obscurity. I work over to the drain on the lower end of the pond and see a few fish out from shore, working to the surface and then back down again. I cast to the fish as they near the surface, but can't elicit no interest. I see more mudding, the same spot as before.

A more cautious approach puts me near the water's edge with the fish still feeding, but as soon as the fly slides into the water, the fish turns and heads off down the shoreline. I stride down the shoreline, trying to keep pace with the shadow, seen only intermittently through the wall of reeds. I'm finally back at the drain, and no fish in sight. I head back up, time to take one last look at the tree. A dark shape moves off slowly as I approach, and I flip the fly to the outside edge of the branches. The fish rolls away, drifting out of sight. Another dark shape hovers slowly in the heart of gnarled branches.

Should I? Probably not. Will I?

Of course.

I justify everything to myself. The fish is probably going to bolt as soon as the fly invades his space. Even if he doesn't the combined force of the carp and I can break through the brittle branches.

I lower the fly on a short line, holding it shallow, as I've got it positioned too far back on the carp's forehead. I slide the rod tip forward slowly, the fly following. I lower it a couple of inches, and the fish begins to fin backward.

I knew it, spooked him. But, now he's moving forward again...and I think...he grabbed it?

A short lift of the rod, and there's a moment where time freezes. That brief portion of a second when the rod cedes to the weight of the fish, bending into a curve. That icy moment when the fish feels the hook and processes its reaction. And then time broke loose in an eruption from the middle of the tree. A gold flash, and the carp is flying towards the center of the pond.

Just as I planned. Now a little upward pressure on the line, and those branches will give. Any moment now. Now. Please?

Instead of a fish heading full steam through the pond, pulling against the rod, I've got a fish heading full steam through the pond, dragging leader and flyline across a maze of unbroken limbs. With each pause in the fish's run I pull the rod tip tight down to the tree, trying to read the tangle of limbs and counter-thread the line, like some bizarre, interactive Rubik's puzzle. With each new run, I have to spin the line back out of the branches, thrusting the rod tip into the center of the tree to minimize the contact between the line and the limbs. 10 frustrating, heart pounding minutes later and the fish is tiring. I can work the tree for longer periods of time, but I'm really not getting anywhere. It's going to have to be brawn over brains now, and pray the 8# tippet holds.

I lift the rod high over my head, the carp bumping into the branches and speeding off again on a short run. Work the fish back, and lift the rod high. Step back slowly, trying to guide the carp back to the opening in the middle of the tree as softly and slowly as possible. Short runs follow any contact that's too rough or sudden. Finally, the fish is at the surface, in the middle of the tree. And it's the moment of truth. A quick lift and move to the side, and the fish slides out into the open water, and disappears again to the scream of the reel. I lift the tip high, walking the line over the top of the tangle and up the shoreline to open water.

Now I can bear down, but have to temper my playing of the fish, with untold wear and tear inflicted on the monofilament. Another 5 minutes of back and forth and the fish is in the shallows. A quick grab with the forceps and the hook is out. I tail the fish, give it a couple of quick passes through the water and it shakes strongly out of my hand. 10 pounds of solid carp are moving quickly into the verdant depths. I'm going to need to change tippets before I get out on the water again. ~ Jason

Archive of Panfish

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice