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Late Summer MidWestern Reservoir Outing

By David (FishnDave) Merical

Late this past summer, September 13 to be exact, I did a little fly-fishing on a local reservoir in Iowa. It was a cloudy, cool day that had forecasted some rain which thankfully never materialized. I launched my kayak and made my way to the opposite shore of a large bay. I nearly bottomed the kayak a couple of times on shallow rocks to get to my destination in a back corner of the bay. As I approached, I made a few casts with some spinning gear to determine there were fish in the area, and connected with some medium-sized white bass. I then beached the kayak and fly-fished the area from shore.

In this corner of the bay is an inlet where water sometimes comes through under a high roadway. The water had hit record or near-record high levels in this reservoir throughout the bulk of the summer months, but had recently made its way back to the normal pool level. The water was still fairly murky, which is normal for this reservoir, and the water was additionally sediment laden due to the water coming in from the opposite side of the road. There was a small upwelling or "boil" where the submerged inlet was letting water in, and there was a low concrete wall along the shoreline side of this upwelling, whose top was just inches above the waterline. This small area otherwise had limestone riprap along the two sides of this "C"-shaped shoreline, and then opened up to a shallow rock-strewn flat and the rest of the mud-bottomed bay on the side of the boil opposite the concrete wall.

I tried for more white bass, and had my best success casting beyond the boil, allowing the fly to sink for a bit, and then retrieving the fly in quick, short, jerky strips. I tried a Deceiver with little success, and switched to a chartreuse and white Clouser Deep Minnow. That scored a number of white bass, the biggest of which pushed 15".

The big one, and a pair of 13-inchers, put up a nice tussle on the 8wt. It's over-kill, I know, but I'm hoping to tackle some carp today, and only wanted to bring one fly rod. Plus these bigger, heavier flies I use for white bass are easier to cast with the heavier line.

As I was fishing the boil for white bass, I could see 3" long Gizzard Shad lined up along the concrete wall. Occasionally something would dart in and scatter the shad, but they'd immediately return to the wall. On the far end of the wall, where it met the side shoreline, some large fish were rolling. I couldn't see them well, but was sure they were carp. I stalked closer.

Watching near that end of the wall, I watched a crayfish dart up from below, and kind of float there on the current that was pushing up there. It slowly sunk out of site. I don't think it probably lived much longer. I wondered what stirred it up from its bottom hide-out. Carp, I figured.

I cast out along that side shoreline with a crayfish pattern, and caught a white bass. I also had a carp take this pattern, but it managed to free itself before I landed it. I don't recall now whether the hook pulled out, or it broke my leader.

I switched to a hex-nymph pattern that I had caught carp on earlier in the summer, and tossed it into the corner where the carp seemed to be working actively. Again, I couldn't really see the fish, just their swirls and occasional splashes. I worked the fly in very slowly, with just enough speed to keep it from dragging and snagging on the bottom. The line would twitch, and I'd set the hook. Another nice carp headed for open water. This one also exercised its option for freedom. I kept my fly this time. I allowed that corner to settle a bit, and then tossed the fly back in. Several casts later, another carp is on. Straight out to open water, and I'm thinking the result of this battle will be a repeat of the previous 2 fish. I walk around to the opposite side-shore to keep the fish away from the area where the carp seem to be congregated, and continue fighting this strong fish. It peels line a number of times. I slowly work it in closer to shore. It refuses to come quietly into the shallow water so I can hand-land it. Note to self‚I need to bring a net in the future. I work at tiring this fish, but they are surprisingly resilient, and its obvious this fish is tiring me faster than I'm tiring it. But after 15 minutes or so, I finally win. It's a nice fish of 27.5", and weighs 8 lbs 10oz. I release it after a quick photo session.

Dang! I'm beat, and deserve a cigar. I light one up as I head back over to try for another fish. I toss into that same corner repeatedly, but can't seem to get a fish interested, if indeed they are still there. I wonder if there's anything hanging out below these shad along the wall. I still occasionally see a big swirl come up behind the shad. You'd think a fly that looks like a shad might be the way to go, but for now I'm sticking with my hex nymph. As I suspend the nymph below my rod tip beneath the shad, a carp sucks it in. I set the hook and hold on as it peels line for open water. Every one of these carp I've hooked immediately heads for open water, for whatever that's worth. I'm glad, it gives me more open space to fight and tire the fish. This fight is identical to the previous fish, and I eventually land it as I had done before. This fish is 27", and 8lbs 9oz. I snap another picture and release it.

I try again. Another fish. This one feels a bit bigger and stronger. I walk around to the spot where I could land the fish without the fish rubbing my line on rocks. This fish is tough to gain on. Eventually, it gets my line snagged up on something. I can feel the fish on, but can't move it, and its too far out to wade to. I have to break my line.

I re-tie and try the same technique again, and soon have another fish on. Another carp I figure, as it is another strong fighter. But I do land this fish more quickly than the previous two. Turns out to be a 24" Channel Catfish. I enjoy catching a variety of fish, and catfish are always fun on a fly rod. I release it.

While I'm fighting this fish, a pair of anglers makes the long walk down to where I'm fishing, and they sit down by the end of the wall where the carp had been earlier. The man tosses out a twister-tail jig on spinning gear, and the woman lobs out a piece of shad suspended under a bobber. I try my successful technique a bit longer, but can't get close to where I'd been fishing before the new arrivals‚um‚arrived.

I switch back to the Clouser and begin catching some more white bass. The man doesn't catch anything, but the woman loses a nice fish, and eventually catches one or two small white bass.

I'm bushed, I can't fish the spot I want to fish now, so I'm ready to give it up for the day. I hop in my kayak and head for the shoreline by where I parked my vehicle.

I ended up catching and releasing 2 carp, 1 catfish, and 30 white bass. I talked with a number of guys that were out fishing from their boats on the main lake that day, and they all reported that the fishing was very slow. Only a few fish were caught in each boat.

I was very pleased with my results. I caught decent numbers, and fought some VERY strong fish! As I write about this in January, I can tell my mind often picks this day to revisit and re-live. ~ By David Merical (FishnDave)

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