I met my buddy Dan a few hours north at the Hale Eddy put in on the West Branch of the Delaware River early one morning. He was already fishing, tossing a dry dropper into one of the more pressured riffles on the entire system. I watched from atop the bridge before my eyes noticed the show unfolding downstream. A thick morning fog enveloped the river, a product of 48 degree water combining with the warmer summer air. As the morning progressed and the sun began to rise in the sky, it slowly broke the fog's grip making for an awesome sequence. I was able to capture the moment in several shots, even through the dew dripped view of a spider's web. As the sky brightened, our true purpose revealed itself. We were there to float and hopefully pick up a few trout on dry flies. The notoriously moody fish and insects of the Delaware failed to rise with any consistency during our sunny floats. This prompted me to change my strategy a little bit.
As Dan and I drifted towards an island and a side channel, my Diablo Chupacabra drifted over a calm flat with a bottom of sediment. I was startled to see a vertically feeding carp that promptly spooked from my presence. After fishing the side channel for an extended time, I paddled up river and anchored over the flat. There were more than one carp to be seen. I waited for a break in the wind and cloud cover to get my shot. I tied on a brown carp crab and struggled to get a good presentation without any rock snot or drifting algae ruining my fly. I finally got a good one on the bottom two yards in front of a prowling common and gave a short strip. The carp broke from his original line just as the clouds came into view. No longer able to see my fly, I read the carp's body language, saw him pause, and could barely make out the protrusion of his more lightly covered vacuum as it sucked in my fly. Game on.
My six weight Cross S1 switch rod was perfectly matched to subdue the weight of a carp in the mid to high teens. The Multi reel did the rest, subduing two long runs towards structure. The 3x held, I unanchored my SUP, and drifted toward the island. My intention was to beach the fish but a surprise was in store for me. I was backing up to force the carp into shallow water when I backed up too far. I fell off one of those notoriously high meadow Delaware banks into the river. I emerged laughing my ass off to find the humped-backed carp beached in a few inches of water. I took a few shots and sent her on her way.
Later on down river, I cruised by a nice pool and discovered some trout hanging out by those grassy banks. I paddled back upriver and tried anchoring in position. After a few tries, I successfully anchored in position and was able to spot a large trout chilling on the bottom. I threw everything I had at him for about half an hour. He moved for a size 22 flashback pheasant tail but didn't take. I eventually tied on a wiggle ISO nymph and got a strong initial reaction. The next cast, I put a huge mend in the line and swung the fly up as it crossed in front of him. Fish on. It was a chunky brown about 18 inches. Looked like a stocked holdover, but I was pleased. Later, Dan and I got a few fish on top and a some below.
After Dan left, I was actually driving home before I pulled a U-turn. I found carp and they were green. Too hard to pass up. I re-launched my kayak solo, and caught two carp in rapid succession, both on the carp crab while performing mudding headstands. I anchored and went to shore to do some stalking. That's when another fly fishermen took notice. He asked me about the 12 lb. rainbow trout I just caught. I told him it was actually a carp. He replied, that his goal of the year was to catch a carp on fly. We talked tactics, situations, and flies for about 20 minutes. I gave him a damsel and my best producing egg for a pond by his house. We then talked about fishing for river carp when a good one meandered into view. I gave him a play by play of my every move. I casted the crab out, did a drag and drop. Gave a good strip and watched the carp's body language change. He took it.
College Kid- "that was the coolest thing I have ever seen"
Me- "yea...that was awesome"
I offered to let him fight the fish, but he refused like a normal fishermen would. I talked him through the fight as I absolutely horsed a good carp on the Cross S1 5 weight. We talked about how much stress I could put on 3, 4, and 5x and for certain situations. He helped me land it and even took a picture. We talked some more before I headed home. Another carp convert successfully in the bag. I traveled to the Upper Delaware for its amazing trout fishery but ended up turning back for its small carp fishing.