Monday, May 27, 2013

Never Give Up.

A foggy Wednesday morning I found myself at one of our favorite carp spots. This spot is revered for its large weary fish and happens to be the birthplace of The Damsel and the reason for the ghillie suit. A few days earlier Mark had fished the same spot hooking one on the damsel only to lose it in heavy cover, but reported seeing a lot of feeding activity and some large fish. Since we each only catch one or two fish from this spot in a calendar year I figured I’d give it a shot.

I arrived with high hopes of feeding fish only to find that they were staging to spawn. My heart sank as I watched pods of males slowly jockey for position behind large females inches under the surface out in deep water. Unlike other places in the country the carp populations here are small and all the fish spawn at once rendering them uncatchable. They weren’t spawning yet but you could tell they were thinking about it. Spawning or not I always take a lap or two to check for any single and willing fish. On my way around I observed many shoals of fast cruising fish and a few singles. I had a shot at one which only briefly eyeballed my damsel before continuing on its way.

Since I seen no feeding activity I decided to tie on a streamer and fish for bass only to discover that I took my bass flies out of my pack and left them at home. I was not pleased and decided to call it a day. For my walk back to the car for my own amusement I switched to an egg pattern to try my luck at some more fast cruisers. We’ve never got a carp to eat an egg pattern at this location before so I had zero faith in what I was about to do. I walked the entire way back tossing the little #14 orange egg at three fish getting ignored outright every time. Close enough to see my car at this point I spied a mudding fish in about two feet of water. I served up my egg on the bottom as he emerged from his plume... and boom he sucked it in. Shocked and excited as shit I fought the 15-18 pounder to within ten feet of me only to pull the fly from its mouth. I stood in silence for a while before gathering myself on a bench. I sat there and thought long and hard about leaving but decided to give it one more shot. I retied my tippet and started another lap around. Out of curiosity I stuck with the orange egg and low and behold I found a pair of feeding fish in less than five minutes. One fish ignored it and the second gave it a once over but wasn’t spooked by it. Twenty minutes later I walked up on a monster fish slowly grazing along the shore. It was the largest fish I’d ever seen at this spot. I crept around a bush to intercept her on the other side, I presented the egg and as soon as she seen it she turned quickly and disappeared into the depths directly off shore. It was a typical maneuver for these fish no matter what fly you are using but I ended up blaming the egg anyway.

Small fly--Big fish

I switched flies back to the damsel and chose the smallest version in my box. Taking another lap around I was surprised to find the same big fish I just spooked with the egg was back feeding right off shore in about three feet of water. I repeated the scenario and dropped the damsel two feet to the right of her, she slowly turned in the direction of my fly and I knew right then and there it was on. About a foot from where my fly landed she opened and closed her mouth. I almost hesitated thinking she was eating something else but my 6th sense kicked in... She got it! After the longest fight of my life I landed my personal best carp. I feared for my 3x tippet the whole time until I beached her. I was lucky enough to have a man walking his dog stop and watch me for an hour to take a few pictures for me. He ended up helping me get her into the weigh sling too. Good Man! She tipped the scale at 32.40 lbs. If I learned anything from that day it’s to NEVER. GIVE. UP.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I have been fly fishing for carp a lot this spring, more than any other spring I can remember. My experiences have revealed a few new insights that previously went unnoticed. One particular weapon I have relied on time after time, is the slingshot cast. I have caught a myriad of species over the years utilizing this close quarters "cast," but it was always done subconsciously. In the newer waters I have been fishing, carp can be taken a few feet from the bank, often in or around heavy cover. In these situations, I began to think more and more about perfecting the slingshot cast.

Most of my carp fishing occurs in the dead afternoon when carp are often at their laziest. However, a lot of carp will continue to feed if they feel safe. They will seek shelter in and around cover. Log jams, overhanging branches with shade, and undercut banks all will hold carp when the sun is directly overhead. When it is overcast, drizzling, or downright pouring rain, carp will feel extremely comfortable and often come into really skinny water to feed. This spring, I caught multiple fish off of the spawning beds of largemouth bass during rain storms. In these close quarters situations the slingshot cast is a great weapon to have in your arsenal.

I like to utilize a heavier leader than normal for slingshot casts. Usually, my carp leader is anywhere from 14-16 feet in length and tapered to 3-5x. Having a heavier butt section allows me to turn over my fly with more accuracy when using this type of cast. If you prefer shorter leaders, I would have at least a few inches of fly line out the tip of the rod to make the cast much easier. By using either of these methods, you will be able to accurately target carp in some hairy situations.

Last weekend, I found myself stalking carp at a local pond. It was raining slightly and I scouted a pair of carp feeding on a spawning bed. The bed was situated along a large fallen tree in the water and under some overhanging branches. I crawled up close enough and sat in a bed of poison and thorns waiting for a chance. With the amount of sunfish in the water around the bed, I realized I needed to be as accurate as possible to prevent them from eating my fly instead of the carp. Pulling back on my fly, I bent the rod to create the necessary tension for the cast. I took aim like I a bow and arrow and landed my egg pattern a few inches from the carp. Three sunnies immediately moved for the fly, but stopped upon seeing the carp and how close the fly was to his face. The large carp didn't have to move to eat my fly and eat it he did.

Waiting out some torrential rain...

Double complete rainbow.

I hid behind a fence and tall grass to take this guy near an undercut bank. 

Taken near cover, landed in the open.


Too far away, the rare mudder in the sun...

Safely avoided the sunfish with the accuracy of a slingshot cast at close range...

Had to go for a deep wade to take my rod under a log for this guy...

Another fish from the same hour later.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Pot of Gold at the End of a Hike

Last year, Spring and Summer came early, throwing off the timing of hatches and the pre-planned trips of many a diehard angler. This year, we attempted to replicate the early success we had last year, if only we could time it right. During mid-April of 2012, we had outstanding dry fly fishing in the heart of the Catskills. This April, we waited an extra few weeks to experience some more great dry fly fishing. Mother nature threw us a curve ball, but we nonetheless had a great time.

On the morning of day one, we hiked almost two miles into the gorge where we saw the conditions we'd be facing for the rest of the day. With the overnight rain, the tailwater was higher than expected, and the color of chocolate milk. Throughout the entire day, there was not a single rising fish, which put a damper on any hopes of throwing dries. Instead, we broke out the streamer boxes and sink tips for a phenomenal day of streamer fishing.

We relocated on day two and again hiked into the river. With the waters levels still high and the water now clear, we expected some Hendricksons or Caddis to start popping. It never happened. Instead, our streamers proved to be the best bet to entice the brown trout from their lairs. The fishing wasn't as good, but the action was still hot. In the clearer flows, the fish often gave chase but veered away at the last second. There were so many heart breaking refusals.

The two days were not without their difficulties. The long hike into the river was actually the easy part. The rigors came stream side, crossing the raging torrent where a single step could take you from 1 to 5 ft. and a swim. Two of us took the plunge at the end of day one. The water was 42 degrees, and we had a 2 mile hike uphill to the truck. Well worth it considering the gold rush we received throughout the first day. Despite our struggles on day two, the promise and potential of a fat wild brown was more than enough to keep our spirits high and yearning to take a peak around the next corner.

Good times.