Sunday, June 30, 2013

Muddy Water Carping

With the heat of summer upon us, it is also time for that annual threat, the severe thunderstorm. Looking at weather forecasts, it seems as if thunderstorms are expected to occur every single day. They come quick and dump an inch or more of rain in a few short hours. For trout streams, this is replenishment. To a warm water angler, this muddies things up a bit. Fishing the shoreline for carp usually improves, and you might even be lucky enough to fish a flooded area for a carp. For those of us that depend on sight fishing in clear water, things can get a bit tricky, especially for those fish feeding in the middle of a body of water. These techniques will help you to catch carp in muddy water while helping you develop a sixth sense.

During my first few years of targeting carp on the fly, the preferred strategy in muddy water was to throw on a strike indicator. Although a reliable option in certain circumstances and excellent at detecting a take, indicators also detect any contact with the line or fly. A take and a bump register the same way to an angler and in my experiences it can result in a lot of foul hooked or snagged fish. My technique began to change as my experiences molded a sixth sense, or ability to sense a take without actually seeing it occur. Since, I have come to rely on my sixth sense whenever targeting fish in muddy water.

In order to accomplish catching carp in muddy water, one needs to pay careful attention to the feeding activity of the fish. In high, muddy water, carp let their guard down and go on the feed. You'll often find them in places that they normally will not be. Since carp are almost impossible to see feeding in muddy water, you'll have to spot them by finding the evidence of their feeding. This most often occurs by spotting a mud trail or a steady plume of bubbles. Once spotted, you need to determine the direction that the carp is facing. This requires careful observation of their feeding movements and mud plumes/bubbles. If the water is shallow enough, you may even get a glimpse of a tail which is a clear giveaway. Once you see which way they are facing, look for a pattern. Are they staying in one spot, slowly making their way up a linear path, or going any direction they want? The latter is the most difficult to catch, but the first two are catchable.

Once you spot and observe the fish, the next step is the presentation. Whether you are tossing a stationary bottom fly, a mid-column fly, or a fly fished on the bottom, you can read the take the same way. When fish are actively feeding on  the bottom, they have their mouths in the muck and their senses are clouded by their disturbance. Once they are done, they will stop, pause, and continue, or they will move to a new spot to feed again. During these exchanges, when the fish stops or moves, is when they are susceptible to a fly. For this reason, I like to present my fly on the bottom, about 1-2 feet in front of the actively feeding fish. When the bubbles or cloud of mud stop rising from the bottom, you know the fish has paused or is looking to continue elsewhere. There is a few seconds of opportunity here when the fish will eat your fly.

If you are fishing a stationary bottom fly like a sucker spawn imitation your sixth sense is a prerequisite. Once the bubbles/mudding stops the fish can be on your fly. Usually there is a 1-5 second window where the carp can suck in your offering. If I think the carp is on the fly, I will tighten my leader/tippet and give a slow strip-strike. If this misses, I'll rarely spook the fish and since its slow, I am definitely not going to foul hook one. I will then wait until the fish begins mudding again and repeat the process. If  the slow strip strike is a success, I will continue the slow strike and the carp will feel the tension, bolt, and hook themselves.

If you are fishing a mid-column or bottom fly that requires action, the presentation is the same. Have the fly on the bottom or in the column at the moment the carp stops feeding. Give a short strip and pause to get the carp's attention. While rooting in the bottom, carp disturb aquatic invertebrates and will hunt them down. Having your fly flee the carp when he emerges from mudding is highly representative of the movement of its actual forage. In this case, you will feel the take after the strip.

Muddy water carping is not easy. A lot of time on the water and fly fishing for carp is needed in order to be able to read the body language of these fish and develop a sixth sense. The aforementioned strategies here are higher level techniques that can be very effective once mastered. They require a lot of patience, accuracy, and an acute awareness of carp behavior to work well.

Good luck.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Upon first hearing that the periodical magicicadas would be emerging en masse upon the eastern Mid-Atlantic region in 2013, I was pumped to say the very least. Months leading up to the brood II emergence, a day could not go by without me at least thinking about them and the possibilities in store. Having missed out on them in central Pennsylvania a few years back, I perused the internet looking at videos and reports from previous emergences and day dreamed of pods of carp and trout rising to feast upon the hapless insects. One particular article on the event claimed that an estimated 1 trillion of the cicadas were expected to serenade us with their presence. Needless to say, my hopes were sky high and bound to be disappointed.

As reports started to emerge in late May, I took to the vice to concoct a pattern that I hoped would work. As the days went by, I texted friends/family and browsed social media outlooks looking for any sign of activity in my area. There was nothing. As the weeks went by and into June, I began to doubt that I would be able to cast my flies at much of anything. There was nothing to be heard of, save for some scattered and isolated internet rumblings. My mind began to question whether the late spring frosts or flooding had anything to do with the delay or lack of an emergence. As the third week of June began, I was out on a golf outing with the entire family and the insect I had been dreaming of flew over the tee box. It was about to go down.

As it turns out, they had emerged after all and I was just looking in the wrong places. I was waiting for the bugs to come to me when I had to go to the bugs. Driving around and listening for the twilight sound of cicadas (think the movie Them) became a daily activity. Talking to fellow fishermen for advice and whereabouts became another. My dreamlike expectation of having magicicadas emerging everywhere and drowning out conversations was a mirage. They are actually extremely isolated (in my area) where certain sections of a stream have them while other sections do not. One side of a mountain could be alive with cicadas while the other won't have any. Most developed areas are devoid of the magicicada and then you can drive into a town and they are bouncing off your windshield. They are here and there but not everywhere.

My high hopes produced unrealistic expectations and I have since been brought back to reality. There aren't a trillion cicadas out there, but there are a lot, and you just have to find them. All the fish in the river aren't going nuts for them but there are fish gorging themselves and willing to hammer a size 6 dry fly. For those willing to go and find them, you will experience some outstanding fishing. However, you might just have to get out of your comfort zone and explore some new areas.

Beat to Hell
Teeth Marks Courtesy of Wild Browns...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Valley

Poe Paddy

It had been two years since I fly fished Happy Valley for trout and five years since I was able to fish the green drake hatch. Either way you look at it, that is way too long to avoid some of Pennsylvania's best fishing...and crowds. As I made my way northwest over mountains, ridges, and endless farmland, the smell of manure wafted into my open windows as I listened to country music. I had a shitty grin on my face the whole time. I arrived at the tunnel of Penns Creek around 7:30 and hiked downstream to find an opening. At nightfall and on cue, a smorgasboard of insect life began its nightly routine led by the fluttering of the drakes. A few fish came to hand and I stayed an hour into the night attempting to coax those gorging trout into taking an artificial when they have thousands of naturals to choose from. Satisfied, I hiked out and headed to Walmart in State College for some shuteye.

The next two days, I made the rounds fly fishing the Little J, Spring, Spruce, and Penns. The days were hot and sunny, making tough conditions but I still had some success exclusively fishing dries. On a particular slow afternoon on Penns, I ended up spending five hours stalking two small pods of carp. I finally was able to coax a 15 lber into taking a green drake nymph. With the current, a 5 wt, and 4x the fight was on. He promptly sheered my tippet in half on a rock downstream. Worth it. No matter where I ended up during the day, I returned to Penns each night for the drakes. I was hoping to catch a slab of a brown trout, but each time I came up empty handed. I caught fish though, and the experience of seeing such biomass in the air is worth it everytime.

On my final day, my buddy Eric made the drive to fish Spring Creek and to experience the drakes for his first time. We had some great success nymphing and sight fishing on Spring before we headed to Penns and experienced the peak of the hatch. The drakes were so thick, that you would hit dozens of them with your rod on each casting stroke. You could feel the vibrations in your rod hand as they hit the blank and line in the air. It was crazy.

You can probably find lesser crowds and better drake fishing elsewhere in the area, but the drake hatch on Penns is worth experiencing at least once. If you time it right, it will be something that you'll always remember.

Donny B.

Low-Holed by this crew numerous times...
Stealthily stalking some Spring Creek trout...

A visitor...