Sunday, November 26, 2006

Carp fishing at its finest during the warmer months is an excercise in stealth, presentation and most importantly, observation. You can be as stealthy as a kingfisher and present the fly as accurately as Lefty Kreh, but if you don't focus on and observe the changes in the fish in relation to your fly, you'll go home without so much as a hook up most of the time. Fortunately, when the waters are warm you can expect plenty of opportunity to have these three items come together to meet an active, hungry fish. In November, when the waters cool the challenges don't change too much, but new ones are created. First, the water is usually much less clear here in the PNW where continuous rain through the winter months causes most of our waters to be discolored. Second, the cooler water slows the carp down and the sheer number of active fish is considerably less. In other words, you better make the most of your opportunities!

I spent a couple of hour Saturday with KB trying our luck at two of our go to spots. The sun was out off and on, and it was as warm as it had been for several days, but our expectations were still fairly low. At our first stop we saw thick chocolate milk, with only a few inches of visibility. Undaunted, we proceeded around the pond with KB in the lead. We carefully stalked the shoreline knowning that our only chance was to spot a fish in the margins where we could see him. 4 ft off the bank the water was impossible to see into.

I spotted a fish quickly. Not a large carp, but his head was really light in color so I was able to make him out as he moved from deeper water into the shallows, slowly picking his way along with his nose dipping to the bottom to feed. I made a short cast and quickly pulled the fly back a foot or two so that it sank slowly, about 12 inches in front of the fish. I expected the fish to continue forward and my plan was to twitch the fly when he got right on top of it, but to my surprise the fish spotted the fly while it sank and quickly closed the gap, pausing right where the fly should have touched bottom. No gills flared, no tail twitched, but I knew that fish had the fly and set the hook. Immediately the rod bent with the weight of the small carp. The fight didn't last long, even on my 4wt sage as the cool water has the fish pretty lethargic. I scaled the skinny little fish out at 3.5 lbs, KB took a quick picture and we released the fish despite the onlookers saying "Keep him! Eat him!" KB and I got a chuckle out of that.

We continued around the pond and KB stopped to change flies and work a mud cloud that was likely a carp in a little deeper water. I spotted a fish circling under a willow tree and poked my rod with about a foot of tippet out of the top guide through the branches, but I just couldn't get the fly into position. We checked another spot and I had a similar chance at a fish feeding in the shallows. Again, I reeled up all the line except about two feet of tippet and snuck my rod through an opening in the bushes. This time the fish was within reach and I gently set the fly down next to his head. The fish quickly turned and flared his gills and I attempted to set the hook, only to bang my rod on a branch before I could bring the line tight. I have no idea what I would have done with the carp had I actually hooked him, but it was a thrilling moment regardless.

KB and I hit one more spot but the cool, muddy water was really limiting our chances. At this point, the only fish Kim had actually seen was the one I landed. As we came around a patch of brush we saw a familiar orange color in the water. Sure enough Highway Cone was cruising the margins. KB ran to get ahead of him and I settled in to look for any fish following HC. I did get one cast at a big carp, but no take. I just couldn't see well enough to spot anything else. KB returned a few minutes later. He had crouched into position and seen HC moving toward him through the brush. Every few feet HC dipped his head to eat. Kim said he made a good cast, and when HC came into position he twitched the fly. That big orange head turned, spotted the fly and HC immediately spooked for deep water. Tough fish to fool.

All in all a great day. No carp in November for KB, but a fun two hours of fishing. If we can have action like that throughout the winter I'd be satisfied!

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