I catch my share of 20 plus lb carp...19 in 2012, and 18 so far in 2013. Still, I don't take those big fish for granted in any way. Basically, everything has to go right in order to land a 20. First, you have to spot the fish, then stalk the fish, get the angle, make the cast, get the eat, detect the take, set the hook, handle the first run, keep the fish clear of weeds or rocks, pray your knots hold...and lastly, hope your fishing partner doesn't blow the net job. If any one of those goes against you...forget it. If you kick a rock during the stalk, get carp blocked by a bass as the fly sinks, or have a beaver spook the feeding 20 (happened Saturday) you won't catch the fish. Simple as that. I am lucky, I get lots of shots at big fish, and I catch a few, I often write about those fish...but this is what usually happens (and happened Saturday):
I was walking one of my favorite gravel bars, a place I have caught many 20 plus lbers, so I was on high alert, and it paid off. At first all I could see was a tan dust cloud, about 80 feet down the bank. I got dry, and hugged the shoreline brush as I snuck closer. At 60 feet I could see the fish, a big, black volleyball head poking out of the light sediment cloud, white mouth opening and closing. It was grazing, facing into the steeply sloped bank, almost horizontal as it fed right on the drop off. I took a moment to check my knots, and hooks. I was fishing two light flies which would be perfect in this situation. I needed to get close enough to get a cast that would send the flies tumbling down the drop off, right to a waiting monster. I am no great caster, and with my right arm pinned by the bushes, I knew I needed to get close, so I started the stalk.
The good news, by keeping tight to the brush I didn't have to worry about my profile as long as I moved slowly enough. Making a stalk bent over in a crouch is hell on my back! The bad news...there were 40 feet of baseball sized cobble between me and where I wanted to be in order to know I could lay the flies right where I wanted them. I started moving, one slow and careful step at a time. 50 feet, then 40, 30, and miraculously, 20 feet and the fish still fed, unperturbed.
Having long since stripped enough line off of my reel, I made a cast, keeping it high and above the brush as the flies sped behind me...hooking the brush now would mean the end of the shot. The cast was good, but the instant the flies touched the water the fish stopped feeding. I froze as the flies sank, too far to get an eat as I had planned a drag and drop, but the fish was suddenly on high alert, not ready to eat anything. The big fish backed up, turned left and slowly swam up the bank. With a smaller fish I would have likely fired off another cast in an attempt to get the flies out in front, but that would have spooked this big girl for good, so I waited. The fish swam about ten feet, turned to the bank, and started to eat again.
I made a short, ultra careful stalk, one foot slowly in front of the other. Then I made another cast, this time putting the flies right in the zone rather than planning on the drag and drop. The second the flies hit the water the fish stopped feeding, turned and headed up the bank again. I froze, and let the fish settle, about 20 feet up the bank.
The same slow, careful stalk, only before I started moving I clipped off one fly, leaving a single, lightly weighted hybrid between me and a 20 plus lb carp. I somehow got into position again without spooking the fish. I could see the huge head, slightly wagging from side the side. The tail, like a fan waved and pushed and a huge bucket mouth flashed underwater as nymphs and plant matter met their demise. I watched for a few seconds, the made a short, but very accurate cast.
The second the hybrid hit the water, the big fish stopped feeding...backed up, did a 180 and swam off into the depths.
Most of the time, not everything goes right.