Monday, September 25, 2006

I spent Thursday and Friday in a conference room at the Sawgrass Resort in Jacksonville, FL. We spent two days discussing our successes and challenges as a company this year, and making plans for next year. As usual, the discussions were fruitful, and the meetings went well. We got ahead of schedule, and actually didn't have to meet on Saturday morning, so I was thankful that I had carried my 7 wt with me to Jacksonville.

I woke up Saturday morning around 8, had a long breakfast and then grabbed my rod, reel, and flies and walked out the front door of the resort. I was planning on spending the afternoon with one of the guy's from the Jacksonville office and someone from our corporate office in Atlanta, but I had at least a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with Kip and Jonathan. I walked down the long driveway along the hotel pond and eyed the water seriously. I did see a few panfish, but nothing to indicate any carp, so I keep walking. I crossed a busy road and headed toward a shopping complex, and spotted another big pond. As I walked around this pond I spotted a small alligator swimming out in the middle. Again, no carp but lots of panfish, and also a few signs posting the pond as no fishing.

I continued on, and crossed another road to get to a pond in front of a big grocery store. Here I hit the jackpot. As soon as I walked up to the pond I spotted two feeding carp near the shore. I dropped to all fours and crawled up to discover that not only were they large carp in the mid teens, they were grass carp! I watched them eat for a few minutes. They would move right up to the bank and grab a big mouthful of the weeds embedded in the shoreline, about as much as you or I could grab with our fist. With the weeds clamped into their mouths, the carp would then shake back and forth while slowly swimming backwards to rip the vegetation loose, then slurp it up like a mouthful of spaghetti. Really interesting, but it looked tough to mimic with a fly!

Nevertheless, I got into position. For the next hour I realized that grass carp are indeed the spookiest fish I've ever seen. If I coughed, they spooked. If I stood up, they spooked. If I slipped, they spooked. If I false cast more than once, they spooked. I ended up literally crawling around the pond while the cars on A1A honked and pointed, hunting these grass carp. I managed to get the fly in front of plenty of fish, but almost the second the fly touched down, most would spook. It was pretty frustrating.

Finally, I got close enough to a fish to literally set the fly softly into the water next to his head. As the mohair leech slowly sunk, the big fish turned slightly and inhaled it. I quickly set the hook and the fight was on! Sort of...

The fish made a short run, then came in like a log (even worse than a northern pike!) I reached down to try to tail him, and then things got interesting. The grasser sensed me coming and bolted for deep water, making two long runs that almost touched my backing. I eventually got the fish in under control, and landed him by tailing him and getting my other hand under his belly. What an interesting fish! It is clearly built for eating, and makes me think of a freshwater cow. The mouth had some roughness inside, but no teeth at all, and the entire fish was stiff and strong, not much softness even in the belly. I'm guessing this carp weighed about 14-15 lbs, but I did not have my scale, and it was such a foreign species to me that I couldn't be sure. It felt heavy, but I haven't seen enough of them to really know.

So I have now added grass carp to the list! I would love to catch a few more, but with the fish being illegal to chase in both OR and WA, it might be a while before the opportunity presents itself. Always good to justify carrying the fly rod on a plane though!


Wendy Berrell said...

Wow - great fish. I knew you'd get one... what an addition to the fly rod life list. Congratulations on a very cool and interesting experience. It sounds like you had to work for this fish.

Anonymous said...

Great story. I love when you can work a little fishing into a business trip. I'll be packing my 6 wt when I go to Dallas next week, wouldn't leave home without it!

Neat photo of that Amurs head in that thick, plasticky Florida grass.


John Montana said...

thanks guys. after chasing these guys around and based on previous experiences with them, i would say that grass carp are the toughest freshwater fish to hook on a fly. really spooky.

Anonymous said...

Great story. I've taken grass carp before in FL. No question they are extremely shy and they fight just as your did. A short run then dead weight but when you get them close and they see you then the fight really begins