Saturday, September 1, 2012

Austin of Salt396 Talks Carp

We were able to catch up with Austin of Salt396 this past week and throw together a little project for Carp Week. Austin fell in love with our idea of having a week all about carp and wanted to contribute. After checking out his site, we couldn't say no. With amazing content, great writing and species on there that I guarantee only a handful of people have caught on the fly like this Gar Gar Pow Pow...

we couldn't resist. So here's Austin's view of what Carping is all about...

As I stood at the back of my vehicle rigging up my 6 weight, I had time to reflect on how lucky I was to get to go fishing that day. The sun was hot on my back, and I slid my buff up into position. It was near noon; carp fishermen need not get up with the dawn. Sightfishing requires high sun, and carp seem to be active throughout the day.
I looked up as a rusty, paint-peeling Dodge rattled by. Ah, small town America. I waved to the driver and the happy border collie in the bed as they passed. Stepping off the asphalt onto the steep, hardpacked trail to the river, I couldn't help but smile. I had sneaked a peek off the bridge and had seen my quarry.  Cruising near the surface in the deeper pools, nosing like pigs through the silty bottom of the shallows next to the bank. It was a moment's deliberation over the fly box  - you know, where your hand hovers and waits for your eyes and brain and gut to have the conversation to determine which fly will be first out. It was a short moment this time because there were really only two choices. Mulberry that sinks slowly or mulberry that floats.
First things first - what're they eating? I have my standard carp catcher patterns - my rojo bug, and a couple others - but it was mulberry season on the river. Mulberries? you might ask... what does That have to do with the price of tea in China. Well my friend, I wasn't kidding when I said carp rooted 'like pigs'. They're omnivorous and like to munch anything from veggies to protein depending on what's available. However they can also be frustratingly picky - if they're eating cottonwood fluff, you gotta come up with a convincing fluff fly. If they're eating mulberries, throwing much else in front of them will elicit few eats. You get the idea. Mulberry trees like to grow along river-courses in some areas - hanging over the water, they provide both a shady spot for the fish to hang and at the right time of year literally drip a steady supply of floating berries into the water. Bingo. Berry pattern. Challenge accepted.
Tying on the 'dry' - hunk of black foam on hook, rounded with curved scissors into a berryish shape on a size 6 hook - I stepped out of the dappled shade of the trees and into the kiln-like heat of the sandbar. The river, strangled by drought, flowed slowly by, clear in the shallow spots and a grey-green in the few remaining holes. The carp were not hard to see; from my vantage I could see 5 or 6 and I stood quietly a moment and looked for a good spot to begin my approach. Seeing a spot relatively clear of the scrubby collection of plants that springs up on sandbars, I eased over. Stripping out what I judged to be enough line, maybe 50 feet, I flicked a short cast onto the water and waited for the biggest carp of the bunch to separate from the group.

After a moment I saw my chance - I dropped the fly with a plop! a foot ahead of the fish. I tell ya, if those fish had ears all of them would've been perked up at that sound. My target fish moved immediately forward and without hesitation slurped down my faux berry. What a great moment - satisfaction for a fly well-tied and a good presentation, as well as the pure joy of a firm hookset shortly followed by the taut, live-wire feeling of being connected to a strong fish. I admit to grinning from ear to ear as I worked the fish against the current and turned his head to tire him out. I held him for a moment, quickly lifting for a photo and then releasing the fish back into the pool.
No sooner did I start up the shore than I turned around to see a cruising pair of carp sweep down the current and turn off into a shadowy spot under a mulberry tree. Ah yes. Let the games begin.

Stepping into the sunlight I made my way across the softly squishing riverbed and angled to a point slightly behind and downstream of my quarry. I had learned the basics of how to stalk wary fish in low, clear water here on this very river, and it had served me well on everything from freshwater trout to bonefish. Now here I was back in the river, and I was immensely satisfied to apply all that I had learned since then. It was like showing an old teacher that you had taken their lessons to heart and gone on to make something of yourself. Staying low and wearing drab clothing, I was as stealthy as I could be. Once in position, I flicked a cast under the overhanging branches and let my 'berry' fall with a satisfying plop.

The pair of fish practically tripped over each other moving to the source of the sound; two rubbery mouths emerged from the water, groping for what they thought to be a delicious berry. A long second happened, me intent on the fish, the fish intent on the fly. One carp shouldered aside the other and found success, slurping the berry down. An instant later, a strip strike set home with a watery explosion as the stuck fish streaked upstream. A game of ring-around-the tree ensued where I found myself run-sloshing through the water trying to keep the fish from breaking me off on a submerged stump. Clamping on the reel as the fish bee-lined from there to a logjam, I locked down and angled my rod hard to the left; the carp slewed sideways in a powerslide, never stopping his tail as he continued to angle into the tangled mess of branches. Time slowed down, the fish a resplendent gold on its flanks, with its glowingly orange tail beating strongly, fighting, reaching…  Then, with an almost audible creak, the hook bent and popped out, reducing my electric connection to a disappointing slack.
I took a deep breath as my world expanded again, away from the tunnel vision I get focused on a fish.
I started moving along the rivercourse, searching for signs of active carp. In places they were moving through water so shallow that I could see their v-wake from over a hundred yards downstream.
I never get tired of the game - first, find the fish. Then, somehow, get close to the fish. Then, even less likely, fool the fish into thinking that the fly is actually worth eating. Don't miss the hookset, don't break it off, don't straighten the hook... And then, maybe, you'll have the opportunity to hold a living, gasping, wriggling representative from another world. A link to the element that we have explored the least of them all.

I love this game.

A huge thanks goes out to Austin for getting involved! Head over to Salt396 for some super legit content and get out there and take what you've learned this week to get a golden bonefish on the end of your line!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the cause! Looking forward to next year's Carp Week already.