Then came this year. Cool, wet, and with inconsistent weather patterns. The lake has been so high that either the fish have been thrown off of their feeding cycle or they are just too hard to see with that extra foot or so of murky water. It's been frustrating, to say the least, though there are spots that always have fish. I've gotten sick of casting to those same fish in the same spots every morning, and they are sick of me interrupting their breakfast. This morning I briefly considered going to beat my head against the wall some more, but the sane part of me won over and I went to the pond instead, for the first summer early morning wade session there in more than a year.
The first few shots I made to shopping fish were met with the most common response here... they didn't notice the fly. That's the trickiest thing about this pond during the summer. The fish often cruise at a good pace and don't really follow a clear path, so getting a good clean shot is a mix of excellent casting, on point intuition, and luck. I'm not perfect but I'm good enough. After a pile of crappies and bass I had a bubbler come down the stone wall in the middle of the flat, to the left of the sandbar I was standing on. It got pretty much perpendicular to me and started to wander around. It pretty much made a figure 8, then began heading directly away from me in a straight line. I made a reach mend cast that put the fly just in front of the fish and the line behind it and to the left. Three seconds and I felt a sharp pull. That was all. Heart stopper.
After a while I had only a few mediocre opportunities happening on that part of the flat, so I went to stalk fish from the wood line. It's perhaps the hardest kind of fishing I've ever done for common carp. It's just like hunting, really. Camouflage and being light on your feet is key. A good bow and arrow cast, necessary. Not good at drag and drop with the rod tip low? Go somewhere else. When I got to the section of shoreline I had pinpointed I came to one opening in the trees. There was one fish tailing out 25ft on the edge of some really thick lily pads. That one would be a tough cast but probably wouldn't see me. There was another one though, 15 ft out ad working down the margin to left of me. I carefully got into position in front of the fish, which required sneaking past it, all the while catching glimpses of it through the leaves. It was not a small fish. Eventually I felt I was in the right place to make a shot. I new I was only going to get one chance. The fish was now facing directly towards me, but because of the structure of that shoreline I new it was going to turn right and come into my casting window. Before it did, I made a bow and arrow cast 10 feet from the fish. As soon as it turned and picked up it's head I dragged the fly over and dropped it 8 inches in front of the fish. My fly sank to the bottom, and the carp came over and confidently inhaled the crayfish imitation. I waited a second and made a short sweeping hook set. The fish noticed something was up but didn't at first do much. It kind of swam around at my feet. Then it figured it out and left the margins in a very loud and violent way. Shaking like a leaf I stumbled out of the woods and got myself onto a rock pile I could fight the fish from. It was a long battle.
I've caught a few solid carp ts year, not as many truly exceptional fish as I have some years. I'd say none, actually. This one made up for that. It was by no means a giant, but at 36 inches and about 22 pounds it's my biggest fish so far this year.
Well, I think I've found a replacement for the lake on high water years or months!