Thursday, May 30, 2024

Knee Deep in The Trees

 It isn't terribly common that I stay out on the same piece of water I just guided on for five hours. Typically I've seen what I need to see and am keen to go elsewhere and explore or make sure some other bite is setting up. But sometimes a bite so good is underway that I'm compelled to stick around. That was the case one day in late April this spring. I'd found hoards of carp churning the water into a muddy soup in a flooded area so thick it made approaching them in the boat tricky. But I knew I had waders in the car, and that the bottom was firm enough I could approach these fish on foot. So after I parted ways with my client, I hastily dawned my waders again, offloaded some un-needed weight from the canoe, and paddled back to the area in question. With the boat hauled up safely onto a dry embankment, I crept my way out into the flooded forest trying to make as little wake and disturbance as possible. 

Carp often have somewhat predictable feeding patterns and paths in lakes and rivers that maintain a semi predictable route unless spooked, but in flooded woods they don't set up the sort of home territories. The same individual fish are often in the same area- I've seen the same orange koi in the same patch of flood plain for the last three seasons -but their feeding is very random. There'll be a post up on Patreon about carp feeding patterns soon for those interested. But for the context of this story, what that means is that I had very little clue what each fish I spotted was going to do next. They might tail 15 feet away one moment then pop up right at my feet, linger in a bush for a while, or just go in a straight line. It was very erratic, which made things both interesting and quite tricky. The thick mud they were stirring up was also a complication, making it near impossible to see some of the fish. I've become fairly good at both finding the fish and intuiting the strike without feeling or seeing it though, and that makes all the difference. It really wasn't all that long before I go one, a feisty little common. I maneuvered the rod and put a lot of pressure on it to control the fish in the tight quarters and snaggy environment. It's a close quarters brawl, no room to see backing here. 

I continued along after I let that fish swim, looking for tail swirls, fresh muds, and patches of tiny bubbles or "fizz". Fish were absolutely everywhere, so it was more about finding the easiest target than finding a target at all. It wasn't unusual that I could mark half a dozen or more fish feeding within 30 feet of me. Regardless of size, I always erred to whatever fish was closest to me. In fact, I didn't even know what I was casting to when I got this gorgeous little fantail to eat. 

2024 has been the year of the fantail here. Last year I only put one in the net. This year there's been more trips when one made it to the boat that trips where one didn't. Often we've managed more than one! I'm not sure what accounts for that abundance in the genetic stock, but there sure are a lot of them. I'm not complaining. They're such absurd and cool looking fish, with crazy elongated fins, droopy long barbles, and wild pom-poms in their nostrils. They're really quite beautiful fish. Especially the one I got on the other day I stayed late and waded after a trip....

I count myself so, so lucky to have a fishery of this caliber at my fingertips. Though the flood game is short lived its just so incredibly engaging, even on the days when very few fish commit to eating. It's like being in a bayou, but right here in the northeast. And in that bayou there are 5 to 30 pound fish cruising around and feeding, and with the right boat and gear I can get clients to put flies in front of those fish. It's just so, so cool and there's really no other fishery like it around here. 

After getting four nice, feisty fish in a short session, I made my way back to the canoe, taking a shot at an unwilling much bigger fish up way shallow on the way. It's pretty wild to see how far up into the floodplain a fish of over 20 pounds will wander. 

If you'd like to experience this fishery with me next season, it's best to book early. By mid March this year my calendar was pretty darned full and the only open dates were when I had cancelations or had to shuffle folks around. So be prepared to grab dates as early as February. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, Sammy, and Cris & Jennifer for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

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