29 April, 2011

Something old is something new

I am a newly minted father and my daughter, Holly, is now ten months old. She can't (really) walk yet and since I am mostly unemployed and provide most of the daycare, I've devised a method to baby-sit while fishing (brilliant, I know). 

It is a simple method really; she rides in the BABYBJÖRN Comfort Carrier and together we stalk the banks of local ponds and lakes looking for fish and fishy spots to cast. I get a lot of, "oooh that's so cute", and "is that your bait" from bystanders. I just grin, usually mumble an insult, and keep walking.

On our maiden voyage, we took a noon-day stroll around the local town lake which I had never fished before. The weather was (finally) nice and we were hoping to tempt a few early season centrarchids to bite.

Initially, we didn't see any sign of panfish, or much of anything really. This lake is fairly turbid, apparently due to a proliferation of suspended algae (Lake Quannapowitt). Since the lake is so shallow (e.g., avg. depth ~ 10') and it surrounded by so many, nicely groomed lawns (i.e., lots of fertilizer and  thus Nitrogen), moderate eutrophication is not surprising. 

Lake Quannapowitt looking North along the Carp flat

Anyway, we continued to walk and stalk, casting to fishy looking spots until up ahead, under the tree shown in the picture above, we saw a disturbance and what appeared to be a "fin" sticking out of the water...

...and this is where things started to get exciting.

Now, I lived in Louisiana for ~6 years and I spent a fair share of my time stalking benthic-oriented drum and sheepshead on mud bottomed flats. Disturbed water and fins sticking out of the water always indicated hungry and actively feeding fish.

This is, of course, a freshwater lake, so there a only a few freshwater species that might exhibit this behavior; I immediately thought carp and huddled down a bit so that I could get a closer to confirm my initial identification.

As I slowly approached my target, the broad, golden flank of Cyprinus carpio materialized in the murky water. Actually there were two carp feeding very close together and my heart beat a little faster.

I asked Holly, "you think they'll take a wooly bugger?"

Holly responded, "dahhh, doo, doo, bah, bah!"

"Yeah", I said, "I probably should switch to the Jitterbee, that water is pretty murky"

"Gah, Gah, yah, yah, hrmph" was the reply from Holly.

Based on the advice from my young gillie, I switched flies and checked my knots. Those fish were pushing 5 lbs.

"Dahh, dahh, dud, doo" Holly whispered.

"Yeah, yeah...I know, keep a low profile and put the fly about 2' in front of the closest fish", I replied quietly.

Sure enough, I put my first cast right in the sweet spot and the closest fish suddenly perked up and glided slowly over to the fly.

A very subtle twitch of the leader was all that was needed before I set the hook...

...exhilaration, now I'm solidly hooked to a surprised, and now very pissed-off, torpedo. Zing right, then left, accelerate straight out, and back. It was a good fight and after a few minutes, the beast allowed me to slide it near my feet on the bank. And this is the point at which my new method of baby sitting got a little complicated...

I could not bend over far enough to get a two-handed purchase on the fish; I had 18 lbs of "fishing guide" strapped to my chest. I also cursed myself for using 4X tippet, as the lip of the bank was to tall to slide the fish up on to the grass without breaking the line.

"So, what do you think Holly?"

"Gah, gah, daah, dahh, doo"

"Yeah, I should make a desperate, one-handed grab for the tail or maybe the operculum."

SNAP! the line broke as the fish surged away from my meaty paw, splashing both of us with murky water in indignation.

"Yahh, heee, heee, heee!!" screamed Holly in joy

"Twah, pftttt" I spat trying to get most of the algae stained water from my mouth.

"Well, that was fun...lets see if we can find any more "torpedos", I told my guide.

"Yah, Yah, Yah, Yah, hrmph" she replied excitedly.

South facing view of the Carp flat

We continued stalking and found a few more feeding carp. I hooked another nice fish of ~6 lbs, but lost it in similar fashion right at the bank; I think I might need to bring a long handled net.

The area that we were fishing is perfect for stalking carp. It is a shallow, broad, soft-to-hard bottomed flat that extends for several yards out into the lake. The area along the bank is a well groomed, flat lawn with safe and easy walking with your "guide". There are very few obstacles, besides joggers and dog walkers, to snag your backcast.

Even better, the carp population seems healthy and I saw few fish under 3 lbs. A return trip a few days later revealed even more carp but no takes since they were more interested in propagating the species than eating my imitations.

I love catching carp on the fly. I used to catch them with flies when I was a young child. When I lived in the Roanoke Valley (VA) I used to frequent a few urban ponds that were full of carp. When I was a guide, I would occasionally bring my clients, after a long day of trout fishing, to these ponds to hook and play 5+ lbs carp on 4 weight rods. It sometimes doubled my tip.

Besides discovering that my new method of baby sitting works (for the most part) I am super, duper excited about having a healthy population of unmolested carp (I have never see anyone fishing here) within 5 minutes of my door.

See, something old is something new....

1 comment:

  1. I've been searching for a local place to chase the ghost. I used to wind surf on this lake in another lifetime, long before fly fishing.

    I'm definately planning a trip there in the near future. Thanks for sharing!