I'm down in Wendy Berrell's neck of the woods for the next couple of weeks, poaching on his territory. After satisfying my duties of employment for the day, I grabbed some BBQ and headed down to the Zumbro to do some scouting for my outing with WB on Wednesday evening. I parked, rigged up my six weight and headed down for the South Fork. There was an Orvis boy down in there river, fishing for what I can only imagine are smallmouth bass. I didn't see him set the hook on anything.
I decided to hit the bike path and walk the river, looking for active feeders. Strangely enough, I met a fellow angler from Detroit Lakes, who was in town for bone marrow donation. Small world. We exchanged a few words and tactics and went our separate ways, he with his can of corn and me with my San Juan Carp Assassin.
I headed up to Cascade Creek and noticed a small low head dam. Figuring there had to be fish in there, I perched up atop the bank and looked for fish. I didn't notice anything, but I crept down the bank anyway. When I got my fly ready to cast, I noticed a bunch of shorthead redhorse and a carp make it over my way. I dropped my SJW in the water and the fish swam by ignoring it. I switched out the SJW for my golden ghost soft hackled wet fly. I waited for a fish to swim near enough for me to reach it by dapping. A pod of about five carp swam near. I lowered my fly in to the water, just in front of two fish that were swimming neck and neck. I lost visibility of my fly as it drifted near the grass on the bank. Figuring it was now or never, I pulled on my line and set the hook.
I guessed right, because a fish pulled back. Right near where I was fishing was a big snag of branches and a bunch of jagged limestone. It was my mission to keep the fish out of this mess. Initially I don't think the fish realized it was hooked as I was able to play it near shore with ease. Once I tried to land it though, it made a run for the channel and never looked back. This wasn't the largest fish by any means, and probably fared more on the small side of things, but this fish was determined not to be played out. I fought this fish for 10 minutes before realizing I was going to have to change tactics in order to land it.
I walked down the shoreline hoping to beach it on the rocks. This only made the fish run up the pool a bit and take more line. I eventually worked the fish back to where I had hooked it downstream, sweat pouring down my face. My T-shirt was soaked. It was a typical July day in Southeast MN, hot and muggy with a chance for thunderstorms. I looked back at the pedestrian bridge, wiped the sweat from my brow, and noticed a crowd of on-lookers watching me fight this fish. I figured after watching me fight for 20 minutes, I probably shouldn't lose this fish. I ran up up the bank, keeping tension on my line, and grabbed my lippa out of my chest pack. I made it back down the bank and got aggressive on this fish. I played it over the edge of the dam and into the spillway below. I played the fish up the concrete slope and tried to grab its lip without slipping on the mossy surface. Easier said then done. After some wrestling, I finally got a hold of the fish and made it up the bank.
The crowd was cheering, possibly even more impressed than I was with the catch. They thought it was the catch of a lifetime. It was just another day in the life of a roughfisherman. Another onlooker noticed I was grabbing a photo of the fish before I released it, and offered to take one of me and the fish.
I was exhausted and sweaty, but there were still a few hours of daylight left. The fish were played out in this section, so I tried a few different areas. I found another low head dam upstream and spotted a carp in the plunge pool. I got my fly in the water and immediately hooked up. Black Bullhead.
I sat there for another 15-20 minutes and caught another bullhead. I didn't spot the carp again. Figuring I had already fared better than I expected, I walked the trail back to the vehicle and headed back to the hotel.
It's always a good day when you can bring a carp on the fly to hand. I hope Wendy's ready to catch some fish.