It was the makings for a busted day. Even though the weather forecast was to be fair with light wind, a large system of thunderstorms and showers loomed in the horizon. As I made my way south, the sky darkened and the occasional bolt of lightning electrified the sky. I was already halfway there and it was too late to turn back. I was going to make the most of the day, come rain or shine.
When I arrived at the river, I donned my rain gear and put on my boots. There was a light rain falling and an occasional boom of thunder off in the distance. I kept my eye on the clouds, ready to retreat if the storm threatened near. I took cover under a shelter and assembled my 8 weight. I tied on a San Juan Worm, the armored car version, and made my way up the hill to the river bank. As I approached the bank, I wondered if the carp would be put off by the rain. A quick scan of the shoreline revealed a bunch of carp and buffalo up near the surface. The only problem now was to decide which one to offer my fly to.
After some deliberation, I finally found a fish worthy of my fly. The only problem was that this beast wanted to feed under the security of a sunken tree branch. A pesky beaver had just fallen a young cottonwood. After a couple tries, I wasn't able to thread my fly in between the branches and into the hot zone without snagging some wood. I didn't want to spook the fish, so I held off. I figured my patience would pay off with a fish, unfortunately, the dozens of fish that were previously near the surface slipped off into deeper water and disappeared. Things weren't looking good. Not being able to make a visual on a fish, I blind nymphed the current seam in front of me. My rod doubled over with the first fish of the day.
This wasn't a big bruiser, but it was a nice start. My armored SJW performed flawlessly and held up great to the fish. Now to test it's durability on multiple fish. Of course, hooking a fish is always good for spooking the crowd. They might not be up near the surface, but I now that those sneaky fish are lurking near the bottom, just below me. I dunked my SJW and dredged up another fish.
Those two fish effectively turned off the bite momentarily. Occasionally a pod of buffalo would cruise through, but I could not present my fly in a manner that would entice them to take it. By now, the rain had stopped and it was starting to get warm and muggy. The sun began to peek through some clouds so I shed my jacket and figured it would be a good time to switch tactics. I grabbed the spinning rod and immediately hooked up with a big fish. This was easily the biggest carp of the day.
I drifted a crawler a few more times and ended up catching bunch of goldeyes, some bass (smallmouth and largemouth), a couple of decent eater sized channel cats and some freshwater drum. I caught one lone redhorse today, a golden.
Quickly bored with the spinning rod, I moved downstream in search of fish. I found the motherload of all buffalo! There must have been a hundred fish clooping on the surface. They were taking in the foam on the surface. I tied on a cream/yellow colored cottonwood seed pattern and dapped my fly. I found a nice-sized buffalo and offered my fly right in front of its mouth. It sucked the fly in slightly and I hooked the fish in its lower palate. I fought it briefly until the hook pulled loose. I tried fishing the fly for a while longer before realizing how stupid this was. This was not sporting*.
I went back upstream and looked for more buffalo. I tied on a rubber legged antron nymph and carefully studied the water for any silhouettes. I finally found a feeding buffalo and began to work my fly on it. The fish moved over my fly so I could not see if it took it or not. I set the hook and immediately realized that I snagged the dorsal fin. Ugggh. This was a nice fish to boot. After landing the fish I released it, hoping for a legit hook up.
I moved to the other side of the river and settled in to my trusty spot. I casted my fly into the current seam, and shortly thereafter, my line went taut after a few strips. A nice carp had taken my fly and bolted upstream. Things were picking up. I quickly released the fish and casted my fly out again. After a brief drift, my line tightened up and a nice buffalo was on the other end. Another snag. That made two now. I was getting bummed. I caught some bass and a couple bluegills when I decided to cast to the pool in front of me. My line quickly tightened and again the recipient was a buffalo. Once I got the fish near the surface I looked for the mouth and found my fly buried in it. Yes! Finally a fair hook up. This fish was not to be outplayed. After some time, I finally managed to get the fish near shore to land it. This was the biggest buffalo of the day.
I was pumped. My persistence paid off. It was getting close to quitting time so the next fish was the last. A few drifts through the seam didn't produce anything, so I casted back in to the pool again. Right on, another carp. It was the smallest carp of the day, but that was alright with me. I "snagged"* this fish right in the mouth. I really buried the hook good in this one. It took me some time to get the barbless hook dislodged from the upper palate.
This outing was another success. The crummy weather quickly dissolved into a warm sunny day. This day wasn't about numbers, even though I caught a fair amount of fish. It was about quality. I brought some big fish to hand, including a nice bigmouth buffalo. Not too bad for a fly fishing "fish snagger"*.
[*To be addressed in a future post]