The beginnings of the day were oddly reminiscent of a recent outing. Red skies, clouds, rain, and the smell of nitrogen and ozone in the air were ironically the backdrop for a rainbow at dawn. I was hoping that the rainbow would be a promising sign among an unsettled atmosphere; I was meeting up with a flyrod carp virgin, who had hoped to pop his cherry before the day was over. We packed his gear into my truck and headed on down the highway, nervous as to how the day was going to transpire. When we arrived at our destination nearly an hour later, we were greeted with a few bolts, and gentle claps of thunder. The rain was still coming down, but it was getting lighter off in the horizon, a sign of hope. We rigged up under some shelter and made our way down to the river. The rain had stopped.
Flows had dramatically dropped off on this stretch of river. They were nearly half of what they were just two weeks ago. I was excited with the possibility of finding quillbacks. When I made my way down the river bank, I was quickly bummed, as one of my prime carp spots was now nearly exposed due to the low water, and nary a carp were to be seen. I worked a stretch of water that had previously held carp before. The water was much clearer, and unfortunately no carp were spotted. I found a few shorthead and greater redhorse foraging in the river bottom, tails up. I could not entice a single one to take a fly. It was frustrating, but I know that this is often the norm with these fish. I looked upstream behind a boulder and found a few fish hanging in the current break.
I tossed my rubber legged X Factor nymph and instantly hooked up.
Those other fish were holding tight in the current so I threw my fly back out there and managed to hook up with another one.
I finally spotted a few carp so I grabbed my 8 wt that was rigged up with a San Juan Worm and did some dredging. These fish were off a ways, so I was not able to make a visual on the take. I blind nymphed up a couple carp in this manner before handing over this spot to the carp newbie.
Shortly after I hooked up with this fish, the rookie caught himself his first carp on the fly. Well done.
I moved on to a bunch of different spots and managed to hook up with all sorts of fish. I even managed to find a white bass. They are pretty rare in the Red River drainage, and are mainly found on the North Dakota side. To find one this far inland in MN was pretty impressive.
I found a spot that had probably a hundred carp clooping and sunning. There were a few feeders mixed in there, but I knew I had my work cut out for me. I tossed my SJW out there and managed to find a stray feeder to take it.
This badboy was snagged in the mouth.
After a few fish, the SJW was turning cold, so I rigged up another X Factor nymph. I had eyed up a boatload of quillbacks but could not interest them in anything. The X Factor was no different. Thinking about Wendy Berrell's post in CAG about clooping fish, he recalled my advice to try fishing a scud in these situations. I tied on a size 10 orange scud that I tied with cactus chenille. I found a pod of cloopers and cast off to the side of the group. There were a few outcast fish outside of the pod that were seemingly feeding. I quickly found out that they were indeed feeding as a carp slammed my scud.
I continued to work these fish and managed to find a few willing takers. One fish took my fly so aggressively that he inhaled my fly and swallowed it. I literally had to put my finger all the way down its throat to dislodge the barbless hook. I was able to get the hook out without any harm to the fish, but I had a sneaky suspicion that the fish was going to puke all over me. Thankfully it did not.
All in all, the day turned out well. Apparently that rainbow was indeed good luck, as the fly carp rookie managed to catch several carp and his first bigmouth buffalo. He commented on how lame carp fishing made brown trout look. I concur. Looks like another roughfisher is born.