Phases II and III of the clinical trial for the Roughfisher Foam Clam (RFC) fly pattern were conducted this afternoon. Phase II was extremely successful which brought about phase III, a randomized trial which held mixed results. For all intensive purposes, I should have stuck to Phase II, but for the fly to be approved by the RFDA (RoughFisher Deptartment of Angling) and released for marketing, Phase III is a necessary evil.
Summer made a brief return today and reared it's ugly head. Some serious cloud to ground lightning electrified the morning. By the time I arrived at the river, the fireworks had moved east, ready to taunt and harass other anglers seeking refuge on the water. Warmth brought in from the Southwestern US as a result of Hurricane Ike, began to permeate through the arid atmosphere. For some reason, I rigged up my 9 weight this morning. The morning would unfold as to why I had the premonition to flaunt the unwieldy beast.
I started off the day with a rubber legged beadhead PT flashback nymph tied on my 6. Fish were still holding silently with the morning dew. I scanned the pool for the alpha females and blew a couple casts at them. As they began to sink down to the depths of obliviousness, I casted my fly into a pod of fish and hooked up with an average sized fish. Pretty sloppy, but at least it was a start.
After unhooking the fish, I casted the fly back out, to boost my confidence and warm up for the trial. After a little working, I got another fish to take the fly. It got the juices flowing. I was now ready to start the trial.
I grabbed my 9 and tied the RFC onto some 2X tippet, and threw the fly out to the edge of a veggie patch, adjacent to a back bay and the main channel. Plenty of mussels congregate in this area, and as a result, so do many fish. I did not have to wait long before my line moved. The fish readily took this fly. I pumped the fish up to the surface to see what it was; a common carp, Cyprinus carpio. This was the first carp to officially take the RFC.
I got my fly back out there to do some dredging. I put the fly into a little deeper and faster water, right across the current seam adjacent to the main channel. The going was good because soon after, another fish took my fly, hard. Darn near had me close to my backing. After a nice fight, I was able to land the fish and discovered the RFC planted firmly, again, in the corner of a mouth.
No sooner than I put my fly back into the swift water, that my fly line moved aggressively through the water. I pulled back to set the hook and watched as a huge wake formed ahead of my fly line. The fish starting peeling line, heading up and across the main channel. Once I saw my orange backing appearing I turned the drag up, afraid that I wouldn't be able to regain the line, and the fish, like has happened several times earlier this season. After I turned the fish downstream, I made up some ground with my fly line, however, the fish was trying to head through the box culverts under the flood control bridge. I turned the drag even harder and pulled it back up. After some strong arming, I finally got the fish close enough to the surface to realize I had on a nice fish. I knew right then and there, that these last few fish were the reason I rigged up my 9. Perhaps overkill on any situation other than the spring melt, it was definitely fitting the bill here. Even with the 9, I was beginning to tire. Luckily, so was the fish. I was able to land this brute and admire its glory. This thing was a tank.
At this point, things are going fabulous. Carp love this fly. Big carp. Not John Montana size mind you, but big for NW MN size for sure. It is obvious that the bigger carp love clams and can hardly resist this pattern. John definitely hit the nail on the head when he said that he avoids the sand flats and fishes the rocks, as this is where the bigger fish lie, hunting for some serious meat. Clams are that meat. I thought about renaming this fly KFC (Kentucky Fried Clam), since this fly is FIN licking good.
Over confident at this point, I started phase III of the trial, a randomized test. I tied on the roughfisher death clam and went to work. This is where the day started to turn. I started getting snagged. I broke of flies. I got my fly line and tippet twisted in every little weed and plant around me. I moved around and tried different spots and different flies, tripping here and there, almost going for a swim a few times. The sun was bearing down on me and it was hot, in the low 80s. Recent rains were so kind as to bear an evil hatch of vampirous little bitches, intent on sucking me dry. I was miserable. Nothing I could do could catch another fish. Three hours elapsed before I was finally able to take another fish on that rubber legged PT nymph.
Of course, this was just an anomaly, as a few minuted later I foul-hooked a melanistic carp in the dorsal fin. This fish had a very dark coloration on it, interesting indeed. I always thought these fish were buffalo interspersed amongst the carp. I guess I now know that there are melanastics mixed in with the carp and buffalo too.
The day continued to drag on, fruitless for my efforts. It was like night and day once noon hit. At one point I tied my last RFC on, after resting it for a few hours, and instantaneously got a hit. After a brief tug upstream, the fly let loose. Must have been a foul hook. It got my hopes up, as the fly would not get another look by another fish for the rest of the day. Finally, two hours later and hard up, I tied on an olive chenille carp wooly. After several drifts I was beginning to feel hopeless when my line went taut. I pulled back on the line and instantly knew that this was no carp. I had a quillback on. Funny how an afternoon of desperate fishing can quickly be erased by a single catch. Quillback are that kind of fish. They are so elusive and difficult to catch on a fly that it is a feat to land one. This turned a sour mood in to an elated one.
I ended the day on an up note and left satisfied, knowing the fish did not best me today. Unknowing if this may be my last fly fishing outing in a great while, I felt it fitting that I began and possibly ended the season with a quillback on the fly. A lot was accomplished and learned this year. A feather in the cap. A perfect bookend to a perfect season. Cheers!
- the roughfisher