April 24, 2010

prairie busting

The last adventure before heading West.

I gave it a go at my trusty old spot and after a couple hours of one silver redhorse, one smallmouth, and a hard earned carp, I got in the Conestoga and left Dodge. My home watershed is the only one in the state still at flood stage (at flood stage since Fall of 2008). Since it's quite obvious that flow conditions won't improve in the near or possibly even long term, it was time to bust some sod and and plow some new waters.

SLR mouth
I visited a few waters that I typically don't fish until later in the year. Not because the fish won't be there this time of year, but because spring runoff makes the water unbelievably murky. At this stage of the game, there really isn't much difference between chocolate milk and pea soup save the color of the silt and clays. It was time to play the heron and do some stalking.

Carp were spotted at two of the three spots I scouted. At the first location, chocolate milk flowed out of a wetland adjacent to a lake. I was surprised to not find any white suckers holding in reaches downstream of the wetland, but the water was presumably too turbid and silt laden for their liking. I made my way up a shallow basin of the wetland where I captured a few carp late last summer. Even after an hour of scanning the water, I could not make out any fish near the surface except for the tail of a pike, relentlessly chasing around a school of baitfish. Not tell tale bubble trails were visible, but I did witness silt plumes on three occasions. I was convinced at the time that those were carp plumes, and blindly fished a nymph in the plumes to no avail. Twice, I ended up dredging up a micro perch from the muddy depths. I don't think I've ever caught a gamefish this small, as they barely made three inches in length. In retrospective, those silt plumes were likely from the baitfish and the ensuing pike. Bust.

My other destination involved a prairie slough, a vestige of an old river backwater. Fish were holding near an inlet from another slough, tight to a conglomeration of sticks and branches woven together by a busy beaver. Not only was it near impossible to make out the silhouettes of a fish, those staggered sticks were water hazards, waiting to devour and entangle any fly that came near it. Get fouled up in that mess, and you blow any chance you ever had with those fish. It was tricky, and if it wasn't for patience, I would have left the scene after the first twenty minutes. But I had a manifest destiny with some carp. I tied on a brown Sea Donkey, as rubber legged flies can really help in low viz conditions. And, carp love crustaceans. Virtue paid off, as ten minutes later I was gazing into the golden sides of the ghost.

COP mouth
COP scale
Now that I paid my dues and earned these fish, it's time to go have some fun and slay those beasts out in the wild, wild, West. Manifest Destiny.

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