Friday, October 17, 2014

chimeras: or, carp on the fly

Last week I took the canoe out in the evening to try for walleye under the autumn moon. The walleye has the tapetum lucidum that lets them hunt nocturnally, and not coincidentally echoes the moonlight in the white glow of its eye. I like to see that shine from their handsome green bodies; also they are excellent eating, ahem. With an 18" minimum size limit, most of the fish in the lake are 17", one of which I caught, admired and released.

While waiting for dusk and night, poked around the flooded waterlands of the inlet, where carp fed happily under a low and setting sun. The one I hooked sewed me up, weaving the flyline through several different trees and bushes before shedding the hook.

This week I went back at lunchtime, hoping for better visibility. The visibility was excellent but the water temperature was 50 degrees and the shallows empty, a sort of watery desert. Several redhead ducks and a merganser pottered around, further out grebes and coots watched nervously as the stiff wind pushed the canoe along.

This reservoir is on the Central Flyway,  consequently fills up in spring and fall with travellers. Pelicans show up too. These are quite capable of eating large carp but that's all right, we none of us can live without killing.

I had used old topo maps to set GPS locations for the flooded roadbeds where walleye like to hang out in the day. The canoe was unmanageable in the stiff winds, then several bass boats roared up to the spot from different directions and I gave up. This is a phenomenon observed whenever fishing from a canoe in the vicinity of bass boats: as if they are thinking, anyone too poor to afford a boat must surely spend a lot of time fishing, hence knows all the sweet spots: would that it were true. Struggled back toward the beach battling wind and wave, a good core workout with jolts of adrenaline as the wind caught and lifted the boat at the top of the swells; but somewhat frustrated.

There were heavy swirls in the waves over weedbeds in the bay. Hopefully pitched the anchor nine feet deep, three feet of water and six feet of a weed water and mud slurry, believing with the fishes that
somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;

That water was a comfortable 57 degrees. There were carp noses sticking out the water and groups slowly cruising. The fast-sinking leech pattern tied on earlier for the flats was entirely inappropriate for the open deep water, but you fish for cruisers with the fly you have on, not the fly you wish you had. Tying on a different fly always takes just enough time for the cruisers to move out of casting range. These fish were moving downwind rather than up, oddly, their shapes illusive brown hints in the deep green water. I'm nearly sure several followed the fly down and took it invisibly. Working on that assumption, tried a very slow hand-twist retrieve on the next presentation, hoping the slight tension would be enough for a hookset.

Ha ! The fish ran out vigorously and swiftly some forty yards, then all went solid and dead, embedded in weed. It took some work but eventually freed the line. 

Back at the canoe he sounded and buried in the weed below. The rod could not budge that mess, so handlined him up. Here is that handsome burly fish.

Returned with thanks, as always. This is likely the last carp of the year - fare thee well under the winter ice.