Last weekend I heard that people had been catching buffalo on the Caney Fork river. I have not solved the puzzle that is catching buffalo on the fly but from what I understand the key is timing. In the spring, the buffalo stampede upriver to their spawning grounds. The strategy for catching them is the same as for catching trout except that instead of a sleek little salmonid you end up with a angry behemoth on the end of your line. Needless to say I was tempted to go looking for them.
Before I could make that trip I encountered another diverting phenomenon, carp feeding on the surface. Now I was faced with a choice: go in search of big buffalo, or return to catch some carp on dry flies? But when Tara took the day off I decided to set aside my tough choice and stick to our plan to investigate some new water. It turned out to be the right move.
We launched the boat and I set off in search of the carp that I hoped to find. As we paddled into a shallow area, I spotted a huge fish. And then another. The place was teeming with what appeared to be enormous carp! Try as I might, the fish rejected my carp flies completely. I began to suspect that these fish were not common carp at all. What looks like a big carp but won’t take a carp fly? Buffalo. Or so I thought.
Frustrated, we anchored for lunch. I rigged up a spinning rod with corn kernels to cast out while we ate. Before I could even take a bite the rod jerked sharply. It was a little catfish. We must have been sitting on a bunch of them because every time we recast we immediately got another strike.
After an entertaining lunch with the catfish we paddled off to explore some other spots. Along the way I spotted some more buffalo/carp swimming in a group along a steep bank. Every few seconds one of them would tilt up and take something off the surface. I paddled closer for a better view. They weren’t buffalo after all, they were grass carp! We entered a small bay and spotted several more of them feeding lazily on small stems of yellow flowers.
Again I found myself without a proper fly and again I jury-rigged something from my fly box. It almost worked. I had two fish take my “dry fly” but I missed both of them. When I tried to set the hook they made a terrific splash and disappeared. I didn’t manage to hook any fish but now my choice was made for me: come back the next day and catch big grass carp on dry flies!