I returned the next morning, determined to land a grass carp. I had tied some simple dry flies to resemble the flowery stalks I had seen the fish eating.
The weather was a bit overcast and it was sprinkling rain off and on, just enough to keep most people at home. I had the water to myself. I found a lone grass carp feeding in the first place I looked. I paddled into position, anchored the boat and made a cast. A bad cast. Just 6 inches to the right would have been on the money but I lined the fish and it disappeared with a splash. The fish did not return so I moved on. I soon found what I was looking for. Several of the flowering trees stood together on the bank. The flowers dropped onto the water where they drifted along the shoreline in the breeze. This created sort of a river of food, definitely where I would be if I were a hungry grass carp. Sure enough I spotted big mouths clooping flowers off the surface. I planned my approach carefully and then moved stealthily into position. I anchored and waited for a fish to come within casting distance. My patience was soon rewarded with a perfect opportunity. Downwind of me several fish were feeding together, swimming slowly in my direction. I gauged the distance and set down a nice cast a few feet in front of them. I focused on my fly, one yellow speck among thousands. Suddenly a big mouth gaped! I gave my line a strip and lifted my rod. The fish bolted, but without my fly in it’s mouth. This was the same frustrating scenario from the day before. I decided that I was reacting too early, that I should wait until the mouth closed before I set the hook. I stowed my rod and ate a snack, waiting for the fish to calm down and resume feeding.
When I was finished, and the fish had started again, I resumed my vigil. Soon, a big grey shadow appeared between me and the shore, moving straight towards the boat. I put my fly in front of it and it immediately rose and gulped it down. I waited an extra heartbeat for the mouth to close and then lifted my rod – I had it! The fish dove and came directly at me. It reached deep water and circled the boat heavily. We struggled for some minutes before I managed to get it near the surface. When we finally saw each other I was astonished at it’s size. The carp however, was not impressed. In an angry burst it swam under the boat and my line caught on one of the anchor ropes. I scrambled to pull up the anchor and untangle the line but the fish gave another jolt and I felt my leader snap.
Nevertheless, I was pleased that I had figured out the timing of the hook set. Now I just had to do it again. This time I put my fly in the middle of half a dozen or so fish that were feeding in a loose circle. I waited until the big mouth had closed and again set the hook successfully. There was an enormous explosion of noise and water as the big fish panicked in all directions. Line tore off my reel as the one I had hooked fled to deeper water. This time I was prepared for the battle. I was aware of the danger posed by my anchor lines, but I didn’t dare pull them out of the water lest the wind push me into the far shore where all kinds of trees and stumps were waiting to tangle my line. At one point the fish did get tangled on an anchor but I was able to free it in time. Between the pull of the fish and the wind, and despite leaving the anchors in the water, I eventually ended up near the opposite bank where I struggled to keep the fish out of the submerged trees. It was quite a fight but I finally pulled the big carp on board.
I tried to weigh it but my 15lb. scale bottomed out. My cat weighs fifteen pounds and I can guarantee that this fish was significantly bigger than that! I released my first grass carp and paddled happily back to the car and made it home in time for lunch.