Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dry fly carp. Almost.

John Gierach wrote somewhere that "in fishing there's a fine line between the impossible and the merely unlikely". I've never been sure on which side of that line dry fly fishing for carp fell. It seems like a fairly outrageous proposition. Like catching a 20 inch brook trout on a remote Appalachian stream. A thing that theoretically could be done, but isn’t likely.

Of course the rumors are out there - carp rising to mayfly duns or maybe terrestrials in the right conditions – always second or thirdhand stories of the “My friend’s father knew this guy that …” variety. Here in Georgia many of these rumors involve willow flies. These are mayflies, probably of the Hexagenia order given their size and proclivity for silty backwaters. They emerge for two or three weeks every June, big serious bugs so prolific that during the heaviest part of the hatch thick mats of the spinners can be found under any dock light on the lake. Carp and even catfish reportedly come in to join the feast, rising repeatedly to slurp up the easy marks.

With that as a background, here was the scenario Sunday:

-Sporadic willow fly emergence, with a few spinners dimpling the surface here and there.

-Carp cruising the shallows with purpose, stopping periodically to tip down and hoover a morsel up from the muck. But otherwise definitely on the move. So much so that if I cast and failed to get a take, I often had to chase the fish down in my boat to get a shot at another cast.

-A lone carp seen easing along the edges of a downed pine tree. At one point it stopped to investigate a bit of detritus bobbing in the surface film. It was a small piece of stick, roughly the same size (a #10 or #8 long shank if you’re wondering) and color as the bodies of the spinners.



Admittedly not a lot to go on. Circumstantial evidence at best. But compelling enough for me to tie on a large black dry fly. A large black dry fly, by the way, that I bought a few years ago in Mio, Michigan, when I was on a trip to fish the Au Sable. A river famous for its Hexagenia hatch. That occurs in June. I could feel a good story coming together as I slipped the tippet through the eye of the hook.

I cast this fly over several carp, maybe a dozen total, with no takers. No interest whatsoever. They all ignored the fly and, becoming uneasy after repeated casts, eventually moved to deeper water. But it only takes one. And there was this one.

The fly landed in front of him and to the right at the two o’clock position. He immediately turned to it. And then he began to rise.

It was the excruciating rise of a confident fish in no particular hurry. I’ve seen it a thousand times with trout. A slow, deliberate rise through the water column, the features of the fish sharpening as it nears the surface, the slight tipping up of the head, the casual opening of the mouth to slurp the fly in. This carp rose like that, like a trout. Exactly like a trout. And when the thick rim of lips broke the surface at the fly I realized I could hear my heart beating in my ears.

And then he refused it. Or missed it. I don’t know. Whatever the case, he closed his mouth and turned away, the fly bobbing unmolested in the swirl from his turn. Not spooked by any stretch. He moved a couple of feet and continued to feed. I recovered enough to make a few half-hearted casts to him, but I was still too stunned to make a serious effort. It was over. He soon disappeared into the deep water of the main channel.

So even though I'm still not 100% sure where this carp-on-a-dry thing falls on Gierach's line, I see now it's a possibility that cannot be ignored.

It felt more than a little odd to be clearing out space in my carp fly box to squeeze in several dry flies, but it can't be helped.



25 comments:

e.m.b. said...

Yes, yes! It can be! Twice I've watched it happen. Once on a "cottonwood seed" and once on a caddis. Very strange. But yeah, put a few in your box. ;-)

Jay said...

I read of another blogger doing it (repeatedly) last year during the 13 year cicada "hatch." So, it is possible... if you've got the patience to wait around for epic hatches that only occur once every 13 years.

Ty said...

Interesting info Erin. And I will definitely have dries in the carp fly box going forward.

Makes sense Jay. I remember the 13 year hatch last year. Crazy stuff. Unfortunately I don't think I made it out to the carp flats much when they were around. Curses!

John Montana said...

Guys catch them out here in Vancouver lake on Chernobyl ants...I haven't done it yet, but I will!

Trevor Tanner said...

I don't know about the top-water stuff but if you catch it right in MI they go bonkers for hex nymphs. About this time of year actually if my memory is correct. I haven't gotten the topwater thing to work yet either although I have started carrying a couple.

Mr. P. said...

It will happen for you Ty. I have caught a few on a Skitter, a deer hair Caddis pattern.

Gregg said...

Ty,

I have sporadic success on top, a 10 pounder with my 3 wt. and a seed fly my most memorable. In my small ponds hatches that occur on say the Snake R. just don't happen. Lately I'm looking for the ultimate cottonwood seed after milimeter lip turn aways, heartbreaking. I love trying for those carp on top and carry all possibilites but it does not happen to me often like for some. Good story!

Gregg

Bill Trussell said...

Ty
Interesting stuff, I would think that the crap would feed on surface if the right pattern was presented. I think the fly would have to be very small because the mouth of the carp is not that big. That would be awesome if you could entice one to hit on top. Thanks for sharing

Ty said...

I have no doubt that you will John!

Catching it right is the trick, McTage. I figure the Hex hatch might be the best window all year to take a carp on top.

I hope so Mr. P. I'm more optimistic about it now that I've heard that some of you guys have pulled it off.

Millimeter lip turnaways - yeah, heartbreaking is exactly the right word Gregg. Exactly the right word.

I think they will too, Bill, after reading the comments from some of these other folks. Reckon I'll be trying until I can make it happen.

David McKenzie said...

Nice read. I have some marginal success on layed up stream fish in late summer when we have some extreme damsel hatches.

Jorge said...

Of course, it could be done. Here in Spain we usually fish carps with dry flies. The most common pattern is the foam beetle. You can see it at my blog (search for the tag "escarabajo", which means beetle in Spanish). Hopper paterns work well also.
It's more likely to happen in summer, especially on windy days. Carps patrol the surf foam a few meters from the shore. If you put the correct pattern in the way of the fish, it would probably take the fly. Unfortunately they usually miss it because of the movement of the fly caused by the waves.
Good luck the next time!

Ty said...

Thanks Dave. I've thought about the damsel fly/ dragon fly thing and thought that might be a possibility around here as well.

Good info, Jorge. Definitely going to be throwing some terrestrial patterns to them this summer.

lowbrow said...

I missed the hex hatch last year, and may miss it again this year. I've never caught a carp on a dry during the hatch, and I think that's because the main action is after dark. What does happen around here is the fish go nuts just before dark when the bugs are squirming around in the surface mud and starting to swim up. I'm certain you can catch one on a dry then if you hit it just right.

http://lowbrowangler.com/blog/?p=23

Ty said...

Good point about the night hatch deal, lowbrow. I think the prime Hex time on the Au Sable was 10pm to 2am, give or take. Probably the same here. I need to quit being a Nancyboy and go ahead and pull an all-nighter out there on the flats.

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