I had it. I friggin had it. I’m so close to landing a carp on the fly my hair is standing on end. Well, to be specific, it was a koi. One of those crazy looking black, white, and orange numbers that appear to glow like a beacon in the muddy waters. I had been tipped off to a local pond by my friend and carp sensei Nate. He had been taunting me with videos of him catching carp on surface flies and then he texted me a pic of a massive white and orange koi with black speckles along the back that I’ve since learned has been given the moniker of Moby. I even saw Moby while at the pond last night, a ghostly glow in the middle of the pond, out of the reach of my cast. I so badly wanted to catch him to text a pic to Nate saying, “Well look who I found.” But no such luck.
I had arrived around 5:30 and as Nate had said, the carp were beginning to congregate near an observation deck. I threw everything at them. And I mean everything. I even got down to throwing San Juan Worms, or rather a variety of them that has an egg at the end called Eggy Juan Kenobi. No luck. I wandered around the pond and sure enough, other than Moby, it seemed every carp was near that observation deck. I had unfortunately been crowded off my spot by some bait dunkers who decided that dumping an entire can of corn in the middle of the lake was a good idea. Good for them at least. Not so much for me. So I started to wander a little, hoping they would leave, or at the very least, run out of corn. When I returned, they were still there but were no longer heaving the produce section into the pond. But what’s this? Another fly angler who was clearly targeting carp.
We got to talking and sure enough, it turned out he was friends with Nate too. His name was Mac and at the age of 19 he was already fishing circles around me. Of course that’s not really saying much, especially in regards to carp, but still. Anyways, Mac was really generous with advice and gave me some pointers that really seemed to help. After exhausting most of my fly box earlier, he showed me that he was fishing with a yellowish orangish egg pattern and I figured I’d do something similar. Then it hit me, these yellow crystal spawns I have sure do look a lot like corn. I tied one on and started prowling the deck. Finally, I spotted a koi a good 25 feet out, sort of lazily cruising in random directions. I let out enough line and roll cast about 15 feet to the right to get the range and set up some tension for the real cast. It turned away and as it did, I laid out a perfect roll cast that dropped my little nugget a few feet in front of his mouth. He turned away at first, and then turned back towards it, and just as he seemed to be at my fly, he turned away. I strip set and he was on. Mac yelled from the other end of the deck and came running over. He almost seemed more excited than I was.
It’s happened before. The first few times I had steelhead on my line, I panicked. Not so much panicked I guess, but more like I lost myself. I didn’t think. The Cro-Magnon took over and I made mistakes. It happened again. My beautiful black, white, and orange koi was swirling and churning in and out of the water, flashing beautiful colors. What did I do? I muscled it. Stupid. The nature of fishing from this observation deck is that once you’re onto a fish, you need to steer it towards one of the grass banks and you have to get down there in order to land the fish. I got so excited and single-minded that I just started moving towards the bank even though my koi still clearly had plenty of fight left. I should have let it run. I didn’t. Plink!…. Slack line.
Mac and I both yelled and stood there staring at the water like a couple of dopes. Mac held out his forearm and said “Dude, that gave me goosebumps.” Sure enough, goosebumps. Every once in a while you run into someone like Mac. I’ve only fished with him once but you can just tell he’s got a great attitude. One of those guys, like Nate, that is just as happy if not more to see you get onto a fish than to get onto one himself. He walked off to the other end of the deck and I stood there, slowly tying on a new tippet and fly and thinking about what had happened. Rather than feeling disappointed, which I surely was to a degree, I started to feel a surge of energy. I’m close. Really close. After two summers chasing this species with zero luck, I’ve now had two on in the span of about a week. I’m getting better. And it’s going to pay off very soon.
Just then, I hear the familiar sound I can only attempt to spell as “SHWIP!” as Mac’s fly line ripped out of the water, tightened, and started traveling very quickly to the other side of the pond. His rod bowed violently and I just stood there dumbfounded as his fly line was travelling in every direction at rapid speeds with something truly powerful leading it. After three years of steelheading on the fly, I’ve seen and have been lucky to be a part of some epic fights. What Mac was about to endure was right up there with those, if not surpassing them. Mac was calm. I was spouting off obscenities as I half expected him to pull out an alligator with the way the thing was fighting. Finally making his way down to the bank, I noticed he didn’t have a net. I always bring a net because I’ve never been good at beaching a fish. I’m always afraid I’m going to hurt them. I offered to net Mac’s fish and at first he said no, but as the fight continued and the prospect of losing it on the rocks settled in his brain, he changed his mind. He led his prey in between two rocks and I closed the gap behind it. The carp turned around and headed straight into my net. I labored to lift it out of the water and as I did, I noticed…. what the heck? There’s a sun fish in here too. Yup, apparently there was a little sunfish hanging out in that pool between the two rocks and was unwittingly caught up in the drama. Weird.
I didn’t get to hook up again last night. Although I think I had some pretty close calls that I may have set the hook too early on. But I’m getting better. I’m getting closer. And dammit, I’m going back to that pond. I will catch my first carp and koi on the fly and it’s going to happen very soon. I can feel it. Like with my first few steelhead, something is clicking. Things are lining up correctly in my brain and I’m starting to operate on instinct instead of over thinking every cast. It’s going to happen. And it’ll mean a heck of a lot because of how hard I worked to get there. Isn’t that what this is all about?