There are few things in life more enjoyable than a hall pass, a gorgeous summer day, and a plan to explore new water relatively close to home. Last Friday, Shawn “Diddy” Combs, our head rod designer, asked me if I wanted to chase carp with him on Saturday. Sight-fishing to carp in shallow water is one of my favorite things, but I really need a whole day to do it because although I have trout fishing close to my office and home, carp fishing requires a bit more travel. Shawn also promised to bring a couple new secret prototype rods along for us to play with. It just kept getting better.
Both of us had a couple spots we had been eyeing on Google Earth as potential carp locations. One was in the very lowest part of the Battenkill before it flows into the Hudson, and since the Hudson is a carp hotspot and the lower Battenkill is warm and wide, we picked out a spot that looked very promising. We fished across from a mill complete with a treatment plant and had to cross a “Quarantine Area” tape to get to the river, so all the stars seem to be aligned for carp. Don’t ask me what the quarantine was for. I don’t want to know because we were wet wading. And don’t ask me what rods we were testing because, you know, I would have to shoot you. . . .
We didn’t find any carp in Spot 1. Shawn caught a beautiful, wild 12-inch brown trout right off the bat. It should not have been there. Then we proceeded to catch smallmouths, fallfish, rock bass, and a couple small pike, but there was no sign of carp. We scratched that one off our potential carp-spot list and headed for a place dubbed “Carp Locker #2.” The water there was muddy, and although we saw some tails and bubbles and wakes, we couldn’t sight fish. We walked the bank for a while and were about to leave when we heard some splashing along the far bank. I had previously passed it off as a pair of mallards that were bobbing in front of a house right on the water, but the ducks had flown off. The house has a deck with a bunch of bird feeders that sit directly above the water, and I watched as a pair of grackles jumped onto one feeder, spilling a bunch of seed in the water. This was followed quickly by a mass feeding by at least a dozen big carp, cavorting and splashing as they sucked in the seeds. When the birds left, the mayhem stopped, but as soon as a bird came back to the feeder, the whole thing started over. Unfortunately, the house had some No Fishing signs in front of it and neither of us had any bird-seed imitations, so we left to explore another spot.
Our third spot had all the potential to be a world-class carp spot, and both of us had wanted to fish it for years. More fallfish and smallmouth. I saw a few carp, but they were suspended and not likely targets. I made some casts to them anyway, but they spooked as soon as the fly hit the water
Next spot was a known carp hotspot, and here we cleaned up—or I should say Shawn did. He hooked and landed four nice carp; as the fish were rooting and mudding and tailing thus we knew they were ready to eat. I stayed on a pod of about a dozen large carp that hung in deep water but occasionally slid up onto a mud flat to eat. I hooked one, but it got off, and I think the rest of fish got wise to me after that because I could not get another one to eat. I was pissed I had forgotten to bring my bonefish flies, which usually work well for carp, and I know I was moving my fly when I should have let it sit on the bottom with just about a 2mm twitch. Meanwhile, Shawn covered more water and caught those four fish with a Bonefish Bitters just sitting on the bottom, placed precisely in front of moving fish so they would intercept it.
Our only sour note for what turned out to be an enjoyable day was our last stop at the original Carp Locker. This place used to be literally packed with big carp, but the water conditions for filling up the locker did not happen this year, and we saw only two fish there when normally we would have seen 100. But we both had lots of laughs, saw a couple bald eagles and seed-eating carp, and we found a wild brown in a place it should not have been. Those kinds of things are the best souvenirs of a fishing day.
Let’s hope whatever was on the other side of that quarantine tape does not come back to haunt us with another memento.