Pond surprise: Grassie on the fly…
Just a quick saunter behind my house lies a pond. I’ve profiled it here before. Easily viewed from our deck, it’s about 1.5 acres in size, shaped like a kidney bean with one half much larger than the other, and with a small overgrown island dotting its middle.
It’s an old pond by most accounts. One third of it has good depth – well over 10 feet – and because of this it is one pond that seemed to survive the fish kills reported this spring by many pond owners in the Southern Tier – the presumed result of a very frigid winter and low oxygen. The rest of the pond, however, is fairly shallow with depths of 2 to 4 feet.
I stocked the pond with bass after we purchased our home. Over two summers, I dutifully caught and carefully introduced “breeder” bass as well as stockie size bass, along with lots of fathead minnows. The pond was already teeming with small, and seemingly stunted, sunfish.
These days I cruise the pond in a small kayak. In early spring, a wooly bugger stripped slowly over bottom will always catch bass along with an occasional hand-sized sunfish. Once temps warm up, however, the pond slowly grows “hair”. Duck weed crowds the banks, cattails sprout up, and all sorts of water veggies fill the shallows. It’s not long before a popper is the only way to fish. As summer heats up, the bass lay in the weedy shallows, and each evening, the pond awakens with the sound of bass crashing prey.
The bass are getting some size to them these days…
…and I’ve caught a number of big sunfish on bass-sized wooly buggers and poppers. Some of these brilliantly colored “pumpkinseeds” have mouths big enough to lip.
But there’s another fish in town. Our neighbor, and pond owner, had introduced a dozen grass carp a few years ago as a way, futile though it seems to be, to combat heavy aquatic weed infestation. These fish have grown big in the rich and weedy waters of the pond…
Grass carp grow rapidly and that seems to be the case with the fish in the pond. I’ve watched them swim gracefully about, have seen them feeding at the surface, and have spooked them while quietly stalking bass in the shallows. Spooking a big grass carp is akin to throwing a hand grenade in the water. Their power, like big river carp, is impressive to say the least. And I’ve read a bit about them – that while they are mainly herbivores, they can apparently be caught on some baits and flies. Some innovative fly tyers have even developed flies that mimic aquatic vegetation.
I’ve thought about tying up something along these lines and sight fishing them. But starting late spring, my quarry is largemouth bass. I love their bad-ass ways. What better way to spend a pleasant Saturday evening…
This past Saturday evening I decided to hit the pond in usual style. I fished a chartreuse colored popper – a classic bass pattern with a lot of hackle and long yellow legs. It’s cup-faced for noise with a good sized hook (#2) and I fished it all of the bassie places. My first fish was a huge sunfish, ablaze with pumpkinseed colors, its belly big. I released it quickly, thinking it might be a pre-spawn female. I then went on to catch a number of bass. Most of their takes were explosive, as were their leaps for freedom. And then I had a take I just didn’t understand.
In between “chugs” – popper sitting – wake rings subsiding – it just seemed to disappear in the water. I lifted my rod and connected to something solid and heavy, accompanied by a good bit of thrashing. Then I saw a blackish back, silvery sides, and a broad tail and knew this was no bass.
I got my line on the reel and waited for the run. It didn’t happen at first. The fish thrashed about, shook it’s head, apparently comprehending the resistance this bug was giving it. Then it took off, my 9 foot rod bucking, reel screaming. It made a few nice runs like that, zigged and zagged under my kayak, towed me all about the pond. As it finally tired I began to think, there’s no way I can land this fish in the kayak. So I played it some more and slowly back-paddled to a shallow bank, where I beached it.
I was pretty impressed with this grass carp. They are far more pleasing to the eye than their golden cousin and their mouths are a lot more, well, fish-like. This one had quite the gut too, though I’ve seen a few in the pond that are even bigger.
Fishing friend Eric once confided that he never fly fishes for carp intentionally, but has no problem crossing one. That has been my experience as well. I’ve landed only a few big golden bones on the local rivers while fishing for smallmouth, and have straightened my leader on far too many that almost got away with my fly line. Maybe one day I will get so addicted that I’ll drop everything to intentionally fish for them. For now, however, it’s almost better just running into them by accident. After all, there’s that first moment of “what the hell is this”, followed by, “it’s big whatever it is”, followed by, “better get it on the reel”, followed by, “hang on”… And who’d a thunk – a carp on a popper! A fly fishing first, perhaps?