Fairfax County, Virginia, August 17, 2012
Life puts a big steaming load of commitments on your plate. Things to do, places to go. If you promise to show up somewhere at a certain time, and people are counting on you to be there, you better show up or you will be labeled an irresponsible swine. And you would deserve the label too.
I had to fulfill a few of these commitments but I had time for a few hours of fishing between all the rushing around. There wasn’t enough time to hit any trout streams so it was back to fishing nearby ponds and impoundments again and this time I wanted to check one body of water I had scouted a year ago but never got the opportunity to fish. So after a stern warning not to be late, I loaded up the car and took off.
I arrived around 10am and began assembling a Beulah 6/7 switch rod as a few resident Canadian geese honked at me. The rod seemed a bit overgunned for this spot but the opposite bank was off limits to fishing and there was very little, if any, backcast room so the rod gave me a bit more reach to hit the deeper water.
It was slow for the first 30 minutes. I had a heavily weighted black size 2 wooly bugger tied onto 10 feet of 12 pound fluorocarbon attached to a density-compensated fast sink tip line and was dredging the bottom, giving it a long soak before slowly stripping the line back to shore. I would fan a couple casts and work the water before moving on but there were no takes, not even a nibble or grab. I was on the verge of declaring this dead water and leaving when I got the first pull.
It was a sudden grab and whatever was on the other end was strong enough to pull drag so it was a decent fish, but not quite big enough where you knew it was going to be a problem when it came time to land it. The fish turned out to be a largemouth bass, thick in the middle and looking very healthy. I’ve fished other ponds where the bass had huge heads and thin, emaciated bodies. A sign that there were too many fish and not enough food to go around. I continued to fish this spot, got several more strikes, all of them were bass of varying lengths and weight. At this point I switched out the bugger and tied on a 2/0 black bunny fly and resolved to go big or go home.
Another 30 minutes passed with no takes and I was tempted to put the bugger back on but when the strike came, it was quick and violent. The tip of the rod went down and the fish made a short run towards the opposite bank. I fought it on the reel for a while and it turned out to be a pretty large catfish (the net in the photo is one I usually use for salmon or steelhead, not trout). Someone probably planted this fish here because you don’t usually catch catfish in this sort of water. But it looked very clean and like the bass, very fat and happy.
I continued to fish and in a shallow section I saw plumes of mud spreading across the calm surface of the water. As I watched, the mud fountains slowly moved towards me and soon I could see several carp in the head-down position as they rooted around for bottom dwellers.
I’ve never fished for carp before but have read about it on websites and blogs. I had no dedicated carp flies but there were a couple I had that might work. I tried a size 12 black bugger (with rubber legs) first. I shot too much line on the cast and put the fly on the carp’s head. I watched it take off for the deep, putting an end to carp fishing for the moment.
I continued to fish and walk along the bank then spotted more mud plumes about 20 yards away. Feediing carp. They were slowly swimming and mudding in the head-down position and heading towards me. This time I put the fly 15 feet in front of the fish but even though I gave it a few twitches they just swam over and around the bugger. I waited until the carp passed me before pulling in the line and switching to a size 12 olive damsel nymph. I walked away from the water and made a circular approach until I was in front of the carp again. Again, I put the fly in front of the school and gave it a few strips to bring it into line with their approach. I was at least 20 feet away and I could not see the fly but I knew where it sort of was by watching the leader. I saw the lead fish stop in the area where I thought the fly was then tip down and mud. The leader moved a bit and I slowly strip-striked the fly and felt something heavy on the other end. The line began to move into deeper water so I pointed the rod tip towards the fish and yanked back on the line to really bury the hook. The fight was on.
We went back and forth along the bank. It wasn’t a huge carp, but it put a healthy bend on the rod and pulled drag a lot. Three times I thought the fish was done and attempted to net it but each time the carp would run for deeper water. I finally managed to get it into the net and after two quick photos he was on his way. It was a pond slam. A bass, catfish and carp (maybe should it should have been a sunfish instead of a catfish).
Time moves fast when you’re having fun/ I had to go. I was on the road when my phone buzzed. The person on the other end wanted to know where I was and I said I was on the road, heading in their direction, and I should be there soon. I heard the laughter and the voice on the other end said,
“Oh, you’re in the car already. We thought you would be out fishing somewhere and would forget to meet us. Catch anything?”
EQUIPMENT: I used a Beulah 10’ 6” 6/7 switch rod. A little big for the water I was fishing but I thought it was necessary if I wanted to hit the deeper water due to the lack of backcast room and it would carry a heavy fly a long way. Having the heavier rod also helped when I was fighting the catfish and carp. It was a bit much on the bass. I used an assortment of wooly buggers, hairy nymphs and tiny baitfish patterns.