When I come to Phoenix to do fly fishing presentations I always add a couple days for some urban fly fishing. Phoenix has an elaborate canal system through the city and its neighboring suburbs along with manmade lakes and ponds. Each and every one of these waters are home to carp.
Lucky for me, I also have a good friend, Steve Berry, who likes to chase the carp when I’m in town. He takes a few days off and we fish. Along with us this trip is a new friend, Gentry Smith. Gentry led the way today through the shopping malls bringing us to a canal where he’s seen a lot of grass carp (also known as white amur).
Grass carp are one of my favorites. Unlike the common carp and mirror carp that have a diet ranging from crayfish to algae, grass carp focus on vegetation. You’d think – ok I’ll just pile some green marabou on a hook and toss it out there, but grass carp are far too intelligent for that.
The flies I like are foam bodied hoppers in either olive or chartreuse in sizes 4-8. I think more than the fly pattern, landing your fly gently within 6” of the grass carps face is critical. They’re attracted to the splat and usually do an immediate investigation when the fly lands. Often times they swim past the fly and follow the leader up to the fly line then up the line until they see you. It makes you feel pretty dang stupid especially when they flick their massive tails, splash and turn and vanish into the deep.
The three of us had a ton of those reactions today. But we also had a number of grass carp eat the fly. I stopped counting how many times my fly was eaten at around ten. But utter disaster however, of all those grass carp that ate my fly, zero of them actually got hooked!
Grass carp will test you. They like to nudge the fly with their nose a few times. Then they like to nibble on it. With my flies that means chew on a rubber leg first then bite the foam. Somehow, they do all this and manage to avoid the hook. Often watching this process is too much to take and you set the hook prematurely pulling the fly away. The grass carp spooks and you stand there scratching your head.
No doubt everything that could go wrong went wrong for me today. I set too soon. Waited too long. Set when things were just right but nobody was there. Honestly, I believe I had 15 or more grassies eat my fly and I never did more than sting one for a second. Its an empty feeling when you miss three trout in a row but missing 15 of a difficult to fool fish like a grass carp – you want to jump in the canal!
Steve and Gentry were having a similar experience. It wasn’t just me. But persistence always pays off. Usually for me but today it was for Steve. We saw a grass carp rising in a place where he could only be reached by a risky balancing act. Steve spotted him first so it was him that had to go for it.
Normally when a friend puts themselves in such a position you want them to fall in for a good laugh. But not here. Getting out of a canal could require a rescue so on this occasion I was nervous watching. But it all panned out. Steve didn’t fall in and he hooked our one and only grass carp of the day.
This was by no means the grass carp of dreams. Grass carp can reach sizes of more than 60lbs. But on a fly rod and on a tough day like today – a grass carp is a grass carp and Steve avoided the skunk. Gentry and I on the other hand left with our tail between our legs.
I haven’t been so frustrated in a day of fishing in as long as I can remember. Watching these fish eat my fly over and over and setting the hook and feeling nothing but air was brutal empty feeling. No doubt I’m stuck in a fishing jinx. If you read my permit fishing story in December than you know today was the 7th day in a row where I didn’t catch my targeted fish. Tomorrow I’m in desperate need of a slump buster.
My speech tonight for Arizona Flycasters Club went fantastic however. Tonight, I entertained with my PowerPoint presentation, “Saltwater Fly Fishing – Bonefish to Billfish”. This was a bonus gig that came to play after I spoke last night to Desert Fly Casters. I enjoy giving presentations so if you’re a member of fly fishing club that hires speakers, please keep me in mind.
Revenge on the carp starts first thing tomorrow!