We all know the saying “Practice what you preach” but do we always follow that? In my PowerPoint presentation “Fly Fishing for Carp” I have a section about white Amur (better known these days as grass carp). I show photos of the persnickety carp’s different behaviors including grazing the weeds on bottom. I go as far as to say, “Don’t waste time when grass carp are feeding on bottom. They’re almost impossible to catch”. Well, I just spent 90% of two days trying to fool these frustrating fish with very little luck. Why no luck? Because they were feeding on bottom!
Here in Kentucky my friend John Reesor told me he’s seen some giant fish when he’s golfing over the years. John went as far as to say they look like tarpon. Bingo! I knew right away they were one of my favorite fly rod fish, the grass carp. John, hasn’t golfed yet this year so we went to his golf course hoping to find them. We did.
I haven’t fished grass carp since November of 2014 so I was pumped at their presence. And these weren’t ordinary grass carp. These were some big dudes. I estimate the small ones were around 15lbs and some of the gargantuan ones, perhaps 50lbs plus! But they weren’t behaving well. They were feeding on bottom.
Grass carp like extremely warm weather and although this week in Kentucky has been in the high 70°s, prior to our visit it was cold and the water still hasn’t warmed up. Therefore the grassies were doing more sunning and only occasionally feeding, all of which was on bottom.
The reason grass carp are so hard to catch when feeding on bottom is that you’re basically expecting them to find a needle (your fly) in haystack (heaps of moss and weed on bottom). Sure, you can sink a green fly on bottom and let it set but imitating a weed means not moving the fly. When your fly isn’t moving you can expect the grass carp to stumble into seeing your leader and hook way before he picks up the fly and eats it.
The times that I have success with grass carp is when they’re feeding on top. For this the water must be warm and leaves, grass clippings, algae and other of their vegetarian foods must be floating. When conditions are right it’s amazing how stupid these ridiculously spooky carp be.
Despite all my knowledge of these fish I didn’t practice what I preach. Instead of walking away from the unfavorable grass carp fly fishing conditions this week in Kentucky, I was possessed by the size of some of these grass carp and I fished for them hard. About four hours two different days and zero grass carp. And man did those grass carp laugh at us when the sprinklers went off!
The highlight was spotting this green sunfish nymphing his way down deep through tall weeds. It appeared his focus was entirely subsurface for his food but I tried for him anyhow. Up he came for my olive hopper like an overzealous bluegill. A new species for me! If only just one of those massive grass carp had been so cooperative!
It’s been a fantastic week here in Kentucky. A special thanks to John and Better Reesor for hosting us here and taking us to Keeneland, fishing and letting me drive their Porsche! Next is a week at home preparing for the last leg of my speaking tour which takes me to Cleveland, Ohio and then to Georgia. And yes, there will be fishing involved. Stay tuned. . . .