Out of Bounds

Renewing my Carp Quest

All that action along the pond’s shoreline was enough to get me to the shop to purchase a 2024 fishing license

By Rob Breeding

I was able to get my carp thing going again this week. The result was the usual blend of frustration and elation that typifies fly fishing for these trendy trash fish.

First the frustration. After a mild winter, spring took its time arriving on the Great Plains. When it did, it brought tornadoes. The twisters were a long way from where I live, but that old saying about winter on the prairie — there’s nothing between here and the North Pole but a few strands of barbed wire — applies to twisters as well. 

Only in this case there was nothing between here and Omaha to slow a twister’s approach but a fence or two — as most have been removed so farmers can grow more corn.

The fish have perked up at my favorite carp pond. I stopped by the other evening still unlicensed and without a fly rod and saw the fish were getting busy. The shore was lined with bass tending beds. The boys had spread themselves out every 10 yards or so (males protect the nest after the female lays her eggs). These fish aren’t monsters, but there are plenty of fun-to-catch 15-inch chunks.

I leave these bedding bass alone. There’s some evidence catching and releasing bass on beds can harm egg and fry survival. Still, this pond is thick with bass and by June there will be schools of young largemouth so thick they resemble underwater clouds, but casting to fish on beds just seems unsporting. 

The truth is culling some for filets would likely increase the number of bigger bass in the pond.

Just a little farther from the bank I saw what I was looking for: carp. Big bruisers, with quite a few 10-pounders in the mix, languidly tailed in the weed beds, feeding just a couple yards from the ever-vigilant largemouth. Occasionally, one of those toad carp would wander too close to a bed and a bass one-tenth its size would flare up and chase it into the depths.

For a moment the bed was left unguarded, which is what happens when a lip ripper targets bedded bass. Due to their fraternal instincts and aggression, these fish are easier to catch.

As mentioned, the lip rippers aren’t making a dent in the pond’s largemouth population, however. The thing that really gets me about the bass boys is that when they move in to work a bank, they’ll spook every carp for 100 yards either way. And once those fish are unsettled, it might be hours — maybe the next day — before they’ll turn back on.

I know, I have vexing, “I ordered a yak-milk latte, not cows milk” problems. In this case it’s recreational, non-consumptive bass anglers inconveniencing my recreational, non-consumptive carp fishing. And if I don’t already sound like enough of a whiny weirdo, I’m fly fishing for these carp, when everyone knows real men prefer dough bait.

All that action along the pond’s shoreline was enough to get me to the shop to purchase a 2024 fishing license. I’d also recently spent some time on YouTube watching “fly fishing for carp” tutorials. One dude, who seems to know his stuff based on all the drone footage he has of him hooking up big carp while fly fishing stand up-style on a paddle board, convinced me the thing I needed to do to up my carp game was tie my own 18-foot leaders. All fluorocarbon of course.

So I also stocked up on fresh spools of the expensive stuff.

I tied up some of these leaders and learned what works for a much better caster than myself, while casting from a paddle board, isn’t much use when standing on a weedy bank with trees on either side, and a rail fence between me and the water.

I’ll get to that in more detail next week, along with some of the elation stuff.