Carp-e-diem By: Scott Smith

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The water was crystal clear, the smell of fresh air and the lake was flat and there were fish already jumping, but they were out 100 yards from shore, it was still early. After the sun warms the shallows, the fish will start to move more. The fish pass by in waves, first singles then in small groups then in pods between 4 to 9. It was going to be a great day! The shore line has changed from last year, by the winter storms and the heavy rainfall so far this spring. The small rock pile that use to jaunt out from the shore line some 30 yards, which was an advantage to see farther by being perched up higher to see the fish before they saw me. It was tricky to get to, must wade out waist deep or more, the slippery rocks covered in algae, but at the end it was only shin deep, perfect! Even the rock pile was dwindling filled in by sand and not as deep around it. The water was high, up to my chest, but only knee deep on the rocks. Finding a place on the rock pile and scaring some fish in the process that were sitting on the deep side, figures! Blew that shot, more will come hopefully! As the wind starts to blow ever so slightly, the waves start to ripple out farther, but down the shore line some 200 feet. It looks like a sand bar! Now, the question is, to stay or make the call and move? Wait for the fish to tell, they are there, but still too far to cast to. So, after 20 minutes, the call was made to walk these algae covered rocks wade chest deep and walk the shore line to find a spot to get to the gravel flat. It takes me some time and maneuvering to get to the gravel flat. Finally, there, it is amazing, 60 yards from shore and only knee deep. The flat is approximately the size of a small parking lot and one side goes all the way to the creek mouth. The fish must swim by here to get to the creek to feed. Its amazing, like being on the salt flats of some far off exotic place, like Belize, except 10 minutes away, with no one here. The fish begin to swim and feed close by, noses down and tails up, grazing and rooting for whatever they can find to eat. Line hauled off from the reel, fly in hand and wait for the shot. There they are positioned at 3 o’clock, a pod of 4 carp. Make the cast and let the fly sink a little, Strip. Strip, Strip, Pause, strip, strip, pause, pop. Wait for it, the carp turns, he opens his mouth and sucks up the fly, strip set. Fish on “YEAH BABY”, “WHOOT, WHOOT”. The line goes screaming off the reel, the infamous sound of a screaming reel! After 20 yards of line gets torn off the reel, the loose line on the water gets tangled around the rod, before it could be undone, SNAP, the line breaks. Dam it! It has been a while, got to shake off the rust.

It’s been a long time, long winter even, remembering the days of preparation, the tackle stores, fly shops, the fishing show and film festivals all over Ontario. Checking out the new gear and gadgets as well as talking with other anglers that share the same passion and informing new anglers of this challenge. Trying to learn everything possible to catch this truly remarkable creature. They live everywhere, eat almost anything, grow to tremendous sizes, up to 40 lbs. and are selective in what and how they eat. The true test of a fly angler is to catch the common carp. Some new rods and reels were purchased, learned some new fly tying techniques and a few tricks and patterns. Did the homework, watched all the newest YouTube videos, talked on the blogs, participated on the Facebook groups to share information and stories and a fly swop, read all the books that were available, which is hard to find in Ontario, thank you, Amazon and the internet! Practice casting in the park, with some hula hoops. These carp have no chance this year. The excitement is building, the closer it gets. The rods and reels are checked, oiled, lines cleaned, leaders are made, getting back up rod and reels ready for friends and or clients. Its early spring and it is hard to wait, counting the days till the greatest time of year, “My Opening Day” For most fly anglers in Southern Ontario the best time of year is the opener for trout. For the last 15 years, that same date is used to commence opener for carp, due to the fact there is no competition, fish are actively feeding heavily, in preparation of the spawn. Like a kid on Christmas eve, the anticipation, excitement and the “I want to go” now factor. It’s hard to explain to those who don’t get it, they have no idea what they are missing or are unable to comprehend it. Its an addiction, adrenaline rush and a way of life, there is nothing like it. Sight fishing for carp, the act of fishing in shallow water and watching them look for food and being selective in what they eat, hopefully they eat your fly. A fly that you tied yourself, during the long winter months. The night before preparation, checking and rechecking gear and flies, packing a lunch for the day, watching the footage from last year and the newest YouTube videos. Sleep, what sleep! Finally dozing off, dreaming of the possibilities and awake before the 5 am alarm. Coffee is required! Pack a thermos, back pack and gear, off to Lake Ontario shoreline. It’s “My Opening Day”!

Only to be here now, the missed opportunity, due to the over excitement or the surprise of having fish on so early. Messed up and broke off. Frustrated, but keeping positive, tie on a new fly and wait. Fifteen minutes later some more fish start to move closer and closer. They stop 20 feet in front and start to feed around the small rocks, like they are daring to be caught, could it be this easy? Finally going to catch a break from the fishing Gods, (scared some fish, blew first shot) and now these carp are taunting to be caught. Strip some line, make the cast, soon as it hits the water the lead carp is on it. The fly doesn’t even make it to the bottom of the 12 inches of water they are feeding in. She is golden, orange, big around 20 lbs. powerful, beautiful carp and sucks up the fly, caught off guard it happened so close and on the first cast, the battle was on. The screaming drags of an 8wt fly reel, into the backing in 6 seconds, “YA BABY”. Man, they fight great in the spring. Finally get the fly line back on the reel and all the other carp are following her, she takes off out into the dark blue water. Can’t even see the fly line any more, hold on and wait for her to tire out, bend the rod into the glorious “C” shape. Apply side pressure, the fish goes right, bend the rod to the left, then the fish goes left, bend the rod to the right, kind of a drunken sailor dance to try and control and wear down the fish to land it. If they only knew, was going let them go, wonder if they would fight so hard. The carp finally comes back into the flat, but now it is in the current of the creek, making it harder to control. The carp blast back out into the open water, one more time deep into the backing. The drunken sailor dance is done again to finally get the carp into the net, to take out the hook. The old “grip and grin” for a quick picture and then revive her, admiring the beauty and the fight of the beast of a fish. She swims away on her own, to be caught by someone else later, hopefully. What a fight! Exhausted by the battle, the sweet taste of victory, to finally land one. A fantastic morning. What is next? Man, I love “My Opening Day”

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