Ah, the summers of youth. Long hot days, freedom to roam after my chores were through, and miles of river to explore. It might come as little surprise that as much of my time as possible was spent with a line in the water – back then it was spinning gear with nightcrawlers caught on rainy nights out in the backyard. Catfish were my target, and I got pretty good at finding them. Then we went through a period of little rain… the river got low and clear, and finding catfish was difficult. Carp on the other hand were easy to find; cavorting in the deeper pools, nosing like pigs through the silty bottom of the shallows.
Being the opportunist, I learned to hunt carp. I learned that they are a wary creature, and any approach had to be made with care. A weightless presentation was best – casting a hunk of worm on a smallish hook well in front of the fish and trying to get a natural drift. Good times. Soon thereafter I had summer work and then went away to college and didn’t get to fish the river any more. But you never forget your first home river… and this past week I found myself standing on her banks again, but this time with fly rod in hand. Driving to my parents’ place I had crossed over a couple bridges further downstream, and found myself grinning like a fool when I saw how low and clear the river was.
Ohhh yeah baby. It’s carp time.
First things first – what’re they eating? I have my standard carp catcher patterns – my rojo bug, and a couple others – but it was mulberry season on the river. Mulberries? you might ask… what does That have to do with the price of tea in China. Well my friend, I wasn’t kidding when I said carp rooted ‘like pigs’. They’re omnivorous and like to munch anything from veggies to protein depending on what’s available. However they can also be frustratingly picky – if they’re eating cottonwood fluff, you gotta come up with a convincing fluff fly.
If they’re eating mulberries, throwing much else in front of them will elicit few eats. You get the idea. Mulberry trees like to grow along river-courses here in Kansas – hanging over the water, they provide both a shady spot for the fish to hang and at the right time of year literally drip a steady supply of floating berries into the water. Bingo. Berry pattern. Challenge accepted.
A bit of black poofy yarn, palmered and picked out made an admirable-ish berry profile. The real thing is a deep purple color but I made-do with black. Dark colored hooks in size 6 rounded out the pattern – I cranked out half a dozen and got ready to hit the water.
One of the things that I enjoy most about fishing familiar water is that you get the added benefit of all the memories that the place holds for you. It’s like reminiscing with an old friend – warm and reassuring because you know that even if you don’t find them today, the fish Are there and you Have found them before. Humans are creatures of habit and I am no different – being there in my old haunt was a trip down memory lane and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Things have changed – a new bridge, some riprap that didn’t used to be there – but the river is still the same. It doesn’t know how to be anything but what it is, and it doesn’t try.