Flats of a Different Colour

The Padre baptizes an Indiana carp.

It’s hot, really hot, and even hotter than that because the dark green “deck” of our plastic boat has absorbed the heat of the midday sun and is slowly baking us from underneath.

We could be wading a cool river (though they’re mostly dry this year). We could be tossing rubber spiders against the banks for panfish or smallmouth—whose stripes, coincidentally, are nearly the exact color of this plastic tub we’re on. We could be feeling the current tugging us gently downstream as we watch them jump and glitter in the glare. Instead we’re slowly dehydrating as we scan for dark fish-shapes cruising the muddy shallows or slices of bronze tails breaking the surface. The water level is now at least four feet below normal, with much of the shallow flats on the north end of the lake completely dry, and the water, somehow, is muddier than usual. I say lake but my fishing partner—a stickler for accuracy (as much for everyday nomenclature as he is for everyone else’ casting)—well, he says it’s a pond.

“Look, this is artificial, man-made, therefore it’s a pond—you know from the word ‘pound’, as in ‘impoundment’”.

Riiiight. Whatever. Who cares that with so little water it does look more like a glorified mud-puddle—did I mention it’s been a dry summer—the place is thick with fish. They’re everywhere. Nine o’clock, two o’clock, even directly behind us at six o’clock. There are even those we don’t notice until we drift over them, the mud clouds like smoke signals silently announcing their departure.  Simply put, we are surrounded by carp. After wanting to fish these creatures for years we have finally “figured” them out… mostly, sort of, a little.

There are those who say carp are easy, but my friends and I who fish them here, in central Indiana, find them to be rather challenging, and by challenging I mean infuriating. Either they’re blind—although any creature would be hard put to see anything in the muck they paddle through—or they’re so picky as to border on being neurotic. (Perhaps they’re religious fish and regularly fast?)

Based on their size they must eat something, and lots of it. It is actually difficult to find small carp. I’ve seen plenty of six-inch smallmouth, but never a six-inch carp. Add 20 inches to that and you’d be in the ballpark of the fish that surround us. They make the pan fish and bass look like bugs that you swat off your hook.

That’s one of the most appealing things about carp: they’re big. A twelve-pound carp is common, a five-pounder barely worth reporting (except you will anyway since they’re so frustratingly hard to feed and you probably spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to get that bite, never once thinking, what the heck, it’s only a five-pounder.)

You also get a lot of shots and no one is ever fishing for them. Lots of shots is good, because their aforementioned infuriating apathy to flies means you need all those to get a bite. In a perverse way this is also one of the addicting things about carp fishing, but you still need to know that they could bite. For that to happen you need to catch one now and then, or at least watch your buddy do so. In the end it’s sight fishing on a hot summer day to fish that more than likely will not take your offering for whatever reason. I know I could be catching fish somewhere else; I know this is pretty much a ridiculous waste of time, but for those exact reasons, strangely enough, carp will continue to have this and my future summers.

Fly Fishing Padre
Indiana, USA
Summer 2012

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