Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bigmouth Buffalo on Fly

Since the water was relatively calm upon arrival, I planned to try for bass with a topwater fly. But it was quickly obvious there were some Grass Carp working near shore around me. So, I started trying for them. Its amazing how such large fish can be invisible even in shallow water...and I'm wearing polarized sunglasses! But there were big swirls, and even an occasional fin sticking above the water. I had a grassie give my fly a good look-over, but didn't eat it. I was deep in concentration trying to spot where the grass carp might be as they moved around.

And then...PLOP!  A lure landed practically right in front of me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a guy who had just cast his lure right next to me. I didn't recognize him at first, so I resumed my fishing. He said hello, and then I realized he was an angler I have talked to (along with his friend) a few times out here. We started talking, he made another cast, reeled in, and then 2-3 GIANT Grass Carp just 15' from my rod tip exploded towards deeper water, right from where his lure was dragging through.

"There go my Grass Carp!" I said.
"You were fishing for those?" he asked.

Maybe it was guilt, but he then shared some "hot bite" information about one of the other nearby ponds. And then fished his way on around the pond.

I stayed put. I saw the tail of a fish in the water in front of me. It was moving around as the fish fed, but stayed close to the same spot. It was a smaller tail than I would have expected to see from a Grass Carp of the size that are in this pond, and darker. Since it appeared to be feeding on the bottom, I assumed it was a Smallmouth Buffalo. I put on a fly that has been catching carp and catfish for me lately (basically a cross between a John Montana's Hybrid carp fly and Chris Vargas's Black Ops fly), and I've seen Instagram pics of a guy that catches buffalo on something very similar to this. I made several casts, and finally had the fly placed about where I hoped the head of the fish would be. I let the fly drop to the bottom, waited until the line twitched, then set the hook.

YES! Turned out to be a 28" Bigmouth Buffalo, which is super-cool, considering they are typically filter feeders...but they do occasionally eat nymphs and whatever else they might find. On spinning gear it isn't unusual to snag one, or even have them eat a twister tail jig or other lure (especially in the river). I've caught a couple of these on flies in the past, and a couple other foul-hooked individuals. This one ate the fly, and it was lodged nicely in the corner of its mouth.
Bigmouth Buffalo, 28"
It was a good fight, mostly because of the size of the fish and trying to drag it in...but it did take a few good strong runs.  I got it to shore and tried to land it...had a hand around its tail and one under the belly...and it freaked and flopped out of my hands back into the water, and took off through/under the moss, throwing mud and water all over me and the new long-sleeved sun hoodie I was wearing (which seems to work pretty well, by the way).   In the process, the line was so buried in moss, weeds, and algae, I was afraid the fish would break the line or throw the hook.  I could barely even pull line back in through all that junk, and finally I had to just stop and reach out and start picking it off the line just so I could get the fish in.  Which I eventually did, as you can see.  Definitely glad I was using 2x tippet (11.9 lb test)!

By the time I decided to give up on the Grass Carp, the wind had picked up. And not just a little. It was considerable work to get reasonable distance on the bass popper I put on. I caught one smallish bass and missed several strikes before deciding to just target panfish instead.

I did catch a Pumpkinseed Sunfish on a floating fly before it got windy. Later I just went with unweighted slow-sinking flies.
I caught some Bluegills and 2-3 mid-sized bass (13"-15" range) before giving up for the evening.

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