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Mirror Magic at Lake Fork

Rare? Not today!I had a once in a lifetime session on Fork this past  weekend. Mirrors are extremely rare on Fork and, as odd as it sounds, they  don't seem to hang around with the commons at all, shoaling with groups of  other mirrors that rarely show themselves and are captures are very  unpredictable, few and far between with no correlation between their captures.

Snag wonderland down there!

I had spent a couple days on another lake known for being  very very tough to crack, actually no one had caught a fish from it yet. My  mate Mirko and I decided to spend a couple days at a swim only accessible by  boat. We actually caught, but we were being plagued by catfish and the only carp  we had caught were really small, only around six pounds(including a small  mirror though, so it wasn't all that bad), so we were getting sort of tired of  the conditions we were faced with. Still in possession of a ton of bait and  gear basically ready to go, we toyed with the idea of fishing somewhere on fork  that had never been tried before: one of the numerous islands that dot the  shore of the lake. We ended up packing up at pines and headed to Mirko's house  to form a battle plan, clean up, eat a good meal, and basically recharge our  batteries before heading back out for another big East Texas session. It was  well needed, and by the time we rolled out of his gate for Fork we felt  completely re energized and ready to redeem ourselves from our lame appearance  at the other lake. After a quick stop at a really odd walmart that included  some creepy employees, absolutely no cokes or other popular soft drinks that  should be found at a Walmart among other things, we were on the road again  headed for our destination, the famed Oak Ridge Marina, home of the Lake Fork  Carp and Buffalo challenge. After a quick visit with Barry, the marina owner,  we got the boat ready, checked our gear one last time, launched, parked the  cars, and headed off on our adventure. 


We quickly motored around to the island where we had scouted  via computer maps and Navionics at Mirko's house. The island honestly looked  amazing, mostly due to the fact that we could see carp and buffalo crashing  upon our arrival. The water surrounding the island was deep and a pale  blue-gray color, sort of murky from the boat traffic but relatively clear as a  result of the deep water and hard clay bottom. With deep water, easy access to  the river channel, small snags jutting out from the shallows, quick dropoffs,  and the fish crashing, we quickly parked the boat after motoring around a  couple of times to check the depths and conditions around the island. Unloading,  always a chore, was done quickly and we headed out to bait the swim up shortly  thereafter. Half a bag of cubes and nearly a full 5 gallon bucket of flavored  particle mix went in the swim scattered around the area we planned on setting  up, only about twenty yards from the bank. The island already seemed like  paradise as compared that the extreme range I am used to fishing. 



Rerigging table...hey we come prepared...I know where  everything is. Actually I probably couldn't find my braid scissors if they were  glued to my hand.








With the sun setting, we motored the boat back to the bank  and beached it next to our swim. We began to set up our pods, re rig our rods,  make new packbait, and get our rods out in hopes of catching some of the fish  we had seen crashing only minutes before. I struggled to splice new leadcore,  get rigs tied, and get my rods back in just hearing the sounds of big fish  crashing behind me close to the bait. I was definitely very anxious of what the  night would bring. I packed packbait, sprayed CarpPro, and casted out for the  night.

The weather was extremely mild for a summer night in Texas,  with a storm brewing in the distance but not near enough to bring us rain and  severe weather. Lightening flashed and winds stirred the cool night, to add to  the already mystical scene of fish crashing in the distance and night noises in  the brush behind us. East Texas at night is about as serene as it gets, i'm  completely addicted to it, the changing conditions, wildness, crazy happenings,  big fish, huge challenges, the people you meet, just every aspect of it.


I decided because of the mild weather to just sleep under  the stars and positioned my bedchair right next to my rods, got everything on  the bank organized quietly, then sat down waiting for a run, eventually falling  asleep, lulled to sleep by the lapping of waves, the chirping of crickets, and  the constant low drone of bass boat outboards throttling on in the boat lane a  couple hundred yards into the lake.

Beautiful high-backed mirror strain

Around 1:30 my right rod had a small catfish, followed by  another, and another, and another. This continued for about 30 minutes before  it got quiet again. By the time I had gotten through the shoal of catfish, I  could tell there werea lot of fish crashing barely off the bank, definitely on  the bait. I checked the bait on all three of my rods and put fresh pack on,  ready to roll for a fish to take the bait. I drifted back off to sleep shortly  thereafter.


The night wore on. I couldn't sleep hardly at all, between  the humidity once the wind died and the hum of a mosquito in your ear every  couple minutes kept me awake. I sat there and stared at the stars, the water,  listened to the night sounds for a while, the fish crashing, the waves, just  taking it all in. My moment of peace was then interrupted abruptly, my right  rod tip, which lay motionless, violently bowed down toward the water, the spool  of my reel started peeling, and my receiver started blaring it's monotone song.  I lept off my bedchair and lifted into the fish. I wasn't giving the fish an  inch of line and cranked it toward me, but the fish wanted otherwise. It felt  strong and even with the clutch basically locked it kept ripping line off the  spool, steaming off to the right straight into the snags. I felt the fish  kicking it's tail, the raw power of the thing itself, then nothing. Just solid  weight. Snagged. I slacked off barely, felt the line, nothing. No kicking, no  powerful tail, no headshakes, nothing. Just the waves lightly tapping against  the line and the lead bouncing when I pulled the line. I pulled the rig toward  me and broke the hooklink off at the clip. I quickly clipped on a new rig,  threaded a new hookbait on the hair, packed on pack, and repositioned the rig  right where it was. Back to my half awake slapping of mozzies and staring at  the sky.


Some time during the night I got into catfish again and  caught probably 10 in a row. If you take into consideration how tired I already  was these cats REALLY whizzed me off. I was throwing them at the water as hard  as I could releasing them and grumbling "F*cking catfish!" to myself  after every one. Finally, the shoal passed and I was back to my miserable night  of humidity, mozzies, waves, and stars. By then, it seemed like the carp had  either moved on or they were feeding heavily enough to stop showing themselves.

I woke to a sound a couple hours later. I sat there in  confusion at what I was listening to for a couple seconds. I then realized it  was the national anthem. I turned my head around and saw a congregation of bass  boats off in the distance. Fantastic, a tournament blastoff. The nation's song  ended and not a second later the familiar VRRRROOOOOMMMMMMMM of a bass boat  getting on plane echoed through the air, resonating loudly as boat after boat  passed us at over 70mph. The bay the island is located in went from a calm  sunrise with glass calm water to a murky mess as boats stirred the bank and  bottom sediment stratified throughout the water column. It was real early, the  sun hadn't yet peeked over the horizon, and everything had been interrupted  already. The bass boats finally passed and I ducked back into my sleeping bag  for another short few minutes of sleep before I began my morning bank routine  of drinking a couple energy drinks, rechucking, and reeling in catfish.


About an hour later I woke again to a couple beeps in quick  succession on my left rod. I busted out of my sleeping bag rather quickly to  find that a bass fisherman had bumped my rig with his bait and was sitting  directly on top of my swim. I wasn't too particularly happy, partially from my  The other side...miserable night, and the bass guys sensed this and trolled off to the back side  of the island. It was still early, the sun was just beginning to come up and  rays of yellow and orange painted the sky. I figured I wasn't going to get much  more sleep and felt that I needed to get fresh bait on my rigs so I began to  crank them in. I lost one to a snag and got back nothing, so I re-baited the  other two, put on fresh pack and CarpPro, and let them sail into the lake. I  was already running low on tackle so I located a leadcore leader, retied an  entire rig to my mainline, and followed what I had already done to the other  two.


Back you go, baby!After readjusting everything, casting, tightening the line, clipping on the indicator, adjusting that, spending 2 minutes getting my reel  handles in the same position(always matching, halfway between straight back and  straight down, perfect), I began to watch the water from the foot of my  bedchair. It was a peaceful typical East Texas summer morning; Birds chattered  in the trees behind us, shad flicked in the margin, herons stalked them a short  distance either side of our swim, turtles heads poked around looking for  morsels of food, and I sat there after a sleepless night with a banging  headache, a monster energy in one hand and my cell phone in the other, updating  myself on the night's happenings(mostly figuring out how many likes my most  recent Instagram photo had attained).


As I stared immersed in my phone screen I heard the typical  sound of a carp crashing close in, the splash followed by a tail slap shortly  after. I looked up in time to catch a glimpse of the tail. Small common.


A couple minutes passed and I saw Mirko's right rod  absolutely explode into action, his alarm screaming off into the hushed morning  air. Mirko sailed out of his bivvy door and struck into the fish quickly. I  watched him struggle to gain line for a few seconds as the fish raced around  the snags, then his line stopped moving and he looked up at me and announced  "fish is snagged". We waited arm to arm for a couple seconds as he  tried pulling from various angles, slacking off, pulling really hard, and  finally had to break the fish off. The line came back dishearteningly slack; an  entire rig lost. Mirko turned around to place his rod on his bivvy and I began  my short walk back to my bedchair. I then heard the screaming of an alarm, the  clicking of a clutch, footsteps, a sharp jerk, and an announcement of  "another". I whipped around to find Mirko into another fish. He  forced the fish up in the water and the fish avoided almost every snag in the  swim and I reached for the net. I waded toward it and pushed the net forward  toward the fish. Mirko walked backward, the fish came within a foot of the net,  I began to lift when suddenly.... Bedeeep...beep..beep..bip...BEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPP


Mirror #2I dropped the net right where it was and raced to my pod. My left rod tip was bending down violently and I tore it off my rod pod quickly, tightening the clutch and started applying an extreme amount of pressure to fight the fish away from the snags. The fish didn't enjoy what I was doing, and raced to the snags against a locked clutch. Snagged. Before I could do a thing my middle rod tears off violently, and I opened the bail, hurriedly slammed my rod onto my pod, and snatched my other rod off my pod. I turned to Mirko, laughing at the unlikeliness of the situation. Mirko was in the process of unhooking his fish, which resulted in being a decent common. I locked the clutch quickly and ran to my right to attempt to steer the fish away from the snags. The fish ripped drag powering around through the snags. I was able to tell the fish was running straight to the right for a single stump that lay in a couple feet of water. I splashed in and headed straight for the snag where the fish was headed, reeling down hard and trying to use the rod to steer the fish away. The fish wrapped around once and I could feel the leadcore leader sawing away against the tree. I finally got about waist deep and was able to spin the rod around the stump and free my line. I reeled down quickly and pulled the fish back from the snag. I worked tirelessly to get the fish up in the water, and the fish cooperated for a split second and the fish's flank broke the surface. Wait....No way. Mirror. MIRROR. HOLY shit MIRROR.


Just to backtrack a bit, I have been doing a campaign on fork for over two years, totaling almost 50 nights on fork. I've had hundreds upon hundreds of carp from fork and not a single mirror. Lets go back.


I found myself trying to regain my composure, I went from doggedly fighting the fish and really putting the pressure on to carefully guiding it around, not trusting my hookhold at all. I was legitimately concerned I would hook my first Fork Mirror and lose it as a result of being careless. Mirko stood behind me with the net at the ready as I carefully played the fish through the margins. Mirko pushed the net out, I walked backwards, and the round israeli mirror rolled over the front of the net as Mirko lifted. I had done it, and a smile stretched across my face that I couldn't wipe off.


I found one of my keepsacks and wetted it, then carefully transferred the fish from the landing net to the mat then into the sack and back in the deepest water we could get her in. I carefully zipped the sack and waded out, firmly pushing a storm pole that the sack was screwed to into the clay bottom.


I went back to the snagged fish I had on my other rod, which was long gone. I broke off the hooklink and laid the rod on my pod. I rebaited the two that still had rigs on them, fresh pack and CarpPro, and back in the lake they went. I clipped a fresh rig onto the other rod, threaded a fresh hookbait on, and proceeded to do the same. I organized the swim a bit, moving the cradle into a good background for a photo, setting the tripod up, getting my Reubens zeroed out perfectly to the sling, and took the time to get my camera all set. I checked with Mirko and we were ready, and I waded into the water with my sling to retrieve my capture. The fish had regained a bit of strength and resisted being pulled from the cool water I had sacked her in, but went into the sling safely and I headed back to the mat. 


Carp Fishing, Texas Style!I unzipped the sack as Mirko and I peered over my carp cradle. For the first time I had a long glimpse at my beautiful capture. Fork is known for big commons and buffalo, but also it's low stock of extremely beautiful, round israeli mirrors with massive scales, huge proportions, and hard fighting nature. This fish was definitely one of those. I carefully removed the keepsack and moved her to the sling. I zipped the sling's sides and hung it on the tripod. The dial swung around and settled. I smiled. 27lb 6oz, a new PB for me by over 8 pounds. 


I took the fish back to the cradle and handed Mirko my camera. I lifted the fish and Mirko snapped a few pictures of the beautiful specimen from various angles, then I released her back to her watery, snag filled kingdom that is Lake Fork. I looked into the sky and smiled. I had done it at last.


About an hour later, after losing two more fish to snags and catching at least a dozen more catfish, my left rod sprang to life, and I lept up and struck into the fish. I went through the motions exactly as I had with the last two of cranking the fish off the bottom as quickly as I could and steering the fish away from the snags as much as I could in hopes of landing it. I got the fish past most of the snags then it powered off to the right straight for the stump my mirror had gone for. I ducked under my other two rods and splashed toward it in hopes of keeping it away, but the fish wrapped me once. I started wading in and got to my chest, right next to the stump, unwrapping my line. I saw the fish as it powered away once freed and I couldn't believe my eyes. Another mirror.

Backtracking again, the last time there were 2 mirrors caught in a row at Fork was over a year ago when Richard Somerville and Erick Maybury had back to back mirrors in a one night bonanza at Oak Ridge Marina. I was on that session, and we though that may never happen again. It was happening.


I continued to work the fish toward me, tiring it down and getting it close enough for Mirko to slide the net in and capture her. Finally, I got her head turned toward me and was able to pull the fish right into the net relatively easily. We had done it, two in a row!


The fish turned out to be another beautiful israeli, this one fully scaled and perfect apart from one scale missing, a spawning wound.


We followed through the motions again. On the mat, wet the sling, zero, fish in sling, on the scale. The fish went 19lb even. Back to the mat, camera ready. I held the fish in my arms admiringly as Mirko popped These Lake Fork fish have some massive paddles!around taking pictures from different angles. Back in the sling, into the lake, a couple more pictures and release. Amazing.


We got everything reset and ready, then I gave Davo(Smith) a call. We were chatting about the crazy session when Mirko had a run. We had caught a couple of catfish in a row so I assumed it was a catfish. I continued to talk for a minute when I heard Mirko say "Carp" so I grabbed the net and walked toward him, still on the phone. I stood next to Mirko, announcing that he had a fish on. Dave said "what does he have?" and almost immediately after we saw it. I fell silent, in awe. "Another Mirror", I announced. I quickly got off the phone and netted the fish for Mirko. We were both ecstatic, this was definitely a day to remember with another personal best on the bank, this one for Mirko.

The fish ended up being yet another israeli, this one with scaling like the first, only missing a few more scales from spawning, wounds that looked a couple weeks old. We cared for her the same as the others. She went 19lb 4oz on the scale. I got the camera ready and snapped pics, plus a couple with our phones, then the fish went back with her fellow mirror companions in the lake.


To say the session was amazing is a dramatic understatement. Three mirrors in a single day on Fork is unheard of, and we had done it!


I ended up having to pack up, partially to get back in time for Fathers Day and partially to get out ahead of the massive storm that was brewing in the distance. As I was packing up, I had three more takes and lost everything on all three, then lost two rigs just recasting and pulling into snags. I was running extremely low on rigs by that point, and losing more just made the deficit on stuff I was going to have to order higher and higher. All in the fun I guess.


Mirko gets in on the action with Mirror #3I got everything packed away pretty quickly, taking a couple breaks to rest in the hot afternoon sun and near 100% humidity in the air. I was exhausted but happy, sort of glad I would end up getting to sleep in my bed that night but gutted that I had to leave at the same time. I loaded everything back into the boat, Mirko reeled in his rods, and we headed off toward the boat ramp where our trucks were parked. We beached the boat, I backed my truck down the ramp, and we loaded up everything into my truck. I got everything positioned properly in my truck, we said our goodbyes, then I was rolling out of Oak Ridge headed home. I rolled across the 154 bridge in time to see Mirko heading back to the island, full speed ahead. I smiled. We had done it.


Shortly after, rain began to fall. Then more rain, then an absolute monsoon came down onto me. I had to pull over because even with my windshield wipers on high, I still couldn't see past my hood. It poured for almost 20 minutes. Finally, with my gear all wet of course, I was able to proceed home. Another crazy aspect of another memorable East Texas session.


I talked to Mirko that night. Apparently it rained hard on him for an hour, and the swim turned to a chaotic mud pit. He ended up throwing everything in the boat, including his rods still on the pod, and got off the bank as quickly as he could. We'll have to revisit the swim and try to go for those massive Fork mirrors again. 


I'm confident that there is a massive mirror in Fork, much larger than anything that has come out thus far. I will continue to chase it, along with that Texas 40 carp, a 70lb buffalo, and all of those other fish that taunt me in my dreams on the bank and dominate my thoughts when i'm not. Until I capture all of those, I'll continue with my campaign, setting new heights and, of course, always continuing to learn and push my knowledge of carp and buffalo further and further.


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