Welcome to the Jungle - John "Montana" Bartlett
Justin's plane was due to land in twenty minutes and I hurriedly perused the shelves in search of the perfect welcome to town present. I had spent the day scouting, you see, and the river was an absolute mess. My regular flats that I often wax poetic about were neck deep in dirty, brown water. As I drove from spot to spot, getting more depressed with each stop I mentally checked them off...plan A, plan B, plan C all out.
Then I saw it...on the other side of a barbed wire fence a flooded field and woods was alive with carp. Fish cruised the shallows in packs, some spawning, others tailing and still more just bulling through the bushes, intent on exploring their new environment. I slipped down the bank and into the water. It didn't take long to hook the first fish, and it took even less time to lose it. Fish number two came easily, and dove into a willow tree with the same ease.
In short order I had lost a half dozen flies and was laughing myself silly. I was still laughing as I stared at the shelves of a nearby fly shop, looking for heavier line to welcome Justin and Justin to OR. I had found the carp and likely salvaged what could have been a disaster, but figuring out how to land them in that jungle would be a joint affair.
As we pulled into the spot the next day, excitement was high. We could see the fish milling through the brush and we rigged up with ridiculous 16 lb tippet (it felt like cable to my two MN guests...they fish 6 x for crying out loud!) We slipped down the bank and approached the water.
One of the best things about fishing for carp with a flyrod is that it is a visual feast. If you can't see the carp, you probably can't catch the carp. On a big flat with open water the visuals can be both a blessing and a curse as a six foot tall human stands out like a sore thumb, but in the jungle, you are much less noticeable. This is a good thing because making a long cast and putting the fly in a one foot opening of thick grass and bushes borders on impossible. Instead, we slipped into ultra stealth mode and crept through the cover like ninjas. I had about six feet of tippet hanging off my rod tip and was prepared to simply dap the fly onto any fish in a reasonable opening.
"We crept through the cover like
We moved slowly and began hooking up almost immediately, but holding the fish was another matter. Justin compared our methods to calf roping. With only leader out the guides we would hook a fish and them immediately clamp down on the line and refuse to give more than a foot or two to the fish. Any carp that could get ten feet away was gone...simply too much debris, too many bushes and trees for them to get lost in...line was broken, hooks were straightened, and many rods were threatened...calf roping indeed.
But through it all we caught fish. We stalked, and walked, and dapped and hung on...we hooted and hollered and laughed and scrambled for the net when appropriate. We dropped flies through the grass, amongst the bushes, even into the ruts of an old road, and everywhere the fly dropped in front of a carp we saw those big lips open and their gills flare. Carp on the fly is a visual feast,, even when it isn't the story book image of a huge, shallow flat and open water. Walking the jungle in search of carp, you are bound to see something cool.