Bret W. Lester

A Beautiful Morning of Stalking

With an uncharacteristically cool June nearly behind us, I embarked on what will probably by my last carp stalking adventure before the stifling heat takes hold of inland Nor Cal.

I hiked quite a distance along the old creek bed after parking the car by the roadside around 6:45 AM. The reservoir is still full to the brim, and I heard on the news the other day that parts of Yosemite are still closed due to snow. Meanwhile, other parts of the country are getting scorched. I'm used to hearing about drought around here but this year, us Californians are the lucky (wet) ones.

Anyway, the downside of all this water is that much of the lake is inaccessible by foot, which makes stalking the old cyprinids all the more challenging. But I managed to get a couple nonetheless, although I spooked many more than I tempted.

Here's the first one. I tempted him with some corn on a size 4 G-carp hook. What awesome hooks from Gamakatsu. It fought like hell just like every carp I've ever caught.

First carp of the trip. Caught 6:52 AM.

You can't tell from the picture but the sun was still coming up, therefore I was dealing with low light conditions, which can be a real problem when sight fishing. I spooked multiple other targets before getting this one to suck on some kernels. It's inevitable to spook some carp when stalking, but you spook even more in low light because you don't see them until you're practically right on top of them, yet for some reason it seems they can see you coming from a mile away.

Anyway, I got him where a tributary (which is still carrying a trickle) joins with the old creek channel. I'll just call this spot the First Trib. It's a good spot. I got another one here about a week ago. And there's always some carp rooting around in the submerged grass when I show up there in the morning.

I proceeded walking up the bank along the old creek channel making my way out of the cove created by the First Trib, casting to a few carp along the way unsuccessfully. As I made my way out of the cove, I saw a nice specimen down-shadow. When stalking carp, I cast my rig a good deal past them so as not to spook them with the splash of the splitshot, then quickly reel my offering as close as I can get it to the fish's visual field without spooking it. It's similar to what fly fishermen call the "drag 'n drop" maneuver. Anyway, this time I ended up spooking my target but not for the usual reason. This time, the bass thrashing on the end of my line spooked him. Check out this incredibly fat specimen whos strike response was triggered by the yellow corn on my G-carp.

This very fat bass was caught on 3 kernels of sweet corn.

I was targeting carp on this trip, and I generally think they are better sport than bass due to how hard they fight in comparison, but I was definitely not disappointed. Although I was annoyed at first when casting past my target only to find that something was obstructing my retrieve. It took my brain a moment or two to process what was happening. That bass fought almost as hard as a carp. Very respectable.

I continued stalking what was left of the First Trib cove then made my way up the hiking trail to the next stretch of fishable shoreline. When stalking up the bank, sometimes you can see a cloud of silt ahead which is a clue that a carp or two are rooting around in that general vicinity, which lets you slow your pace and prepare to take a shot. Other times you don't see your quarry until you're practically right on top of them—encounters which normally end in a spook. And yet other times, usually when the sun is at your back, you see the entire specimen before you, lips, barbels and all, feeding, which is an indication it's comfortable and oblivious to the predator nearby. That's (almost) a perfect description of the encounter which led to the fine common pictured below.

This fish fought like hell in water and land, reminding me why nets are pretty nice to have. The red gunk on his snout is mud.

This was the last fish of the day and the hardest fighter. It was a struggle to beach him without a net, and he continued thrashing on the bank. What is it about carp that makes them fight so hard? Not all cyprinids are like this (looking at you Pike Minnow).

I continued fishing into the late morning. I got several more shots, even a "take-and-spit" or two, spooked many, but no more on the bank. Overall it was an excellent morning of stalking and the surprise bass definitely spiced things up. I'll be back to these very stretches in July. Hopefully the water level doesn't rise any more because it will make it practically un-fishable.


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