Barry W. Smith
in the saltwater marsh, it is fly action close to home.Are you in those summer fly-fishing doldrums without the time or extra cash to travel to the coast and hookup on some saltwater action? I’ll bet there is some real hot action close to home that will put a sure ‘nuff bend in your 6 wt. and make you glad you spooled some backing on that fly reel.
Grass carp or white amur, as they are correctly called, often grow to big strong fish that can be caught on a variety of baits and tackle. On spinning or casting tackle they will often inhale a cricket, a blade of grass, a dough ball or even a piece of dry dog food. But if you want some real sporting action, hook one of these 20-pound class bruisers on a 6- wt. fly rod.
The old fish can usually be found around the welfare food line, patiently waiting their daily handout from the automatic fish feeder. As these fish age and grow to15 pounds or more, they become less efficient in consuming vegetation and often present a nuisance at the feeder, making such a commotion that they discourage bluegill from feeding. If you have ever witnessed this scene, you will often see these big grass carp with their mouth open at the water’s surface, literally vacuuming dozens of floating fish pellets from the pond.
We receive complaints from pond owners each year asking how to remove these big amurs or at least discourage their presence at the fish feeder. If you are a bow-fisherman, these fish present great targets. If your location permits, simply shooting a .22 rifle or a shotgun in their proximity while they are feeding will discourage their presence at the feeder for several weeks.
Those of us who are fly-fishers view this scenario as an opportunity. There are several “flies” that will fool a big grass carp, but none seems to work better than one that truly matches the hatch. Since these are feeding on a floating fish pellet, why not make a pellet fly? For those of you who tie flies, like my fly-fishing buddy Russell Thornberry, spun deer hair on a # 10 hook works great. If you are not a fly tier, purchase a bottle of your favorite wine. OK, maybe just a bottle that is not a twist-off, but has a real cork stopper. Carve a piece of cork that roughly matches the size of the fish pellet, sanding it to final shape. Then with a red-hot needle, burn a hole through the cork. Push the eye end of a light gauge # 10 hook through the cork ball and glue it close to the eye. Better make a couple of flies, and then you are ready for some fun fly-fishing action.
Thornberry prefers to use a limber 5- or 6-wt, rather than an 8- or 9-wt that you might normally use to catch a 10- to 20-pound fish. Don’t forget you are using a small wire hook that a big amur will straighten in a heartbeat. A light drag and plenty of bend in the rod will help you land one of these big bruisers. These fish are not leader shy, so experienced anglers like Thormberry, prefer a 10- to 12-pound tippet.
The technique for fishing at the feeder is simple. Throw a handful or so of feed, just enough to entice some amur feeding action in front of the feeder. If you set off the feeder, there will usually be too much feed to concentrate the amur. Wait until you see those unmistakable fish lips sucking the pellets off the surface like a vacuum cleaner, then gently place the pellet fly in front of the amur. Do not move the fly! When the fish has sucked in your fly and the line begins to move, gently raise the rod to set the hook and hang on for a wild ride! Can you say backing?
Sometimes these huge grass carp will become airborne, but most of the time they will fight like a redfish in the marsh, making some moderate to long runs, enough to get you on the backing. They will sometimes show their strength for up to 20 minutes, before they finally roll on their side.
Maybe it is not the same as sight-fishing a red with a fly, but it is great fun and for most of us, some great action close to home. What a great way to remove some of these big grass carp from your pond or your neighbors. Get out there and have some fun!
Barry W. Smith is a Certified Fisheries Scientist and co-owner of American Sport Fish Hatchery in Montgomery, Alabama.