Thursday, July 15, 2010
Grass Carp Flies: Part I
Here in Washington State there are Grass Carp in a few lakes both public and private. The Grass Carp that are here are all supposed to be certified sterile so they can't reproduce. Stocking Grass Carp in any Washington lake, both public and private, requires the permission of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Lone Lake is a place I have fished since the early 70's. Yikes, is that possible? I have fished it for Trout. It is on an island here in Western Washington. Through the years the property around the lake has been developed more and more as has the rest of the island. Some years the Trout fishing has been better than others with some years being disappointing and not worth the effort and some years being quite amazing for a lake that a guy can drive to.
Several years ago the lake began to be infested with Brazilian Elodea. As it proliferates it can just choke a lake.
I am a member of the Evergreen Fly Fishing Club; many of our members regularly fish Lone Lake for Trout. As the Elodea problem became worse and worse our club, along with the local Homeowners Association, another fly club, and the WDFW, worked to remove the weeds. Elodea is just darn difficult to eradicate. After much research and consideration it was decided that the WDFW would plant Grass Carp in Lone Lake. The goal was to keep the elodea down but not eliminate all aquatic plant life.
Grass Carp are vegetarians; they love their salad. They will eat a bug but not very often by comparison. Well, in a matter of just four years the salad eaters have cleaned out the lake. There are no plants left growing from the bottom. There are some cattails and other weeds at the margins but that is it. The lack of aquatic vegetation is now causing other problems in Lone Lake. To help mitigate this the WDFW has approved a Grass Carp removal program at Lone Lake. People who are participating in the removal process had to be part of a permitting process. We even have to carry a sign and a badge of sorts while we fish.
I have caught a good many Common Carp and Mirror Carp. I have caught a grand total of 5 Grass Carp on the fly. That was several years ago. I know a guy who has some private lakes on his property. He had a permit to plant some Grass Carp in his water. He asked me to try and catch a few of them to move them from one lake to another to help with weed control in the lakes where they were not getting the job done. I spent a couple hours one day observing their behavior and then returned with my son to have a go at it.
We fished the better part of the day; those Grass Carp are not easy to catch. They are very spooky. We were only able to catch them when we were hiding behind the cattails, casting very carefully, and then letting the fly sit for awhile before stripping extremely slowly.
We fished floating lines and 1X leader. I believe we caught 7 total; it may have been 8. I tried some Olive Woolly Buggers and a few other leech style pattersn. We caught our fish on my Scum Fly. We just let it sit there. I should add that later in the day we started greasing the leader so it would float which helped keep the fly near the surface.
Knowing how hard the Grassers are to catch on the fly I was not terribly optimistic when I went to Lone Lake a few weeks ago. The weather was cloudy and cool. I had some Scum Flies but I also was trying something new, the Grass Fly. Katy brought home some Sushi. A few of the pieces were sitting on a strip of fake grass. I went to the grocery store the next day and asked the guy if he would sell me a few strips of fake grass. He said no but he told me where I could get 60 piecs. It cost me $1.50. I cut it in to grass blade size strips and tied it on a #8 5262. Dang I thought that fly would look tasty to a Grass Carp.
I spent a couple hours slowly moving around the edges of the lake looking for Grassers. I cast to where I thought there might be some but not knowing for sure reduces your odds considerably and they aren't good to start with.
Remembering my time from 10 years ago on the private water I finally saw evidence of a Grass Carp. If I hadn't seen it several times back then I wouldn't have known what the heck was happening. I saw the top of a reed moving slowly through the water. It would move, stop, and then move again. Then it would sink a little and then disappear. I remembered that Grass Carp can pick a two or three foot reed, hold it in their mouth, move for awhile, eat some of it, move some more, and finally eat it all. They can root around in the margins and pick a reed off like breaking off a celery stalk. Sometimes after they break one off they will move away before they begin eating it. Kind of like a Sea Gull or a Crow trying to get away from other birds before it begins eating whatever it has found. I also saw something else that I knew told me there were Grass Carp in the area. A reed would appear to be floating flat on the top of the water. It would slowly move even against the wind. It would slide across the top of the water with one end slipping below the surface.
Picture yourself with an two foot french fry in your mouth. You are holding the loose end with one hand. You don't move the fry with your hand, you just nibble it a bit at a time. You nibble in half inch to one inch increments. Slowly the french fry moves towards you as you eat it. That's what it is like when a Grass Carp is nibbling on a 2 foot reed. The fish will be just subsurface and the only evidence you might see is the moving french fry. If the sun is out and the sky is clear, and of course it helps if the water is clear, you can see the Grass Carp eating. They do NOT like company. They don't like noise, they don't like shadows, they don't like movement. Don't take this personally but they don't like me or you either.
I did not catch a Grass Carp in Lone Lake when I was out a few weeks ago. I hope to try again but alas, I am very distracted by my friends the Commons and the Mirrors.
I am anxious to see if my Grass Fly will work when the Grass Carp are more active. I may have to resort to tying lettuce to my hook. Maybe I'll tie a bit of bacon and a small tomato wedge with the lettuce and I'll have the BLT fly. Probably not.
Mr. P.'s Scum Fly
Hook: Tiemco 5262 size 8
Thread: Black or Olive
Body: Olive Crosscut Rabbit Fur
Scum: Scribbles 3D Hunter Green Paint
Tie the rabbit fur on near the bend of the hook. After each wrap seperate or pull the fur out from the hook shank. At random points spread the paint in the fur with a toothpick.
Here are pictures of the same Scum Fly from four different angles. In the water it looks like scum or algae.
All five Grass Carp I have caught were taken on my Scum Fly.
Here is a picture of my Grass Fly.
This is a picture of the box the fake grass comes in with one piece sitting next to it.
Hook: Tiemco 5262 size 8
Thread: Black or Olive
"Body": Fake Grass
Cut blades of fake grass from the sheet. Fasten them in different directions.