I was standing thigh-deep in sticky mud and murky water, bent at the waist with my arms spread, hoping for a big carp to swim between them so that I could then clamp down on the beast and heave him into the canoe. That I was in that heron-like stance is indicative of the surreal, near-hallucinatory nature of slow, hot, and mostly boring exploratory fishing trips.
The plan was for Insane and I to make the hour drive to my parents home to pick up the canoe I left there three years ago because I had no where to store it at my apartment. Once in possession of watercraft, we would stop at a Lake Guntersville backwater and look around for bass and bluegills willing to hit a fly.
We tossed the canoe in, headed for a wind-sheltered rocky shoreline, and Insane immediately began hooking up on his popper. I was using a subsurface bluegill fly, but nothing seemed interested. After Insane lipped his third fish, a hefty two pound largemouth, I switched to a popper of my own. Predictably the fishing slowed. Neither of us could buy a decent strike.
I knew about a gravel bar where bluegills usually bed on the other side of the creek, so we made the half mile paddle over there. There were some fish, but we managed to spook them when the wind blew us across the bed. By the way, I love a canoe for fishing creeks, small rivers and ponds, but I really hate trying to use one on open water in a big lake when the wind is blowing.
After that we paddled around, casting here and there to likely looking spots with luck ranging from bad to worse. By this point, I guess we were pretty bored. I get bored much more quickly out on lakes than I do on rivers. I don’t know why. All that open water and all of it seems devoid of fish, I guess. Plus it was 90 degrees (our first truly warm day of the year) and so windy that anything resembling boat control was impossible. And so I ended up chasing carp through the shallow water like some redneck fish grappler who had moved from catfish to more challenging quarry.
The carp spawn this time of year. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but it’s quite a sight. The big fish roll and jump and fling themselves up against the shore and just generally cause one heck of a ruckus. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands, doing this in the shallow coves where we were fishing. We decided to try for photos. Insane slowly paddled the canoe along the shore while I snapped lots of photos of the brutes thrashing around. We began to feel like photographers for the Wild Kingdom. “And here you see the spawning ritual of the North Alabama mud carp…”
The water positively churned with the fish. Many swam into the side of the canoe. We though about trying to catch them on the fly rods, but they had the water so muddy that they’d never have seen a fly. They weren’t interested in feeding anyway. A big one swam by, and I was able to touch it. Insane and I looked at each other, and we suddenly knew what the other was thinking. We said simultaneously, “I bet we could wrestle one of those beasts into the boat!” or something to that effect.
So over the side I went. Insane was my spotter, graciously allowing me to do the fish chasing. After half an hour of this with only a few close calls, we realized the fish could sense my presence despite the muddy water, and they wouldn’t come near me. I broke a sandal in the sticky mud while trying to clamber back over the side of the canoe. Then we found a shady spot to have a couple of Sam Adams Black Lagers and ponder how we ended up there. The shade was pleasant, the beers were good and cold, and carp wallowed like pigs all around us. It was the nicest part of the trip.
We plan to hit this area again later in the year when the carp are more interested in feeding, and the water is clearer. One thing’s certain, there are tons of the fish in the neighborhood.
We made the tough mile paddle back to the boat ramp right into the teeth of a strong wind. While loading the canoe, Insane managed to split his shorts from the crotch up to his belt and twist his fly rod in half, all in the space of roughly 30 seconds. Ah well, it wouldn’t be an Insane/Hawgdaddy fishing trip if there weren’t some casualties. This time it happened to be our dignity, my sandals, Insane’s khaki shorts and his bass fly rod. I suppose it could have been worse…