Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Cure for the Dog Days of Summer

It’s mid-July.
It’s HOT in southeast Nebraska and other parts of the country.

Mulberries on the bush. Dark purple and black berries are ripe. 
Days when the temperature tops out in the high-80s are a welcome relief from other days when temperatures approach the three-digit mark. The humidity reading is often almost identical to the temperature. It can be hard to breathe as you shuffle from the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned house.

The old-timers call these “the dog days of summer,” when heat from the sun drives the fish into cooler areas such as weed beds and stump fields , deeper water, and shaded flowing water where there are cooler temperatures. That makes the fish less active during daylight hours and the spots where they go to avoid the sun and warmer temperatures more difficult for the fly angler to fish.

That means the fish move to places where there is protection from the direct rays of the sun, which makes the water cooler (shade), where there is an acceptable level of oxygen in the water, and where there are aquatic insects, small fish or other food sources. It also often means they are hiding in submerged growing vegetation where the angler finds it difficult to present a fly, or to fight the fish after a strike.

The “dog days” mean tough fishing.

But, late yesterday morning when I was taking Gabe, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, on a short walk in the pasture, slipping from the shade of one tree to the next, I noticed the mulberry bushes growing near our barn were still producing fruit. The branches were loaded with berries and the ground beneath them was littered with dark purple and black mulberries.

“Mulberries!” I said out-loud, “It’s time to go carp fishing!”

Gabe looked at me out of the corner of his eye, as if to say, “Hey Boss, I do ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, maybe a dove or two, but I draw the line at scales. You’re on your own on this one, buddy.”

If you’ve never caught a carp on your fly rod, you’re missing some great action. Carp have kind of a bad reputation in this country (more because of their social skills than their sporting qualities), but in many other countries they are considered to be superior game fish.

I’m not going to go into all of the carp’s attributes here, other than to say they are abundant in most areas of the country, they grow to large size, fight well when hooked, and are great at the table after being smoked, grilled, fried or baked.

During “the dog days,” carp are easy to find and aren’t affected by the heat as are other species. One of my favorite ways to catch them when nothing else will even look at my fly, is with mulberry flies.

Mulberry flies fool hungry carp.
Mulberries grow along the banks of creeks, streams, rivers, farm ponds and  the quiet coves of many lakes.  The plant’s branches bend and reach out over then water and ripe berries fall into the water where carp often gather and suck them up.

When I’m fishing a creek, stream or river, I like to cast into the current flowing along the bank above the mulberry bushes and let the current carry my fly over feeding carp.

Carp don’t make dramatic strikes at the fly like a bass or northern pike, instead it slowly sucks the fly into it’s soft mouth, feels and mouths it a little and then leisurely turns and moves away.  That’s when you should set the hook and be prepared for a fight. A carp is best described as a “brawler”. Think late nights at Irish pubs.

As I mentioned earlier, the carp is not known as America’s most popular sport fish, but it is one scrappy fish well worth the attention of warmwater fly angler.



Mulberry Fly
Hook -- Mustad 3367 #6
Thread -- Danville’s Black Flat Waxed Nylon
Body -- Medium Black Chenille
Rib – Purple Krystal Flash
Stem -- Black Goose Biot Fiber

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