Possibly one of the most photographed days, one that none of us will ever forget not only from the insanely amazing fishing, but by the way it was documented.
After finishing up breakfast, we picked out lunch and tossed it into our guides coolers before heading back to the house and gearing up. Getting prepped for the day took slightly longer as putting on sunscreen was paramount due to the days forecast. Anglers are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of sun protection from the level of sunscreen application to clothing selection. I love my 12wt WORKwt gloves, they give great protection not only from the sun but the thousands of strips I make a day while on the water. Every day of the trip I wore long sleeve 45+ SPF shirts and a Buff and hat. Since waders always covered our lower halves, everyone was protected there.
I was equipped with my 8wt Redington Vapen Red and Allen Fly Fishing Kraken in size 4. Austin geared up with Austin Adduci’s 9wt TFO Axiom and the 3-TAND T-90 reel. Kevin pulled up to the house and we loaded up the boat before heading down the street to drop the boat in at the local ramp. For once, the weather man was right, it was a bluebird day with zero wind…the Lake was glassy and the water was crystal clear (partially thanks to the invasive zebra mussels that constantly filter it). As we began to motor out, it was a little cooler (as was typical for the mornings throughout the trip) and called for wading jackets. We were about 100yds from the ramp and Kevin realized he had forgotten his jacket in the truck so we turned around to grab it giving us the perfect opportunity to ride out with Steve, Luis, and Kevin on our port side and an awesome photo op…
After shooting some photo and video, we went our separate ways…Steve, Luis, and Mario off to fish some of the bays North of the island while we took the short shot East towards the Three Bird Islands. A little about the bed islands…a lot of birds chill there and therefore they are loud and smell terrible. As Kevin put it, “stepping foot on that island would be absolute hell.” Austin and I agreed…at points it was hard to hear the other people talk as we got closer. The flats surrounding bird island can only be described as something you would see in the keys. They were a bit deeper and had rocky bottoms but they surrounded the entire island giving us the opportunity to pole 360 degrees around for a few laps.
We powered down and Kevin hopped up on the platform. Austin was up on the bow first. Within 10 minutes we started to see carp, and not just any carp, mudding carp. We didn’t have to opportunity to see mudding carp with Steve, especially not this close. The depth of the water ranged from 3-10′ with a majority of the fish feeding around 6-8′. Knowing sink rates of flies was paramount and heavier flies were tied on. Kevin tied on some phenomenal ties that I can only describe as large damsel nymphs. We first tried an olive and yellow pattern that would prove to be extremely productive. The large dumbbell eyes of the tie helped get the fly down along with the longer leaders Kevin tied on.
As we poled up on the first round of carp, Austin stripped out some line. With a mudding carp in the cross-hairs, he began to fire off a cast and let his fly drop with precision right in front of and ahead of the carp. Kevin’s instructions were exact, I think all of us would agree that if you were blindfolded on his bow, he could paint a picture for you good enough to get you hooked up. He is constantly talking to you and isn’t afraid to be honest, especially when you botch a cast. With Austin in front of me, the carp off to our left, and Kevin behind me giving instructions, I had a front row seat. “Great cast, now let it sink, now strip strip strip strip stop. He sees it….(long pause)…strip…he’s got it.” I look away from the fish as my view wasn’t as good and I didn’t see the eat…boom, Austin strips and lifts his stick…FISH ON!
We had been powered down and poling for about 15 minutes and with Austin’s first set of casts, he was hooked up. It was amazing, it set the tempo for the rest of the day. As Austin lifted his stick, the carp didn’t hesitate making a solid run straight off the bow. I snagged Austin’s camera at some pint during the fight to take some video and photos. The carp was a heavy fighter and Austin couldn’t believe the power behind the fish. My heart was racing as fast as his as I watched knowing I was up next, and there were carp all around us, all over the flat. After a 10 minute fight, Austin “gulped” the fish and it was in the boat. Photos were taken, fish was released healthy, and high-fives were had…and it was my turn to take the bow.
With more carp ahead, I threw another cast at a cruising fish and began to strip. The fly wasn’t anywhere near the 6′ bottom but that was because the carp was cursing at about 3′ under the surface. I continued to strip per Kevin’s instructions and the fish kicked its tail just like the smallie. It came at my fly double time and aggressive. The eat was amazing, almost right on the surface and it inhaled my fly. I set the hook and had yet another amazing fight full of backing and great runs. The fish was in and released completely healthy. Austin was up, he picked up the rod and I picked up the camera, we switched roles perfectly. One thing we noticed about the carp cursing at us was they were getting bigger and bigger. My fish was massive, my biggest of the trip to that point and Austin would go on to get his as well, literally in his first cast at his first fish after taking the bow. With another solid fight, just as amazing as the previous ones, we knew we had gotten into the big fish.
As the bite slowed down again, Kevin decided to make the 30-45 minute run out to two islands he hadn’t fished yet this year. The islands literally looked like something you would see in a Caribbean traveler magazine (minus the bugs). They were white sand covered, surrounded by turquoise waters and amazing flats. The bugs around the islands were by-far the worst but we would soon find out, those didn’t matter. With glassy water making the run possible, we powered down and began to work the flat. Throughout the day we had changed flies a few times but they were the same pattern and size with the only variation being color.
We had hooked up on black/white, olive/yellow, and olive/pink.. Austin took the bow first and after a solid 20 minutes, we were onto feeding fish. Austin fired off a cast and was hooked up, a common theme of the day. After a few minutes of fighting, the fish came off. We checked the hook and line and all looked well. Austin had numerous mudding fish around him and yet again, per Kevin’s on-point instructions, was on. This fish fought much longer…but unbuttoned again.
After a fly change for Austin, it was my turn to take the bow again. With a few big refusals and denials of fish pursuing and peeling off before the bite, I started to watch the clock knowing the day was coming to an end. Kevin spotted a massive fish that I was able to get to feed and within seconds it came off. This time it was not a mystery as to why it had happened, I was broken off. With a new leader and fly tied on, this time the same pattern as all of our previous fish but in a Halloween color combo of black/orange, I began to fire off casts. After multiple denials in a row, Kevin told me to cut off 50% of the tail of the fly. While snipping the tail, Kevin said, “Morgan, get ready.” I looked up and dropped my fly in the water.
What I looked up to see was a fish with shoulders on it that I had never seen before, absolutely massive. My first thought was, “holy smokes…I only have on 10lb tippet.” My second thought was interrupted by Kevin saying, “Thats a really big fish…Morgan, don’t F*** this up.” Real confidence booster huh? I fired off a cast, way behind the fish as it was cruising from 11 o’clock to 10. I let out another cast and this time it was on point as the fish followed it down during the sink. I could feel the adrenaline kick in like an Epinephrine shot to the heart and as everyone on the boat gasped, the fish ate. I set the hook and before I could blink, all I could hear was my backing knot zinging through my guides. I looked down to turn on my chest-mounted GoPro and realized it was already on. Yes. This fish fought like no other, and multiple times it made me think, “my rods definitely going to snap.” With 4 heavy heavy runs, I finally was able to put the wood to this fish and get it to gulp next to the boat. With every run, I had gone deeper into my backing and a solid 12 minute fight was over. Kevin netted the fish and simply said, “wow.” I looked over, with shaking legs, and my jaw hit the ground. Austin nearly dropped his camera as we all sat in awe of the fish my 8wt with 10lb tippet had just landed. I had tied my tippet onto my newCutthroat “Carp” Furled Leader that we had been given for the trip, it had performed flawlessly. I imagine the reason I did land that fish was because of the give that leader had…I was impressed.
Kevin let me sit down after acting like a child and giving out at least half a dozen high-fives and fist bumps and he asked, “are you ready?” I replied with a huge “YES” and he pulled the fish onto the boat. We again yelled and high-fived before I picked up the fish and put it in my lap. I looked at Kevin and said, “this fish weighs more than my daughter.” For those of you who don’t know, my daughter Lilly is 2…she weighs about 32lbs. After snapping an unbelievable amount of photos and grabbing some video, it was time to put my girl back in the net to weigh with Kevin’s calibrated scale. I was right, 34lbs, she did weigh more than Lilly. But here’s where the amazing part comes in. Kevin took a good look at the fish and informed us that she was a spent female, meaning she had already released all of her eggs and that a few weeks prior, she could have been 10-15lbs heavier while carrying that cargo…wow. After a more-than-healthy release, I had to sit back down. I was shaking like I had seen a ghost. That fish was by-far the largest freshwater fish I had caught and easily the largest fish I have ever caught on the fly.
As I trekked through the clouds of midges and took in the beauty of the island all by myself, I felt my phone go off. I had missed Steve’s boat coming in and everyone was back at the house. I hurried back just in time to shower before dinner. I came out as the guides pulled up to a brew from Mario and Luis and a whole lot of stoke. Mario and Luis had also had a banner day full of pike, smallmouth, carp and an amazing double up where both put 20lb fish in the boat at the same time.
Mario and Luis had put multiple pike in the boat, including this massive fish by Mario, his largest to date.
We headed off to yet another amazing dinner at Stoney Acre Grill & Pub on the other side of the island. Figuring out what to order was one of the toughest things as everything on the menu sounded like a home run. I ended up ordering what almost everyone else did, the Wet Burrito. That name will forever be remembered by us all as we figured out where the “Wet” part of the name came from the next day…it was totally worth it, I’d do it again.
By Morgan Kupfer – Originally Posted On His Blog TLTFF