Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Carp Fly Fishing | Four Mile Run

Its that time of year again folks. The main stem of the Potomac is getting colder. The fish are going to be less active as their metabolism drops- remember they are exothermic ("outter" "temperature") meaning they do not generate their own body heat, they are the same temperature as the water they are in. Colder organisms slow down-which is why I  had the window open in the winter time in my classroom when I was a teacher-trying to get those crazy kids to be cold and less active.

For fishing reports and conditions, follow me on Twitter @RobSnowhite

I've had the stomach flu the past couple of days so I've sat up at night and read some carp fly fishing articles and scrolled through carp fly patterns. I had to cancel my clients on Sunday as I was still chundering in the morning. I'm upset that I let them down. One was a 10 year old who has his own fly rod! I'm jonzing to get out and put clients on a carp. 

My go to spot for fishing with clients, friends, and solo is a little place called Four Mile Run. Read the link and know why its called that.We fish the red rectangle area to the right, from Mt. Vernon Ave to the mouth of the stream at the Potomac. -->

We have not caught a carp since the spring so I'm looking forward to the winter months. The fish come into the stream as there is a sewage plant that releases the clean water (2.7 million gallons per day or 1,875 gallons per minute) in the upper 60f temperature range. The water maintains that temperature on the outgoing and some of the incoming tide all day, every day, 365 days a year. The stream is cold and oxygenated in summer and warm in winter. Fish know this and will move in based on the ambient river temps. A super cold winter will have more fish in there. A mild winter will have fewer carp and other species. 

All sorts of fish come up there: koi (huge goldfish), common carp and crucian carp, bluegill, long ear sunfish, pumpkinseeds, largemouth and samallmouth bass, blue and channel catfish, a few tilapia, walleye, crappie, yellow perch, and gizzard shad. One can stand on the bridges and look down on a sunny day  near low tide and not see the stream bottom for all of the carp cover the bottom. I'm not kidding, carp as long as your leg that cover the entire viewing area. The gizzard shad jump all winter and the bluegill will take bead head nymphs with relish.

The carp can be seen mudding. They take a mouthfull of the sediment and turn on their sides and eject the sediment out of their gills while retaining what ever morsels they have vacuumed up. I'm not sure what they are eating but  it is most likely clams as there are plenty of clams in the mud. There isn't a whole lot else in the way of food for them. I have sampled portions of the stream and found midge larvae, scuds, and a tadpole. There is no vegetation growing at any point in the year. This may be due to the cleansing chemicals that in the waste water effluent. There are some good clam flies out there so look them up.

Find these mudding fish and put a fly in front of them. Incoming tide is cold and murky. Outgoing tide is clear and warm. The water gets more clear as the tidal water exits and the majority of the water is from the outflow. Thus sight casting becomes easier at lower tides. If things all line up the water will have the clarity of a swimming pool. You can easily see the mudds and cast in front of them.

There are some drawback to fishing here. A lot of people do not appreciate and respect the resource. Litter can pile up. I spent last Saturday cleaning only about 30 feet of shoreline and filled two of those giant leaf litter bags. It was gross. Lots of discarded beer cans and bottles, nightcrawler tubs, and cans of corn. Throw in the fact that this section is tidal and what ever washes in at high tide or from the roads after a rain,  is left on the shoreline-you get some dirty shoreline. There is graffiti under the overpasses and I think someone was living under the first bridge last year.

We'll be tossing 5wt-8wt rods from nine feet long to eleven. Floating lines or sinking. Sometimes there will be an indicator. The shad will go after the thingamabobbers. Most flies will be bead head nymphs with a flash back. Rubber legs on the carp flies. Soft hackles on the bluegill flies. Bass and crappie flies will be white streamers.  I'm going to try midges nymphs for the koi. The carp bait anglers chum with corn and dough balls which will bring the carp into close range. These carp will also jump out of the water for no apparent reason.

I try to keep it clean as possible for my clients. Who wants to pay money to go fish in filth? The one thing to remember is that I'm an urban fly fishing guide. We are not fishing in the headwaters of streams at 10,000 feet above sea level. Dealing with this stuff is what we do on a daily basis. Its right off the highway. There are overpasses with trains, the Metro, and cars. Helicopters and planes from the airport (the runway ends at the mouth of the stream) fly overhead- its loud. But there are fish. And the fish bite. And they bite in the cold, windy winter. And its local, close to home. I can get there in about 20 minutes with light traffic. I live 8 miles away.

This stream is right in our backyards. We don't have to drive several hours to central Pennsylvania, western Maryland, or past rte 81 in Virginia. We fish this spot because its close and consistent. If you could hook up to a 20lb carp during your lunch break you would probably want to no? Catch a crappie on your way home from work or after you pick up some Festivus presents at the Pier 1 Imports or Target next to the water.

You can fish from shore- wear shoes with good traction. Suds help on the rip rap and wire fence shoreline. This section is all channelized by the Army Corp of Engineers after tropical storm Agnes.  There is no room to overhand cast so be prepared to roll cast. There is a lot of metal fencing to walk on. It can get slippery. You can fish from a boat. Drive one down from Gravelly Point or put on in at the boat 'slide' that is up by the baseball field (Frank Mann Field). Brave enough to wade it? Its tricky, its a soft mud bottom and the mud stanks from the anoxic mud. And its windy. When you leave home and its not cold and windy, it will not be the same when you get there. Its open and will be windy. So be prepared for that.


Higher up toward the fall line the substrate is more solid and easier to walk. There used to be a mill above the fall line. The mill made flour. Thus the stream was originally called Flour Mill Run. As the story goes, a cartographer misspelled the name and it has since been known as Four Mile Run. As  you move down toward the mouth it gets less dense and you will sink. Higher up there is more gravel and sand- most likely from what is dumped on the roads when it snows. Wait for a low tide on a very windy day when all the water is blown out and  you can explore spots you normally don't have access to on foot. Find where the carp will be when the water is high and where you can and can't wade.

Tomorrow is the first official day of winter. You are going to see a lot of blog posts about this section from now until spring.

Want to learn how to fish here? Send me an e-mail rob@robsnowhite.com and be sure to listen to the podcast. We'll then go over to Cheesetique for a grilled pimento sandwich and a glass of Rioja.

Watch the clarity from the underwater shots from our film Urban Lines
<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/57194663" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/57194663">Urban Lines - Fish Where You Are</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user8080043">The Fly Fishing Film Tour</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

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