Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Monday, June 03, 2024

Aurora Borealis in Tennessee

Yes, that's not a typo. By now you have probably seen everyone else's pictures via social media, but almost a month later, I'm still in shock. Seeing the "northern lights" was always on my bucket list. However, I assumed it would take a trip to Iceland or something similar to eventually get to enjoy this incredible phenomena. 

I really owe a debt of gratitude to an old friend of mine who now lives in London. Reuben posted a picture on Facebook of the northern lights as viewed from northern London. I had seen the hype on social media and in the news, but hadn't thought much beyond that. Seeing that picture from Reuben convinced me that it was worth taking a look. 

There is a great dark sky location not far from home, probably 20 minutes away or so. We have used it to view things like Comet NEOWISE. With good visibility down to the horizon in most directions and most importantly looking north, it was the perfect place to try and catch the aurora borealis. After getting the toddler in her carseat, we started driving shortly after sunset. As the light faded in the western sky, our anticipation began to build. 

We met my sister, brother-in-law, and niece on the side of the little country road. Thankfully, it sees very little traffic, so we were able to just stop in the road. When we all started looking, we weren't sure if we were seeing something special or the remaining light from the fine sunset. As it got darker, a shimmering glow began to rise and fall to our north. A quick camera picture with a longer exposure confirmed what we were seeing: it was the northern lights.

From there, the evening was magnificent. We stayed until a little after 10:00 pm which had pushed Little Bit's bedtime much later than ideal, but it was a pretty special set of circumstances. The colors ranged from pink, to red, to green. At the best moments, we could easily see everything with the naked eye. The shimmering lights rose to straight overhead and even south of us as the entire sky lit up.

Now I'll just have to go to Iceland for the fishing I suppose. Here are a few of the pictures from this magical evening in Tennessee.

Aurora Borealis in Tennessee
©2024 David Knapp Photography

Aurora borealis
©2024 David Knapp Photography

red and green aurora borealis
©2024 David Knapp Photography

Lots of colors Aurora borealis
©2024 David Knapp Photography

aurora borealis curtains
©2024 David Knapp Photography

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Cicada Carp Fishing

Why Fly Fish for Carp

Carp are not the first thing that most fly anglers think of when planning a fishing trip. For the few dedicated carp out anglers out there, that is just fine. Carp are a mostly untapped fishery that provides a ton of sight fishing fun with little pressure overall, except during periodic cicada hatches that is. 

While I have begun offering a few guided fly fishing carp trips here and there each summer, it hasn't been something I've pushed hard. Carp fishing generally requires both precise presentations along with nerves of steel. Once a fish is hooked, you then also have to ace the test that comes with the fight. Carp are big, strong, and smart, and will try every possible method to break you off. 

Fly Fishing the Periodic Cicada Hatch for Carp

The periodic cicada hatch offers an opportunity for everyone to get in on the fun, however. The volume of big fish up feeding on naturals on the surface is mind blowing. Anglers of all skill levels will get enough shots at fish to eventually make some count. While this may sound crazy to most people, carp fishing with a fly rod is the thing I look forward to the most with these periodic cicada hatches. Don't get me wrong. Catching big trout on dry flies is a blast and something I'll do as much as possible as well, but carp provide a whole different challenge and set of problems for the fly angler to overcome.

Tips and Tricks for Catching Carp During the Cicada Hatch

Throughout this current brood XIX cicada hatch, I have been noticing a few little details here and there that make landing these fish a lot easier. Some of these tips will apply to your trout fishing as well and more broadly, to sight fishing in general. While there are very few absolutes in fly fishing, most of these are good general guidelines to help you find more success chasing carp on dry flies or any fish you are sight fishing for. 

  1. Use heavy enough tippet - This one may seem obvious, but even on 1X I am often outgunned. My philosophy of tippet (feel free to ask me about that sometime if you don't already know) keeps me from going much heavier than 1X, maybe occasionally down to 0X, but 1X is where I usually land for most "big" fish applications. During my first experience with brood XIX 13 years ago, I found myself using 4X on the Caney Fork. It worked fine on the trout, but for the carp, it was a little more dicey. Now, I have learned a lot and fish much heavier tippet anytime I can get away with it. 
  2. It is always better to miss short - This one isn't quite as obvious, but with carp in particular it is important to not cast too far. Carp have a weird tendency to find the end of your fly line and follow it back to the boat. If you overshoot that cast, they'll immediately quite looking for bugs and come looking for the boat. It is better to be a little short than a little long. If you miss short, you can simply recast and try again. If you are little long, you've likely blown your shot. This applies to most sight fishing situations I'll add.
  3. Lead the fish by a couple of feet - Carp move very erratically while looking for cicadas. It is best to get fairly close with your cast unless you are in very clear water. In that case, you might want to lead them by 5-6 feet. In moving water, you have the added problem of drag if you lead a fish too far. By the time the fly gets to the fish, drag has started to act and the fish won't eat. 
  4. It is best to have carp eat coming towards the boat or at right angles to the boat - This one makes sense once I explain myself. Carp have very sensitive lips. If they feel the tippet before eating the bug, they'll freak out. When they are going away from you, their lips will bump the tippet as they rise before eating the fly. If they eat while moving at right angles to the boat or coming straight at the boat, this problem is generally eliminated.
  5. Wait for the hook set - This is obvious once you've missed a fish or two, but trout anglers will generally set way too early on carp. They will be very deliberate when eating your dry fly. Wait until the mouth closes and the fish turns definitively down in the water column before setting the hook. Then, when you do set, really set the hook. No soft trout sets. Give it the ol' bass hook set. 
  6. Low side pressure is your friend - During the fight, carp will generally try to run for structure. They are very good at finding all the obstacles and sawing your tippet off on logs or other structure. At some point, you'll probably have to turn that big fish. Do so using low side pressure, the lower the better. This is good general advice for fighting trout as well. Low side pressure will generally get fish landed MUCH faster than pulling up. Up freaks them out and makes them fight harder and longer while low side pressure can get them whipped quickly. This has the added bonus of keeping fish healthy instead of playing them to exhaustion. 
  7. BONUS TIP: Don't be afraid to twitch your fly but don't overdo it - This one is particularly tricky. I mostly rely on a dead drift only. Carp often refuse naturals on the water because they are fluttering. The time to twitch a fly is when a fish is in the vicinity but seems to be passing by without seeing your offering. Give it a little twitch to help the fish find it, then stop and let it sit still again. Trout are more likely to like some twitching, but carp mostly don't. However, if fish start refusing your dead drifted flies, try adding a twitch. I had a day last week guiding on the lake where the fish quit eating dead drifted flies around 3 pm. We started twitching and immediately were back catching fish. This was the exception rather than the rule in my experience, however. 

David Knapp with a carp caught on a periodic cicada
David Knapp with a nice carp. Photo courtesy Trout Zone Anglers guide Elam Kuhn ©2024