Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brownlining in the River des Peres

Back in 1876 the river des Peres was a gently flowing tributary of the Mississippi river brimming with wildlife. In the early days of urban development, the city of St. Louis commandeered the river as a channel for human waste.  After realizing that dumping raw sewage into a river is a bad idea, attempts were made to separate the flow of sewage from the flow of "natural" runoff and the river is now a channelized ditch that during dry weather carries runoff and in wet weather carries a mixture of storm water and raw sewage out to the Mississippi river.

Naturally this sounds like a great place to fish, so this past weekend, Justin and I suited up and headed to south city in the hopes of finding carp.  After parking the car in a park between Gravios Avenue and Morgan Ford Road, as we were setting up our rods we overheard two kids that were watching us, debate as to whether we were actually going down into that "ditch" to fish. Their parents probably warned them the only thing you will catch in that water is dysentery or an occasional corpse.  Yes, this is urban angling at its finest.

As we made our descent, we could see signs of aquatic activity with swirls and splashes decorating the turbid water. Something was clearly thriving down there. As we got closer to the water we noticed a definite carp presence with several cruising and tailing fish.  We sight casted to the carp and within 15 minutes Justin had already hooked into his first fish, a nice grass carp.  We worked our way down the river and near an inlet, we spotted a pool full of gar chasing smaller minnows.  One gar even had a bluegill locked in its jaws that it couldn't possibly swallow whole, but clearly he wasn't letting go of his prize for a moment with the competition cruising around him.

We casted to these gar for a while hooking several.  Justin was using a carp carrot and I was using a #12 black Wooly Bugger with a bead head.  We were catching the gar best by making a leading cast to gar cruising near the surface and then retrieving the fly with a continuous jigging motion at a medium speed. After several gar my bugger was badly shredded.

Next, I made a cast out into the pool and let the fly sink deep before making a slow hand twist retrieve. I got a solid pull and had my first carp of the day hooked up.  Luckily, Justin was close by with his net to help me land this grass carp.  I am not good at lipping them with the bogas as history has proven.

After Justin netted the fish, chaos ensued: I pulled my bogas out of my pocket to hold the fish for a photo op and my phone fell out onto the bank and slid into the river.  Instinctively I went after it into the dirty water in the hopes of saving it. 

We fished the river until the sun started to set, catching several more grass carp having one of the best outings yet and adding a new spot to our list of urban carp fisheries.  Who would have guessed this neglected and abused river would hold such a thriving carp population.  Hope to see more brownliners out there some day soon. Don't be scared, the water is waiting, just give your fly line a good cleaning after your done and use barbless (its easier to unhook unmentionables that way).

P.S. I checked my phone the next day and amazingly, it still works!


  1. The phone works!!! That is epic. And the black wooly bugger lives to fish again. It's boga time.

  2. Great blog and post. Looks like you won't have much pressure with that spot.

  3. Brian,

    Good for you! I love new places myself and when discovery meets or exceeds expectations all the better. I saw your comment on Mr.P's Blog and checked this out. I love also fish geography and your fishing demands attention from me. As an aside, I'm not sure of the efficacy of Boga Grips and carp, I have heard of actual damage from them on many fish including carp. As an avid carp fly fisher I'm pleased for you. And you've caught more grass carp than I ever have.

    Best, Gregg

  4. One doesn't have to fish where a 1,000 others are fishing to have success.
    You had a good trip fishing for receptive species.