I finally got out with my longtime friend and blog regular of past years, Gary Eckman. Gary is the man responsible for me giving the chance to fish the Jackson Hole One Fly the last five years because he’s placed me on his team. But this year Gary doesn’t have a One Fly Team for only the second time in twenty-eight years. Missing the grand event is bittersweet. We both want to be there but instead we have an extra week of free time in September that we don’t normally have.
With no pressure to hone our trout skills for the One Fly Contest, instead of floating the Snake or the South Fork I talked Gary into his first ever fly fishing for carp experience on Blackfoot Reservoir. Along with us was my partner in crime earlier this week, Tim Brune. We arrived at the reservoir around 10 AM. Things were warming up nicely as I helped Gary get his Winston rig ready for carp.
While Gary was wadering up, Tim and I eased our way on to the flat. The water felt cool so I moved slowly knowing the carp were likely shallow where water warms fastest. I wasn’t more than knee deep when I spotted a puff of mud. These puffs are from carp feeding and disturbing the bottom. I had on a golden stonefly nymph and with only three inches of fly line out of my rod tip I dapped it in the mud. I felt a thud and a mirror carp sprung from the cloud and took off dragging me deep into my backing.
After a serious 5-9 minutes of battle I landed him. Carp always fight hard but when you’re on a huge flat, this one goes a mile, they try to return to deep water. Had I not cranked my drag and leaned on him hard with my Winston he’d of emptied my reel. Instead I stopped him dead and bullied him back and eventually held on to him for a fun hero shot.
Gary’s eyes were wide when I released that mirror carp. The mirror carp of Blackfoot are more than impressive. They are huge fish with striking scale patterns and if you haven’t seen one before they can throw you in a spin. I reeled up then guided Gary along teaching him what to look for and how to strip in order to make his fly bounce along the bottom.
When you catch a fish on the first cast it can be a jinx. Tim, Gary and I walked this flat for an hour casting to mud after mud before the next hook up. This time it was Gary and it was probably the first time his Abel Reel spun as wildly as this. Unfortunately about 100 feet out the carp ran through a garden of weeds and dislodged the fly leaving Gary in a state of awe.
Gary had the idea and I ventured off fishing. It was prime time with the sun overhead making it ideal to spot muds and the carp themselves. We even had some protruding tails. But only about one in fifty presentations would a carp eat the fly. The three of us changed flies continuously and I landed my second fish on a black and purple leech.
Tim was surrounded by hundreds of mirror carp. He wasn’t casting to individual muds but rather an acre of solid mud created by the carp. It’s very difficult for the carp to find your fly when the mud is this thick and he fouled hooked five in a row. A fouled 10 to 20lb carp takes more than ten minutes to land and Tim was frustrated as all get out.
Tim worked his way out of the hordes of carp and found some tailers in shallow. Tim was changing flies more frequently than I’ve ever seen and finally he had success with some sort of pink and tan bonefish fly. Bonefish flies such as Crazy Charlies, Gotchas and various shrimp patterns work excellent for carp no matter where you are.
Tim and I each landed another while Gary wasn’t hooking up at all. I grabbed him and moved him to an area where I saw some tails. Gary had some recent eye problems and he was having a horrible time seeing the signs of carp. He wasn’t even picking up the tails if they were more than forty feet away. I walked with him telling him where to cast and how far and he hooked two more. Unfortunately both were massive and smoked him so quickly he lost them.
Success in fly fishing for carp takes time. Carp are one of the planets most successful species and they didn’t survive by being stupid or weak. For the amount of carp we had around us today we did poorly only catching five. But it’s not unusual for carp to be so selective. And as for Gary losing all three he hooked, big fish take practice. There’s a certain touch of how you angle your rod and how much pressure to pull back with. Getting the knack takes time. At 4 PM, like it often does, a hurricane like windstorm blew us off the lake and we headed on home.