May 20-23, 2010
I’m just back from the Fin Chasers Carp Classic VI Fly Fishing (Fun) Fundraiser held on Blackfoot Reservoir of South East Idaho. Each year this event raises money to help an angler, fishing guide or fly fishing industry worker in need. There are no cash prizes as all entry fees, raffle ticket purchases and donations go entirely to the one in need. This year it was for Peter and Lisa Holman’s three month old daughter Laney who needs a heart operation. Many fly fishing manufacturers and shops donated products to be given out as awards for good angling and prizes for raffle tickets. The event consisted of seventeen three person teams. This is the first time I attended as a competitor. My team included friends Trey Scharp and Ben Smith. The weather was forecasted to be horrific so we named our team “Could Be Worse” just for fun. At least that’s what we kept telling ourselves.
Although the contest occurred on Friday and Saturday, most contestants arrived Thursday. Ben Smith and I hit the shores of Blackfoot Reservoir around 4 pm to scope out the lake looking for the best place to fish. I’ve carp fished here many times; however, water levels are the highest in years. All my usual haunts were flooded and there were no signs of carp. That sent us driving all over and on several hikes scouting new water. Finally we found some free-jumping carp. With carp located we returned to event headquarters where we met up with Trey and camped with the other contestants.
Many of the contestants are friends whom I haven’t seen in months. Those I didn’t know are friends now. We shared stories, ate deer burgers and of course consumed numerous beverages. Although forecasted to be raining, we had mostly stars and temperatures in the upper 30’s. It was great fun. With doing well in the competition a priority, the “Could be Worse” boys retired before midnight for a good sleep.
I expected the bad weather to start during the night, but the sun rose and the lake was glass. King grebes, coots, pelicans and a variety of duck species squawked from shore to shore while the meadow larks and cranes echoed around camp. This gorgeous morning was bonus time as the weather was about to change fast. After a $5 all you can eat pancake breakfast (this money also donated to the cause) and a meeting about the rules of the tournament, contestants took off to their secret carp spots. Fishing would end at 5 pm.
It was a twenty minute drive on rough roads and through grain fields to our honey hole. As we drove across the last pasture, abusing our rigs all the way, we arrived where Ben and I saw carp the night before. Sure enough, as we slipped into our waders, the first carp left the water and crashed back in making us super psyched.
Our confidence didn’t last long. During the first two hours of fishing, none of us hooked a fish. The sunshine was replaced by drizzle and the calm turned to gale winds. By now, I was chest deep using the tail wind to get some long casts to free-jumping carp nearly out of range. I prefer sight fishing carp on shallow flats or grassy areas, but there was no chance to see one there in these windy sunless conditions. I crept one of my favorite carp flies, the rubber legs hare’s ear, along the bottom where the carp were splashing. I was just waiting for a grab, but nothing. Just as I began to shiver, I heard cheers from nearby as Trey hooked up.
Often times when you blind cast to leaping carp, you snag them. Snagging obviously doesn’t count for the tournament so when Trey saw his carp hooked in the mouth, he hollered in relief. If you haven’t caught carp on fly then you should. Carp put up a hellacious fight and after two runs into his backing, Trey finally bear hugged an 8lb mirror carp and proudly brought it ashore. We were on the boards!
It’s amazing how the shivers disappear when the confidence comes back. It was full fledged rain when Trey came over to tell me about his catch. He caught his fish slowly stripping a brown woolly bugger. I told him to try his bugger out with me and sure enough he hooked up with a beast. As his brute worked him in and out of his backing I tied on a brown flash-a-bugger.
In this competition each individual is allowed to enter only one fish. Although the team can turn in three, each individual must catch their own carp. So when Trey landed his second fish, he could not add it to our team total. Contestants can however, release their smaller ones and record their largest. Treys second carp was a dandy that we estimated at about 18lbs! Carp live out of water forever, so he released his 8lber without any problem. Now we were really on the board, but Ben and I had to catch a fish.
With water now dripping down my neck from rain smearing me in the face, and running down my arms while I cast, I hooked and landed my fish. It was by no means a monster, but it was a fish of about 10lbs. We had a team total of near 30lbs for the day, if Ben could add another we’d be sitting pretty. Surely, there would be many teams with no fish at all. Ben came over to Trey and I. It was apparent that there were lots of fish here. Trey caught another 8lber and I got schooled by a giant only to have the hook pull out. Then, with only fifteen minutes left, Benny landed his fish. It was only about at 3lber, but it would do. At 5 pm we began the drive back to camp.
It’s always fun watching everyone return from their day. There’s lots of smiles, a few frowns, a crazy story and a few excuses. Luckily, the “Could Be Worse” boys were smiling. It was apparent we’d done well because only two teams brought in three fish. Unfortunately, the other team with three had bigger fish and one team had two fish, each over 20lbs. The way things stacked up, first place scored 42lbs, second place had 38lbs and we were in third with 32lbs. Not exactly where we wanted to be, but ok. Treys trophy carp weighed 18lbs 5oz! But the biggest of the day was 21lb.
We never got out of our waders all night except when it was time to sleep. It absolutely poured rain on us. Somehow we laughed through it while cooking up elk burritos and sucked a few beers. Then it was back to bed for a fresh start. We knew we had to catch about 50lbs of carp to take over 1st place.
During the night a funny quiet came to camp. I knew the precipitation didn’t stop. I was freezing in my sleeping bag. It got quiet because the rain turned to snow. At 5 am I peeked out at the first glimmer of light and confirmed my assumption. There was a fresh 2” of snow and it was coming down steady. Carp fishing isn’t great when it’s cold so I knew we were in for a challenge. With that in mind, we had no time to waste. We ate our pancakes and were the first team out of camp. The roads were so slippery with mud and snow we had to creep along. Wet dirt roads can be more difficult to drive on than snow and ice. Mix the two and you’re in for an adventure. It took us a good 45 minutes to get near our spot. “Near” is the word. Just before getting to our location is a steep hill and we were smart enough to park and walk. This meant bringing very limited supplies and a 20 minute walk.
We arrived at the previous days honey hole to no jumping carp. Things didn’t look good. The wind picked up to a gale straight out of the north and it was snowing sideways. The temps were much colder than Day 1 and we were all shivering. I actually got out of the water about three times just to warm up. To make a long story short, we didn’t touch a carp. No strikes or anything. We froze our butts off, cast our shoulders out of socket and my hands are still cramped two days later. As we reeled in at 5 pm we wanted to change our team name from “Could Be Worse” to “Could Be A Lot Better”. We popped orange whips at the car and made a long slow drive back to camp.
I didn’t expect other teams to do well either, but I expected to see some fish caught and expected to lose our third place standing. However, I was somewhat pleased to see it wasn’t just us and that it was a brutal day for all. There were only three fish caught total from the seventeen three person teams! The biggest was much smaller than on Day 1 at 12lbs. Best of all, we kept our 3rd place finish. In fact, 1st, 2nd and 3rd places all remained the same. All in all, it was a fantastic fun filled weekend and more money was raised at the Fin Chasers Carp Classic VI Fly Fishing (Fun) Fundraiser than any previous year. If you want to have a great weekend and a chance at a giant carp on the fly, join us in May 2011! Be ready for some exciting posts in the next couple weeks as I take on the pike and walleye of northern Saskatchewan.