May 15- 19, 2013
One of my favorite events of the year took place Friday and Saturday, the 2013 Blackfoot Reservoir Fin Chasers Carp Classic. (See 2010, 2011, & 2012) This was the 9th annual fly fishing for carp tournament. The event is always a fundraiser. Usually the funds go to a fishing guide in need but miraculously this year no one needs it. Instead all money raised went to Warriors and Quiet Waters, a superb foundation based out of Bozeman, Montana. For me, its not only an opportunity to participate in a worthy cause but also celebrate one of the first big camping and fishing trips of the season with a number of close friends. Friends that I hardly see all winter and quite honestly, once it gets busy, I don’t see enough in the summer either.
Day 1- May 15
The weekend kicked off for me and my team, “Could be Worse” on Wednesday. I met my long time partner Ben Smith in Thayne, Wyoming and we sped over Tin Cup Pass to the shores of Blackfoot. I haven’t seen Ben in at least six months so we had a few beers before setting up our rods. Then we waded a flat where we’d been observing some tailing mirror carp and although it took awhile, we walked away with three nice fish under our belts including this atypical fully scaled mirror.
A lot more teams are showing up early these days. The comradely has really caught on and before we knew it the Pebble Beach Boat Ramp was surrounded by numerous camps. Our camp alone had at least 12 people (that’s four of the three man teams) hovering around a campfire and grills covered in wild game meats. We really had a ball because the weather was nice and the sun didn’t set until around 9:45.
Day 2 – May 16
I flipped open the hatch of my Exploder at 6 AM this morning. I was the first man up. Camp already had some wear and tear on it including a tapped whiskey bottle lying sideways by the fire. I was first up because I don’t touch that stuff. Beer is my only festive drink because it allows me a clear head in the morning. I brewed some coffee and like a bunch of cartoon characters several of my pals crawled out from their tents and trucks.
We fished hard today but some cooler wetter weather moved in. Ben landed the only carp from our group while the rest of us got skunked. Ben’s fish was a hefty tall backed mirror carp of about 12 lbs. We can only hope to catch three of these when the tournament starts tomorrow.
Ben and my third team member arrived tonight. Normally we have Trey Scharp but Trey had a graduation to attend and we replaced him with Scotty-Boy Smith. Like Ben and Trey, Scott worked for me back in the fly shop days and has gone on to be one of the premiere fishing guides of Jackson Hole. These days Scott is not only a top guide but also the proud owner of Grand Teton Fly Fishing. If you want a guide for gorgeous Snake River Cutthroats from Grand Teton National Park – these guys are who you need to contact.
Day 3 – May 17
Today was tourney time. It was obvious when I woke up. It rained most of the night, the wind shifted to the south east sending bashing waves near the tires of my Exploder and its was 20º colder then when we went to bed. We all headed for the famous pancake breakfast put on by the very generous Gary and Leslie Greene. Gary and Leslie donate their time and pancake mix for an all you can eat $5 breakfast with coffee and sausages. Before the day even starts there’s usually about $200 raised for the event thanks to them.
After breakfast and a short meeting it’s “Start Your Engines” and 25 three man teams take off down muddy dirt roads in search of carp. The object of the tourney is to come in with three mirror carp each of the two tournament days. 5 PM is weigh in and whoever has the most pounds from one, tow or three fish wins. Prizes go: best weight Day 1, best weight Day 2, best total weight for both
days as well as big fish for Day 1, big fish for Day 2 and big fish overall. And let me tell you, the best kept secret is the prizes. The prizes, donated by manufacturers, fly shops and participants range anywhere from fly lines to fly rods and waders to guided trips. The Speaks even kicked in a set of my frosted beer mugs with mirror carp on them!
We arrived at the flat Ben and I have been studying at 9:30. We slammed ceremonial tourney starting beverages and walked to the flat. A huge pocket of rain approached and before first cast the deluge started. Even worse, the carp flat was empty.
Luckily the sluggish cold carp weren’t far from the flat. We found them rolling in the nearest deep water with some weeds and sticks. And I couldn’t believe it; 15 minutes in while dredging a chartreuse bonefish fly I landed a 9.7lb carp. We were on the board early!
Believe it or not, that was it for our team. Horrendous rain and wind drilled us in the face for the next 7 hours as we casted relentlessly. We hoisted in more carp but unfortunately they were snagged and naturally snagged carp don’t count. The rain was so bad water trickled down the inside of my jacket from my face down. It was very uncomfortable.
We felt terrible as we drove to weigh in at 5 but to our disbelief a mere 10 fish were caught amongst the 65 anglers. My one fish, although the smallest, put “Could be Worse” in 7th place. A good day tomorrow could easily move us to first place.
Day 4 – May 18
In Idaho it rains like it rained yesterday, all last night and today about once every five years. A memorable “Monsoon Currier” weekend will go down in the Carp Classic history books. The lake has risen; tent floors hold inches of water, my Exploder leaks and dirt roads are greasier than a hockey rink. Waking up today was pure utter hell.
“Could be Worse” probably didn’t make our first cast until 10 AM. That’s not like us. We went right back to yesterdays spot only to find the carp not only moved off the flat Benny and I found but this time they were completely gone and after a two hour search we gave up and headed for a new place.
There are some cliffs along the way to Pebble Beach that you can literally park you car, step out and cast. We went there and cooked up a delectable lunch on the grill. I then turned on the Cubs game on my XM and cranked it and started casting. Two hours went by like a minute because the Cubs actually beat the Mets. I hardly noticed that I didn’t hook a fish.
When the game was over I walked around a point and found Ben and Scott, along with fellow Teton Valley neighbors Boots Allen, Tim Brune and Andy Asadorian. They too had been casting relentlessly to occasional free jumpers but other than two snagged carp no one landed a legit entry carp.
Not sure why, but I felt confident. I wiggled my way in amongst the boys and on about my tenth cast I hooked up. It takes me about two seconds to know the difference between a snagged carp and one that ate my fly. I had a good one smother my tan headstand carp fly. And after an ensuing battle on my 5-weight I tackled a 16lber!
We kept casting through heavy rain, strong wind and a few bad jokes till 4:45. We knew that even a single fish could put a team’s score through the roof. But not one of us hooked another legit carp to register. When done everyone was so beat up that we were relieved it was over.
When we arrived at the weigh in we were quickly informed that only four fish were caught today. Even better, mine was the biggest. I collected the big fish award for the day and “Could be Worse” made a dramatic jump from 7th to 3rd . Good stuff!
The break down was 1st place = 50lbs. All 50 lbs came on Day 1. 2nd place was 27lbs and was one fish and Tourney Big Fish. The beast came on Day 1. Then us, “Could be Worse” with 25.7lbs.
Blackfoot Fin Chasers Carp Classic 2013 will go down as one of the tougher ones as far as fishing. But far more important, we (A wide range of fishing bums) raised nearly $5000 for Warriors and Quiet Waters making it one of the best for fundraising. We’re all very proud of this feat and hope that more of you will join in next year. 2014 will be extra special as it will be the Tenth Carp Classic.
As often does when any tourney ends, the rain stopped, the wind turned to a comfortable breeze and campfires grew tall. I’d considered heading home but one more night camping with friends – I’ll never pass that up. I finally cashed in for more than just beer. My friend Travis made Moscow Mules while the Greens invited us to their spaghetti feast. Thank goodness for the huge meal or I may have felt really bad from the Vodka in those mules this morning!