After a heap of errands including replenishing South Fork Lodge with my art (I will be one of their featured artists this summer) and a stop in Idaho Falls to repair a leaky window in my Explorer, I was off to the Blackfoot Reservoir for the Fin Chasers Classic Carp Tournament (Tourney takes place Friday and Saturday). Blackfoot Reservoir is in the boonies of Idaho. The lake is literally off the map for most people, yet if you’re a carp angler you know all about it because it’s famous for its massive mirror carp.
I didn’t know it when I left home but I had a major obstacle in my route – a monster snowdrift was blocking the 25 mile long dirt road from Bone, Idaho to the reservoir. This drift must have been glacier like a month ago because here we are in mid May and it’s still bigger than a semi! Lucky for me and my old wheels, I got word of the road block just in time and drove south to Blackfoot, Idaho and took a 35 mile long dirt road to the reservoir. I arrived at 5:30 PM and teammate Ben Smith was there with camp all set up. Ben was one of my teammates last year as well.
It continues to be unseasonably cold for mid May. The elevation here is over 7000 feet and I was quick to move from my flip flops to sorrels and put on about five layers of clothes. Then a rain snow mix began to fall. Ben and I cooked up some elk burgers immediately before it really got ugly out. The burgers were scrumptious, the beer was tasty and camping was cold as . . . But we were stoked and ready to catch some carp on flies and hopefully win a tournament!
Yikes! It was brutal out this morning. The wind was cranking out of the northwest. The temps were in the 30°’s and not a carp was tailing. The good news however is that our other teammate (the tourney consists of three person teams), Trey Scharp, arrived in the middle of the night and today we were able to practice together.
The morning began with shivering beside our cars that we parked and angled as wind blocks. We pressed some fresh coffee and drank it for two hours while hoping it would warm up. It never did and that’s about the size of our day. Not only was it a cold one but we only saw about three splashing carp all day and caught none.
By tonight most of the carp teams have arrived. I’d say there are about 20. I know most everyone and we all settled into camp together and actually we had a glimmer of warm sun as it set. That put everyone in a good mood and we feasted around the fire till midnight. Everyone is pumped up to catch some carp!
So Much for Nice Day Dreams
It’s a good thing I don’t care about weather when it comes to a fishing tournament because we awoke to temps in the 30°s and the frigid wind was back in full force. Other than a little sunshine that wouldn’t last long, you could say it was just plain ugly out. Nonetheless me and the team were stoked to compete. Trey and I whipped up some coffee and woke up Ben then the three of us headed to tournament headquarters for a special pancake breakfast. Remember this is a fundraiser for a guide in need and for $5 you get all the pancakes and sausage you can eat. This is on top of the $50 a head entry fee.
After breakfast and a meeting on the rules and regs, all teams took off to their favorite carp lies. The problem for everyone was however, very high water. Something we will all get used to this year in a hurry. Our team, “It Could be Worse”, launched the boat on our favorite spot on the lake and fought heavy wind and whitecaps to a back bay that helped us kick butt in last years tourney. Once there we realized we would be relearning everything we knew about the spot because the water was five feet deeper and the carp weed beds, sunken willows etc were all submerged from sight.
Our carp search began. Trey and Ben anchored off a point where we’d seen carp in the past and I walked, trying to sight fish with diminishing sunlight. The water was freezing and after two hours wading at times chest deep, I called the boys in to let me in the boat. I hadn’t even seen a fish and they had cast relentlessly but hooked and saw nothing.
There’s no sense in rambling on about a cold lousy weather day of not even catching a carp. Unfortunately that’s the size of it. We got skunked. All we did was watch the sun go away, a drizzle start and the wind went from moderate to “God awful hard”. It was a tough day.
At the weigh in tonight it was evident that carp do not love the cold anymore than we humans. There were a total of four teams that registered some carp. Most teams caught only one while one miraculously found a hot spring of some sort and caught three. It was such a tough day that we are tied with 16 teams for last place with a BIG FAT ZERO! Even worse, we cooked and ate dinner in pouring rain and now I’m bundled up in my sleeping bag in the back of my truck listening to the rain outside. Monsoon Currier strikes again!
Here’s for You Mr. Carp
None of us could believe what we awoke to this morning – sunshine and no wind! Wow! An unheard of weather pattern in these parts this year! I got up very early with Trey and as we drank coffee we watched a loon prowl the waters around camp. We don’t see loons around here often like they do in say New England or the Great Northwood’s. So when we do it’s a bit of a special event. This one was particularly unusual because he came so close to us.
At 8:30 or so Ben, Trey and I left camp to compete without the boat. Our goal was find the springs where the few carp were caught yesterday. I’m one to pry for info around a campfire over drinks and that’s exactly what I did last night. Luckily this is “friendly competition” and I weaseled out a near exact location from my friend John Nolan who was part of a team that landed two fish yesterday and were in second place. (Not tied for last like us!) John’s real cool and not only gave me some good info last night but later this morning he caught up to us to make sure we were in the exact right area. Sure enough, several others had picked up on the tip and by noon there were at least five teams casting to the hot springs.
It really paid off for us. There were plenty of happy carp jumping around and Ben hooked and landed one on his first cast. This carp wasn’t big but would easily top scales at 7 lbs and therefore we immediately moved up the ranks of the tournament. We were pumped to say the least!
After that fish, I went on a rampage and hooked and landed about five carp in a row. The big problem however, not one was hooked in the mouth. I was dragging a Benny Boy Special Woolly Bugger through the weeds and kept accidentally snagging these carp rather than getting them to eat. Snagged carp are not legal for the tourney and I was just wasting time struggling to land huge carp hooked in the tail. My luck never improved, but luckily my teammates came through.
We’ll never know quite what his technique was, but Benny went on to catch five carp. Even better, you’re only allowed to weigh one carp per person, and each one Ben caught got bigger. He released his 7lber for a 10, then a 13, then a 15 and finally he finished with an 18lber. Well done Benny Boy!
Meanwhile, Trey wasn’t even snagging a carp. He was wondering what the heck was going on. Then, out of the blue, he hooked a beast. Trey knew it was hooked proper at first, but then it started kicking him and his 6-weight around so bad that he assumed it must be fouled. I was there to help land the monstrosity but he sent me back fishing because he was frustrated thinking it must be fouled. Minutes later he was hooting and hollering like a madman. He landed a 26lber in the mouth! Congrats to Trey!
Well, it’s a good thing to have teammates like Trey and Ben because despite never setting the rod down all day long, not even for a sip of water, I never came through. I landed over twenty carp, all foul hooked, including several over 20 lbs. Have you ever foul hooked a 15” trout? They fight pretty hard that way. Just imagine a 20lb carp. All I can say is me, my Ross F1 Reel and Rx rods are very tired right now. I should be all ready for the big boys of Mexico next week!
Despite my unlucky performance, my superb angling teammates carried me and the team into a respectable finish. I’ll have to break out my famous old carp waders for next year. For the record book, Trey’s huge carp got beat our by a whopping 32lber! Anyhow, it was a great tournament for all the right reasons. And if you can handle some awful weather, rowdy fishing guides and anglers from all over, please come join us some time in May of 2012. “It Could be Worse” will see you there!