It’s been an unbelievably great season of trout fishing in our area. In fact it’s been so good that if you’re not careful you can start to expect it and perhaps even take it for granted. That’s why this week Granny and I rested the trout gear and went fly fishing for carp. While many trout anglers still snub their nose at such a diversion, we like to mix it up. Chasing a variety of species keeps our life interesting and because each species requires a few special tactics, I think it makes us overall better anglers.
Some fantastic carp waters exist right here in Idaho. While carp are classified as warmwater fish, the truth of the matter is that they are like earwigs, rats, house sparrows, whitetail deer and red foxes, they seem to thrive just about anywhere they happen to live. Two hours from Victor Idaho we have Blackfoot Reservoir and a few surrounding lakes that have heaps of mirror carp and the occasional common carp.
Granny and I have camped almost every Tuesday and Wednesday (Granny’s weekend) all summer long. This weekend was no different. We packed my rig, bought some food and drink and off we went. These carp lakes work like this. Blackfoot Reservoir has big smart carp and it’s tough to land them because there are lots of weeds and protruding willow bushes in the lake. They average about 10lbs and 20lbers are common. Granny and I have taken several fish over 30lbs! The surrounding bodies of water to Blackfoot Reservoir have small dumb carp. Small meaning 2lbs to the biggest I’ve seen, 16lbs. Seeing that I haven’t chased the carp around since our annual tournament last May, we chose to start with the easy guys.
Let’s just say the easy guys weren’t so easy this trip. The temperature around here is in the 90ºs. We see it this hot about once every three years. The heat doesn’t hurt the carp fishing, but it makes you do stupid things like try to fish in shorts and flip flops. That was our first mistake at the small carp lake. Naturally we were slipping on rocks and the first time I wandered out to retrieve a snagged nymph I got so stuck in the mud that I nearly lost my flip flops. I may as well have because now they are so stretched out they are basically ruined. The end result was, Granny left to read a book and I put on an old pair of leaky duck hunting waders and sweat my way around the lake.
Water clarity was poor. We’ve had lots of storms and this shallow lake was churned up from weeks of major wind. One thing about proper carp fishing is that you sight cast to them. I like to watch them mull around the weeds and drop offs looking for nymphs and crayfish. Sometimes they tail like a redfish or create muds from feeding aggressively along the bottom. Either way, I always observe them a few minutes before I make my cast.
Due to the lack of clarity, I wasn’t seeing the carp soon enough. I was basically standing on them when I saw them. Then, all I had to do was wave my rod to cast and they spooked. It doesn’t take much to spook a carp. Gradually my eyes got tuned in and after an hour instead of spotting the carp next to me I was able to pick them up when they were twenty feet or so away.
They still weren’t easy by any means. Not as easy as they usually are on this particular lake. But after botching up three in a row I hooked and landed a nice mirror carp of about 6lbs. Carp always give you a good battle but this guy really took my 5-weight to the test. Real quick, if you’re wondering why the 5 instead of a heavier rod, it’s because heavy lines hit the water harder then that of the 5-weight. If they hit too hard you spook the carp. Sure, with a 5-weight it’s hard to turn a big carp but at least you get the hook up and then it’s a heck of a lot of fun trying to land them.
By 2 pm it was so windy that my chances of spotting even a tailing carp became unlikely. I managed one more carp that was one of the smaller ones I’ve taken. Granny was around so we popped a few pictures of the little guy. Then we packed it up and drove to Blackfoot followed by a treacherous drive through a mile of tall grass to my secret carp camping spot.
The wind was really cranking by the time we got to Blackfoot Reservoir. Whitecaps covered the lake surface except for the tiny bay where we staked out camp. Granny decided on a nap and I wadered up and made a slow walk around the bay. These are big carp! Blackfoot Reservoir carp always amaze me when I haven’t seen them in awhile. For the last month I’ve been trout fishing and the biggest one I’ve caught was about 20 inches. One pass around this bay and I saw five mirror carp near 3 feet long with girths like piglets! I didn’t catch any though. The wind and chop on the water was too much. I got only one decent cast for most the brutes saw me before I saw them. And the one fish I cast to refused my offering. I was done for the day and Granny and I kicked back and grilled up a feast while listening to Cubs baseball on my XM radio. All the time the wind settled and at dark there were tailing carp everywhere.
Falling asleep to tailing carp got me up early this morning and eager to land one of the Blackfoot beasts. The problem was we had clouds, some rain and no tailing carp. It was completely opposite of the forecast we expected and spotting carp in such conditions was near impossible. Luckily clear skies loomed to the west and so while we waited Granny whipped together a superb breakfast and we had our second feast of the weekend. By 10 we had clear skies and calm waters.
With conditions near perfect we wadered up and made a death march to one of my favorite points for sight casting to carp. It was hotter than yesterday and both of us nearly died in our waders. It didn’t matter Gortex or not, it was brutal. Normally we wet wade but not in the weeds and mud of Blackfoot Reservoir. Once there it appeared the walk was worthwhile. The water looked good and there were cruising carp and a few muds to attend to.
Granny opted not to fish. She climbed up on a ridge viewing the lake, ditched her waders and kicked back to enjoy the day. I prowled along the shoreline like a blue heron. The carp were difficult as always. The wind from yesterday and earlier murked the water more than I thought and it was difficult to spot carp. I startled a few right off the bat before I figured out how far from the bank they were cruising. Once I had that down I never took my eye off there again and started to see them. I cast to at least six cruisers and dropped flies into muds with no takes. I used several flies that normally do well for me. My favorite is a red Copper John but I also do well with rubber leg hares ears, tan Crazy Charlie’s and some of my Vladi Trzebunia nymphs. But the carp paid them little attention.
Three hours into it I was really scrambling for ideas. My sightings of carp were dwindling and the wind and clouds were making their way back. I was running out of time. Finally I met the cooperative carp I was looking for and he was at least 20lbs. I twitched on of Vladi’s woven body Euro nymphs in front of him and he destroyed it. He didn’t follow it or scrutinize the fly, he simply attacked. I gave him the metal and I laughed at the shocked expression on that carps face. His eyes bulged with surprise and he opened his mouth and flared his gills to the max trying to blow my fly out of his soft mouth. He failed and the game was on.
I love my 5-weight Ross fly rod for carp fishing but it is the drag of my Ross Evolution LT Reel that makes it all possible to land a 20lber on a 5-weight. This big carp was a hot one. He smoked me straight out about twenty feet into my backing and started a big sweep to the right. He knew exactly what he was doing, because to the right was a patch of willows protruding from the lake. I put an unbelievable amount of pressure against him both with my reel and the bend of my rod. It was like I was putting the heat on a speeding saltwater fish. I even started backing up on shore trying to force him away from the willows. By now Granny was at my side. She had a look on her face a lot like the carp did when I hooked him – shocked and surprised. Then, that sick feeling of instant slack happened. The carp was gone. It didn’t look like he made the willows but evidently he got me onto something. He broke me off. It was over.
Granny looked at me with disgust. It was if I totally screwed it up. Evidently she wanted that carp bad. But there was nothing I could do. The carp of Blackfoot are tough. Blackfoot Reservoir terrain is unforgiving. And this big-ole-boy kicked my butt. I’m a sick man. I love the agony of defeat. I’ll want it more next time. I love the challenge. I’m not sure Granny will be charging back with me anytime soon, she likes her fast and furious trout fishing. Next week I’ll take her to the Gros Ventre and she’ll catch more trout than you could ever dream of!
I love my 5-weight Ross rod for carp fishing but it is the drag of my Ross Evolution LT Reel that makes it all possible to land a 20lber on a 5-weight. This big carp was a hot one. He smoked me straight out about twenty feet into my backing and started a big sweep to the right. He knew exactly what he was doing, because to the right was a patch of willows protruding from the lake. I put an unbelievable amount of pressure against him both with my reel and the bend of my rod. It was like I was putting the heat on a speeding saltwater fish. I even started backing up on shore trying to force him away from the willows. By now Granny was at my side. She had a look on her face a lot like the carp did when I hooked him – shocked and surprised. Then, that sick feeling of instant slack happened. The carp was gone. It didn’t look like he made the willows but evidently he got me onto something. He broke me off. It was over.
Granny looked at me with disgust. It was if I totally screwed it up. Evidently hing I could do. The carp of Blackfoot are tough. Blackfoot terrain is unforgiving. And this big-ole-boy kicked my butt. I’m a sick man. I love the agony of defeat. I’ll want it more oth with my reel and the bend of my rod. It was like I was putting the heat on a speeding Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site