Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Carping on Blackfoot Reservoir

Every year I donate to the Jackson Hole One Fly for its fundraising events.  Normally I give a painting of a Snake River Cutthroat, but I’ve done these for several years.  This year I decided to present something different.  I offered “Carping with Currier”.

Any One Fly contestant could have bought the trip, but deep inside I wanted it to be someone I knew.  Better yet, someone who appreciates carp and dreamt of catching one on a fly.  I lucked out.  My friend Libby Alcorn from Houston, Texas bought my donation.  Libby was a student in a five day fly fishing school I taught last year at the South Fork Lodge.  While we were learning trout techniques at a disclosed lake we were ambushed by a school of hefty common carp.  We made a few casts to them but they spooked.  Libby couldn’t help but notice their huge size and ever since has wanted to catch one.

We expected to chase carp next summer but Libby and her son Avery had the opportunity to come up trout fishing this week with my friends at WorldCast Anglers.  “Do the carp bite in October?” Libby emailed me.  They do, but it must be before the first big freeze.  I looked at the ten day forecast to make sure winter wasn’t on the way.  It wasn’t and “Carping with Currier” was set to go.

Our weather continues to be unbelievably fantastic.  Today was easily in the mid 70ºs.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and hardly any wind.  I left my house at 7 AM and met up with Libby and Avery just before 8.  Then we drove two hours to Blackfoot Reservoir and arrived just as the sunlight was perfect for sight fishing for carp. 

Carping didn’t start easy.  Even though our temps were headed for the 70ºs, the night temps dropped to the mid 30ºs.  The glassy Blackfoot Reservoir may as well been the Dead Sea.  The carp weren’t moving yet. 

At 1 PM the carp still weren’t moving.  I’d driven and walked my friends over miles of rocky, mucky, moon surface looking terrain without a sign of a carp.  The situation was killing me.  I know there’s huge carp in this lake.  If you read this blog you’ve seen my pictures and read my stories.  But the giant nonnative’s of Idaho were nowhere to be found.  Then, as my confidence was beginning to plummet, the mirror carp started to free jump.  At first there was the occasional splash.  Then as I crept my Exploder into one of my favorite summer campsites, a 20lber jumped nine times.  He was in casting range.  This was it.  My reliable old spot was about to save the day. 

Avery waded out and on his third cast hooked up to the beast, but the hookup only lasted a second.  Avery has never hooked a 20lb fish on a fly before and he was literally destroyed, left helplessly with nothing more than remnants of a 0X leader.  The fish and fly were gone.  “No problem”, I said.  “You’ll have plenty of chances now.  Take a deep breath.  Next time let him take the line.”  I adjusted his drag and gave him another fly. 

I was wrong about having plenty more chances.  We spent the next two hours dropping a variety of flies near leaping carp to no avail.  The carp were on to us and although they wouldn’t leave, they wouldn’t eat our offerings.  Despite what I preach, “never leave fish to find fish” we left for new carp. 

The next spot was another of my favorites - the place where Dr Butcher and I hammered a bunch of nice mirror carp back in July.  But the water levels of Blackfoot are ten feet lower now and the prime carp habitat was on dry land.  There were few to no fish around.  It was 5 PM and I’ll admit I was getting a little anxious, yet no where near giving up.  There were two hours of daylight left and an hour earlier I’d noticed a massive muddy area while we were zipping down one of the dirt roads.  What if the mud was made from feeding carp?  

As we pulled near the mud it became obvious the acre size muddy spot was feeding carp.  There were numerous free jumpers, not huge carp but midsize carp that are easier to catch than monsters.  We waded through some of the most disgusting mud you ever saw and then positioned to cast to the mud.  On about her third cast, Libby hooked up.  But her hook up lasted an exciting thirty seconds before the fly pulled loose.  Bummer!  But that was our turning point.  Both Libby and Avery became possessed to catch a carp.  Minutes later Avery’s backing was hissing through his guides. 

Anxiety turned to giggles.  We had a solid hook up and now I took the deep breath.  Avery fought the fish of his life with perfection and ten minutes later I corralled up his first carp on the fly. 

Avery’s first mirror carp was a dandy.  Yes, Blackfoot is known for the 20 pounders but this fish was more than respectable and hard fought for.  Avery admitted he had no idea how beautiful these fish are.  We blazed off a bunch of photos and released him back to his mud.

Just as one carp returned home, Libby started removing the second.  Literally as Avery straightened up from releasing his carp Libby’s reel started screaming.  By the time I got to her she was deep in her backing with her 6-weight bent to the hilt.  Then the long battle of retrieving her mirror carp began.  This fish made several amazing runs then gave in.  Ten minutes later I bear hugged her carp from the shallows and passed him to her. 

Once Libby and Avery each landed their carp I broke out the grill and cooked us all some celebratory brats.  As I cooked, they each hooked and landed another.  Our persistence paid off and a day of carping that started rather dismally became extremely successful!

As the brats went down, so did the sun.  We ended the day taking the 25 miles of dirt road short cut towards Ririe, ID.  The entire way we tuned into Wrigley Field on my XM where two of the worst teams in baseball squared off, the Cubs and the Houston Astros.  I, the diehard Cub fan and the Alcorns’, diehard Astros fans.  Houston won.


  1. Good to hear Carping ended well... I think it’s time for Owyhee Round 2 It has been great lately!

  2. I heard its been on fire. Even some dries I hear. I'm headed to the HF to fish the Ranch tonight and tomorrow. It will be a short Marathon as it doesn't get light or warm enough until 9 and dark at 7. Can't wait though!

  3. the cubs won the last game between them, so like boxing, they are the champs.

  4. I listened to the walk off win on the radio. Pat Hughes makes listening worth it even on a bad year! The guys is unreal!