Oh Carp, It's a Crap
When our Bozeman area rivers are blown out, we seek some still water fly fishing opportunities. Spring carp, while difficult can be among one of the most fun fishing options when local rivers are not an option.
Growing up in the Midwest, we all considered carp to be a trash fish. Dedicated fishermen like myself believed that carp were undeserving of the attention and planning we reserved for other species, so throwing a corn kernel or tossing a bare hook were accepted methods of catching the garbage. As I started fly fishing, my relationship to the carp grew even more distant. Trout were clever and beautiful to look at. Why even think about targeting a fish that would choose to live in the Los Angeles river?
When I heard talk of other anglers catching carp on the fly, it was surprising. Carp provided a sizable target, but there was no challenge; they were too easy to fool. It wasn’t until my first encounter with one of the scaly beasts that I understood the appeal. The landlocked bonefish were incredibly spooky and weren’t afraid to test a reel’s drag. A buddy and I were fishing Montana’s flatlands, searching for tails and plumes of upturned mud. He told me it was the toughest day of carp fishing he’d ever had, the result of a storm rolling nearby. I started to lose hope for the day, but obsession and curiosity triumphed — a feeling most fishermen understand. We pressed on.
Cast. Strip slowly. Repeat. Hours went by, and our beers managed to warm up despite the cold front. I headed back toward the cooler to re-up but decided to make a few more casts along the way. I threw my fly into a cloudy pool where I hoped some muckers were residing. I paused to let the fly sink to the bottom and rest for a moment. A strip, another pause, and then I stripped straight into what felt like a 24 pack of beer that sunk to the bottom. I set the hook, and the carp started running line out. As I wrestled with the pond cattle, my friend ran over with the net. We proceeded to rally back and forth with the fish; I would bring it in just inches from the net before it began another run. Carp don’t go down without a fight.
After giving me a better fight than I could’ve possibly imagined—a fight that would put many trout to shame—the carp landed in our net. I looked down to acknowledge my great opponent resting in the mesh, the fish I’d been so curious about. What I saw may have been distorted by the mystical effects of cheap beer; nonetheless, it was beautiful. I had landed the smallest carp I have ever seen in my life, but off it’s scales shone my reflection against the dissipating storm clouds. I was looking at a mirror carp. I could not have been happier; I had a new species under my belt and caught it on a fly. Later that day, my buddy stuck a fish about three times the size of mine.