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Cold Weather Carp

We have a little problem with carp in my next of the woods. And, no, I do not mean the loss of native fish to these new comers. The water where we fish for carp have had them for decades and they are not going anywhere. Rather, our problem is that, for those of us looking to fish for them, our window generally lies in the spring of the year, particularly the month of May. July and August are the prime months for this quintessential warm water fish on the stillwater bodies and slow streams of Southeast Idaho. But for those of us who work in a boat or in a fly shop, that time of the year is almost a NO-GO for carp. Days off are few and sincerely cherished. Maybe there is that special “two days off in a row” when we can get to our nearest carp water. We will put laundry off for another couple of weeks. Maybe we will hire someone to mow the lawn, because we ain’t gonna do it when we get home at 9 pm after our mid-summer carp excursion and have to be at the shop in less than 12 hours.

The silver lining to all of this is that we gain a ton of experience at getting into carp in the shittiest of conditions. I mean the kind of weather you don’t equate with the big uglies prowling the flats. Sure, the month of May can bring bright sunshine and temps in the high 70s. But just as common (if not more so) is air temperatures struggling to hit the mid-50s, precipitation in the form of rain, and debilitating wind.

Case in point – The Blackfoot Reservoir Carp Classic, held annually every year on the first weekend in June. In the 10 years I have competed, it has rained or snowed at least one day at all but two of the competitions. Contestants who camp in tents get that foreboding feeling as night approaches, know that temperatures will drop and there is a chance they will wake to a drenched wind fly, if not an inch or two of snowy slush. Those who bring campers can expect to host a dozen or more competitors deep into the night before the courage is built up to finally migrate to their shelters.

But back to the silver lining. The fact is that, no matter how treacherous the conditions become, almost all of the 80-plus attendees stick it out through the final award ceremony. We freeze, we are drenched, and we live in our waders from the time we awake until the time we climb into our sleeping bag. But we keep casting, keep changing flies and tips, and keep searching for those shallow water boils and breaches that tell us carp are present. Some of us hook up. Some of us don’t. But we all share the particular aspects of the carp we landed with our fellow competitors and hope deep down inside that they get the same tug and run and bulldog fight, even if that fish beats yours and takes you off the medal stand (there is no medal stand of course. Just a bunch of swag and cash and sometimes a plaque).

When we leave and head home through the mud and the rain, there is a real feeling that we learned more about a fish that some say get lockjaw in the conditions we just experienced. And there is a little satisfaction that we casted to a fish many still don’t respect in weather that that deters most other anglers.

Yet in the recesses of our mind, we wonder what the fishing could have been like if the weather would just once cooperate. And maybe there is a possibility we can move this damn tournament to August.

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