Finding Time For The River

Monday of last week marked the beginning of another semester of school.  The past four months off have provided some incredible fishing opportunities for me, but it feels nice to be back in class again.  The first week of the semester is always one of the most stressful times.  I’m always rearranging my schedule.  Doing homework takes a little bit of time to get used to when you haven’t had any for four months.  With that said, I think I’ve got it all figured out and look forward to another fun semester.  I’ve opted to take more online classes this semester than I usually do for a couple of reasons.  Reason number one: I have A.D.D. and I have a hard time sitting in a class room for more than an hour or two.  I get antsy and my mind starts wandering elsewhere.  Online classes let me do the work from the comfort of my apartment.  Reason number two:  Less time in a classroom = more time on the river.  Who wouldn’t want more time on the river?

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Rewarded For Being a Good Student All Week

I’ll be the first to admit that Saturday is my least favorite day of the week to fish.  There are usually a lot of people out, and I prefer a little bit of solitude.  Brent and I had planned on fishing Friday, but we each had things come up that prevented us from doing so.  I also ended up having way more homework than I was expecting to, so it worked out for the better.  Fortunately I love to hike, and hiking is one of the best ways to get away from the crowds.  Brent and I met up Saturday morning around 10:00 AM and headed out in search of some hungry trout.  It didn’t take long to connect with my first fish of the day, a solid cutt that would have went over 20″ but somehow managed to shake the hook.  Brent and I worked our way downriver, picking up the occasional hybrid, but overall the fishing was pretty slow.  In hopes of quicker fishing, we decided to pack up and head elsewhere.

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Snakey Hybrid

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Underwater Shot: Photo Credit- Brent Wilson

As we pulled into our next stop, I felt good about our choice to move elsewhere.  There was much more water to cover, and water clarity was much better than where we began our day.  Brent worked a nice ledge on the far bank of the river, while I stuck to the bank closest to where we parked.  After a few casts, I watched a dark shadow come out of the depths and chase down my fly.  In its attempt to hit the sculpin pattern, it missed and made its way back to the deep pocket.  I continued working the run for a few more minutes and eventually pulled out a decent hybrid in the 18″ range.  Rainbow-Cutthroat Hybrids fight strong and they are one of my favorite trout to catch.  We snapped a few photos and sent the fish on her way.

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Chrome Hybrid

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Terrible Photo But a Decent Cutthroat

Over the next few hours, Brent and I continued to work every run that looked like it would hold a fish, and in turn continued to catch or hook into fish on a regular basis.  Most fish were in the 12″ to 16″ range, but we’d occasionally hook one in the 18″ to 20″ range, and even were lucky enough to catch a couple in the 22″-23″ range.  I’m terrible at keeping track of how many fish I catch, but my best guess would be that between Brent and I, over two dozen were brought to hand by days end, not to mention all the fish that shook the fly loose.  Not a bad day at all in my book, especially for a Saturday.

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Vibrant Colors

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Shoulders

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Big Headed Cutty

Today, another week of school, homework, studying, and everything else that goes along with being a full-time college student begins.  A great weekend of fishing always makes it easier to get through the long days of school.  In the mean time, I can day dream about the tailing carp and streamer pounding smallies that I’m going to chase this coming weekend.

In Search Of Carp

Walking the flats in search of carp never gets old to me.  Slowly working my way towards the “Nervous Water” and seeing a huge tail slowly break the waters surface always gets my heart pumping.  Launching 70+ feet of line to a feeding fish in the middle of a pod is always exhilarating.  As I slowly retrieve my fly, the line is nearly ripped from my hand, and I strip set as fast as I can.  The hook set is one of the main reasons I love chasing carp.  Then there is the initial run.  Nothing runs like a carp.  I really enjoy fishing for trout and target them far more often than carp, but a trout has never put me into my backing.  A carp almost always put me into my backing.

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Common Carp

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Shoulders

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Brent With a Snake River Common Carp

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The Mountains Are Still Covered in Snow

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Brent’s Personal Best Common – Quite the fish!

Carp also tend to be very unpredictable, and that is part of the draw for me.  I love a fish that is going to put all of my skills to the test.  When fly fishing for carp, you are on their terms.  If they aren’t feeding, it can be very difficult to convince them to.  A flat can be phenomenal and chuck full of carp on Thursday, only to be barren of fish on Saturday.  Sometimes even the slightest change in temperature will completely shut them down.  Then again, I have caught them in the middle of a blizzard with air temps hovering only a couple degrees above freezing.  I am still trying to figure out what weather pattern really gets them going.

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One of My Biggest Common’s

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Brent With a Pale Mirror

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Clean Golden Common

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One of Kyle’s First Carp on the Fly

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Cookie Cutter for the Day

The more I fish for carp, I am starting to realize how much their behavior and feeding habits change depending on where they live.  In the Snake River, they tend to really key in on crawdad patterns.  Even something as simple as a slight change in color can be the difference between catching five fish that day or fifteen fish.  The Snake River fish are very good at spitting your fly out quickly.  You have about half a second to set the hook or else that fish is gone.  In contrast, Blackfoot Reservoir carp will chase down your fly and hit it  with a vengeance.  The Blackfoot fish are also less picky about what they are willing to eat.  Why is there such a contrast in these fish?  I’ve yet to figure that out.  Then you have the Bear River, where the carp act like trout.  They hang off of riffles and behind big boulders in the middle of the river, even directly below check dams in the turbid water.  You can throw a wooly bugger at these fish and they will follow it into the fast moving water and hit so hard they set the hook on themselves.  They also tend to be significantly smaller than the Snake River and Blackfoot Reservoir carp, generally in the 5 – 7 lb range, but the visual eats make catching these smaller fish just as enjoyable as catching the bigger 20 + lb fish.

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Brent With Another Common

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Round

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Brent’s Hefty Mirror

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Long One

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Evening Mirror

If you haven’t targeted carp on the fly yet, you are really missing out!  Yes, they are not native to our waters here in the United States, and in some situations they may even be a nuisance (not the case in Idaho in my opinion), but they are here to stay so why not make the best of it?  The tug is the drug, and nothing tugs like a carp!

The Fish That Smiles Back

Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to catch a pike.  I remember watching fishing shows on television and seeing the incredibly vicious takes that Northern Pike are known for.  I remember seeing the massive fish and the size of their razor sharp teeth.  Since the beginning of February, Brent and I had been in correspondence Targhee Boss, the guy behind Utah Stillwaters, discussing when we could come down and try our hand at some pike on the fly.  After getting all of our schedules lined up, the chosen dates were April 1st and 2nd.  I thought about the trip every day leading up to it.  I had pike on my mind and I couldn’t get them off.  Brent and I took off from Idaho Falls early Monday morning and made the drive down to Utah to meet Targhee.  After some quick introductions, we all packed in to Targhee’s pickup and headed for the lake.  It rained a lot of the way down and eventually reached torrential downpour status once we made it out on the water.  High winds forced us to park the boat for the first hour or so in a cove, but soon enough the storm passed and it was time to catch some fish.

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Rough Waters

Throwing the heavy flies was something that I was not used to at all.  A large portion of my fishing is spent throwing articulated streamers on the 8 wt, but my trout steamers don’t even compare to the large, heavy, and wind resistant pike flies.  Eventually I got into a rhythm and the flies became a little easier to cast.  Brent was the first to hook into a fish.  It was a frisky female that couldn’t have been holding in more than a couple feet of water.  The skunk was off and my confidence was immediately boosted.  Twenty minutes later, I hooked in to my first fish of the trip and my first pike ever.  He was just a little guy, but that didn’t lessen my excitement at all.  The next few hours consisted of a handful of small males, another crazy thunder storm, and even one bite off.  Targhee said he had another spot in mind and we motored over to try our luck at the next cove.

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Brent with the First Pike of the Trip

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My First Pike

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Incoming Storm

As we approached the cove I immediately felt good about it.  The water was calmer than most of the other places we had fished that day, and the water clarity was significantly better.  Brent was the first to get some action.  The fish chased his fly down hard, but in all the commotion it somehow missed the hook.  I realized that seems to happen a lot with pike fishing.  They will often push so much water on your fly when chasing it down, that they end up missing it all together.  Nonetheless, it makes for an exciting time and always keeps you on your toes.  We couldn’t get the fish to come back, so we continued trolling a few feet off of the weed and tree line.  I noticed we had come up to a small ledge and decided to let my fly sink deep to the bottom this time before beginning my retrieve.  When I was nearly finished with my retrieve, I felt one of the subtlest takes I have ever had and set the hook hard.  As I lifted the rod, I immediately felt the weight of the fish and knew I had latched into something a little bigger.  The fish slowly made it’s way to the surface and I let out a holler of excitement.  I was face to face with one of the biggest fish I had ever seen on the end of my line!  The fish made a short run but never went out of sight.  The first attempt to scoop it in the net failed and the fish ran again.  Net attempt number two came quick enough and the fish was landed.  I can’t remember the last time my heart was beating so fast over the thought of potentially losing a fish.  The big gal taped out at 41.5″ and weighed in at 20.6 pounds, just shy of the Utah Catch and Release State Record.  We snapped a few photos and sent her on her way.  Many thanks to Targhee and Brent for all your help.  We decided to call it quits and headed back to Targhee’s place for dinner and to get some sleep before hitting it hard again the next day.

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41.5 Inches of Northern Pike

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Smiling for the Camera

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Back She Goes

It didn’t take long at all to figure out day two was going to be much faster fishing.  It took exactly three or four casts to hook into the first fish of the day.  The boat couldn’t have been parked more than five minutes.  It was another cookie cutter male that couldn’t resist the 7-inch long pile of feathers.  The next few hours went by with what seemed like non stop action.  We ended day two with 19 fish to hand, and lost or missed at least that many, if not more fish.  Brent landed his best fish of the trip, a beautiful and healthy female.  Many of the takes were visual, and we even saw quite a few pike sunning themselves in the shallow coves.  What more could you ask for?

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Northern Pike

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Underwater shot by Brent

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Brent’s Best of the Trip, A Beautiful Female

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Another Beautiful Female

Looking back at the trip and the photos we took, I picked up on something that almost every fish had in common.  Most of the fish look like they are smiling for the camera, as if they are saying, “I’m glad I could make your day, now let me go!”  One of my favorite things about fishing is the rush that I get from the take and the hook set.  Whether big or small, every pike gives you that rush.  What some of them lack in fight is completely made up for in their vicious takes.  Pike are one of the most incredible fish I have had the opportunity to fish for, and I am chopping at the bit to get back down to Utah and try my hand at it again.  Thanks again to Targhee for being such a great host and for putting Brent and I on so many fish.  Some trips leave you with a permanent grin, and I still smile every time I think about this one.  Both Brent and Targhee have full trip reports on their blogs.  Head on over to Uprising and Utah Stillwaters and take a look!