This year will go down as one of the most memorable years I have had in my entire life. Here are a few things that made 2013 so great. At the start of each year, I like to set goals and do what I can to achieve them throughout the year. I am a very goal oriented person and when I set my mind to something, I do all that I can to accomplish it. I had two goals that had to do with fishing this year. First, become proficient at catching carp on the fly. What do I mean by proficient? I wanted to be able to come upon a carp in any body of water (I’ve only fished for carp in Idaho), under most any conditions, and still be able to catch them. Anyone can catch an active tailer with a well placed cast. I wanted to be able to pick up the big sunners that sit just under the surface in 40+ feet of water. I wanted to be able to pick up fish when nothing but the movement of their tail was visible because the cloud cover was so heavy. I wanted to be able to pick up fish in the dead of winter during a blizzard. I spent a great deal of time trying to perfect my carp game and my love of chasing carp has increased ten fold. My second goal; catch a large brown on a mouse pattern. I have thrown mouse patterns for years, but I have always struggled with setting the hook. This year, I was finally able to achieve this goal.
There are other goals I set as well that have nothing to do with fishing. At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to lose 30 pounds. I wanted to get back to the same shape I was in during high school. Through rock climbing, hiking, running, and eating much healthier, I have almost accomplished this goal. I am in better shape than I’ve been in years. Academic goals are also important to me. I do my best to keep my GPA at a level that is acceptable to me. I just completed by fifth semester at Brigham Young University – Idaho and couldn’t be happier. In just a couple days, another year will begin, filled with new goals and challenges. Here are a few of my favorite fishing related memories from 2013.
January is one of the coldest times of the year in Eastern Idaho. This year was no exception. After a week of nothing but subzero temperatures, pretty much every body of water, including the rivers, was frozen solid. While most people are freaking out about the cold, I get excited when the real cold sets in. That means it’s time for ice fishing! For whatever reason, fish seem to get a little dumb when the ice comes over. Large trout that would normally be difficult to entice put on the feed bag and will viciously attack your offering. This was the case when I landed the largest fish I have ever caught through the ice. Chris, Jared, and I hit a spot that we had been eyeballing for a little while. It always takes a little work to get everyone’s schedule to line up. We’d been fishing a couple hours already with great success, including a very solid brown that Jared brought to hand. Up to this point, we had been fishing pretty deep in 35+ feet of water. I decided to move a little closer to the shoreline and fish in the shallow water. Within 30 seconds of dropping my jig down the newly drilled hole, I had hooked up with what felt like a very heavy fish. Eventually I caught a glimpse of the fish and hollered to Chris that I was going to need a hand. Icing a large trout is much easier to do with the assistance of a friend. When we first got his head through the hole, we weren’t sure that the fish was going to fit. Eventually we worked him out, with very little room to spare. The fish was estimated to be around 9 lbs, and was by far the largest fish I’d ever iced. The rest of the day provided fast action on large trout and will go down as one of the most epic days of ice fishing I’ve had in my life.
My Largest Fish Through the Ice
A Different Fish From That Day Being Released
Like January, February can also be a very cold time of year in Eastern Idaho. Luckily, warm fronts come through on occasion and provide plenty of opportunities to fly fish. We also had a fairly mild winter (generally speaking), so conditions weren’t too bad at all. Brent and I met up like usual and decided to head down to one of our favorite runs on the river. This particular run has put out a lot of nice fish, and we knew it was our best bet to catch the trophy we were seeking. Deep water combined with mass quantities of bait fish has created the perfect honey hole for producing above average sized fish. I started to work the hole as I always did, swinging through the water closest to me first, until I eventually reached the far bank. About half way through my swing, I felt my line stop and knew it was time to set the hook. As soon as I set, I felt a few very solid head shakes and was pretty sure that I’d set into a very solid fish. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the fish, I hollered for Brent to come over and told him I’d set into a really nice fish. I tried to keep calm my nerves as Brent went in for the scoop. Brent is always quick to help, which I am very grateful for. It’s nice having fishing buddies who will drop everything to help you land a fish. Brent successfully scooped the big hen up, we snapped a few pics, and sent her on her way. The entire event has been permanently etched into my mind. Big wild trout are hard to come by, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to catch such a memorable fish.
My Largest Rainbow Trout On the Fly
Another one of my favorite memories from February included some early season carping. Brent had the idea to check out one of our local flats and see if there were any carp cruising around. The air temp was 34, the wind was howling, and it was snowing. Perfect conditions for carp fishing, right? I liked the idea of catching a carp in February, so it didn’t take much to convince me. As soon as we pulled up to the flat we saw carp jumping around in their usual manner. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That experience has shaped a lot of my opinions about carp behavior in general. Brent and I snuck over to the area where most of the carp seemed to be holding. I started working a pod of tailer that were holding just a couple feet off the bank. I couldn’t see any of the fish but the cloud of dust they were stirring up was a pretty good indicator that they were active. I ran my fly through the feeding zone and was greeted with a hard smack on the other end. I had hooked up with a carp, in February, in the middle of a snow storm. Despite the cold water, the fish still fought great. After landing the fish, Brent snapped a few shots and we sent him on his way. With the exception January, November, and December, I landed a carp every month this year. November could have been done but my free time was limited and I chose to fish for trout instead. This experience of cold weather carping has helped me understand that as long as you can locate the fish, they can generally be caught, even in very tough conditions.
First Carp of the Year
March was all about carp. Unseasonably warm weather brought the carp into the flats earlier than usual and many nice fish were brought to hand. In fact, most of my biggest carp of the season came in March. One of my most memorable days was with Brent in Mid-March. When we showed up the air temp was in the low 40’s, not really ideal for carp fishing, but still doable. We picked up a couple fish a piece but it was slow until the temperature got above 60. Once temps reached into the mid 60’s, I’d have sworn every carp in that flat was tailing in the shallow waters close to the shore line. It was as if a light switch had been flipped on that meant, “Time to eat!” Brent and I fished to tailers for several hours and both set a new personal best for common carp. Brent caught the fattest carp I’ve ever seen in my life. We didn’t have a scale on us, but there was no doubt that the fish went over 30 lbs. The thing was huge! My fish was somewhere in the 20’s and definitely my heaviest and longest common carp to date. Commons aren’t very easy to find in Eastern Idaho, so it’s always a treat to catch one. Sometimes conditions are perfect and you get lucky and time it just right. This was one of those days that will stand out in my mind for quite some time.
Doubled up on a Couple 20+ lb. Carp
My Personal Best Common Carp
One of my favorite things about running a fly fishing blog is all of the great people that I have been able to meet and fish with. Sometime in early 2013, Brent and I began discussing a potential pike fishing trip in Utah with Targhee Boss. Targhee runs a fly fishing blog and guiding business called Utah Stillwaters. If you are familiar with Targhee’s blog, it is quite evident that he knows his stuff when it comes to fly fishing for these toothy critters. Targhee graciously invited Brent and I down to fish with him the first week of April and we made the short drive down to Utah. Other than information I had gleaned from a few videos on the internet, I knew nothing about fly fishing for Pike. I knew they liked brushy areas and that they liked eating big meaty flies. That about summed it up. Targhee helped fill in the gaps and it wasn’t long before we were catching fish. Casting the large flies required to fish for Pike is no easy task. Casting these flies in the 20+ mph winds and rain is even more strenuous. Sometimes you can cast for hours without as much as a single hit. This is exactly what I was experiencing, but I didn’t mind one bit. I was enjoying the experience of fishing new water with new friends.
The area we were fishing wasn’t producing anything other than snags, so Targhee recommended we go try another cove that had been productive for him in times past. I had recently broke off and decided to tie on a great looking fly that Brent had tied. It was significantly smaller than what we had been using most of the day, but I really liked the way it looked. We arrived at the cove and I began working the shoreline. The water was deeper here than a lot of the places we had fished previously. I let my fly sink to the bottom and began working it slowly back towards the boat. Suddenly I felt resistance and set into the fish with a solid strip set. Within seconds, I could tell this fish was significantly larger than the fish I’d been catching earlier in the day. I raised my rod and applied as much pressure as I felt comfortable doing, trying the bring the fish to the surface. I eventually caught my first glimpse of the big fish and let out a big holler. I was hooked up with the biggest (length) fish I’d ever had on in my life. I did all that I could to keep my nerves calm. She made a couple runs toward the motor of the boat but luckily stayed clear. When she finally tired out, Targhee swooped in with the net, sealing the deal. We all celebrated, snapped a few pics, and sent the big gal on her way. She was just shy of the Utah State Catch & Release Record. Thanks again Targhee for showing me the ropes to catching pike on the fly. Couldn’t have done it without you!
My Largest Fish on the Fly…Almost 42″ and over 21 lbs.
Out of any month this year, I fished the least amount in May. I got out a whopping two times. School was in full swing and despite my love for fishing, school takes priority. Business Fundamentals (4 credit class) and Micro Economics (3 credit class) seemed to consume most of my time. Free time was hard to find. With that said, you won’t find me complaining. I am out of school from Christmas to Mid-April every year, so I have plenty of free time to spend on the water then. The times I was able to get out were great and some nice fish were landed. Nothing really stood out in May, just good times fishing with good friends. You learn to appreciate the time you get on the water when trips become a rarity.
Carp in a Newly Discovered Flat (courtesy of Gabe and Kyle)
Things started to slow down a bit with school in June and I was able to get out and fish a few more times. Fishing for Carp at Blackfoot is always good in June, the Henry’s Fork is in prime shape, and some small creeks are just finishing up runoff and can be a lot of fun. June was good to me and provided some great fishing memories. One of the most memorable fish I caught in June was on the Henry’s Fork. I was fishing with my friend Jonathan on the lower river. We decided to try an area that had been pretty good in the past with hopes of catching some nice fish. As we worked out way down to the river, I noticed a nice trout rising to some small bugs on the water. I was set up with a typical nymph rig (rubber legs on top, hare’s ear on bottom) and had no desire to change my entire rig for one fish. The salmon fly hatch had only ended a week or two previous and I though I’d push my luck. I threw a cast out where the fish was graciously feeding and sloppily skidded my rubber legs along the waters surface. To my surprise, the fish exploded on the fly. Considering how many people fish the salmon fly hatch on the Lower Henry’s Fork, I was surprised he was even remotely interested in a fly on top. Henry’s Fork browns are some of the prettiest fish in Idaho, and it’s always a treat to land one of decent size. Jon and I never caught anymore fish in that spot, but the one fish made the trip worth it.
A Healthy Henry’s Fork Brown Trout
Small Stream Brownie
The first half of the year offered many incredible fishing opportunities that won’t soon be forgotten. July through December was all about big trout on the fly. New friends, new water, many all nighters, and a lot of hours on the river resulted in some phenomenal fishing. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting about the rest of the year tomorrow morning!