Winter is Eastern Idaho is a strange thing. This year winter abruptly began back sometime during the last week of November. We were experiencing a strange week of high temperatures, somewhere in the high 40’s to low 50’s. Two days later, it was -15 and pretty much every body of water was frozen solid. Ice fishing quickly ensued and fly fishing was put on the back burner until things finally warmed up to the teens again. Eventually, things did warm up and so did the fly fishing. Here are a few photos from some of my favorite outings during the past couple months.
Fishing is full of choices. Some are easy to make, others not so much. Eastern Idaho has so many different options this time of year and that often makes it difficult to choose where to fish. After a pretty serious warm front rolled in last Thursday, I had one fish on my mind. The mighty carp! As I sat inside sick all weekend, I day dreamed of warmer days on the carp flats. Monday’s forecast called for a whopping high of 48 degrees. This might not sound that warm to most people, but in Eastern Idaho where temps well below zero are the norm this time of year, I was ecstatic. Sunny and 48 sounded like perfect carping weather to me. I arrived at the flat I had in mind around 12:30 with the air temp somewhere in the low 40’s. To my dismay, there wasn’t a fish to be seen in the flat. I decided to hike a good ways downstream where the flat connects with the river and is also home to a large deep spring. I began blind casting, hoping that there might be some carp holding deep near the bottom of the warmer spring water. After casting for several minutes with no luck, I finally saw the first carp breach the waters surface. Although breaching carp aren’t fish that I attempt to catch, they are a sign that there are other fish near by. I worked my way down the shoreline where I had seen the carp jump and began casting again. A few casts later I felt a strong take, strip set the hook hard, and felt the line start peeling from my reel. Carp are slightly lethargic in chilly water, so after a short but fun fight I brought my first fish of the day to hand.
First Fish of the Day
After landing my first fish of the day, I was content with achieving my goal. Last year, my first carp of the season also came to hand in February, but I know now that they can be caught year round here in Eastern Idaho (contrary to popular belief). Tactics and locations just change a bit. Last February, Brent and I decided to check a local flat during a snow storm and happened upon a handful of fish that were heavily concentrated around a spring. We each picked up a couple fish before they all decided to leave the flat. I was expecting a similar experience this day but was presently surprised when I picked up my second fish of the day just a few casts later. I could tell immediately that this fish was heavier than the first one. I did all I could to work the fish to the service so I could catch a glimpse of it. The fish continued to run for quite a while but eventually tired out enough to be landed. Because I was fishing in such deep water, I saw no need to put my waders on was just fishing in my jeans. Although a little hard to tell from the picture, this fish was one of the largest carp I’ve ever landed in my life. Some times self timer shots turn out like that. It’s not often that a fish is physically difficult for me to lift from the water, and this one was very heavy. I don’t carry a scale on me, so it’s hard to say how heavy it really was. Carp weight varies so much that it can be very difficult to tell the weight without a scale. Needless to say, it was my heaviest fish of the day. After a couple of quick pics I sent the fish on its way and continued working my way down the shoreline. I had one more hook up that quickly came unbuttoned and then things really slowed down for a couple of hours.
Biggest Fish of the Day
Since fishing had significantly slowed down, I decided it was time to look for fish elsewhere. I continued to work my way down the shore line, back towards the flat until I once again come across some breaching fish. My suspicions were confirmed and the fish had moved much shallower than they were previously holding. The only problem was that the fish were holding on the far bank, which was at least a 15-20 minute walk. I waded out as far as I could but my casts fell short of where they needed to be. I decided to make the walk, only to find that the wind had once again changed directions and the fish had moved back to the bank I was originally on. A bit disappointed, I began the walk back to where I had just come from. While walking near the shallowest part of the flat, I noticed fish beginning to breach all around me. Not only were fish breaching, but the occasional tail could be seen, sticking straight up out of the skinny water. I found the closest pod of tailers I could and began working the water. Within a couple casts I was hooked up on another healthy fish.
Crawdads in Yo’ Face
As I mentioned earlier, cold water carp don’t fight nearly as hard as they do when the water is warmer. I quickly landed the fish and began working another pod of fish. Over the next 15 minutes I landed two more fish almost as fast as I could get my fly back in the water. I would cast, make a few strips, feel the fish attack my fly, and quickly follow with a strip set. The fish were on the feed and they were holding nothing back. I continued working the flat, picking up the occasional tailer here and there. Eventually the water became so discolored that it was hard for the fish to locate my fly without it being directly in front of them. I decided to head back over to the springs located close to the shoreline and target fish in the clearer water.
Making the move to clearer water quickly paid off. I was even able to dap one fish, which happens quite rarely at this particular spot. After landing a few more fish, the sun sank low enough in the sky that most of the flat was no longer receiving adequate sunlight to keep the fish interested in sticking around. My amazing day of early season carping was slowly winding down and coming to an end.
Last Fish of the Day
After all the incredible trout fishing I have experienced as of late, it felt great to get out and chase some tailing carp again. Although taking “Selfies” with big awkward carp isn’t the easiest task, it still felt very nice to get out and fish by myself. As much as I love getting out on the water with my fishing buddies, there is something about fishing solo that helps clear the mind. This week is calling for even warmer temps and I am looking forward to getting out to the carp flats again very soon.