Carp Fishing is Hard.
Some say we can only appreciate a time of peace if we were once at war, we grow our faith if we were once hopeless, and we can only know intense pleasure if we’ve known extreme pain. And only by missing multiple opportunities – scattered from the ‘Carp Slam of 2008’ to the shores of a Colorado lake in August of 2009, can one come to truly relish the skilled acquisition of a 36 inch, 13 pound, golden Carp!
Last September I was feeling froggy and jumped into the South Platte Carp Slam tournament to better my skills and grow my fly fishing network. I originally signed up to be a volunteer but the organizers reasoned with me that even a novice like me could enjoy the competition. While they were correct about the opportunity for enjoyment, I don’t think they could have ever prepared me for the longing and yearning that the event would leave me with at its conclusion.
Carp fishing on a fly rod is hard. There’s nothing easy about it. Anglers in the UK are mad for the challenge and the pursuit has grown in popularity in the USA over the last few years with a virtual explosion of interest as of late. That tournament day last year produced a very small number of tallied fish and that was with some of the best professional Guides around participating. My sage guide, Jay Zimmerman of Front Range Anglers, Boulder Colorado, did catch a Carp that day – at least big enough to put us in the money, but it ran into the rocks and broke his line before we could get it to the bank. I, on the other hand, didn’t have so much as a sideways glance at my fly the entire day. I went out the next day with a guide friend – same results. I’ve visited the Platte solo a couple of times since and found the water too wide or too muddy to sight fish so I settled in to pestering Jay Z. to take me to one of his favorite honey-holes. Today… my carping paid off. (Pun fully intended.)
Jay and I headed north of Denver for carp fishing to a nice piece of public water tucked away in uptown suburbia. As we made the trek Jay schooled me to set expectations. “There are 100 things that could go wrong no matter how long you’ve been chasing carp”. “Patrick has the best analogy; ‘You don’t really fish for a carp, you feed it like a baby.’” “The carp are hot right now so we’ll have lots of opportunity – do not get frustrated!”
Jay kicked us off by modeling right behavior – the way to a carp is muddy, stealthy, and careful. It’s not fishing, it’s quiet hunting and vigorous spoon feeding. This was the first time I HEARD a fish feeding. The cattails parted as fat fish gorged their way through the slurry waters sucking in their brunch with a squeaking cluck. The problem with carp fishing certainly isn't honing in on a smacking fish but even with perfect casting accuracy and know-how, getting it to take your fly, (even the now famous original Jay Zimmerman Back-Stabber), is nothing short of a miracle. Once he takes it and your adrenaline rushes the ability to properly set a hook diminishes – and then the fight. Carp fishing on a fly rod is hard.
But with keen guidance, practiced patience, (I’ve been waiting for a year already), and a little luck – it is possible! We spotted a monster wallowing in the sticks and after snagging my bug on grass and moss the first three casts, the fourth one landed on a stick just in front of his nose and plopped in front of his big fat baby lips. He slurped. I set. He jetted!
That fish shot towards the middle of the lake like it was on fire and Patrick coached from the sidelines while Jay filmed. The fish took off no less than six times – each time I almost had it beached it would freak out at the site of us and head for the cover of the depths. I jousted my rod to the left and to the right, reeling and relenting until we were able to get a hand on the beast for a good grip and grin session.
It was a long year of anticipation but well worth the wait! Before we left a Sparrow lighted on my extended fishing rod and perched there for a couple of minutes. I felt like a Disney diva with all of nature acknowledging my achievement and half expected the rabbits and field mice to join the chorus and start fashioning me a victory gown. It was a day of firsts and most certainly won’t be the last.