Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bitter Sweet

Sometimes you win and then don't, and then do, but still didn't, but in the end you do.  Makes complete sense right?  Let me explain.

The 9th annual Blackfoot Reservoir Carp Classic Tourney was drawing near.  I was pretty excited to fish with a couple of good friends (Brent and Shane) and compete on the same team.  The weather throughout the week was sunny and even got up into the 80's temp-wise.  It gave us all hope for some excellent carping.  One thing that is almost essential to good carping is a warming trend, or at least some sun.  As Thursday made it's debut so also did the cooling temperatures.  Then that evening the rains rolled in.  By Friday the temperature had dropped 20 degrees from the cooling temperatures of Thursday.  To cap things off, it was raining and continued to do so on and off all day and night up until Saturday evening.

Thanks goes out to Brent for all the Carp Classic Pictures.

Needless to say, it was crappy, not carpy weather.  Even so we showed up Friday morning around 8am, set up camp, wadered and rigged up.  Then we headed over to the registration tent.  After declaring our team name as "Cloop USA," paying our dues, and chewing the fat for a bit, we headed off to our first location for the day.  Conditions were brutal. Cold, windy, and wet.  We stalked the banks in search of any signs of tailing carp.  As we waded through the water we failed to spook a single fish.  We kept working the shoreline.  Once we climbed to higher ground we could see that fish were mudding like crazy out in the deeper water.  They were feeding, but not where we could get at them!  We kept on walking the banks, blind casting here and there with hopes of a miracle take.  As we kept leap-frogging each other along the banks I noticed what looked like a mudding fish about five feet from the bank.  I quickly began my stalk down to the waters edge from my high vantage point.  Once to the water, and just as I was about to cast to the muddy area I notice a slow moving sillouhette come up onto the bank right in dapping range, and it was feeding.  I flipped my san juan worm passed the fish, let it sink and then began a slow strip.  There was a quick take and the fight began.

From the hook set I could tell it was a solid fish.  It rolled on the surface and then took off the other direction.  After a fight that was probably only 5 minutes, but felt like forever, Shane helped me beach the healthy mirror carp.  I was so grateful to be on the board in such tough conditions.  I secured the fish and we kept searching for feeders.  We only found one other that was remotely close to the bank, but it was still too deep for an accurate cast.  After a bit we decided to go elsewhere.  I carried the 27.4lb carp in my arms almost a miles walk back to the truck.  Man my arms burned afterward!

We headed off to a couple other locations to hopefully find more active fish, but with no such luck.  At last we decided to head down to the river to see if we could catch a trout in the couple hours left before the weigh-in.  Brent picked up an awesome cut, and I lost a couple fish.  Shane had one more shot at a carp just above the dam, but had a bit of trouble with the cast and the carp bolted.  Bummer it was, as Yoda would say.

Brent's Beautiful Cutty

Back at the weigh-in only a handful of teams had fish.  It was clear that the fishing was tough for everyone.  The team that took the overall weight category had 50lbs in three fish.  My dandy was holding second place in that category, and took that days big fish award.  Up to this point I was given the impression that the contest worked on two separate days.  We thought there was a big fish prize for each day, and a team weight prize for each day, but that was it.  It was with this thinking that I was pretty bummed when they handed me a little sack off odd things (some tippet, a couple hats, nippers, and sunglasses straps).

After the weigh-in we all had some dinner, then Shane and I headed over to fish around Soda Springs.  Shane got his skunk off, we did some homework, munched on some french fries, I hit up an ATM to get money to enter the raffle, and then we headed back to camp.

Bear River below Alexander Reservoir

Shane built up the fire while I zonked out in the truck for a bit.  We sat by the fire for a while, and had some of our fellow carpers wander over to visit a bit. Brent eventually joined us again after his nap. It was nice getting to know other anglers in such a laid back setting.  It was also amusing to be around the really intoxicated ones.  After shmoozing and smores we hit the sack.

It rained all night.  The next morning the first thing I remember hearing was Brent saying "Gents, I think I'm gonna head home."  My heart sank, but I understood.  He was getting concerned about getting his trailer out with the roads getting more and more muddy, and he had a lot of work to do with a conference he had coming up.  I explained that I still wanted to go try the spot we had the day before.  I even suggested we fish the river all day and then head back for the weigh-in just in case my fish did win some overall prize.  Shane wasn't having it.  No matter what I suggested I could not convince him to stay.  So I tried not to think about it as we packed up and headed off to fish somewhere else for the day.  As we were driving along the reservoir I said to him how mad I would be to find out that there was a big fish overall category.

We tried some waters around Soda Springs again, without any luck.  Then made the long drive to some of our favorite waters.  There we found some success.  We both managed a couple carp, Shane caught one smallie, and then we night fished for trout with success.

Definitely not a fish to complain about.  Fishing at night... as Aladdin said, it's "a whole new world."

Fast forward to Monday.  I was perusing some of the fly fishing blogs I frequent when I came across Jeff Currier's report on the Tourney.  As I read, getting the details of the day we missed, the heat began creeping up my face and the sick feeling set in.  There were overall prizes both for big fish and teams.  Later I came to find out that the prize, which I had won but was not there to collect, was an F1 Ross Reel.   It went on to be raffled (which we also missed).  They say there's no use crying over spilled milk, but man... spilled milk doesn't retail at around $500.  We were also just 23lbs shy of first place in the team category, which our team took second place in with our single fish.  I'm a bit frustrated with my buddies for bailing when the fishing got tough, but I'm even more mad at myself for not even insisting we ask the official rules and structure for prizes.  I guess that is how life goes.  It's bittersweet.  Sometimes we choose the better, when we could have had the best.  Sometimes we get speeding tickets.  Sometimes you pay the late fee.  And sometimes, you don't get the reel worth half a grand simply because you aren't there.  In the end the whole event goes to a good cause, to help war veterans.  It's good to know that despite my own misfortune nothing changes that.

There always seems to be something going on in the world to bring me back down to earth.  I feel for the people lost, and those suffering in Oklahoma.  They are being prayed for.  I have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, and am surrounded by people that love and care for me.  In the end all the material junk doesn't matter, and I'm grateful for my blessings.  Plus, I managed to catch some pretty sweet fish.  Bitter sweet, but when I REALLY think about it, I have a whole lot more sweet in my life than bitter.

PostBlog Afterthought:  Having read back through this post, a day after it was put up, it occurred to me that it could be taken in a negative way concerning the people involved.  That was not my intention AT ALL.  The post was written to cope with my personal frustrations about the situation.  I still think the world about my fishing buddies.  They are good people, some of the best I know in fact.  I look forward to many manly fishing trips with them in the future.  Friends matter far more than stuff, and they always will.


  1. Bummer man...but you are right on with coming back down to earth a bit. Some tough stuff out there in the world right now, and we get to play with sticks and goofy looking fish. Look forward to next time I get out there to do so with you boys.

    And that is a beautiful carp.

    1. Thanks John. Look forward to when you can make it over this way again as well. I heard a rumor that there was some potential trout chasing trip in the works.

  2. Perhaps I'm a little biased, but part of the reason I love to hunt so much is the complete solitude that lasts for hours, even days. I have found it makes me a better husband, father, friend, and especially hunting and fishing companion. Those hours spent in quiet contemplation make me so much more grateful for all the things I have, especially when no one else is there to redirect my thoughts - just myself and my conscience. On a recent bear hunt I sat for 6 hours in the exact same spot after my buddy dropped me off, just watching the wind blow through the pines. Upon his arrival I was more enthused than ever to spend more time with him, despite having spent the entire day preceding the hunt together. Often as sportsmen, we are faced with decisions that either lead us towards the sport, or towards people - often our brothers in arms. Looking back years later, every time I've choked down the (at times) bitter consequences and sided with people - I've never really regretted it. Even in small, insignificant things. A smile and an arm around a good friends' shoulder is worth far more than the next big trout that wasn't caught, or the prey unharvested. Call me a sentimental wuss - but my experience outdoors is more dictated by the company I keep and my appreciation for them as it is the animal we pursue. When I am an old man, I want to look back at old faded photos of fish caught with lifelong friends and family with a smile. The trick is to find those rare individuals that will do the same - and that makes you a lucky man.

    1. Jared, thanks for the comment. I agree 100%. In the end it's the people that matter the most. I hope I didn't come across as a jerk with this post, that wasn't my intention. I still think the world of my friends. They are some of the best guys I know.

    2. Jared - a great comment. People that don't hunt and fish have trouble understanding the draw of solitude and the, sometimes, harsh conditions that accompany the outings. Particularly under appreciated is the ability of an outdoor adventure to help you appreciate the people awaiting your return, either at camp, or at home. Thanks for the reflection.

  3. Good report. I think personally it's too bad you must keep the fish in that tourney. I understand the angst you may have had but Gregg has been stuck in mud alone and it's no fun for me. Classy commentary on that as well. Also you guys redeemed the fishing. I'm not that far away but we are far less roller coater in our Spring weather.


    1. Thanks Gregg! One of the coolest things we saw at that tournament was at day 1's weigh in. Jeff Currier brought in the one fish their team caught. It was in good enough condition that after it was weighed he wanted to release it. I have a lot of respect for that guy. He definitely got some "looks." Thanks for the comment.

  4. Beautiful Carp Shane--a total slab. Sorry about the reel. I read your original post correctly and liked your point; you have a lot more sweet than bitter. It was a good write up.

    Also, I want another shot at those BR Carp next year.

    1. Thanks Jim. We look forward to having you back over here next time you can make the trip! Maybe we'll try and plan it for a bit warmer weather too!