“I just got an invite to fish with Boots Allen and Jeff Currier Monday through Wednesday… Before kids I would have quit my job to tag along.” I told Gracy, my wife, after putting down the kids for the night.
“Would you want to go?” She asked, rhetorically.
“Well, I just might be able to make it happen…”
“BUT LET ME CHECK FIRST!” She hollered as I scrambled to grab my phone and tell Jeff the good news.
I know my wife too well. I know she would never provide a possibility unless she was 99% sure I could go, and I like those odds. Gracy called on some heavy reinforcement to help make my trip possible: the grandparents! My mom and dad sprang at the opportunity to watch the grandkids, and before I knew it, I was on the way to fish for smallmouth bass and carp on the Snake River.
I arrived to a desolate gravel parking lot twenty minute before Boots and Jeff arrived, which gave me the time to cook dinner. Carne asada with fresh made tortillas and homemade guacamole earned me a spot at the front of the boat.
“Alright, boys! Let’s catch some fish!” Currier said, as Boots fired up the motor and we were off.
It has been almost two years since I have been in a drift boat, so the ride to the carp flat was neighboring nostalgic for me; the sound of the water hitting under the floor of the boat, the creak of the oars, everything about this boat was made with fly fishing in mind… it was damn nice to be back in one.
Boots cut the motor as we neared a cove of stagnate water, and the boat came to a silent stop. “Let me take the oars, and you get back here.” Boots said to Currier.
“I can row…” Currier said.
“No, no… You fish.” Boots insisted.
“Okay.” Currier said, unsheathing his fly rod from the rod holder in the boat. He raised his hand to shield the sun, peering off into the distance.
“Oh yeah… I see a few tailing out there. Erik, get your rod ready.”
I picked up my 10’ 5wt Helios and unhooked the black crazy dad from the eyelet, ready to make a cast. I also peered out, scanning the water.
“I don’t see anything…” I said, fixated on the water.
“I see about three tails right now.” Currier said, standing at the back of the boat.
I strained to see something, anything! Nothing was presenting itself to me, not even the slightest bit of nervous water.
“Where are you seeing these tails?” I asked.
“Look over there.” Currier pointed, straight ahead. “See that tree?”
“That one?” I said, pointing my fly rod at a tree nearing 150 yards away.
“That’s the one. They are tailing just in front of it… I see five tails now. Boots?”
I looked at Boots who had stopped oaring to take a look for himself.
“Yep, there they are. Possibly seven tails.” Boots said with confidence.
I looked out at the distant tree and saw glistening water… that was all. Here I had been focusing on the water only thirty to fifty feet in front of me, and these guys were looking half a mile away, or so it seemed. How could he possibly see anything that far?
“You got them now, Erik?” Currier asked, with the confidence he had made it clear to me.
“Yep!” I lied.
Boots was oaring like he was stalking prey. Every inaudible push of the paddles left behind small drips of water, which was easily heard as he scooped to push forward again. We drew nearer. My fly was ready in my hand with line out of the reel, ready for a sudden cast. Then I saw it… just breaking the surface of the water, a small golden flag flopped lazily from side to side… A tailing carp!
We were now into position.
“I’ll drop the anchor right here.” Boots whispered.
“Perfect.” Currier said, still fixed on the tails. Boots held the anchor rope in his hands and gently pressed the anchor-release. The motion was so quiet and fluid that we found ourselves in perfect casting opportunities, and no carp was the wiser.
“I just cast to hit them on the head, right?” I asked, second guessing myself before making my first cast.
“That’s right.” Currier said.
“Okay, here we go.” I said, and shot out my line.
Carping is no easy task. Shot after shot and nothing was happening. Currier was also finding opportunities from the back of the boat, and his practiced hands were presenting flies to unsuspecting carp so perfect you would think a fish should take it just out of respect. Sure, I was accurate enough, but clunky by comparison. Currier was also retrieving faster than I was, and at one point had a carp chase his fly for a few seconds. I watched the carp create a large wake as it charged towards his fly. This made us all hold our breath, and when it veered to the left, refusing or losing sight of the fly, we snorted in protest.
“Damn…” Currier said, under his breath as he brought his fly in for another cast.
Right in front of me something big disturbed the surface tension of the water, creating what we call nervous water. I quickly shot my fly into the heart of the disturbance and mimicked Currier’s retrieve.
Thouuuuuuack! My line tightened so fast water shot up in a straight line with the immense weight of a carp.
“There we go!” Boots said happily, as the carp screamed to my right.
“Oh nice, it’s about time!” Currier said, reeling in his line as fast as he could. “I wanted to wait until someone caught a carp before I had my first beer… and I was getting thirsty!”
If you have caught a carp on the fly then you know the sheer power it has as you attempt to bring it in. Both Currier and Boots were sipping their brews as my forearm burned with the weight of the carp. I enjoyed every moment of the fight. Huge head shakes doubled over my rod as the carp powered though the water. Boom, boom… my carp was pissed as it hit other carp in its path to free itself. Each spooked carp my fish plowed into streaked off, leaving wakes that reminded me of watching “Tremors” as a kid. Despite having a bad reputation, and being one of the most ugly fish you could possibly catch, this was fun!
Boot’s was swift with the net, and after a fantastic fight and my forearms feeling taxed, I gave the carp one last heave and the fight was over.
“Oh nice, a mirror carp! I haven’t caught one of these yet!” I said, unhooking the fly from the fish’s mouth.
“Really? I want a common carp. Where we fish for carp we rarely get a common.” Boots said, getting the camera ready for a hero shot.
“Well, here comes the worst part of catching a carp…”
“What’s that?” Boots asked.
“Touching it.” I said. He laughed.
“Looks like you’re up, Boots.” I said, after slipping the carp back into the water. We quickly switched spots, and after sitting behind the sticks I realized how thirsty I was. I opened the cooler and grabbed my water, shutting the cooler with a thud.
“Ohhh, don’t do that! Look.” Currier said, pointing to the carp I had just spooked.
“Oh damn! Sorry.” I said. After my carp, the initial quiet in the boat had dissipated with cheers and beers. I had completely forgot we were still in the midst of several carp, that were now aware of our location.
I felt like a complete amateur having made a really clueless move, but it all went away after Boots shot his line at some nervous water and hooked into a carp.
“That was fast.” I said, as Boots reeled in his line to keep tension on the carp that was running towards the boat.
“Look at the rest of the school jet.” Currier said, witnessing what I had witnessed when fighting my carp.
“It’s coming in nice and easy.” Boots said with disbelief, “I have a quiet carp.”
“It’s going to blow up any second.” Currier predicted, as the carp continued to plow towards us, almost threatening to ram the boat. Suddenly the carp switched directions, and the fight was on. Boots was no stranger to managing a large fish. I, however, was jumping the gun by grabbing the net early in the fight.
“This net?! You didn’t have a smaller one?” I joked with Boots feeling the net was pretty small for the size of fish we were hooking into.
“Yeah, I definitely need to get a bigger one.”
Still, I held the net ready and Boots brought the carp in for our first attempt. The size of the carp made me feel like I was trying to land a trout with an aquarium net… how was this going to work?
The head of the carp was lifted, as I made my attempt. The carp was having none of it, with one big turn the carp kicked up a wave of water that got me all wet.
It was quickly time for a second attempt at netting the fish. Boots had more control with a tired carp this time. He drew it near, and I made a big scooping motion with the net to get under the carp. SLAM! With terrible visibility, I hadn’t realized how shallow the water was and jabbed the net straight into the muck.
“What’s going on here!?” Boots yelled, keeping the carp at bay for as long as he could. I pulled the net out of the muck but it was too late. The carp had kicked again and the fight was back on.
“It’s less than a foot deep here… I hit the bottom with the net.” I explained, but it didn’t matter. Two attempts with no fish; such screw-ups tend to stick to a guy on a trip like this.
The third and final attempt paid off, and Boots had his fish.
“Disgusting!” Boots said, releasing his fish and immediately went to work washing his hands.
Currier was up to bat, taking the front of the boat. He had a couple of close calls to start the day, but hadn’t hooked up. He was due for a carp, but after some time had passed it seemed the carp flat had gone quiet. The evening sun was sinking behind the horizon, turning the sky into an orange sorbet color that reflected nicely on the water.
“Well, let’s spook some, carp!” Boots said, pulling the cord on the motor as it roared to life. Wakes plowed underwater as carp fled from the noise, looking like underwater torpedos being shot from our boat. Despite our observation of the flat going cold, there were still a lot of carp in our location. Still, it was time to move on into some deeper water.
“Cut it, Boots!” Currier yelled to be heard over the motor. He pointed off into the distance, “cruising carp!”
It still baffles me how Currier can spot these fish at such a long distance, but thankfully he did. Boots killed the motor, and Currier took point.
“Look at that…” He said, pointing with his rod tip.
“Cruising carp will take anything.” He said.
Squinting to see, it finally came into view. The back of a carp almost looked like a submarine just breaking the surface of the water and cruising at a steady rate.
“Anyone have a black bugger unweighted?” Currier asked, but it was too late. The carp was approaching fast, and the uncharted approach was cursive at best but still heading our way. There was no time to change flies. The carp was in range, and Currier started his double haul. The fly landed precisely on point. WOOOOOSH! The carp spooked with the splash of the fly, and Currier jolted his head with frustration, obviously expecting that result.
“We have to change this fly.” He said, and I was ready. While Currier was after his fish, I had sifted through my box to find an unweighted black bugger.
By now it was getting late, and hard to see. I had left my glasses back in the truck so I was stuck with prescription sunglasses, which made it even darker. Still, being nearsighted, I took Currier’s line and snipped off the fly. I held the new, unweighed bugger up into the small about of light on the horizon. I pulled my glasses down so the tippet came into view perfectly. The silhouette was all I needed to tie on this fly and, once secure, I handed it back to Jeff.
“Thanks! With my eyes there is no way I could have gotten that done so fast this time of night.”
Another cruising carp was spotted. I took the sticks and pushed us forward towards the carp.
“Okay, stop…” Currier called quietly, and I set the oars down without a sound. We drifted towards the carp… Line zipped through the eyelets as Currier shot the fly, again, right on target. The carp felt the pressure of the hook, and WOUSSSSSH! The splash of the carp echoed across the water as it bolted for safety. Currier’s line zipped from his hands, and the battle commenced!
If Boots and I had some leverage on the carp we fought, it was nothing like the stress Currier applied. His rod was more than doubled over. I swear I could see the bend reach the handle of his fly rod, and his line was so tight you could have plucked an e-sharp.
“Damn, Currier. What rod are you throwing?” I asked, as he pulled the reigns on the carp.
“I think it’s a Winston 6wt Air.” He said. I’m not familiar with Winston rods, but watching it in the hands of Currier, I was impressed.
It wasn’t long until the jokes about me handling the net starting to spill out; however, it was me who was ready.
“Okay, I’m going to bring the fish right there.” Currier said, pointing near the oar. I placed the net onto the water, and Currier did just that. I’m not going to screw this up, I said to myself as I saw the carp draw near. I was now able to reach the carp, so I went for it.
Boot’s started laughing hard as I scooped up the carp and had it balanced on the frame of the net.
Of course this would happen to me.
“Come on get in there!” I laughed. A small wiggle with the net was enough for the carp to slip into captivity.
“That’s funny!” Currier chimed, “But I was thinking, stop laughing and do something about it!” He said smiling. “Ahh!” Sighed Currier, “what a beautiful common!” He unhooked the tired carp, and held it up for a shot.
The night ended with a bit of smallmouth bass fishing. With my sunglasses on, I was fishing by brail. Currier brought in a few, but they were nothing to write home about. Boots was behind the sticks when we called it a night. We got back to camp late, and Boots had one more treat up his sleeve. He pulled out a homemade cobbler his wife had made for our trip.
“Guys want some cobbler?!” Boots asked.
“You know, I’m not a dessert guy.” Currier said.
“Well, I didn’t get this figure by saying no to cobbler!” I said cheerfully. The guys started laughing, as Boots handed me half the pan of cobbler.
“I ate one half, you can have the other.” He said, handing me a spoon. I ate every last crumb of that delicious, buttery cobbler. Stuffed with cobbler was a great way to end a fantastic day of fishing. Tomorrow we would do it all over again, and after half the pan of cobbler let’s hope I wake up in the morning to experience it.