Blackfoot - Back again... with Andrew Holt

Back Again...Blackfoot Reservoir with Andrew Holt

 

The Big Skies of Prairie Carping

The alarm by my bed was fully able to spring to life at three AM. I, on the other hand, did not have as much spring in me….

 

After a quick shower, I threw a toothbrush and some washing gear in a bag, and before I knew it, I was on the road to pick up Steve Ruck. The pair of us were going to make the long drive to Blackfoot Reservoir in Idaho to take a shot at the beautiful mirror carp that occupy its waters.

 

I arrived at Steve’s around 4:45. He was standing by his gear on his driveway. Just by looking at his belongings, and by what I already had in the truck, it seemed we didn’t have enough room for it all!

 

Photo by CarpPro.net

At 5:30 I pulled out of his driveway; my truck groaned as the rear suspension bottomed out at the end of his driveway. We would have to drive carefully across the bumps or we would be in trouble. I pulled into the gas station just around the corner from his house. As I topped up the gas tank, I glanced at the truck; it was like I was driving uphill. The back end was well down under the load. I think we must have had too much bait, since it couldn’t possibly be the ice chest (full of iced down beer and Gatorade) could it?

The long 940 mile drive was fairly uneventful. It’s a long drive to make in a day, but personally I hate driving at night, and apart from my arse falling asleep several times, it was a good trip. It’s possible to make the drive in around 15 hours, stopping only for gas and fast food. We had planned to drive as far as we could and sleep by the side of the road, then go into town to pick up our licenses in the morning. But during one of our many conversations, one of us had the bright idea to see what time the little gas station closed where we got our licenses our last visit to Blackfoot. A few phone calls later, we had the number of the Quick Stop station in Soda Springs, and Steve was on the phone to a young girl who works there, “What time do you close tonight, luv?" “Ten o’clock” was the reply. Pedal to the metal helped us through the last hundred miles in just about a hour.

Licenses in hand, we tore down the road out of Soda Springs: 13 miles of tarmac and 15 miles of dirt road at 60 mph sending clouds of dust into the sky. We come over the top of the ridge to get our first glimpse of our home for the next week. There was not a soul in sight; it looked great. After unloading the truck, we put our bivvys up in the dark and bedded down for the night. We were both shattered from the long days drive.

Next morning at first light, Steve was first to wake. All I could hear was him swearing about how fricking cold it was, and that ice had formed on the top of the ice chests. After scrambling to put a jacket on, and turning on the ignition to my truck, I was stunned to see the outside temperature was only 33°F….

As the sun breaks the horizon, Steve and I began to mix ground bait: a mixture of breadcrumbs, chicken mash, pigeon feed, pellets, oatmeal, grits, hemp, maize, sweet corn and molasses. After hurtling two five gallon buckets of the mix into the swim in front of us, we started to set up our tackle. Steam was rising from the lake as the outside temperature was still much lower than that of the water. The scene was very picturesque; the only noise was that of pelicans and cormorants taking to the sky, ready for their first meal of the day. They joined their buddies on the other side of the dam where we were fishing. The birds would wade into the shallows and wait to pounce on the small fish that get washed through the sluice gates as the water from the lake is run off to irrigate the surrounding farmland. The lake is like a mirror; only broken by the odd small fish rising to take dead bugs from the surface left over from the previous night hatch.

All day and not so much as a sniff, no runs, no bites, it’s just dead! We piled in more feed, same mix, but we loose feed with loads of maize on top of it. Still nothing…..

After dicking around with my old barbecue for about an hour trying to make breakfast, I breakdown and shot into town to get another; the other just wouldn't stay alight. I returned in just over the hour, expecting to be greeted by Steve with tales of what he caught while I was gone, butstill nothing.

At the end of the day we sat eating chicken, baked potatoes and beans, talking about why we hadn't so much as a sniff. Self doubt was then very evident; perhaps the pigeon feed was off, maybe we had put it in the wrong place. Perhaps our baits must have been wrong, the rigs not right, hairs too long, too short--we second guess everything. Perhaps a couple of beers would do the trick…..

 

Next morning we are up at first light, on a warmer day than the previous cold morning. We hastily cast fresh baits into the swim. Before we had time to settle, my right rod springs into action; the bait runner peeled off line willy nilly. I was into our first fish and as fast as I was into it, it came off! Shortly after Steve got into one; he had good contact, and stemed off the fish’s first major run. He made good head way as the huge carp worked its way back and forth in front of us; slowly taking in more line. The fish was getting worked closer to the net; not yet visible but definitely closer. His rod sprang to the sky, and the fish is gone. Ten minutes of silence follow. My right hand rods buzzer was doing a one tone and I was in again. This time I stayed in contact with the fish and was eventually rewarded with the first fish on the bank; a 15 lb 2 oz beauty that seemed huge. It was our first fish, and the atmosphere had definitely changed with our first blood. Steve got into another fish; the clutch screamed as the fish made for the far bank. He worked it back to our right, and I was up with the landing net, ready to greet the carp. Yet again the line went limp and it was off. More expletives greeted the air. More silence, but not for long.

 

Before we know it, Steve was into another and it seemed to be a bigger fish; working it hard in what seemed a life time, he battleed the leviathan and eventually banked a pristine looking 19 lb 2oz mirror (They are all mirrors at Blackfoot). The day proveed to be our most successful of the week; lots of high doubles with fish up to 23 lb. I was fortunate enough to land four twenties, We did not count the small carp under 10 lb as we were (dare I say) bothered by them all week. There seemed to be more of these 3-5 pounders than there ever were before. That being said, I did set up a couple of 13 foot match rods, a Mitchell 300, equipped with a waggler, 6lb line, a number eight hook and two pieces of sweet corn, it provided some great sport in between waiting for the bigger fish on the heavier tackle. Twice while fishing this way I hooked into much bigger fish that took me all over the lake, only to slip the hook before I could net them. What was strange is that a double figure carp making a run on 6 lb line on a match rod is a far different experience than a twenty making a run on braid and a three pound test curve rod. I love that part of fishing more than anything.

 

Wednesday was another magical day; the weather was great but we did not catch so many as on previous days. Steve did get his first twenty of the week at 20 lb 10 oz followed later that day by the biggest fish to date-a fine 25 lb 15 oz beauty. Not wanting to sound blasé, but spread through the rest of the day were a number of fish that were all upper doubles. What was so strange about catching the Blackfoot mirrors was that every fish is different; the coloring, the scale patterns, even the shape of the heads change from fish to fish. However, the thing that they all had in common was that they were some of the hardest fighting fish ever having been my pleasure to catch. Twelve and fourteen pound fish will tear off seventy five yard runs, each time making you think its the big one…

 

Thursday we had another great day lots more doubles spread through the day topped off with Steve’s second 25 pound specimen this one going 25 lb 12 oz. Thursday was also the only night that Steve fished all night and he was rewarded with seven fish before six in the morning. Consequently he was dropping off most of the next day, which was to be our last fishing day, we had less fish but I have to say it was the only time the weather worked against us, a wind storm blew up around noon and stayed with us till the early evening and it was virtually blowing the rods off the pods. As it worked out Steve had designed his own snag bars that were tested out to extreme levels and proved to be a real winner.

 

Living on the bank for a week is a rough way to go, but we made the best of it: we stuck to two meals a day; a late breakfast about ten and a dinner around seven. Food was fairly simple: breakfast was English bangers, eggs, fried potatoes and beans or tomatoes. Dinners on the other hand included barbecued chicken, tri-tip, pork chops and chicken curry. With this, we had a variety of rice and baked potatoes along with loads of beans; the after effects as predictable as you would expect. In the evenings we drank a couple of beers as we talked into nightfall. Most days we were too tired to fish past eleven. The facilities out here were dead basic, we had the luxury of a port-a-potty about a hundred yards from where we fished, and that was it.

 

In summary: successful baits proved to be scopex infused maize and scopex immortals, and Steve’s home made shrimp boilies. For those of you who have not experienced the smell of these things, count your blessings! Between Steve baiting his hooks and packing PVA bags with the oils all week, his shorts and shirt stunk so badly I insisted he changed his clothes before the ride back. We had a great week and the weather was really kind to us; we met a number of interesting locals who came down to the lake, and showed real interest in what we were doing. Todd Honda, an eighty five year old gentlemen, came down to the lake and single handed launched a boat out of the back of his truck, then loaded an outboard and piles of tackle into this little boat before taking off to troll around the lake. He later returned and watched us net a couple of fish before retiring for the night in the back of his truck. Jack Connelly, a member of department of fish and game, was really enthusiastic about how we were fishing; what we were using, and how we caught only carp. Doug Finicle, a local farmer, spent several hours watching and bombarding us with questions related to how and why we were fishing the way we were. Both asked that we call them before we set off next year as they want to bring some local anglers over to watch and learn.

It takes encounters like these with such gentlemen for us to slowly get the chance to educate and spread the word of this wonderful sport fish to sportsmen all round the country, even if we have to do it one at a time.

 
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