Ready for the Carpocalypse

Anglers to gather this weekend for second annual carp-only fly fishing tournament

Anglers have figured out there is a great resource for catching big, well-muscled fish right near downtown Grand Junction. The common carp may not be the prettiest fish, but it ranks high for its fighting ability.

Justin Edge, a fishing guide for Western Anglers Fly Shop in Grand Junction, holds one of the carp he caught during the Carpocalypse 2013 fly-fishing tournament. This year’s tournament is Saturday. Registration still is open.

Justin Edge, fishing guide for Western Anglers Fly Shop, gets in a few practice hours he prepares for Saturday’s Carpocaclypse 2014 carp-only fly-fishing tournament. This year’s event has attracted more than 25 competitors, double the number of 2013 participants, the tournament’s inaugural year.

Except for the southwest corner of the state, where most of the snowpack (such as it was again this year) has melted, there still remains a few weeks between runoff and clear water.

That’s OK with a handful of local anglers who know their biggest fish of the year is catchable now, within a 10-minute drive from home.

“Man, that’s why I love carp,” fishing guide Justin Edge said when I caught up with him last week at Connected Lakes. “These fish are some of the biggest freshwater fish I’ll see all year, and it’s rare that I go out and not see fish.”

Fly fishing for carp is hot right now, in case you haven’t noticed.

There are numerous books, magazine articles and TV shows about carp fishing, and here in the Grand Valley on Saturday we have the second annual carp-only fly fishing tournament, Carpocalypse 2014.

There already are 25 or so carpoholics registered for the 10-hour contest, including last year’s big-fish winner, Ned Mayers of Grand Junction, who landed a 27-inch carp.

The tournament is sponsored by Western Anglers Fly Shop (244-8658) and Edgewater Brewery.

It’s no longer a poorly kept secret — anglers are starting to take carp seriously.

It’s not simply an egalitarian move on the part of some trout bums, since even the King of Trout Bums, fishing writer John Gierach, has said nice things about carp.

“So, although I’ve come to think of these critters as big, handsome, graceful, intelligent, wary fish with a kind of quiet, understated classiness about them, they’re still ‘just carp’ and most people can’t understand why you’d want to catch them,” Gierach wrote in his 1996 book, Another Lousy Day in Paradise.

“It makes it hard to take all this seriously — and that’s how fishing should be.”

So besides the simple perverseness of fishing for what many people, anglers and others, consider below their station in a fishing life, there still is the question of why some fly fishers regularly spend their free time (at least during runoff) chasing what sometimes euphemistically are called “Rocky Mountain bonefish.”

Carp aren’t flashy like brookies nor do they leap like salmon or make a showy appearance in fancy four-color brochures from high-priced resorts.

Maybe Chris Hunt, national communications director for Trout Unlimited, has the key.

“They’re perhaps the most challenging freshwater fish on the fly, and only in recent years have American fly fishers begun to embrace them as worthy fly-rod targets,” Hunt wrote in his latest book, “Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters”.

Hunt compares hunting for carp on his home Snake River with stalking saltwater fish.

“They tail and root around for crustaceans, just like redfish,” he wrote. “They cruise in hungry pods, just like bonefish. And they can be incredibly selective, like permit.”

Carp, he writes, “are strong, fast fish prone to reel-whistling runs and shattered graphite.”

Or let’s try the trio of Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman, who wrote the carp manifesto, Carp on the Fly: A Flyfishing Guide.

The authors talk about how fish universally are grouped in two general classes, sportfish and all others (aka “trash fish”). Maybe “alternative fish” would be better.

Carp, they insist, are “the last, great, underfished, overlooked flyfishing resource in North America.”

Befus, formerly of Montrose, and the others espouse many anglers have fallen prey to a wrongful collection of preconceptions and half-truths regarding carp and most today fear even admitting they would cast to a carp.

“Given the opportunity, carp will forage for living prey as aggressively as any game fish,” wrote Befus, who several years ago drove round-trip to the San Luis Valley with local angler Pat Oglesby on an 18-hour carp expedition.

Carp, they suggest, are a terrific “alternative fish” for those times when temperature or water conditions (including runoff) send you searching for an answer to the unrelieved desire to feel the pull of a living creature on the other end of the line.

Which for many anglers covers most of the fishing year.


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