2012 Carp Tourney

July 20, 2012

2012 Carp Tourney

As many of our customers that were in Troutfitters in late June and early July know I entered The Bighorn River Alliances Carp Tourney on Bighorn Lake. I say that 

many of our customers that came into the shop would know that I was entered because I was extremely excited and giddy like a little school child. Last year I took the summer off from Troutfitters and headed back home to the lovely town of Hardin, MT along the Bighorn River. While there I got a phone call from my buddy Ian Majszak asking me to row him around while he filmed the event; of course I accepted. During the day I rowed Ian up and down the lake to boats and watched them landing carp on Hoppers and Cicada’s. After a while I had a hard time not telling Ian to put away the camera and let’s stick some carp. Since that point I’ve been itching to head back and throw big foam flies at the bronze beasts.

Finally the time came around and on the sixth of July I headed back east to Fort Smith for the carp tourney with a buddy and a shop regular Grant Grigsby. The rules on the Tourney were two man teams, no motors and no chumming; other than that it’s free game. The tourney started at 10:00 am and the check-in time was at 4:00 pm.
I’m not going to lie to you I was fairly confident that we were going to stick carp, maybe not win or even place in the tourney but have a good day. Bighorn Lake is extremely scenic and as a result it has a large amount of recreational boaters on it. Those boats often throw bread and popcorn into the lake and feed the carp. I thought it would be a good piece of inside info and give me an edge so I tied up a bunch of flies that looked like bread and popcorn. I was loaded on flies-everything from the popcorn and bread to cotton wood seeds and leeches. I’m no stranger to the carp game-I was prepped and ready and had everything I could possibly need.

The one thing I didn’t take into account was weather; it was a warm blue bird day… perfect right? Not so much, I got down right hot. Bozeman gets hot but it is another level of heat when you head to Eastern Montana. As a result the carp were hanging low. They were about ten plus feet deep… not up on the surface eating dries. I’ve done a bit of carp fishing but Bighorn Lake is different than most places that you fish carp. First off its gin clear water most of the time and cool. Second it’s not like Canyon Ferry or other places that you fish carp around Bozeman. There are no shallow bays to find rooting fish. Because the lake is surrounded by cliffs it’s almost a miniature grand canyon. It’s deep so you have to find fish up top or at least in the first five feet of water or you’re screwed. I’m not going to lie we got our a$$es handed to us.
We rowed up and down and tried everything and had a few tease us but not a single commitment out of a carp. But luckily to keep me from pulling my hair out and hitting the bottle a little too hard there is a pile of small mouth that are always more than willing to eat. The fishing ended with us getting skunked but me feeling a whole lot better about the day. Over half of the boats got aced and those who did catch fish only caught a few and the winner Geoff Mueller of the Drake Magazine landed four. Another plus was the 29 and a half inch Walleye landed on the fly by my neighbor and guide for The Trout Shop Merit Harris.

Following the Tourney is a BBQ hosted by the River Alliance. They have the event catered and hire a band; this year it was Jawbone Rail Road. The BBQ afterwards is worth the trip alone, great music, greater people and plenty to drink. You have all sorts there pretty much every rep for the state is there along with people like tier Doug McKnight and artist Derrick DeYoung. It’s a great time and I can’t wait for next year to head to Fort Fun (Fort Smith) and redeem myself.
By James Muhlbeier

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