On the fly: Seize the carp

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Brandon SoucieA Rifle Gap pike caught by the author Monday on a red and yellow bunny streamer.

RIFLE, Colo. – Growing up as a young angler, I spent the vast majority of my fishing time chasing warm-water species of fish such as bluegill, sunfish, bullhead and bass. I had great fun toying around with these eagerly hungry fish, but they were small.

Often I’d see glimpses of fish that at the time seemed so big that I thought they would eat my leg off if I dipped my toes in the water. But naturally, being the fisherman that I am, the internal, primal urge to constantly find bigger and meaner fish pulled strong with me.

I’d see huge copper and brown shadows the size of submarines cruise in and out of sight. I stopped fishing for sunfish and concentrated on casting my bait and lures to these massive shadows. Occasionally I’d hook into one of these submarines until they would sound to the depths and finally break me off on my inexpensive and vastly outgunned light kids tackle.

Once, while reeling in a small bluegill, I had a large pike attack and inhale my helpless bluegill. All hell broke loose in an instant as the large pike crashed on the surface and broke me off, leaving me in sheer awe as the waves subsided. And so my infatuation with carp and pike fishing began.

Fast-forward to the present, and my love affair with big freshwater fish continues. During April, the lowland reservoirs thaw out, and anglers begin prowling the shallows looking for their own submarines. Northern pike are the big springtime draw for fly-rodders on both Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap reservoirs just outside Rifle. Pike longer than 40 inches are landed yearly on these two lakes. Heavier 7- and 8-weight rods are needed to cast the large streamer flies that pike prefer. Red-and-yellow, black-and-purple and blue-and-white flies often fish best. Due to the pike’s many numerous and sharp teeth, hard monofilament or fluorocarbon tippets of 20- to 30-pound test are needed. I feel that wire tippets are an unnecessary evil and hinder the fly’s movement and spook wary pike.

I love carp. I’m a carp junkie. I rarely drive more than an hour to go trout fish anymore, but I’ll drive for days to catch what others consider a “junk” or “trash” fish. The Colorado River near Rifle is one of my favorite carp stomping grounds. The backwater sloughs hold plenty of carp between 5 and 15 pounds. They love shallow water and eat flies fairly readily. Now that carp are slowly breaking the barrier as the “cool” fish in freshwater fly-fishing, most fly shops now carry carp-specific flies. Go check them out, and try fishing for a new quarry this spring.

“On the fly” is provided weekly by the staff members of Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.