Robert, the tournament winner, went into the tournament with focused determination that paid off. Arriving as the sun was going down on the river he intended to fish the next morning, he hiked an hour and half until arriving at his camp, drenched in sweat and covered in muck or algae from slipping and sliding in the river. Watching the sun rise while the wind was howling close to 20 mph he stuck his first tailing carp 6:20am and was on the board for 26 inches. Because of the high wind Robert would sneak up wind to avoid a crumpling leader that sometimes could spook a tailing fish. Robber said, “Utilizing this strategy, I was able to consistently catch a carp about every 20 to 30 minutes. Everything seemed to be going right for me today, fish were willing to eat, and I wasn’t having any kind of mistakes or issues that usually occur when trying to drop a fly to a carp.”
Two of the of the other tournament anglers had a far different experience further upriver. Some days the stars align properly for a certain kind of days over certain geographic reaches of the earth and these two amigos fully embraced this. Chris and Grayson started their day by launching their canoe over a cliff that was formerly water level. However, the drought left their canoe launch high and dry, literally. After paddling together for six years they managed to figure out how the hell they were going to get the boat in the water without breaking a leg or falling ass first into the river.
Another tournament angler, John Henry Boatright, found himself chasing cruising commons in flooded grass banks of a tailwater. Stalking through the flood grass in his kayak he noticed a large beaver swimming parallel to him, ducking under water and disappeared. He thought, “that’s cool, beavers are becoming rare around here.” Shortly thereafter he stuck a 27” tank of a common and as he was attempting to land her, he hopped off his kayak to plant his feet on the ground. As he did, a juvenile beaver came up and began playfully swimming around him, interested in the activity. He said, “at first, I’ll admit it was a cute little guy, but then I quickly remembered the adult was in the area, and I decide to saddle up on my kayak, and in so doing (mind you I’ve got a carp tugging my 6 weight to the current of the Colorado River) I nearly flipped my kayak with a one-armed, chicken-wing attempt and some of my gear took a dip in the drink. Landing the fish and keeping the bark on my legs made it all worth it!” Other wildlife encounters included a pair of reflecting eyes in the bush as Robert camped. Peaking around a thicket of brush, a bobcat poked his head around the same thicket, finding himself standing 10ft away from a sizeable bobcat. The bobcat would casually walk away into the brush like nothing had happened, but Robert didn’t fall asleep for another couple hours.
After a short paddle downstream, Chris and Grayson found themselves looking at one of the hidden gems of the hill country, something reminiscent of a Caribbean Resort, crystal clear water flowing over solid white limestone. “I feel like we had just maxed out our credit cards to get here,” said Grayson. Quickly shaking off the thoughts of margaritas and beautiful senoritas they got into game mode. Approaching each spot with stealth and precision Chris eyed something slithering in the shallows. He abruptly signaled to stop the canoe and starts peeling line off his reel and manages a cast just a few feet out of the carps range. Fuck! He quickly recast and the splash of the fly causes the Carp to go into a tantrum and speeds off. “Oh well, that’s a good sign at least”, Chris exclaimed. Beaching the canoe on the limestone they made way with everything they needed in their packs. Throughout the day they would each have multiple hooks ups, with the fish either breaking off or bending the hooks straight as they tried to horse in fish before getting cut off on the razor-sharp riffles of drought condition limestone; in the end claiming a pretty good gash in Grayson’s hand.
By the end of the day 34 carp were caught summing to a total of 752 inches of fish. Two anglers, Robert Hensley and Sam Arguello (winning 1stand 2ndrespectively), caught over ten carp each, a feat that rarely if ever occurs in the hill country making their accomplishment in the tournament all the more amazing. Sam said, “esCARPment 2018 was probably one of the best days of carp fishing I have ever had. Even though we had tough competition this year and difficult conditions, our 7-mile hike payed off and we managed to find a stretch of river full of hungry carp! Had my first day catching double digit numbers of carp, Josh beat his numbers last year and Jacob got his first ever carp on a fly.”
Back at the weighin all the anglers showed amazing comradery and support for each other’s experiences that day. It was great to see that so many anglers were able to catch so many awesome fish, nearing 750 total inches of carp caught in less than a day! The group of anglers that esCARPment has managed to draw in the short time of the tournament is truly epic. World class and humble anglers engaging in what they love. Sam said, “Regardless of the fish it’s always a good time to hang out with other carp obsessed fly fishermen.” As Robert said, this whole event and fishery is largely possible due to “a passionate group that looks after the fisheries and tries the leave the rivers as pristine as possible.” The weighin is always a celebration followed by nights of drinking and yarn spinning. Actually, the celebrating often starts on the water. After Chris landed his first carp of the day, things got interesting for Chris and Grayson, celebrating the days catch with some herb and tall boys. Arriving at the weighin they realized they might have overdid the celebrating…but what else do you do in paradise? ;)
Memories of a first carp
-by Kandace Alfano