“I’ll be in Denver from Dec. 4-8 for work, could you get out the 9th?”, the text read, “I can get a late flight out that night.” Say what you will about group texts, but somehow I’m in a small group that use that form of communication 90% of the time. Our bond was formed through the love of fly fishing for carp, and cemented on a trip to northern Michigan in the summer of 2016.
I flew out with Trevor “McTage” to Detroit, rented a car and headed north. Eventually we met up with Ty from Georgia, and Miles, a Detroit local. Trevor knew Miles from his automotive engineering days in Detroit years earlier. Miles met Ty through social media focused on carp on the fly.
The group text has continued to this day, and it was Miles who was to be visiting. Miles is gonzo about fly fishing, and fixated on carp. I knew he wanted to catch a carp on the Denver South Platte (DSP if you’re nasty). I agreed to his trip extension and tried to set the expectation level appropriately. Carp can be caught every month of the year in Denver, but typically during warming trends in cooler months.
The fishing gods were kind throughout the fall leading up to the trip date, with abnormally warm conditions and only a couple short cold snaps. When December 9th came, weather was to be sunny with temps in the 60’s! I picked up Miles at a hotel in Stapleton and drove him to the first spot. I decided to let Miles have all the shots and only rigged up one rod. On chilly mornings, the fish usually are huddled up in the slowest water. Most of the Platte looked void of life, but we eventually found carp stacked close to the bank under some overhanging brush.
Miles had to fight through the bushes to get a fly to them and showed impressive skills in doing so, especially not getting hung up on the brush. He presented to a dozen fish or so before we changed flies. New fly, same lethargic fish. I offered him a tip I picked up from John “Montana”, and that is to bonk the carp gently on the nose with the fly. One of two things will happen, the fish will be bothered or spooked and will swim away…Or the fish will become alert and will suck in the fly.
On the first fish Miles tried with the new tactic, it backed up, saw the fly, and ate! Miles plunged through the brush and into the river to avoid getting hung up. He fought the fish for several minutes while I snapped photos. Eventually I threw him my net and he deftly wrapped up the fish. DSP mission accomplished, but we were only an hour in…
Obviously, that spot was blown up so we pressed on to other favorite carp locales. Most of them were empty of fish. I surmise that carp often go deep in an area when its cool and not feeding time. The day continued to warm and we stopped for a quick lunch near our next spot. I walked to the water to scout hoping to see a few fish. Lunch was interrupted when I spied a big carp tailing happily in a sunny spot with moderate current. We decided to try to fish from above rather than getting close to the water and risk being seen. The problem with this tactic is line sag which moves the fly even when you don’t want it to move. The fly ripped past the carp and startled it. “Noooooooooooooooo!”, I thought. But after swimming away, the fish circled back, deciding the threat wasn’t anything to be concerned with. And it started eating again.
This time, I suggested Miles get down to the water’s level and present from there while I scouted from above. We knew he would have a tough time seeing the carp at that level and with the low sun angle causing glare. Miles got into position and the fish continued to eat. But visibility was a problem. Miles waited patiently for the fish to continue feeding and move up river. Eventually a posture change made the fish become visible and Miles made a presentation. The big carp moved for the fly and Miles set…. fish on!
More photos were taken and Miles netted like a confident pro. We continued to fish for a couple more hours until the sun was getting low, without any meaningful shots. So we broke down equipment, got back to street clothes, and headed to the airport. Miles had succeeded in his quest for a DSP carp, in December no less!