Tips & Tricks

The Carp Flats of the Snake River

Actually, nobody of their proper thoughts would declare the Snake as a “secret water,” however I do imagine that the majority Idaho anglers forsake the Snake in relation to what I imagine to be probably the most recreation freshwater fish in America — even when carp are thought of trash fish by most American anglers.

I additionally maintain to the notion that carp are maybe the perfect freshwater fish for fly rodders — their normal wariness mixed with their liberal food regimen present problem and alternative abruptly.

Carp had been first launched into American waters beneath the U.S. Grant administration — they had been introduced in as a supply of protein for a creating nation. Since they had been first stocked in a pond in Maryland within the 1860s, they’ve unfold to each state within the Decrease 48 — and Idaho enjoys a thriving inhabitants, significantly within the carp-friendly waters of the Snake River because it flows alongside the state’s southern third.

I first stumbled upon carp within the Snake within the early 2000s. I’d crossed the dam at American Falls and wandered down a lonely gravel street extra usually utilized by farmers and ranchers alongside the river’s northern banks than by anglers and even hunters who may discover deer, moose and pronghorn on this huge desert panorama. I used to be really following the instructions to a promising place on the river to chase smallmouth bass — a fish that, on the time, was gaining fairly a following in southern Idaho, and one which has since turn out to be a treasured fly rod goal in its personal proper on the Snake.

And, whereas I didn’t discover any smallies that day, I used to be shocked on the numbers of huge carp wallowing in two ft of water — they jumped and tailed and customarily labored up a frenzy as they ready to spawn that superb Could afternoon.

Carp begin exhibiting up on the shallow water flats of the Snake in late March, significantly within the river’s downstream reaches close to Mountain Dwelling and C.J. Strike Reservoir. By mid-April, a shiny, sunny day with temperatures in 70s will deliver them as much as the flats farther upstream close to Raft River and on as much as American Falls on the perimeters of Japanese Idaho.

These natives to Asia will begin to spawn in earnest across the first of June and proceed for just a few weeks, concluding in July. They’ll stay on the flats — or transfer forwards and backwards from deeper water to feed — all through the summer time.

The attraction of carp on the river’s flats — at the very least to me — is that they behave like plenty of treasured saltwater fish. They tail and root round for crustaceans, similar to redfish. The cruise in hungry pods, similar to bonefish. And they are often extremely selective, like allow. Like all the above, carp are robust, quick fish liable to reel-whistling runs and shattered graphite.

And, in fact, I don’t must spend a small fortune or two days value of journey time to get to the locations they swim.

No, the backwater flats of the Snake River aren’t the crystalline flats of the Bahamas, however they possess their very own magnificence, one which’s grown on me over time. The lava bluffs overlooking the inexperienced waters of the Snake take my breath away each time I lay eyes on them. And to drive alongside the river and see these large invaders — generally pushing 30 kilos — breaching the frothy floor is a deal with solely an angler prepared to increase his fishy horizons can admire.

I bear in mind, as a child dwelling in suburban Denver, when carp had been actually the one fish I might dependably catch inside vary of my banana-seat bicycle or the soles of my sneakers. Utilizing bread dough concocted in my mom’s kitchen, and sunk to the underside of the lake at Stern Park, carp prodded my creativeness and scratched that fish itch till I might discover a journey with my grandfather into the Colorado excessive nation to chase brookies and browns and rainbows in chilly, clear water of the Rockies.

In the present day, convincing them to hit a fly is rather more difficult than snoozing on the financial institution and ready for one to suck in a dough ball previous the barbels. And, perish the thought, I actually imagine — for sheer pleasure — I’d slightly latch right into a carp on the flats than I might the typical trout.

Blasphemy? For a trout purist, definitely. However for a wandering fly fisher with an itch to experiment, no. That’s to not say there’s no guilt concerned. It’s hardly an altruistic endeavor, chasing carp on the fly.

It additionally doesn’t assist, in fact, that carp are non-native and customarily make a large number of issues. Sadly, wanting a nuclear explosion (and even then, I’m wondering) in southern Idaho, they’re right here to remain. They make up a daunting proportion of the biomass within the Snake and in waters all throughout America, from the Nice Lakes to southern Florida.

I select to adapt, a lot as carp have executed, to a number of the new, alien environments right here in Idaho, realizing, in fact, that there stay some untouched little gems the place issues are simply as they need to be.


On the Snake, carp get pleasure from an omnivorous existence. Early within the 12 months, simply as they arrive on the flats and begin to push into the reeds looking for meals, they’re largely after damselfly and dragonfly nymphs. These bugs swim, and carp chase them. To imitate these massive nymphs, I’ve used, with nice success, a Stayner Ducktail. The olive physique and the mottled ducktail give good really feel to the fly stripped slowly by way of shallow water. Later, because the water warms, any affordable imitation of a crawfish will doubtless work. When sight-fishing for cruising carp with crawfish patterns, solid properly forward of the anticipated route of the fish and let the fly sink. Solely when the fish is a foot or so away from the fly must you give it a twitch.

Streamers, akin to Woolly Buggers, leech patterns and sculpin imitations can work as properly. When carp are tailing, that’s once they’re probably the most weak, and thus probably the most forgiving. Placing flies proper on them will work once they’re clearly in a feeding temper.


Early within the 12 months, you may like a pair of waders, however as spring turns into summer time, you’ll be happier wading moist, even on the generally creepy mudflats of the Snake. To higher your possibilities and canopy extra water, think about a one-person pontoon craft that you would be able to management with flippers in your ft. You’ll fire up much less water and have extra freedom to search for fish.

As for rods, I’d recommend–at a minimum–fishing a 7-weight. The wind throughout the Snake River Plain is unforgiving, and for that purpose, I virtually at all times fish a stout, saltwater-worthy 8-weight with floating line. There are occasions, when the fish aren’t fairly up within the shallows, {that a} sink-tip or an intermediate sink-tip line could be applicable, however most carp anglers I do know fish with floating line solely.


This one’s just about as much as you — I’ve caught carp at quite a lot of public entry factors alongside the river, starting from American Falls all the way in which downstream to Mountain Dwelling. One approach to discover flats on the river is to cruise its size within the winter, when the Bureau of Reclamation is holding water again within the river’s reservoirs. This lowers the river’s degree and also you’ll have the ability to determine flats as a result of they’ll doubtless be uncovered. Roads and entry factors alongside the Snake might be discovered on pages 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26 and 29 within the Idaho version of the DeLorme’s Atlas and Gazetteer.

Editor’s Observe: The above is an excerpt, from Chris Hunt’s newest e book, “Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters“, a set of Chris’s lifelong efforts to identify burn Idaho’s most treasured, hidden rivers and streams.

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