Tag Archives: High Country Carp

Mud, Guts and Glory


Fly fishing is for the sophisticated, the rich, the people who define class. As Johnny Cash would say, “They’re probably drinking coffee (whiskey) and smokin’ big cigars”. For most of us, this could not be further from the truth. Well, maybe coffee and cigars… People tend to view fly fisherman as a fine sort, a lot are, but most fly fisherman get down and dirty. Even further down the line, a select few get downright muddy. No matter how you try to glorify it and put it on the pedestal for those who only fish dry flies, the attempt can only be futile. Those who are “trout only” turn their noses and think of you as living in a sod house as they say, “Oh, I’ve heard that can be fun”. Please, allow me to get my straw hat, flannel shirt (or no shirt), and overalls. It is time you finally went a carpin’.


The trip started out as a normal seven mile exploratory search around the lake shore. I was looking for trout who have remained unpressured for years along a section far too dangerous for boats. Fishing went very well, almost good enough to write about. I’m sure that you are reading this because you are not interested in 20″ trout. Right? On my way back, I found shallow water and saw fins drifting amongst the waves. I have read about this before. They call it the “freshwater bonefish” because you can see their fins moving about the surface, doing whatever it is that carp do. At times they would hurl their bulky bodies into the air so far that I would wonder how. Super-carp, that is the only reasonable answer. I stood in the mud awestruck, thinking how I could catch a beast like this. Digging through my fly boxes, I remembered tying a fly that I deemed curious looking. The Backstabber. Why? I have no idea. What does it look like? Well, like a classic poem, it is up for interpretation. In fact, you are wasting precious carp fishing time trying to figure it out. Buy one (or a dozen) and fish it.

Please take some time to read this letter that I am sending to the creator of the Backstabber.

Dear Jay Zimmerman,
You are the man!


Where was I… Oh yeah! The brilliance of the fly is unparralelled. The secret is in the physics. Eyes on top of the hook shank put added torque on the fly to make it ride hook point up, but if you affix dumbbell eyes without any dressing, it will lay on its side. The marabou is what aligns the hook vertically, no matter how it lands in the water, it will right itself on the bottom. If you play with this fly in the sink, or take it with you to play with in the bathtub, you will clearly see what this fly is all about. It is a delivery mechanism for a hook to ride point up cleverly disguised as a… ummm… Well, whatever it looks like, a carp is about to be bamboozled. Think about it. Carp, mouth down. Backstabber, hook up.

I tied on the fly and in seconds I was into fish. Time began running away and I was still a mile away from my car. A mile through the mud. It was dark and I had caught more carp than I could fit into a couple hours of fishing. I was bursting with joy and excitement. I had to tell my friends. I received the typical blow off from some and others gave me a heck yeah, but one remained keenly interested. Sure enough, he’s English. A man who goes by the name Adrian, who happens to be a fellow guide. We had loosely planned a trip to chase these fish around the flats, but never really got around to it. In the mean time, I continued fishing after work until sunset, giving carp their daily workout. Also catching those pesky trout and pike.spotless rainbowpiked

The day finally came where Adrian and I both had some free time. We hiked down to the ol’ carp hole to give it a whirl. I told him that he would and showed him how to fish the fly. In no time, I saw a bent rod out of the corner of my eye. I smiled, knowing his feeling. “Absolutely incredible”, Those were his first words upon landing it. I needed no other words. I knew. I had spread the disease of the grungy fisherman.


The moral of the story is (if you are still reading), if your friends make fun of you for carp fishing, you need new friends. It takes guts and a strong forearm, the payoff is glory even if it is just in your own head. This post is out of the norm for me, but the only life changing thing about carp fishing is catching carp. I’ll take the easy way out and post a big carp picture.

hairy knucks

¡Gilae Gilae! Put On Your Ninja Shoes

Surprisingly, an almost perfect 7pH.

Hopefully it is widely known enough that Gila trout are located in the Gila Mountain range surrounded by the Gila National Forest. If you were one of the people trying to keep it a secret, I apologize for dropping the ball. You can also blame ESPN Outdoors and Field&Stream and countless other magazines and TV shows for doing it in 2008. Here I am in 2011, doing it again, stating the obvious. You can dig through countless studies on the Oncorhynchus Gilae Gilae and try to find more info on these guys (ongoing for over 50 years). Be sure to check out NMDGF to get your permit and more details on where to go. Also, if you turn to Wikipedia it will tell you that they average 11″, be sure to check that reference because it will tell you that they grew to that size on a test area in Colorado.

Isn't there supposed to be a giant snow fence?

I had been studying the crazy weather patterns and there was a window of no wind or snow down south in the Silver City area. This was my target destination. Some of the coolest landscape on the planet earth. Driving south it is almost like you are driving from New Mexico to the bad part of Wyoming to a part of Colorado that is similar to the landscape on the Blue River north of Dillon. Did I mention that I love this state? The worst part of this drive are the dirt roads coming in. I’d really suggest a small truck.

Dirt roads+Sports car=Long rough trip

Within an hour of my arrival, I had already started the back country ritual by falling off of a burned log into a pile of rocks and through a thorn bush. The largest part of the injury was to my hip (not pictured for obvious reasons). Despite the injury I pressed on. The water was extremely low and clear. Lots of feeder creeks were dry and the fish were very spooky. It is hard to lay down a 50′ cast when you have lots of vegetation covering the best holes.

It is better than being impaled...

I could even see fish darting around in the pools when I was hiking the trail. I could tell that catching the Gila was a bit more than what I bargained for. I am very adaptable in these situations and it isn’t a strange occurrence to see me crawling on my hands and knees to get to a good hole in the back country, but in a military low crawl? This was my first time laying on my belly for fish, a very humbling experience I might add. It payed off and in no time I was into the 3-5″ fish that resided in the area that I was fishing. One thing very noteworthy here, know your fish in the water. You will see some monster sucker fish, but do not confuse them with trout. It is my assumption that due to the number and size of the suckers, the trout are forced to be dedicated surface feeders and that is why they are small. This river is perfect for fish and it is only missing one thing. Water. Huge bugs everywhere! In this picture there are 3 golden stoneflies and a ton of other bugs, including some sealed caddis cases, and some other undefinable ones.

This picture is roughly 4-5" across

Average case size

Throwing a giant golden stonefly nymph was a very bad idea for these conditions, so I stuck with the caddis, a foam-back version that payed off more than a few times in Colorado and New Mexico high country. Rule: That which catches brook trout and cutthroat trout on the surface in the same day shall be added to the fly box. Let us get one thing straight, wild trout are very gullible but difficult to find and exceedingly difficult to bring to hand.

Looks gila, but I'm skeptical about purity

This monster of a fish (you can’t type sarcasm) is not actually a gila, but it represents one well as it is a hybrid, I think. Some suggest that the gila was before the evolution of the rainbow. The strain of gila also changes from the east to west. Far west=Apache, Far east=gila. Supposedly, there is a lost strain in between the 2. I’m not saying this is the lost strain, but the coloration may change based upon environment. I’m still going with hybrid. Boy do they fight like the dickens! Rainbows jump, cutthroat go deep into current, browns just… yeah, brook flail, and gila trout randomly and quickly dart around in search of cover. They are fast and strong and well worth the trip if you know where to go. Keep in mind these fish may go back to endangered status at anytime with one big fire. Be extra careful if you are allowed fire in the area and take special notice of fire danger warnings. Did I mention high country carp?

Something I didn't expect, but a good change of pace.

Lesson #7: Blow dryers come with a warning label that states, “Do not use in shower”. There are no warning labels in the wilderness that protect you from bad choices.