The problem with many of our smaller front-range reservoirs is that they are just shallow clay/mud bowls with very erratic water levels and little or no vegetation. While they work fine for the spawn and produce plenty of baby carp, the ecosystem isn't capable of turning those baby carp into big bad mammer jammers. In the end you get lots of little carp.
That is where dams come in. Most of these reservoirs are impounded with rip-rap dams and frequently the key to finding the biggest of these smallish carp is to head straight for the Dam.
|Smith Reservoir Dam; Surgeon Generals warning, Back-casting is hazardous to your health|
Case in point is Smith Reservoir. That would be the first (and perhaps last) time I have ever mentioned a lake by name. I am not too worried about it for two reasons. First of all I have never seen anybody else fly fishing for carp there so no worries about ruining somebodies prized spot. Second of all Smith is nothing to write home about, the carp are tiny. I would say that in general the the carp I have found in Smith Reservoir probably only average 3 to 4 pounds!
Here is a birds-eye view of Smith. I have highlighted the long rip-rap dam in blue and added the approximate average size of carp that I have found in different sections. The carp off the dam are several pounds heavier on average, but not all sections of this long dam are created equal. While I occasionally spot one or two fish getting close to double digits on the long section of the dam on the West side, as far as I can tell these fish are difficult if not impossible to catch.
|Smith Reservoir birds-eye view|
\On most if not all reservoirs the deepest part of the lake is somewhere behind the dam. If the water drops off too quickly (lets draw the line somewhere around 3 feet with typical clarity) it is nearly worthless for a fly-fisherman targeting carp. Carp rarely feed in the actual rip-rap. They prefer to feed just outside of or in between boulders and rocks in the mud and sand where it meets the bottom of the dam. The deeper flats behind these dams often hold the biggest carp by a large margin, but the only time you will see them is when they are on top sunning and relaxing. Those are not the carp you are looking for.
Another problem is the height of the dam. Your elevation from the top of the dam is both a blessing and a curse. While you can see the fish much better than usual presenting the fly and getting a hook-set is a pain because of the downward bow in your line created by the elevation. At about 10 feet above the surface the effect starts to get painful.
The final problem is profile. When you are standing on top of the dam you stand out like a sore thumb and the carp tend to be extremely aware of your presence. This is mitigated somewhat because most of these reservoirs have a jogging path across the top. You stick out like a sore thumb but there are about 100 sore thumbs an hour which helps. Oddly enough you may start to notice that carp are more apt to spook when you stop walking! For this reason I will sometimes keep walking by an acquired target and then come back crouched low.
So what are you looking for in a productive rip-rap dam section? Look for sections where;
- The lake bottom meets the dam at a depth of 1 to 3 feet deep with a shallow drop-off.
- The height of the dam is less than 10 feet (roughly) above the surface.
- Foot traffic might actually help. Just don't hook the foot traffic.
|Fighting a 5.5lb Smith Reservoir Carp. Beast!|