I’m sure there are better times of the year to go bowfishing for carp. Many of the experts say late summer is fantastic, when the water’s lower and hotter, and the fish are snagging cottonwood seeds off the surface. But when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait that long.
There was a deep trough in the Wind River behind my parents’ house, and it tapered to a wide, shallow riffle on both the upriver and downriver ends. When the runoff was at its peak, the riffles were deep enough for fish to get through pretty easily, but if you caught it on a lower flow, there’d be plenty of carp in that trough. And they couldn’t get out.
My buddies Josh and Blaine and I would tromp down to the river in shorts and old tennis shoes, packing our bows and bowfishing reels.
Early in the spring, that water was darn cold. But to get the carp out of the deep stretch, we had to wade. We usually took turns spooking ‘em out, but we all had blue legs from about mid-April through the end of May.
And carp are smarter than they look. We picked off the slower-witted ones early, but the brighter ones would turn around before they got into the shallow water and duck between our frozen legs to take refuge in the depths again. We had to modify our techniques in response.
Bowfishing wasn’t just a waste of time. We figured out that you have to shoot below where the fish deeper in the water seem to be if you want to hit ‘em, and that came in handy when we took physics our senior year. I actually did my term paper on reflection and refraction, and bowfishing figured prominently in the examples. So go do some physics experiments of your own this spring and summer. Strap a reel on your bow and do a little bowfishing. You’ll be hooked – or should I say arrowed – in no time.