Carp used to get a bad rep as big, ugly, dumb fish. Over the past few years though, fly anglers are coming around and starting to view carp as more than just a “trash” fish. There are a lot of good reasons, too. Carp are widely available all around the United States, and they’re a fun challenge to fish for. Plus there’s something particularly satisfying about pulling a giant fish out of the water. If you have kids fishing alongside you, they’ll love it even more than you do. Let’s talk about the ins and outs of fly fishing for carp.
Step One: Finding Carp
You would think that finding a fish as big as carp would be easy, and for the most part, it is. Luckily, carp are available all over the place: in lakes and ponds all over the U.S. and Canada. Ask your fellow fishermen or simply explore on your own, and it won’t take long to happen upon some carp. If the carp are splashing at the surface, there’s a decent chance they’re spawning, and they’re unlikely to bite at your flies. Keep looking for another spot, but make a mental note of the spawning area. They probably hang out in the same spot when spawning season is up.
Step Two: Choosing The Fly
Successfully fly fishing for carp will require good fly selection. The best flies to choose for carp will have a lot of wiggle and life-like action to them, while remaining smaller than a lot of streamers. Many carp flies ride hook side up and have weighted eyes. Rubber legs, vinyl, deer hair, etc all help to give the fly more life in the water. One trick for trying to develop your own carp flies is to take your favorite nymph pattern that you love to tie. Tie it so the hook side is up and add some eyes to the front. Make sure the weighted eyes are on the non-hook side of the shank so the fly will ride hook up. Then, simply grab some rubber legs or vinyl rib and add a wiggly tail to your pattern. Do this with several patterns that you like and keep experimenting!
Step Three: Casting
You need to know a couple of things about carp to successfully catch them: they’re bottom feeders, and they’re lazy. You need to land your fly down on the bottom right in front of the fish. With other kinds of fish you may be able to cast blind, but with carp you really need to track and aim for a particular fish. Once you’ve cast, twitch your fly slightly as you let it sink. Then don’t move it around too much. Carp are lazy eaters and don’t like to go after anything that will take too much effort.
Step Four: Reeling It In
Carp don’t have any teeth, and it can be hard to feel them biting onto the fly. Make sure that you keep your rod tip close to the water, without any slack, or you might not feel them biting at all. When you do feel a pull, don’t pull the hook too hard. Carp are big and heavy, and yanking your line away from them might simply snap it. Instead, simply give your rod a little upwards tug to hook your fish. Carp are a lot bigger than your average fish, so be prepared to reel in a big guy. You should make sure that your equipment is prepared for a fight. You may need a heavier rod (think 6-8) and good knots. You’ll want a big net to help you get it out of the water as well.
If you can get yourself into the carp mindset, fly fishing for carp can be a lot of fun! Fresh water fly fishing should never be limited to trout and bass alone!