More Than Just Trash Fish: Carp

Fly fishing Carp

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More Than Just Trash Fish: Carp

The other day I was talking to a fishing buddy of mine about carp. He was telling me how he recently went carp fishing and landed a whopping thirty pound common carp.  When he came home, he proudly told his wife about it and she just laughed. “Is that really a big deal?”

When it comes to fish that are misunderstood, carps rank at the the top of the list. People often think that carp are just freshwater pigeons, that they’re stupid, that they’re not worth fishing. But as my buddy and I discussed, carp are actually a great game fish.

For starters, carp are smarter and spookier than your average fly fish. According to an article in Field in Stream, carp actually rate higher than freshwater bass in intelligence. So, keep false casting to a minimum. For anyone who’s tried angling a carp, this shouldn’t come as much as a surprise.

Your best bet is fish for carp in clear water where you can easily spot them. If you’re fishing around muddy water, make sure that the water is shallow enough for you to see their tails or fins sticking out through the surface. For flies, try using Woolly Buggers (imitates a crayfish or small minnow), trout nymphs (size 8-12, the more wiggle the better), or even smaller bonefish flies (sizes 6-8). If you really want to get serious, I’d recommend that you pick yourself up some specialized carp flies. They’re designs are proven to work. Still, you have your share of options.

In a current, fix your fly dead drift in the same way that you’d hook a trout. Fast-moving fish are always tougher to land. Make sure to cast your fly in front of your tailing fish, if he can’t easily see your fly, then you might as well recast. It may take a lot of casts to get it right, but once you do have a good cast, make sure to let your fly sink a little bit. Then, give it a little twitch. This’ll grab the carp’s attention, as they may think it’s a crawfish scuttling around.

One of the most difficult parts of fishing carp can be figuring out when they take the fly. Two things that I look out for are if the fish the move towards you and then turn away quickly or if you can see his white lips closing around the fly.

Even once you hook them the job’s not done. Carp can put up a big fight. It’s not uncommon for them to pull the line off the reel. I recommend using 6 to 8 lb floating lines. Anything heavier might put them off.

So there you have it. Carp’s may be trash fish, but they can often be trophy fish. If you plan on fishing for carp, make sure you come prepared and know that once you land one of those fellas, it’s a pretty big accomplishment.

For some more tips on carp, look here or check out this great video from Orvis.