Carp fly fishing is a fantastic alternative to trout fly fishing and I feel should be tried at least once by all fly anglers. These carp are pure muscle and will run constantly. The nearest that you will get to these monsters is bone fishing. Another fantastic aspect to the sport of fly fishing, but one that unfortunately can be financially prohibitive.
If you saltwater fly fish you will already have most of the equipment needed. Ideally a #8 weight 9 foot fly rod with large arbour reel and floating line is the basics. If you have a reservoir fly fishing outfit you can use this although a 10 foot fly rod maybe a little difficult casting in the tight spots required for carp. You will also find that a #7 weight rod maybe difficult to handle such powerful fish.
The other ‘essentials’ are tapered leaders from 8lb breaking strain and up and a good set of polarised glasses. Also a large landing net of a knotless mesh type. This is extremely important. The monetary value alone of large carp can get you quickly banned from a fishery is you damage fish. Also for those who have not coarse fished before carp anglers are notorious for there passion for caring in the returning of carp. All carp fisheries will also require you to have an unhooking mat. These are quite inexpensive at around £20 and can reduce the damage to landed carp. Lastly you just need a box of flies. I have a great pattern for carp but no photographs at the time of writing. I will therefore write some tying instructions and pictures in the next few days and post.
Before you go
Before you go to your chosen fishery phone them and make sure that you are allowed to fly fish. Many fisheries either don’t allow or more usual are not aware that you can fly fish for carp. In the latter case state that you have an unhooking mat, that you will fish away from other anglers and that before you cast your fly that you will ensure that nobody is around you. In the current climate of litigation fishery owners are worried of any kind of accident occurring. If possible also state that you will fish during there ‘quite’ times, usually during the week. If you take this approach any reservations from the fishery owner will soon disappear and from personal experience once they realise that you are not an idiot they will both welcome and encourage your visits.
Just look how this Ten Pound carp runs and bends an eight weight
Carp feed basically on the same food as trout so a lot of flies that you already own will suffice. If you fish in other parts of the world where carp are in there natural habitat this is more applicable than in the UK. I have had great success using large daddy long leg patterns fished to rising carp.
In the UK however carp fishing is managed and therefore carp will be used to feeding on man made products and maggots. A good maggot pattern is a Okey Dokey which are easy to tie.
During the summer carp will bask in the sun and readily feed of the surface. Carp anglers will feed the carp on floating dog biscuits and bread. Carp will come up readily for these free offerings but are very spooky whilst doing so. Carp anglers use a combination of a large weighted float and bait to catch these rising carp. However there are two disadvantages to this which actually become an advantage to us as fly anglers. The first is that the float is bulky and disturbs the water when casted. The only way carp anglers can the catch is to over cast the float and then retrieve the float and bait combination to the rising carp. Carp are very wary and associate this wake and float to a baited hook and therefore tend to reject the bait. The other disadvantage is that the baited hook is either floated up with foam to compensate for the hook or the bait sinks when the rest of the free offerings sink slightly and expand floating with the top of the bait in the meniscus. With the above carp fishing method this cannot be achieved and the carp will refuse the baited hook but eat all the free offerings.
This is where fly fishing has the real advantage. Pick a ‘swim’ where there is lots of lilly pads, tree stumps or significant features where you can comfortable cast to without causing disturbance to the water. Throw in a few handfuls of floating bread. Here I would recommend creating two or three swims and wait until the carp are feeding off the top comfortably. Use a bread imitation fly with a small amount of floatant to the very top of the fly. This will ensure that most of the body of the fly will sink but the top will be in the meniscus as per your free offerings. The bread fly is easy to tie. Use a size #6 carp hook and bed the hook with white thread. Using any form of white artificial soft hair and dub heavily a body using a dubbing needle to pull out the dubbed hair as much as possible. Tie off and varnish the head. When you can see the carp feeding on your free offerings keep your body low to the ground so as not to spook the fish and cast two to three feet ahead of your carp. Slowly pull the fly line to sink your leader and wait. The bread fly will then expand with the water and sink slightly. Watch the fly, not the fly line. Once you see the carps lips rise to your fly strike. You will have to strike quickly as carp can spit a fly quicker than any other fish I know. It will take a bit of time to master when to strike but persevere with it. This method may seem cheating compared to traditional fly fishing but is the most successful way I know of catching these fish in the UK. It will be worth it. A ten pound carp will take at least fifteen minutes to land and remember a 20lb carp is a regular catch so hold onto your rod.
A nice common carp taken on a bread fly
For those of you who saltwater fly fish this is the same method to use to catch mullet.
As a by note for any budding authors, I have so many books on fly fishing in all its aspects but I have never come across a book dedicated to carp fly fishing. Maybe you have and I would be interested in knowing the title and author.