I've spent the majority of my life, living on a lake in central New York, not knowing that what is now one of my favorite freshwater fish to catch on a fly rod, was just steps out my back door. The fish is the common carp. It was a couple of summers ago, I started to notice several articles and even books on fly fishing for carp. I decided that I had to try it.
I waded into the lake and noticed carp were everywhere and for about two hours, I tried everything in my box. Finally, one took a size 10 damsel fly nymph. the carp took me well into my backing and made a couple smaller but impressive runs before I landed it. I now can say that I caught as many carp that summer as I did trout.
Fly fishing for carp is similar to bonefishing. The carp are spooky and extremely hard to convince into taking a fly. They are strong, fast and make long runs for deeper water when hooked.
Carp will cruise the shallows looking for insects, crustaceans and crayfish. They especially like weedy areas; however, this makes it rather hard to present a fly to them. One thing I try to find is channels or areas that have changing depths. The carp seem to be more comfortable and easier to catch when deeper water is near. My favorite spot on the lake I live on is where several people had dug out areas for their boats. Carp seem to always be crusing in and out.
I tend to start fly fishing for carp in the end of May to early june. The carp will be spawning and splashing everywhere. When this happens I have found that they almost never take. Look for single fish at this time. They seem not interested in the spawning activities and like to see a well presented fly.
An hour or so after the spawn, carp tend to feed better. It is then that I see the tailing or mucking in the soft sand. This is a great time to target them. Look for tails out of the water and fish moving slow in an upright position. These are feeding fish. Also look for muddy areas where they stir up the sand seeking out food.
I have three favorite flies. The damsel fly nymph, woolly buggers and crayfish patterns. These are easy patterns to tie and represent food that carp see and feed on everyday. All of these patterns are tied with bead chain or lead eyes. This gives me the opportunity to fish different depths, and the hook point is upright so it won't snag on rocks. Also, a carps' mouth is on the bottom. With the hook point downwards it will not always stick. I tie the flies with marabou to suggest natural movement and all the flies are either black, brown or olive.
My presentation is simple. I use a ten to sixteen foot leader and try to lead the fish depending on how fast it is moving, how deep the water is and how frequently it is feeding. Timing is important. Putting the fly in the carps' path means you have to cast beyonf the apparent path and strip the fly (slow short strips) without spooking it. Normally, you see most of the strikes, but just like bonefishing you must wait until you feel the fish before you set the hook. Do not use a trout set. By strip setting, you will greatly increase your chances of hooking up.
Rod weights vary. I prefer to use a 6-9 wt. rod, depending on the size and weight of the carp. Tippet strength will vary from 8-12 lb. flourocarbon. Make sure you have plenty of backing and a good drag system. You can get carp that will occasionally take a run of close to 100 yds.
If you have not tried carp on the fly, give these fish a shot. I can't tell you how many trout fishermen I have turned on to these fish. Carp are a great alternative, especially during the dog days of summer when trout waters are low and warm. Carp are a true challenge.
Steve Bechard grew up fly fishing the many rivers, streams and lakes in New York's, Adirondack mountains. He spends the majority of his time chasing landlock atlantic salmon and brook trout in remote mountain streams. During the Winter, you can find him on the tributary waters to Lake Ontario fighting steelies and during early Spring, fighting bone fish in the Bahama's. Needless to say, you can also find him in his backyard fly fishing for carp. Steve also works part time for Rising Trout Outfitters in New York Mills, NY. If you would like more information about how to tackle these fish or any others in the Adirondacks, you can e-mail the author email@example.com
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