Fly fishing for Carp isn’t easy. Many anglers make a few small mistakes that cost you fish time and time again. Carp are not trout and tactics are not the same! Fly fishing for carp is actually more like bonefishing than trout fishing.
Remember these ten things and hold on for a fight!
Stay out of the water!
Normally as a fly fisherman our impulse is to be in the water so that we can more easily cast to our desire fishing lanes. With carp it is different. Wading into the water will be the death of fishing that spot with ripples going over the water the fish will either be on alert or gone. Stay out if you can, and if you must get in take slow and soft steps to try to not make ripples or stir up the water.
Don’t slap the water with your flies.
Carp are very easily spooked and even the rings from your fly hitting the water can send these fish packing. Making a bad presentation can make a big carp not as hungry in a hurry.
Make downstream presentations.
Downstream presentations will win over a carp every time. The traditional upstream approach we take everyday on trout is the wrong way to take a carp. The fly will ripple in front of fish and send him packing. The line being stripped back across the fish will also spook the fish. Cast your fly down, across and in front of the fish. Then pull your flies to the fish and drop them in his face. Proven tactics that work.
Slow strips win every time.
Carp are not a fast paced and aggressive fish. You need to remember that when you go after these fish. Carp want a fly to fall slowly in front of them. A fast strip will spook the monsters of the murk for good. A slow short strip is only necessary if they don’t see your bug.
Pay attention to your fly.
The biggest reason that you miss fish is because of not paying attention to what is going on. These fish can eat and spit out a hook before you know it if you aren’t paying full attention to what is going on. Paying attention to how a fish reacts when he takes your fly is a skill that can only be done with trial and error. All I can tell you is pay attention!
Walk slowly OUT of the water.
Walking fast even out of the water can spook fish or stir them up before you even get a chance to cast a line. Seeing the infamous mud cloud is never a good sign as the fish are long gone at this point. Walk slowly and pay attention to the water. You can see fish before they spook and you can be able to also keep track of your shadow as to not spook them with that as well. Stealth wins with carp.
Don’t Trout Set! Strip set the hook.
Carp have a softer mouth that is a lot of lips and less teeth. With that the shape is as such that with a traditional hook set you will pull it right out of their mouth. Anyone who has done any saltwater fishing has heard their guide say “don’t trout set!”. A saltwater strip set is much better. Once you think a carp has eaten your fly, make a long slow strip and see if he is there. If he is there hold it for him to turn and hook himself. If you hold for to long they will snap your line with the power. Hold for just a sec and let the fish fight the drag.
Use slow descending flies.
Usually a bead head or weighted fly is not best for carp as it will both splash and will descend in the water column to fast. Having a fly that will descend slowly is always best or one that will suspend in the water will leave it in the strike zone longer for these fish.
Wait for them to eat, don’t force feed.
Many anglers are way to aggressive and jumpy on a hook-set with carp and think that they have eaten it long before they actually have which results in a spooked fish or a foul hooked fish. If you watch a carp feed naturally it is very slow and you can actually watch them eat piece by piece. With that look for the carp to open is mouth. If it doesn’t open its mouth it obviously doesn’t have a fly in its mouth and you will miss them every time. When they do take it you will get a good hook in them most of the time.
Pick your fish wisely.
Carp can often be found basking in the sun or resting. If they are they will reject your fly 90% of the time! Look for carp that are feeding. When carp eat they will be face down, tailing in the mud like bonefish, and depending on the situation they will be stirring up the bottom a bit. These are your best targets.
Fly fishing for carp can be fun and frustrating all at the same time.
Carp fishing is a is a great way to fish the local ponds and overflow canals that are loaded with fish. People may look at you funny for trying to catch these fish but when they know the fight that they can get out of these on a fly rod they will be doing it right beside you.