Trash fish, rough fish, and non-game fish are some of the bleak references made in regards to carp. But for anyone who has chased them with a flyrod knows how much fun they can be. To me its all about stalking carp on foot. Closing the distance and delivering a well placed fly to unsuspecting fish. A few things that will put the odds in your favor to closing the distance. Don't step on sticks, there is nothing more that alerts a carp to your presence than a stick snapping under your foot. Don't wake the water, you'll want to move fast enough to cover some ground but don't move so fast your pushing water with each step. Don't get caught just looking at the water you can clearly see into. What I mean is generally you will be able to see clearly into water that is 5-10 feet in front of you. As you look further out visibility starts to diminish. As most the carp you will catch will be in the 20-30 foot range it is important to look for signs of fish out to 100 feet. Look for shadows, tails, and mud clouds from feeding fish. And one last suggestion, put your fly rod behind you. You'd be surprised how much a 9ft rod waving around distracts your eyes. Your looking for movement, flashes and other signs of fish. You don't need your eyes to continually be distracted by flashes, glare and movement from your flyrod. I move my rod to the side out of my immediate view. When you find feeding fish, slow down, its not uncommon to have fish just appear in front of you. Carp will routinely come out of hydrilla mats or other vegetation right in front of you. When the fish get to tight to you they are tough to catch. Normally if you can see their eye they are aware of your presence as well. A flick of a fly rod or any sudden movement will normally blow these fish out. Its best to remain still and let these fish get a little distance from you before making your attempt. There's a happy medium of about 20-30 feet that seems to be the sweet spot where you can see the fish and fly and detect the take while the fish is still unbeknownst to your presence. Which brings me to the next most challenging aspect of carp fish; detecting the take. At times carp will hit a fly with enough of a jolt to be felt. However most the time they will just swim over and suck the fly up. I won't lie, half the time I set the hook just because. Sometimes you see gills flare, their bright lips flash, or they bull rush the fly, or make a sudden movement towards the fly. Mother nature likes to throw her curve balls in with glare from the sun, ripples on the water and lake bottoms that make your fly disappear. Sometimes its hard to tell what is going on, all you have is your intuition to rely on. In my opinion its better to set the hook when in doubt. As far as flies go, anything buggy looking in size 6-8 seems to work best. Smaller is typically better from what I have found. You'll want a fly with enough weight to get down to the bottom quickly but not so heavy it gets caught up in vegetation and debris on the bottom. For sub 10lb fish a 5-6 weight rigged with 8lb tippet is a good all around setup. For larger fish you'll need to step up to an 8 or even 9 weight if fish are pushing high 20's. Other than that you just need to get out there and get a few fish under your belt. Once you've seen these fish take a fly a few times and observe their body language things get a lot easier. You'll have good days were the fish are very aggressive and there is no doubt when they eat the fly. Other days due to high pressure or just lethargic fish they just seem to sip the fly up and spit it pretty quickly. Those are the days you have to be on your game and have a little luck on your side.
Going into today's outing. The lake is still a little high as there is a lot of flooded brush that makes spotting fish difficult. I was spooking lots of fish as I was stepping on a lot sticks walking through some of the brush to get to openings that would be fishable. Road beds are your friend, it seems carp really like to travel them you'll see fish going down the edges or just crossing over them. I was surprised at the number of good fish I saw. The average fish was 5-7 lbs with a few pushing 10 or a little better. I was surprised I landed any of them, once hooked they went right into the nasty stuff. Some how none broke me off. Over all it was a much better day than I was expecting. Once the lake drops another 2-3 feet it should be game on. Probably wont be out again till next year but defiantly glad I got one day of carping in this year.
An old road bed that I spent
most my time fishing.
Tough to fish this. Once the water drops
another 2-3 feet it will open up more
Unhappy fish in shallow waters
is always exciting.