Carp Tactics: An Introduction

When you think of picky fish, you think of trout in crystal clear water or casing bonefish across flats. It’s no different searching for carp in the middle of the city or in that stagnant pond at the end of the road, stealth is just as important. Moving slowly and having a pair of polarized glasses are musts.

This is also a great time to fish with a fiberglass rod for a couple of reasons. One, it will help you present your flies as delicately as possible. Two, the tip sensitivity will help you feel the take. Finally, three, it has amazing leader/tippet protection.

Once you get on the water, take your time, you want to spot the fish and read what they are doing. This will tell you the tactics you want to use. If you see them either tailing or the mud plumes, this tells you they are digging for their food on the bottom. Watch them and figure out the direction they are working in. Tie on a pattern that looks like a worm working its way back into the river bottom like a Trouser Worm or Carp Tickler. Then, softly cast out, leading just enough not to spook them and let the fly hit the bottom. You will not be able to see the take, so making sure your line is tight with the fly is crucial.  

If you see a carp slowly cruising and moving around erratically, you have found yourself a meat eater! These fish will stop, dip down, lunge forward, and change direction quickly. Sometimes this can be confused with a cruising fish when you first start chasing them, but the more times you try to feed them, the easier to spot they become. They could be either chasing juvenile crawfish (normally over rocky bottoms) or small bait fish (around structures or vegetation).

Lead them a good amount with your cast and strip the fly right out in front of them and pause. When the carp begins to follow the fly, strip the fly in with small, erratic strips. This tactic sounds really cut and dry, but with carp, nothing is, the key is not to yank the fly away too fast. Some will give chase if all they eat are bait fish, but with carp, subtle is the way to go.

Photos courtesy of Brien Hansen and Josh Smitherman. Check them out on Instagram @brienedwardh and @fly_guru!

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