Guest blog post written by Postfly Ambassador Kyle Hinds:
When I am asked about my absurd obsession with fly fishing for carp, the same thought always seems to come to mind — “Where the hell do I begin?” It seems over time I’ve narrowed the speech down to three distinct points, and I think most people in the game would agree to their importance.
Hit The (Virtual) Books
Big carp can put up a giant fight, if you can get them to bite your hook.
The first is to study your local fish, and study them hard.” Google Earth and Google Maps are both excellent resources for finding local carp waters. The process is easy, start with a pin on your home address, zoom out to your comfortable radius, and circle any
bodies of water. Big or small, you never know which one may be your golden ticket. Take a bike ride, walk the dog, or gear up and go for it, but take time to check out every body of water you circled.
Once the target fish have been located, start your observations. Behavior can change seasonally, monthly, weekly, or even hourly. Know what behaviors are associated with different times of day, lighting conditions, and weather patterns for the different bodies of water. Likely the most important thing to watch for is what the carp are feeding on.
Fishing for carp is all about seeing the fish or the strike, so fishing at low light can be effective, but difficult.
Knowing your local forage eliminates guesswork on what flies to carry, as well as when and how to use them. But keep in mind, just because a food source is present in an area, doesn't necessarily mean the carp are using it. They are an extremely efficient species, and will key in on the most efficient food source in their specific home body of water — this is broken down simply as calories in vs. calories out; if I burn “X” calories to eat this food, I will gain “Y” calories in return.
The most efficient food source, may not be the most abundant food source, and if you base your tactics around abundance it may lead you to pull your hair out, screaming curse words, questioning the fish gods why just one carp won’t even LOOK at your offer. This is when your time studying comes in to play, and you come to the table with the right food source at the right time.
Don't Forget To Chill
Carp can reach weights upwards of 40 pounds, which means they're a lot of fun on a fly rod.
Secondly, keep your cool. Cast less, and catch more. If you can’t decipher where the fish’s head is located, then you likely can’t find its mouth, which makes it pretty darn hard to get a hook in it. Don’t blow opportunities over excitement. Wait to cast until you can either see the orientation of the fish’s head, or the general direction the fish is moving. When this information is obtained, cast slightly past the fish to not spook it with the fly or fly line, then drag and drop the fly on their “dinner plate,” about an 8 inch radius half circle in front of the fish.
This isn't to say carp can’t be caught blind. Often an appropriate size soft hackle or egg pattern suspended below an indicator can get the attention of passing carp. A bubble line or mud cloud can indicate a feeding fish, and a casting target. Any movement of the indicator and set the hook. Gregg Martin is an absolute master of this method, and it is as effective as any. When addressing a group of carp, keep in mind that they can communicate through the use of pheromones. Picking a single target from the front or edge of the group helps make sure you don't accidentally line a fish and scare the whole group away.
Set It Now, But Not Yet
The right rod, reel and leader setup is vital for chasing big carp on the fly.
Third is to SET THE HOOK!! Carp filter their food through special crushing organs that require them to “suck” their food up. With a mouth located on the bottom of their head, this can make it extremely difficult to detect an eat. A firm lift when you see the carp’s gills flare, lips flash, or tail rise, brings the line tight and the hook point home right in the corner of the mouth, ideal for an angling situation.
Hook sets are free, and often a lift of the rod won’t move the fly fast enough or far enough to scare a carp if he didn't eat it. Leave it still and give him another chance. I truly believe the fish takes the fly more often than we think. Lift the rod at any indication that the fish may have eaten the fly, if there’s tension, keep it high and hold on!
Roll With The Punches
The Golden Ghost, aka carp, can be some of the most rewarding fish to chase in fly fishing.
These fish have raw power, and getting one to eat is only the first step. The fight is a whole other beast in itself. Ideally, we want to keep points of failure in our equipment to a minimum. Six weight or heavier rods are certainly preferred, and one solid 6-10 ft. piece of 20 lb. monofilament, is a cheap and strong carp leader setup. Less knots equal less points of potential failure, and 20 lb. line strength gives you plenty of room to muscle the fish around branches, or other obstacles without having to be too prissy about the line tension. Let your rod and reel do the work, just make sure you cinched those couple of knots down tight.
I prefer my piece of monofilament straight to the fly line with a nail knot, and generally a no-slip mono loop knot for my leader to fly connection. Here in Colorado, most of our stillwater carping is done with crayfish-style patterns. A loop knot gives you a beautiful diving motion, similar to the action made by a fleeing/hiding crayfish. Of course, use whatever knot you feel is appropriate for the fly and the situation.
Don't Go (Completely) Insane
Sure you may go crazy chasing these finicky fish, but if you land one, it's all worth it.
In all honesty, these fish can make you all out mental. The rejections, missed hook sets, snapped lines, broken equipment, mosquitos, mud, sun, and brush are just a fraction of the headaches you’ll encounter on the road to carp on the fly. Everything has to go right.
The fish have to be there, you have to make a perfect cast, a perfect presentation, time a perfect hook set, and perfectly execute what can be a seemingly brutal battle with a pissed off fish in upwards of forty pounds…if you were lucky enough for the fish to eat the fly. We are crazy right? But there is something tremendously rewarding about working that hard for something and then achieving it.
It seems like every time I go out keeping these factors in the forefront of my mind, something magic happens, and everything comes together. Suddenly these fish are an incredibly challenging and fun species instead of incredibly frustrating; a true test of your gear, your commitment level, and both your mental and physical strength — and the addiction begins.
We featured a preview of this article from Kyle Hinds in the August Postfly Box, along with a killer selection of carp flies in our warm water boxes. Want to make sure you don't miss out on the next round of warm water flies? Subscribe now to Postfly and become a Tribe Member today.