While I voted "non game" on the question, carp are by far my favorite freshwater fish. They are challenging to catch, dogged fighters, and our average fish is 7 pounds, with many reaching double digits. Biggest landed yet was 38 inches, not terribly fat, but easily over 20 pounds.
If you're going after them, here's a few things to remember: first, those barbels (whiskers) are highly sensitive organs that can detect scent very well. Make sure you don't have any gasoline, oil, or anything else that might get transferred to your fly on your hands. NEVER gas up the truck or boat on your way to the lake.
Second, never pull the fly toward the fish. That is an unnatural situation - prey don't move toward predators. Put the fly in the path of the fish, let it sink, and make a short, sharp strip when the fish is 2 feet away (for clear water). If it doesn't move to take it, strip again, less sharply this time.
Third - when casting, make you first cast land 2 feet away, your second 1 foot away, your third 6 inches away, and your last on his nose. That way you know he saw it.
Fourth - if you're wading, move slowly and quietly and take care not to rattle rocks. Shallow fish can feel the vibrations of your footsteps. They may not spook, but they won't bite. Similarly, minimize movement when you see fish - if you can see them, they can see you.
Last - if you catch one, and the next fish makes a wide swing around your fly, you've been carp stinked! Some fish exude a chemical during the fight that gets on the fly and taints it. Tie on another fly and have at it again.
I don't yet have my carp article posted on our web site (www.flatslander.com), but will try to get that done.
For anyone in Texas or along the Gulf Coast, we'll be doing our "Backyard Flats Training - Using Carp as Practice for Saltwater Fly Fishing" program at the Gulf Coast FFF Conclave in New Braunfels next April. Come see us and we'll talk carp!
That's a very good post Craig,with very useful advice.My friend Batistou who's a carp fan caught some casting his nymph on its path a few feet away(not always easy to predict it) and leave slowly "land" it on the sand or the gravels.You should post some of your carp patterns,it would be very interesting.
Craig, great info in your post. I will add carp are definitely a challenge, you need to move into position very slowly and carefully so you don't spook them. The flies I have been using on them have one thing in common, subtle movement built in to them. When you're tying flies use marabou or ostrich herl, it really adds to that spark of "Life". I also use fine rubber legs, the least bit of current moves them very nicely. Keep at it; you'll get into one soon.
I'm one of those guys who believes the pattern is less important than the right presentation to the right fish. Some people are more into creative tying than I am, but as a part time guide, I can tell you that standing on the poling platform of my Mitzi skiff and watching a client pitch into a tree a fly I spent 15 minutes tying is frustrating. So, we tie 'guide flies' that only take a couple of minutes to tie.
I really like pine squirrel bunnys. Just like a tarpon bunny, but with pine squirrel strips, in black, olive, brown and rust, tied mostly in 12 or 10, and always on Mustad C51S circle hooks or, since those are discontinued, 39951 BLN demon circles in size 6 or 4. No weight for skinny water, bead chain and dumbbell eyes for deeper water.
Simple leech patterns work - coyote, marabou, arctic fox or my favorite: road killed house cat tail, for a tail, and a leggy dubbing spun in a loop for a body. Maybe a few turns of lead for weight.
San Juan worms work well sometimes, as do some smaller saltwater gotcha and crazy charlies, even small clousers. Any crawfish pattern will work, too. My biggest fish was on a size 14 micro-clouser, tied with arctic fox instead of deer hair.
You can google carp flies and see plenty, including my buddy Mike's Carp Candy, Carp Carrots, etc. Those are great flies, but they take too long to tie for me. As Dan pointed out, many folks like legs on their flies.
Use strong hooks. NEVER use light wire dry fly hooks. Even a small carp is capable of straightening a light wire hook.
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: what do you think of carp.
Although they fight hard and are a blast to catch, in most places they are an invasive species. Some types of carp are very harmfull to native habitats and other species of fish. Game fish status may harm efforts to remove them from places they do not belong.
In ALL places outside of Europe carp are an invasive species, that is they are non-natives. As are Brown trout anywhere in North America, Rainbow trout east of the Rocky Mountains, Brook Trout west of the Mississippi, striped bass anywhere inland, walleye much south of Nebraska, etc. Yet we not only tolerate those species, we celebrate them.
The problem fish to which I assume you refer Diver are not common carp, but are Asian carp - primarily bighead and silver carp. Yes, common carp do occupy space and use resources in competition with more celebrated species, but who's to say one non-native is better than another.
Now, if you want to be a nativist, and campaign for nothing but native species in local waters - that I can support. But it is hypocritical for folks to deride the carp they accidentally catch while fishing for blue catfish that would never have been there but for the actions of man - building the lake and stocking the blue catfish.
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: what do you think of carp.
What I was saying is that carp, including the brown carp, do damage. Even Brown trout can outcompete and harm some native species of trout. I Don't want Brown Trout putting Green Back Cutthroat back on the extinct list. I wouldn't stock Lake Trout in a system with Apache Trout. If you have a non-native fish of ANY KIND that is harming the native species, IMAO it has got to go. It makes this much harder to do when they have game fish status. I have caught carp, and I agree, they fight hard. That does not mean I want them everywhere. I like Tiger Musky. They get enormous and fight like a gorilla. Doesn't mean I want them everywhere either. The main problem I have with game fish status is the added difficulty in removing them from places they do harm. Secondarily, as they grow in popularity, and having game fish status, Some "sportsmen" will decide they need them in the waters they fish. Private stocking programs, or Bucket Biology as I call it, are bound to occur. If you think it won't happen, take a look at the travels of Pike and Musky by bucket. A perfect example of the cost of some misguided placement of non-native species is Lake Trout in the Yellowstone system. Millions are spent every year attempting to get rid of them. Walleye in the Canyon Ferry system. Pike in who knows how many lakes and rivers in Colorado. Have you ever seen what happens to a system where a fish like trout are the top predator and something like Pike are introduced? Carp are weed destroyers, so what happens to the native fish that depend on weeds for spawning and survival to a non snack food size? I'm not saying kill all carp. Just keep them where they do no harm and don't give them gamefish status. "Celebration" of any species causing harm to the native species is wrong. The actions of man is not always right, and in the case of dams and resevoirs, has turned out to be seriously problematic in many cases. Hence the millions of dollars spent over the last decade to remove them. i.e. The Pacific North West where dams have seriously harmed Salmon and Sea run Trout spawning. This is not the view from a fan club, it is the view from fisheries biology.
Funny thats still a discussion, at least they are now a game fish-non gamefish discussion than a trash fish discussion.
No fish no animal no human are trash, ever!!
I found carp pretty hard to catch and that is a challenge, Ive only caught one in my life and have been looking for them ever since with no luck.
It was a 3 pounder on a san juan worm and I was after them casting for almost two hours. They do fight! very strong fish, imagine if they jumped and tail walk!!
Not endemic species are not their fault, its our fault, its us who as always disturbe the balance, carps exist everywhere (I am from Colombia) and there are plenty of them in both cold and warm waters.
I love trout, not endemic but we do have some large populations of rainbows, something like 3 species of frogs and 1 endemic fish species got extinct.
What about Tilapia?? those are pretty damaging and are from Africa....
Etc etc etc...........
This species have been around for too much time, years even centuries, tossing them to die in the banks wont restore tha balance, thats a stupid thing to do. Dont like them, dont fish for them, want to kill them, find someone that would enjoy that meal.
But leaving to rot what was alive is a disgrace and only shows our tendency to feel beyond superior and our lack of humbility towards nature which is what has the planet so crazy right now.
If you like carp, you'll LOOOOOOVVE the grinner (bowfin, mudfish) another species that is so MUCH fun to catch, tougher than a buzzard's gizzard and such a wonderful fish! It may be that we could sponsor mudfish tournaments - what fun! Haven't any of you heard of "trash" fish? Perhaps we could rename them as Southern Steelheads.
Of course, there's a plus side - the Cajuns catch mudfish and sell the roe as Chopique (analog caviar).
If you love carp, fine but keep them controlled and away from bream and bass beds - there's also some concern about what happens when the carp run out of vegetation after they've stripped a body of water.