Thursday, April 6, 2017

Finally a Good Carp

If I'm completely my first carp of the year was little bit of a let down at about 3lbs. That's the first time EVER my first carp of the year was under 15lbs. I've been going out consistently since the ice finally left for good hoping for a real one. Time and time again it was one of two scenarios: either fish didn't show at all, or they did and I failed to get their interest. Such is the way late winter/early spring carp fishing goes. It's all about timing and the timing isn't consistent. On Tuesday I went out and after 20 minutes I was expecting another no-show from the carp. Then I noticed what for about a minute appeared to be a rock where there had never been a rock before.

I you can't ind the fish in that photo you are not cut out for carping on my favorite mud flat. Anyway, I kept on thinking this thing was a magical rock that could teleport from flat to flat for  little while before I saw a tell tale sign that this was indeed a large fish. Twice, a small swirl behind a large caudal fin; the first tailing fish of the year, and in a perfect position for me to cast to it. I slowly worked my way closer and the fish turned towards me. I was already shaking, and this change made me all the more nervous as often a fish coming off this particular island would follow this kind of path on its way back out to deep water. I had to time my shot before it stopped feeding. I could see the fish looking around and gently picking things up. It wasn't digging much, more like grazing. This was my chance at a good fish, grazing carp are much easier to tempt with a fly than ones that are kicking up massive clouds of mud because they can see farther and are actually spotting food items rather then sniffing or feeling them out. I just had to predict its moves and make my presentation spot on. This is far from an easy thing to do, but 4 years experience with this body of water told me what this fish's plan was. It zig zagged its way along the sand mud-mud transition coming straight at me. As it approached the tip of the island I made my cast, 4 feet out from the fish and nearly behind it. I made one long strip so the fly sank 4 feet diagonally to the fish's right. If I hadn't seen hundreds of carp follow this same pattern this would have seemed like a bad move. But this fish wasn't going to just keep going in a straight line. The stream flowing onto this flat pushed a lot of light sediment out just past the tip of the island. When the fish hit the edge of the sediment pan it made a hard right turn to follow the edge, Good, it was doing exactly what I needed. Shaking like a leaf I made two hand twist pulls. I wanted the fish to notice the fly and it did. It turned ever so slightly back towards me and followed the fly intently. It shook its tail ever so slightly and came over the edge of the light colored sediment. I couldn't see my fly at this point but new my two hand twists had been enough to bring it over the edge and onto the barren sediment. My mind was made up. If the fish ate on the inside of the line I was going to set. I saw the fish eat. I waited a second. There were no signs to indicate that it had indeed eaten MY fly, but I knew it must have. I gently lifted the rod. The fish reacted violently and was very quickly 80 feet out over the east side of the flat. At this point I may as well have had nothing but coffee to drink that day... I looked down at my left hand and thought to myself "Whoever's hand that is must be really nervous".

The fight was the cut and dry cold water carp fight, a long war of attrition at short range. I landed the fish first try almost exactly where I hooked it. I said "See beautiful, I told you I would win". The fish really was a pretty one, bright yellow and gold. At right around the 20lb mark this was the fish I had been hoping for. I thanked it for the battle, sighed with relief and watched him swim off in the rain. Then I stood staring at the flat and reflected on how incredible the things that had just happened were. Carp on the fly is a battle, and not just after the hook has been set. This is the only opponent I have found that seems just as good at figuring me out as I am at figuring it out. It's a battle that I loose more often than I win. 


  1. You have "sold" me RM. I'm going to hunt these beasts intentionally this year a bit and try to figure out the Carp Game... To amazing to catch fish that size - heck, half that size - on a fly!

    What leader set up are you using? Floating line?

    Well done!

    1. Always floating, if you can't actually see the fish's mouth or your fly it is necessary to look to your line for strike detection. I generally use one very simple, often short leaders but I never have one set formula. On this day I was using a three piece 3 foot leader, 0x-2x-3x. Sometimes I'll use 2 piece 2-4ft leaders for less spooky fish and sometimes I'll use long 9ft 5x trout leaders for extremely picky fish.

  2. That rock has fins. What a beauty. Are they always that yellow in the Spring? Well done Rowan. Enjoyed the full details of the hunt.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Thanks,
      Every fish is different. I've caught dark brown, silvery, yellow... all times of year. This fish is one I've seen a lot now for the last couple years and he has looked this color at all times of year.