Damon Bungard 30/09/2013 | Posted in 2013 Kilroy, Fishing, Fly Fishing, JK Team Posts, Kilroy
Fly fishing for carp is a real challenge. Long considered ‘trash fish’, one little secret fly fishing guides have known for a long time and enjoy doing on their days off is going after carp. More and more now we’re seeing dedicated carp fly fishing websites and tournaments. US Carp Pro Magazine and the Orvis Carpocolypse are just a few examples. Orvis Carp Central has a bunch of great information on setups and gear.
Here in Vermont, I call them ‘Yankee Bonefish’, and Lake Champlain is a premier fishery for them. I use the same setup I use to fish for Bonefish in Belize and Florida, an Orvis 8 WT, and often the same flies. You’ll want a large arbor reel with a strong drag and plenty of backing cause these guys are big, strong and like to RUN!!! Get ready to see some backing when your line goes tight. This particular setup is a Ross Rhythm 2 with a weight forward floating line and a couple hundred yards of Dacron backing.
Just like bonefish, the name of the game with carp fishing for me is sight fishing. Finding feeding fish, picking one out, casting to it and trying to get it to eat. Make no mistake, carp fishing is NOT easy. They are extremely wary, have excellent hearing and eyesight, and sometimes just flat out won’t eat.
Here on the lake, sometimes I’ll find them cruising sand flats, sometimes you’ll find them up in the grass. The key is to move slowly, quietly, and stalk them.
My kayak fishing tool of choice for carp, the Jackson Kayak Kilroy. The stability, functionality, and customization as the ultimate fly fishing platform is unmatched. One of the real benefits of the solid bottom of the Kilroy really shines through on the QUIET part of stalking them. Without scuppers to make noise and chatter on the water surface, the Kilroy can be paddled or poled practically silently. If you see sunning fish, you can position yourself directly behind them, out of their field of vision. ALWAYS be conscious of where the sun is – you don’t want your shadow to blow your stalk. The ideal scenario is the sun in their eyes, and your shadow behind you.
Once in position and you see those lips moving under the water surface, get your fly in its vision or feeding zone as quietly as possible. If it ‘plops’ too loud, game over. If they are cruising, one good technique (also common on the salt flats) is to cast out well in front of them, let it sink and wait until they’re near your fly before you start moving it.
Once you see them turn or head towards the fly, wait for it, and DON’T set the hook. Just like bonefish, they have soft mouths. Look for lips moving to eat the fly if you can, point the rod at the carp, and when you feel the line go tight, give it a little strip set, then let go and hold on. Protect those knuckles as the line screams off your reel, and settle in for a long fight.
If I’m fishing weeds or they run into them as in these photos, I’ll usually use a heavier leader as there is usually some weed ripping involved to get one landed. If they power into big weed beds, don’t try to rip them out. One powerful shake of their head and they’ll break you right off. I’ve found it’s better to take pressure off the line, let them feel safe, and manually follow your line and untangle it before resuming the fight.
Carry a strong net if you’ll going for big boys, over 20 lbs. Even after a half hour fight, they’ll have plenty of spunk once you go in with the net. My net didn’t survive this particularly frisky critter. Squatting down and lifting a big fish like this is no problem with the low center of gravity and stability of the Kilroy.
My favorite flies – Crazy charlies, beaded San Juan Worms, any really hackly nymphs, or small crayfish flies. This particular carp fell victim to Orvis’ Hise’s Carpnasty fly.
If you haven’t tried fly fishing for carp yet, give it a shot. You never know how much fun you might have making out with trashy fish.