Potomac peeler, Susquehanna snook and elephant chub are some of the common names that belong to Cyprinus Carpio known to most as a carp. Although this noble fish is not desired table fair, except in the Far East, it is a terrific adversary and sport fish. Introduced from Europe in the 1870s, it is found throughout the Northeast and other places where warm, sluggish water exists. It lives in brackish and clear water but prefers the warm waters of lakes and rivers alike. Successful carp angling with a fly rod requires persistence, stealth and stamina for locating and the fighting the fish. The carp can be located in the back eddies and slower water where little or no current exists. It likes structure for safety and hiding from predators. The carp will choose deeper pools with vegetation, logs and large rocks. The vegetation serves two purposes, one as a place to blend in for camouflage and the other as a source of food. Carp are omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. They like aquatic vegetation, plankton, insect larvae and crayfish.
If youre a fly fisherman, especially a nymph fisherman you will enjoy the pursuit of carp. Look for a suspecting pool that may contain carp, a pool with depth and structure. The angler must approach with caution. I prefer to approach directly from the rear of the pool. If that is not possible because of the depth of the pool, then approach at a 45-degree angle. Fishing in the blind is not desired but sometimes the water depth dictates no choice. If no wakes are detected after the cast, the fish are not there or where they normally stay. Then you can proceed to a perpendicular angle choosing either side of the water. Once on the bank carefully look for a large silhouette or shadows. Carp can be solitary or school together. When together they can be either spawning or can school as most chubs do for protection. There is always safety in numbers. Smaller carp are favorite prey of pike, muskellunge, smallmouth and large trout. From the air, they can be picked off by eagles, osprey, herons and gulls. Once they are too large for the traditional predators, the land predators such as otters, mink and man pursue the animal.
Nymph fisherman should pick the last fish in the pack or an isolated fish that is sulking or feeding at the bottom. The traditional dry fly technique will not work because there is no flow to the water. The fish feed subsurface and I have never seen a carp rise to a dry fly. That would be a wonderful project for our fisheries biologist and hatcheries to create a carp that rises to a dry fly. Carp do rise but I believe it is to impress a mate or to rid itself of organisms that causes it discomfort. After a fish is located, move slowly into casting position. Stream structure, bank obstacles, backcast and fly selection are the criteria for success. I prefer a floating level line on a 6-8 weight fast action rod with a reel possessing a good drag. The reel should contain no more than 100 yards of 20 pound test dacron backing because more is not sporting and a skilled angler does not need more to land a fish of this caliber. I use a tapered ten foot leader with 6-8x tippet because the carps eyesight is keen in clear water. The fish probably sees well because its senses are heightened if spawning and its environs are cleaner than usual. The finer the tippet, the better your chances for a hookup and of course more sport and skill are required for landing the fish. There are many patterns used for carp. Traditional trout nymphs like the gold ribbed hares ear, Zug Bug, Montana stone and Pheasant tail are consistent. I tie a nymph called "ENANILLO ROMANIQUE". It consists of a nymph hook size 16-18 wound with black 9/0 silk thread and 2-3 wraps of peacock herl.
The trick is to find a tailing carp, that is a carp with its tail higher than its body indicating that the fish is actively feeding. It buries its mouth into the silt and rocks trying to loosen the bottom in search of tender plant roots and insect larvae. If you locate a fish in this posture gently cast upstream with your floating line making sure you dont line the fish. Let the nymph sink and drift in front of the carps mouth. Be patient, wait to see the opercula (gill covering) flare and the mouth open. Gently lift the rod tip. If the fish does not turn and run violently there is no hookup and repeat the upstream process. I prefer to do an upstream air mend because mending the line on the water creates too much water disturbance and puts down the fish.
Text: © Gary
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