Fly fishing for Carp
Carp are a readily available fish that are a great sport on a fly rod. The most attractive part about fly fishing for carp is their large size and the visual aspect of casting to cruising fish.
The mention of "carp" can conjure visions of a dirty fish that are easily caught. We won't try to dissuade your initial reaction until you have taken the opportunity to try "carping" for yourself.
What is a carp? A carp is a revered fish throughout the world...except in the USA. Why? We aren't sure why carp aren't appreciated more in this country. Regardless of this stigma, we are sure you will quickly change your mind once you have casted to and battled a carp for the first time.
Carp in central Wyoming come in a couple different varieties. The fish that you target are normally heavier than 8 pounds and grow much larger. They can survive extreme conditions and inhabit many waters throughout the country.
How do you catch carp on a fly rod?
No, you don't mash a dough ball on your fly and let it sit on the bottom. You rig up your light salt water rods or appropriate Grey Reef streamer rods with a floating fly line and a long leader attached to a reel with a good drag system. Tie on a leech imitation, crawdad patterns or swimming nymphs for attracting foraging carp.
A carp is a wary opponent and can be difficult to convince to take a fly. It is a completely visual activity, very similar to saltwater fly fishing on the flats. First you have to spot the fish. Then make a cast that is within its vision but not so close that you spook it.
Once you have accomplished this you have to adjust your retrieve so that that particular fish likes your presentation and decides to eat it. Sometimes this means stripping your line quickly to imitate a fleeing minnow or slowly skirt it on the bottom to imitate a feeding crawdad. More often than not you will get refused. You may cast to 20 fish and have a couple follows with no hookups.
It can be a very humbling when you can see and cast to so many fish but are unable to close the deal. But, the next fish may hit your fly like a ton of bricks and the fight is on! This is where a your 7 weight rod and good drag system come into play. A carp can take you into your backing several times before you are able land it. It is an exhilarating experience.
Sometimes a carp will "tail" during feeding. This behavior is exactly like a feeding redfish. If you see fish tails emerging from the water then they are likely feeding on the bottom. Keep in mind we usually fish in clear water that is only 1 to 3 feet in depth.
Carp on dry fly? You bet! Carp are very opportunistic and will eat grasshoppers, mayfly duns, caddis and even cottonwood seeds. A carp doesn't eat a dry fly like a trout would. Often times you won't even see the lips at the surface, but rather your fly will just disappear as the carp sucks it in from just below the surface. It can be an unusual moment when you realize that your fly has just disappeared and you never saw a fish. Regain your composure and set the hook! The water will explode when your fish reacts and spooks the others in his group.
Again, be prepared for a long hard fight. Don't feel too badly when you have to move your rod to the other hand to shake the pain out of your arm. It happens to all carp fly fishers. A fly rod equipped with a fighting butt is a luxury for carp fly fishing.
Why fish for carp?
We fish for carp for a number of different reasons. First of all it is just good clean fun. We normally choose carp fly fishing during the warm summer months.
Pathfinder is surrounded by the desolate rocky crags of the Pedro Mountains. It is a beautiful place. But, the allure of tying into a big fish is the real reason we are there. Carp fly fishing is all about seeing the fish. A lot of our trout fishing is done without seeing the fish, so carping is nice change. You always have to keep you peripheral vision active. You may be fishing to a group of finicky cruisers to your right, when a more aggressive bunch approaches from the left.
Quick planning and bit of panic keep it interesting. Carping is great practice for a saltwater trip. If you are planning a trip to fish for bone fish, redfish, permit etc, try carp fly fishing to hone your skills before you go. A saltwater trip can be an expensive proposition and carping will prepare you for sighting, casting to, presenting the fly and fighting your target saltwater prey.
Where and when to fish for carp?
We fish for carp wherever we see them. Sometimes we are able to catch them in the river, but most often we go to Alcova, Pathfinder or Grey Reef Reservoir. Pathfinder is our favorite because of its long shallow sandy flats and abundance of carp.
Lighting is an important ingredient when carping and Pathfinder has suitable water for all light conditions. Although you don't need a boat to access good water, it is a helpful tool to position yourself for proper light. And you can quickly access areas that would take hours to drive to.
Carp seem more willing to eat a fly during the warm summer months, but not during their spawning period. It is possible to catch them during the spawn, but this is certainly not the most productive time.
Call The Reef Fly Shop for current carp conditions, we assure you that you get an enthusiastic response to carping questions.