Fly Fishing For Carp - How to Successfully Fly Fish For Carp
Fly fishing for carp has grown in popularity in a major way over the last decade. It’s an area of carp fishing I’m trying to learn to master.
Uh oh. Did I just mention I’m not a professional at fly fishing for carp?
Oh well, the point is, fly fishing isn’t exactly black and white. Fly fishing is something I’m learning on the “fly” so to speak so we will be going over the tips I have for success thus far into my journey..
I’m actually better at bowfishing for carp to be honest.
It’s pretty awesome as well but off topic.
It’s become more of a sportsman type fish to target and anglers seem to be picking up the pace with going after these large tricky fish and developing the hobby.
Learning how to catch carp can always take some time but we all have a reason for trying.
Whether it’s the thrill of the fight, dealing with the way carp get easily spooked or just the enjoyment of escaping reality, it’s something all of us fishermen most likely enjoy doing.
Otherwise, why would you be here reading this blog?
You also may be a complete beginner and possibly have never tried fly fishing for carp. If that’s the case.
That’s perfectly fine. We will cover many topics related to your questions.
You may also find some value in my other blog, how to catch carp, depending on your skill level currently.
That’s the entire purpose of this blog post to walk you through some top tips and tricks to landing more trophy carp to your photo album.
Carp are an extremely unique fish.
Let's get started.
Table of Contents
The Very Timid Fish
They are spooked easily, get sidetracked easily by reproducing and spawning and even though they eat the dirt of the aquatic life at the floor of the lake, they are still picky and careful about what and how they strike.
You see, catfishing and other species of fish operate completely different than your common carp and grass carp.
Carp have preferences of when to strike, how to strike and conditions that need to be met.
If you fail to abide by the tricky patterns they follow, it’s going to be tough to catch many of them according to the carp gods.
Fly Fishing For Carp For Beginners
Going back to what’s already been stated. Carp can be a tricky fish to catch.
The good news is that they are literally everywhere imaginable if you can find water.
You will be hard pressed to find any body of water where carp aren’t swarming or scavenging for the next meal or next spawn mate as long as it’s not a puddle in your driveway.
Even if you have a family friend that’s a carp enthusiast or claims to be an expert, you may be best off just learning the ropes with the peace and solace of doing it on your own.
You can choose any local watering hole. A lake, pond, or river. Take the time to go out either by the shore or by boat and scout the area. Look for spawning carp.
If you are unsure of spawn times in your area, I’ve put together this full guide of when do carp spawn.
This will help and details spawn times specific to every US state.
Depending on your location, spawn time is likely late spring to early summer.
They lurk around shallow areas of lakes and watercourses and typically are only 24 inches up to 3 feet deep in the water.
You can also look for carp when the water levels tend to be rising. This will be your best scouting time for easy visual confirmations of where the carp are currently lurking.
Pro Tip: Most likely they are lurking in shallow, grassy marshy areas with high vegetation.
This would be a good starting part for your adventure before walking a half marathon trying to spot one of these big fella’s.
My Best Tips to Fly Fishing For Carp
These tips have either been compiled from my own successes, massive failures and a blend of additional research to help deliver more useful fly-fishing tips for you.
Tip #1- Downstream only
Trust me. I’ve wasted plenty of time myself.
We have covered in many other blogs how easily carp can be spooked.
Why would we think your fly is any different when it comes to spooking the fish? Would you want bait slapped on your face without getting a little spooked?
Sound like I’m preaching to you yet?
I don’t mean to, but I’ve wasted so many times doing this incorrectly and catching absolutely zero carp that I finally went home one day and pressed into the handy-dandy google search bar “fly fishing for carp mistakes”.
I realized what a terrible mistake I had been making.
This was a top voted mistake from many sources. How credible were they? Who knows. It’s fishing, so definitely didn’t hurt to go try the new-found information and change up my game.
I began only fly fishing and presenting the fly downstream.
If you can cast your fly in front of the fish and calmly twitch back to the fish, now that’s where the success lies. No spooked carp and more carp landing in your net!
Tip #2- Don’t get trigger Happy or Overly Excited
We have also discussed the vacuum seal mouths carp possess in some of my other blog posts.
You aren’t catching a tiger or grizzly bear here.
They don’t swallow the first thing including you in one piece. It’s more of a “gulp”. Be patient and look for signs that the carp is really taking the fly.
If you get too excited, you will rip the fly straight from his mouth and most likely spook neighboring carp or the carp you are ultimately after.
Carp are extremely slow and methodical. Don’t force this. Just relax and look for cues that he’s about to take the bait.
For you salesman out there, have you ever been taught to listen “for buying cues” or “buying signals”?
Same applies here if you aren’t listening and paying attention you are going to “blow the sale” with that 10lb carp lurking 8 feet away.
Tip #3- Strip Setting Correctly
My god, this took me forever to learn. A short background at my struggles.
Prior to discovering my love for carp fishing, I was an avid catfisher. Completely different set up than fly fishing for carp.
I’m used to waiting for the rod to bend intensely, wait for it to be at about at breaking point and then and only then do I set my Michelob Ultra aside and attempt to set the hook. Not with fly fishing for carp.
Whole different ball game here folks. We aren’t in the minors anymore.
I noticed with fly fishing, it’s very easy to carry over this muscle memory and bad habit into fly fishing for carp or really any other fish such as trout.
Another one of my proud moments where I had to go home and google out my mistake to find the correct method to correct this issue. You will find a TON of information online, but I believe in simplicity.
Just a simple reminder to build the muscle memory of strip setting to avoid yanking the fly straight from the carp’s mouth is all I needed to be on my way.
Tip #4- Stay Calm with The Fly
You want to stay calm when stripping the fly. The biggest thing to avoid always with carp fishing is to avoid spooking the fish. They typically won’t come back around for a second chance at redemption.
You want the fly to fall calmly and slowly in front of the carp to avoid spooking them and have patience before finally setting that hook.
Tip #5- Stay away from the Carp and kill the boat motor
If you use a boat to get to a location, it may be best to anchor down or tie up to a shore spot. The carp prefer you to not even be in the water let alone to be trolling around in your fishing boat.
Anything you can do to add “stealth” to your fly-fishing adventure, increases your odds of catching more carp.
Tip #6- Don’t hit sleeping beauty with the fly
Make sure the actual fish that your targeting is awake. Many anglers seem to get confused by this notion.
Let me rephrase that. Many beginner anglers get confused by this. Fish do sleep. This tip goes back to purely paying attention what you are looking at and staying “stealthy”. Look for the carp showing signs of life and activity.
They will often be near the grassy marsh or down in the mud kicking up mud clouds eating a delicious bug or other bottom of the lake garbage.
If you have the option between targeting the fish in the higher waters or the fish nose deep in a feast on the bottom.
Get the fly in front of the fella at the mud bottom buffet.
Tip #7-Cast ahead of the Tailing Fish and Let it Sink
“Go Deep with your Cast”. Get in front of the tailing fish and allow your fly to sink to the bottom.
If the carp is truly hungry, he will follow the fly down.
The key here once again is avoiding spooking the carp and if you use this method, you have a much stealthier approach to snagging a good size carp.
Tip #8- Stop Wasting your Time
Okay, this one I’d really love some feedback in the comment section below, so I can distinguish if I’m just terrible at these methods or if others struggle as badly as I do.
Stop wasting your time refers to the carp at the top of the water catching a nice summer tan.
Don’t bother casting the fly near them, it won’t work.
Any other carp near the surface doing anything that causes splashes, don’t waste your time either.
They are busy doing things rated R and are only thinking about spawning . Can you blame them?
Seems like they have the priorities in line to me. I’ve never had success getting any of these carp’s attention in over 2 years of trying. Again, if I’m wrong or you have a method, please comment below.
The light at the end of the tunnel to this scenario is, it at least means you have most likely located a good location for the next time and it will be even more populated in future years for your fly fishing for carp adventures.
Only target pods of carp moving together or the bigger papa’s nose deep in mud. These have been my most successful scenarios in fly fishing for carp.
Tip#9- Keep Enough Tackle and Variations on Hand
Always have selections of the weight for your flies on hand if need be. They work for different situations. If you want to target the sun tanning carp on water top, you will want Unweighted flies is a good example of this.
Tip #10- Practice Casting
I have no clue why this ended up being Tip# 10 but it should probably be moved to Tip#1. Master the casting game with fly fishing and be patient with this tip.
It seems like it took me some time to learn the casting and strip setting game. It can be somewhat intimidating at first but it’s worth it once you figure it out and get into a groove with it.
You need to be able to lead the carp, avoid spooking the carp and just learn the basic mechanics of casting to have much success with fly fishing for carp.
Tom Brady doesn’t make the superbowl year after year without practice and a lot of it. News flash for you.
You may catch a carp here and there without practice but the practice is what makes each and every trip worth it later down the road.
Other pieces of the equation you will just slowly begin to pick up on your own.
Fly Fishing For Carp in Rivers
This will be the same principals we applied to fly fishing for carp in other bodies of water with slight variations.
One of the major differences with trying fly fishing for carp in rivers in being able to easily navigate the landscape of the river and where the carp may be lurking.
It may be tough to locate hot spots from shore or effectively land your leading fly bait in an effective manner without spooking the carp away.
Fly Fishing For Carp in Ponds
I have mixed feelings on this. I feel as if this is a catch-22. I think it obviously makes fly fishing for carp easier because you can do the scouting report quickly and they don’t have far to go. Food resources are also more limited for carps in ponds so that could work heavily in your favor.
On the other hand, however, it always seems to be tough to locate a good vantage point to avoid spooking the carp and depending on the pond size, I feel it can also be tough to get a good lead cast on the fly to lead the fish correctly.
If you just can’t hack it fly fishing for carp, try one of the best carp baits and traditional fishing.
If that’s still not your cup of tea, pick up bowfishing for carp, it’s amazing.
Any others have thoughts on fly fishing for carps in ponds? Please drop a comment below, I’d love to know other tips and tricks with this.
What’s The Best Gear For Fly Fishing For Carp?
I’m also going to want some heavy feedback from the audience in this section.
Obviously only if you have heavy experience in fly fishing for carp. I’m going to voice my thoughts on what I’ve used but I would place my fly-fishing skills nowhere above intermediate.
I know many of you actively reading, writing or just big fly-fishing fans probably can provide the audience with some better options so if you have feedback, make sure to place it in the comments below so we can help everyone out and all of us can catch more fish.
Admitting my shortcomings.
Remember, some areas of this blog I can come at it with heavy experience or a lengthy history of doing. Especially catfishing.
Some areas, however, I’m either tapping into the hobby or just not as skilled as others, so would prefer to make this the best resource for everyone as possible.
How it that possible? Only with all of us interacting together as one unit and as a team.
I personally have had success and only used lighter tackle for carp.
I know a lot of people probably think that you need heavy duty equipment due to the fight a carp can potentially put up.
The problem I have with this is carp are such delicate biters and bait takers.
Fly fishing is also delicate with the hook setting strategy. Any heavy gear is going to make it tough to feel and tension, or any small preliminary nibble/bites.
I also heavily believe in clear lines because carp, no matter what you believe can see and they can see well.
Anything to help avoid spooking the carp is your best chance at success with fly fishing for carp.
Putting it All Together
Whether you are brand new to fly fishing or an expert, I hope this blog provided at least some value to your next carp fishing trip.
Again, keep in mind, I only embarked on this journey about 2 years ago in the summer of 2016 so I’m by no means a seasoned expert, but I love the sport and know all of you do as well.
Otherwise, you would have no reason to read this unless you are just desperate for your next meal.
If I have left anything out you want to share with the fishing community any of your experiences, please a leave a comment below to make fishing more enjoyable for all of us.
Till Next Time