I sell freight for a living (essentially), but that wasn't always the plan. I have a degree in English lit with a concentration in creative writing...I mention this just to make it clear that I am not much of a numbers guy. Math bores me, number perplex me and in general, I am just smart enough to know I am not really that smart. That said, I was thinking about the number 20 today. The whole concept of 20+ lb carp on the fly has been sort of the level setting device for me and my buddies the past few years. We catch a lot of very nice carp, we weigh a ton of fish and 20 lbs evolved as the goal simply because it was rare, but attainable. Catching a 20 lb anything on a fly rod and artificial fly (no scent) should be celebrated...it isn't easy, and it doesn't happen as often as you wish it would. So...some simple math.
This year in 2014 I have caught roughly 320 carp. Granted, this isn't an exact number, but is pretty close...say plus or minus 20 fish (more likely plus to be honest). It has been an unbelievable start to the year, and in general I usually finish with somewhere around 350 carp to hand. If I keep fishing until October and have enough solo days, I am pretty sure I can break 400 this year. I have caught carp in 9 states in my life, and every year for the past 5 years I fish two of what by any measure would be called "destination carp waters" in the mighty Columbia River, and the beautiful clear waters of Lake MI. My aim is always twofold...catch a fish over 20 lbs, or catch a mirror carp. As such, I frequently walk by smaller tailing fish IF I am in "big fish water." I never risk spooking an unseen 20 to catch a 9 lber. I always cast to the largest fish I can see, regardless of the quality of the shot vs another shot, and I weigh anything that I think will break 15 lbs with a digital scale. Lastly, I cover a LOT of water. My last time out I clocked 2.65 miles in the water, one way.
This year, I have landed exactly 19 carp that weighed more than 20lbs.
So the math is pretty simple...19/320 = 6%. That is an astonishingly low percentage to me. I like to think that my home water is one of the absolute best resources for carp on the fly when you combine the numbers, size, water etc., and Lake MI is clearly at the top of the list as well. I do everything I can possibly do in order to target the biggest possible fish, and still only 6 out of every 100 fish I catch are over 20 lbs. I don't keep detailed logs, but that number seems to sit well with my general memory of the past several years (when my dumb little literary mind started to pay attention to the numbers).
So, a 20 lb carp on the fly is a really big deal...at least the way I look at it. Yes, it is an arbitrary number but the percentages seem right to make it a good goal for any fly rod angler...and it is a nice, round figure.
What say the rest of you anglers? Is 20 lbs the right goal? Is 6% representative of the likelihood of catching a 20 lb fish on your water?