Sunday, March 02, 2014

Rule #1

Over the last couple of years this whole carp thing has really taken off. Tons of interest, from a huge range of locations and people...honestly, it has been a massive amount of fun. Carp are awesome, and more and more people are figuring that out. Good to see.

As people get more involved, there are two questions that pop up frequently. Number 1 is "where do you fish?" I have to admit here that I am not often super helpful. I grew up in MT, and as such I have lived my entire fishing life by the "show not tell" rule. Take the time to get to know me and if we can make it out to the water I am happy to show people around, but if have a tough time giving out anything other than general locations otherwise. Sorry, I know I suck...but "show not tell" is a hard thing for a Montana boy to shake.

Question #2 is simpler in many respects because I have zero issue sharing any other tips I can. I don't consider myself an expert, but I have been after carp a lot longer than many people out there and in this game experience matters. The problem with question #2 is that the answer isn't necessarily what people want to hear.

What kind of flies should I use?

Sounds simple enough, but to be honest, I spent about two months of futility when I got started because I asked the same question, and fished the flies that were the "answer."

The truth...there is no ONE magic carp fly that works for all carp...but there is likely ONE magic carp fly that will work for your carp. It all comes down to Rule #1: Know your forage. Carp are amazing creatures, and they will figure out how to maximize their caloric intake while expending the least amount of energy possible. This means that while they will feed on virtually anything, they will absolutely have a primary forage that will vary from body of water to body of water.

I spent two months on my home waters throwing wooly buggers, stripping crayfish patterns, and trying to get carp to chase a clouser swimming nymph. By all accounts those are three fine, fine carp fly patterns. But on the big C...I got stoned. The fish wouldn't chase, in fact more often than not they spooked and all I was doing was getting sun burnt and frustrated.

But I also got educated. If they wouldn't eat or chase those flies, I thought to myself, what were they eating. I flipped over rocks, dug hands into the mud and found small nymphs, aquatic worms and the like. These items can't sprint away from carp, so the fish didn't need to chase...and they were much smaller. I downsized...I slowed up my presentation and boom! I was into fish. A year or two later the clam revelation hit, and the numbers and size of the carp I began to catch went up in a hurry.

Now, when people ask me "What flies should I fish for carp?" The easy answer would be the Hybrid. I catch 80% of my carp on that fly, and it is a concrete answer that I can give complete with a picture, list of tying materials, and even a link to where you can buy some.

But it is the wrong answer. The right answer is to say Rule #1: Know your forage. I can't possibly know what fly you should use unless I know the forage your fish use. Figure that out, and you are in business. There are tons and tons of carp fly patterns out there, and they all will work in the right situation. Find out what situation you face...know your forage and then pick one of the myriad of patterns that have been and are being designed for that situation.



Gregg said...

Well said. So saying, my forage in local ponds at this moment are size 22 and smaller midges, they are not forage factories. I may be missing something, larger maybe, but I doubt that.


Christopher Pepe said...

so you want to hang out sometime? I don't get onto the water as much as I'd like and travel a lot so I spend a lot of my scouting time looking at satellite photos. And while I'm happy to catch and release (especially in our polluted carp waters) I really like eating fish. Its been a challenge to find carpy looking water that's low in Hg, PCBs, and the other common ones.

I need to cut my teeth so I have some Willamette and Columbia water identified for exploration. Sauvie Island is a big black box to me. I know to look for flooded fields but have no idea which are actually open to me to fish. I'm pretty confident that I could catch a carp if I ever found one tailing in a place I can get to...

John Montana said...

You are in the right spots chrstopher. The big c is pretty clean if you get away from pdx just a few miles and every single beginning carper should spend time I. Sauvie island. Head out to sauvie this spring when it floods. Driver along either road and just stop and look at the flooded fields etc that you pass. The carp move around but you will see them splashing or see nervous water. Pretty easy to find them I. The spring on sauvie. Great area to explore!

Gregg said...

I can't help but ask John, does your section have tidal influence? It sure seems to have the forage. I wonder if away from the slower fly waters if their forage is different any. It interests me, your water, having driven by it twice with an anglers eye years ago.


Carp Aficionado said...

The number one question I get about carping is fly selection. A lot of these folks are surprised when I pull out a box of nymphs and soft hackles. But that's what works well on a lot of the stillwaters around here. Could not agree more - forage is the key.

Michael said...

Here in holland e few bloggers stopped blogging because of the prblem with question one. They couldn't post pictures anymore becauso of the spot reccognition! People would simply chase the place on the picture.
About the bait, i think you are right. Not only the bait but also the behavour of the fish is key and should be learnd. Experiance and dare are quite importent if you would ask me. Don't be affraid of blanking and catching nothing, addapt and ceep trying until it is right.
Good text John.


Empowered Wellness LLP said...

Know your forage or show them the LOD. Either one works.

Boss said...

It is always a pleasure read your posts! Thanks!

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