By Vic Attardo
Under the present circumstances I didn’t want to drive more than ten miles from my house.
So I began to think about that little lake on the county line, a lake I don’t care much for, primarily, because the fishin’ isn’t so good. Or at least it doesn’t appeal to me.
But what this 25-acre over-grown dark-green-in-summer lake has plenty of is carp.
Smut suckers we called them as kids.
With those orange-pink rindy lips beneath a bottom, vacuum feeding mouth, and dull olive- gray body plating for scales, and the sociological habit of over-populating themselves to the detriment of gamier habitat – the fishy equivalent of modern man – they aren’t my favorite swimmer.
But these are strange times, and I’d been itching for a piscatorial fight.
To give some sport to the thing I figured I’ve have at ‘em with a fly-rod. Not that I was seeking a fair chance for the squinty-eyed things, I just wanted a stouter contest.
Now I offer carp fishing with a fly-rod not just as a way to relieve boredom but as a way to get your rod bent hard, as the fight is well worth the pursuit.
Years ago, before I began my second career as a crotchety old man, people would ask me how to catch carp with a fly-rod. I never answered them. I didn’t want to be associated with carp.
Now, under present COVID circumstances, I suppose the telling is worth it.
The fly is actually the mystery element in this.
Right about now with the mulberries popping on the mulberry trees is a great time to make the best fly.
Begin by making an egg fly with a cottony looking material. I string up two or three 8 mm craft shop pom-poms on mono then lash the mono to the top of the hook shank. It looks like an egg cluster. Color doesn’t matter because you’re going to stain them anyway.
For a carp, you want a bronzed sproat style fly hook, size 8 or 10 will do, Mustad 3906B is good.
In the meantime you’ve gone to your semi-secret purple mulberry tree, or the farm stand with boxes of fresh blueberries. Using a small plastic container with a lid, put in a couple of egg flies into a few tablespoons of semi-crushed berries and refrigerate for two days, or thereabouts. The stain and smell soaks through. I added a few pinches of sugar once and that worked nicely as well.
If you can’t obtain berries there’s another carp fly I like.
Take a chartreuse bass spinner bait and cut a couple of strands from the skirt. Lash one strand to the top of the sproat hook, winding thread from fore to aft. You’re aiming for an inch worm appearance so when you finish the fly leave some of the strand hanging over the eye and the bend. This is also a great trout fly.
The advantage of this strand fly is that even lying still, the loose ends are going to jiggle.
You don’t have to be specific with the fly-rod used. I’ve caught medium size carp with a 5 weight and I’ve used an 8 weight for the cow size carp found in some flows. In the St. Lawrence River, I accidentally hooked a 20-pound behemoth while fishing for smallmouths and this fish took me some 30 minutes to corral. I also like the 8 weight on lakes where I suspect I’ll be pulling the carp into a deep net.
For leaders I prefer a 4X leader and tippet but I’ve gone with 0X while purposely fishing for some Delaware River giants. For leaders, a 10-footer is a nice length.
Every angler has probably seen carp spook. They get a notion and bolt. That makes presentation on these fish a real challenge.
For starters you don’t want them seeing you. When wading or shore-fishing put something between you and the fish, like a tree or some brush, or be far enough way that they don’t see your movements. On a boat deck I stay low, kneeling usually. Even then they might spook.
When laying the fly-line on the surface, it can’t be slapped down. In fact if a carp grouping is within 10 feet of where you’re planning to put your fly, don’t cast. Wait. I like to deliver the fly when the fish are some 10 yards away and coming toward my designated place. Also I don’t false cast. One thrust and that’s it.
Using the fly-rod, I like fishing shallow bottoms. No more than three or four feet. To avoid even a pin-prick of commotion, I’m not using a split shot or any weight. Just let the fly sink.
The next biggest consideration is whether to move your fly. With the two patterns I suggest, you don’t need to. Guys using nymphs tell me they twitch the fly but I’m leery of that because carp will spook at even the shimmer of a mono leader.
The real fun begins when carp get close to the fly. Restrain yourself from peeking around from cover to see what’s happening. If a carp picks up the fly you’ll soon know it. Many times the hook’s prick will cause a bolt; sometimes without the stab the fish will just move away slowly. When you see the line move off, set the hook hard.
For the rest, I bet you know what to do.