When most anglers think about fly fishing, the first thing that comes to mind is trout. Some lucky people have had the opportunity to fish for salmon, and many adventurous fly fishers will have given sea species a go, with bass and mullet usually the targets. Carp fishing on the other hand usually conjures up images of a different type of angler all together. Clad in olive green and with enough gear to open up a small lakeside tackle shop! But there’s another way – and it deserves your attention.
Fly fishing for carp isn’t exactly new, but it’s still a small niche within the angling world. By the end of this article, I hope to persuade even the carpiest carper that it’s worth giving a go at least once.
What equipment do I need?
The best thing about targeting carp with fly tackle is that you can travel light. Leave your bivvy and bed chair at home, because you’ll be spending the day on your feet! Fly fishing for carp only really requires a few bits of kit.
Of course you will need a fly rod. Fortunately if you already have a rod you use for trout fishing, you can certainly use it for carp. If not, my best advice would be to pick up a cheap second hand rod, or look for a budget outfit like this one. Trust me here – budget rods have come a long way and will catch you fish without breaking the bank. They are generally bigger and heavier than the more expensive brands and harder to cast as a result; but the truth is, you don’t need to cast far to catch carp.
You will also need a landing net, some polarising glasses to help spot the fish, and most importantly, a fly.
The best carp flies
When fly fishing for carp, the ‘fly’ is rather different than what you would use for trout. Instead of imitating insects, carp flies are designed to imitate bread! Of course a carp’s natural diet will certainly include a large variety of bait species and it is indeed possible to fly fish for carp with these types of lure. However far and away the most productive technique is fishing on the surface with either bread or dog biscuits.
You can buy carp flies in a variety of colours to resemble whatever bait you’re using on the day – but in my experience it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had carp take a white ‘bread’ fly when using dog biscuits as the floating freebies to draw them in.
It’s also possible to make your own carp fishing fly by using a piece of foam as imitation bread. Make sure the hook point is not obstructed and be sure to take a few spares as you will find durability is not as good as conventional carp flies.
Fly fishing for carp technique
The technique for fly fishing for carp really couldn’t be simpler. Indeed it’s similar to the surface fishing methods you may already be familiar with. The trickiest part is to get the carp feeding on the surface in a particular area. That’s where the bread or dog biscuits come in. Both of these baits have their strengths and weaknesses but, for my money, dog biscuits are the winner here. I could write a whole article about how I came to that conclusion, but the short answer is: carp love both, so use whichever is easier. While bread needs to be ‘processed’ by tearing it into smaller pieces, dog biscuits are ready to just throw straight from the bag. Grab a handful, chuck them in, and wait for the carp to rise.
When the fish are feeding confidently, it’s time to place your fly amongst the freebies and wait for a take. It’s important to get the presentation right to avoid spooking the fish. Ensure the fly is of a similar size to the free baits and make sure it lands on the surface gently – practice makes perfect here. When the fish takes the fly fully, strike firmly upwards to set the hook. It’s as easy as that!
Hints and tips
While a carp can’t really tell the difference between a dog biscuit and your fly by sight, it can certainly taste the difference! When carp are feeding confidently, they will often take baits quickly and worry about the consequences later. However carp are fickle creatures, and sometimes they are much more cautious. On many occasions I’ve watched fish mouth and taste a dog biscuit for a prolonged period before deciding to eat it. When they are feeding like this, they tend to notice the fly isn’t the same and refuse to take it. My top tip is to use an oil based groundbait additive to give your fly some flavour! Almost any will work, so just use what is available. Simply dip the fly into the attractant and use it as normal. The carp find it irresistible and it will turn even the most finicky feeders into assertive eaters!
When the sun is shining, there’s nothing better than grabbing your fly rod and a bag of pedigree chum for a day of carp fishing. Don’t be surprised if you land more fish than the boilie botherer on the other bank!