Friday, July 29, 2011

Denver Trout Unlimited Carp Panel

As a lead in to the Carp Slam DTU had a panel of experts give a session on fly fishing for carp at their monthly meeting this Tuesday.  Many fly-carpin experts have come by their knowledge slowly and painfully.  It is not always easy to share and honestly it isn’t always fair to even expect them to.  Given this natural reluctance the panelists did a great job and it was fun and I feel extremely lucky to live in an area with such a vibrant carpin community.  The panel was: 
  • Michael Gracie (Blogger at, part time at Trouts fly shop)
  • David Luna (2010 Carp Slam champ x 2, part time at Discount Fishing Tackle)
  • Barry Reynolds (Author of “Carp On The Fly”, ROSS rep, )
  • Tim Emery (From, radio and podcast personality)
  • Will Rice (Contributing editor at Drake Magazine.)
I was too busy listening to take notes and too shy to whip out my camera and record so I can’t quote directly.  I can paraphrase some of the key themes from memory though.  Some of my own thoughts on these subjects are also included in red:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Summer Grind

Somebody mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was getting spoiled.  That between  the superb carpin at the Columbia and the unusually extraordinary fishing in CO when I got back I would have a hard time adjusting to reality.  The reality is that fly fishing for carp is rarely easy.  It is getting easier every year as my experience grows but there are still times when I have to grind out the fish.

Full summer has arrived to the front range.  I am still catching a fish or two every time out which is satisfying since last year July really handed it to me, but the numbers are way down and so is the average size.

My buddy Mike managed to grind out this one last weekend on a small black nymph.  We only had about 5 or 6 shots in a couple of hours but managed one apiece. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Ugly Mug

John Montana from Carp On The Fly wrote an article about the crazy flood-level fly-carpin on the Columbia River this year in the recent USCARPRO on-line magazine.  Great story with some wonderful pictures, go check it out.  There are even a couple of  images of yours truly (on pages 112-115).  Got me from the good side and everything.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

CARPTORIOUS: Chasing Carp Tails

A couple of weeks ago something magical happened.  In what I will think of as the "Great Carp Bubble of 2011" all the carp in a local lake went absolutely, completely and totally on the feed.  Every second I was there in the last two weeks there were tailing fish wherever you cared to look.  On Friday this bubble culminated in a day where there was literally a half mile of shoreline with a tailing fish every 5 feet or so. 

Needless to say I did pretty good.  So good that I just had to take a break from shattering any and all personal records to capture some carp tail.  Enjoy.

I took my family to this lake on Saturday.  Armed with some bait and bravado I claimed there was no way in hell they would not catch fish this time.  As luck would have it the bubble seemed to have burst in the last 24 hours and the fishing was slow.  As we where packing up to leave I heard my wife utter calmly "There goes my pole".  This feisty little guy had yanked it in and was calmly swimming away.  I had to get a little wet before handing her the pole, but here is my wife's first carp!  She was thrilled.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Coaxing Carp On The Drop

I have mentioned catching carp on the drop many times.  I am not sure I have adequately explained what I mean.

Catching huge fish on the strip is hard-on quality cool but it requires a special kind of carp with a certain level of aggression.  Carp with that level of aggression are really only common at certain times of year and in certain parts of the country.  On the other hand there is something about food dropping from the heavens that frequently triggers a strong and visible reaction, even with extremely passive carp. 

What is on the drop? 
The idea is pretty simple really and is hardly worth a long post.  You are aiming to get the fly above the dinner plate and let it drop straight to the bottom in the carp’s field of vision. 

That may be all anybody needs to know, but there are some subtle complexities in the drop presentation. 

Why does it work?:
Are carp really used to food dropping magically from the sky?  The average Musky hunter probably doesn’t really care why the figure 8 triggers a strike.  It just does, and that is pretty cool.  On the same level I barely care why carp find food drifting down from the heavens to be appealing.  What is important to me is that it works on passive carp.  Here in CO we have an abundance of passive carp and something on the order of ¾ of my happiness seems to come on the drop.

What to look for:
If the fish is going to take the fly there will usually be some indication before the fly hits the bottom.  You are looking for any changes in body posture or motion.  A furiously tailing fish that stops suddenly might be spooked, but it could also be leveling off to make a move on the fly.  Likewise when a slowly tailing fish starts tailing furiously it is very likely to be after your fly.  When a still or slowly cruising fish surges forward, well you get the picture.  In clear water you may see the mouth or gill-plates pulsate as the fish sucks in the fly.  All of these changes and many more indicate a take. 

 If the fly reaches the bottom without any visible reaction from the carp either it did not see it or was simply not interested.  You can try and ignite some passion with a twitch, strip or even by jigging the fly but often your best bet is to pull out and try another drop at a slightly different distance and/or orientation to the head.    

Getting in the Zone:
 How you get your fly into the drop varies based on the situation.  If the fish are very close you can simply extend the rod and lower the fly into place.  This is deadly even if it occasionally doesn’t feel like fly fishing.  When they are a little further out you can try a “lob drag and drop” style presentation where you lob-cast the fly past the carp and maneuver the fly into the zone at or near the top of the water column before letting it drop.  At extreme distances you may have to attempt to cast and strip the fly into the zone or even just aim for the magic distance where the fly landing does not scare the carp but they still see it drop. 

Speaking of the Zone: 
The size of the zone is a complicated subject of it’s own but there is no doubt that it often helps to have the fly drop a little to the side of the fishes head instead of directly in front.  I loved this great article "You gotta make em move" from Carp On The Fly which explains it better than I ever could.

Action during the Drop:
I have the most success with a dead drop.  By this I mean that I am not stripping or working the fly at all as the fly drops and the fly is dropping as vertical as possible.  Another option that can be extremely effective is to let the fly drop partially through the column and then just when it seems to have gotten attention give it some slow action with a strip or by lifting the rod.  Sometimes it spooks the carp.  Sometimes you get unlucky and actually pull the fly out of what would otherwise have been a take.  It is worth trying though, because occasionally a carp will react violently to the idea of a recently acquired target trying to escape.  These rare takes can be thunderous. 

On the rise:
A similar technique can result in a take I am thinking of as “on the rise”.  Although I have only gotten it to work about 10 times now, I have a method that occasionally works and has me very excited.  These few have started with a slowly cruising or mildly tailing fish coming directly at me.  I land fly past the carp and slowly drag it forward and a couple of inches to the side of the fish.  As the fly approaches the head I let the fly drop on a slow arc down and past the eye.  Just when the fish seems to have noticed the fly you drag the fly slowly forward just fast enough so that it planes back upward.  If you are really lucky the carp may rise up and grab the rising fly.  Coolest dang thing I have ever seen!    Maybe we will get lucky and Mr P will weigh in because he is reputed to have mastered this or something similar. 

Fly Design:
The drop plays heavily into what I think about when tying carp flies.
1)      Sink Rate.  Your fly can either plummet for the bottom or sink slowly down.  Different water conditions and fish behavior dictates different sink rates.  A high sink rate sometimes triggers extremely aggressive takes from otherwise passive carp when they try and get the fly before it hits bottom.  At other times it seems that a quickly sinking fly is too much work or does not give the carp enough time to acquire the target.
2)      Splash-Down:  Heavy and bulky flies hit the water harder. 
3)      Drop Attitude:  Your fly can either go into a dive bomb or sink relatively flat.  The placement of the weight is important but equally important is the placement of materials and how that affects the distribution of drag on the fly.  For example adding a tail has a tendency to drag that end of the fly up and give a little more of a dive-bomb attitude.   
4)      Flutter:   Some flies flutter and breathe as they drop (carp-stew, soft-hackles) while some (hairs ear nymph) are pretty action free. 
5)      Putting it all together:  The balance between drag, weight, sink rate, flutter and splash down gets complicated and fascinating.  More weight = faster sink but more splash.  More material = slower sink with more splash but more flutter.  Less material = faster sink with less splash but less action on the drop.