As I approached the bank of the pond for the first time this Spring, I immediately saw an image I had not seen in quite some time. A long dark shadow prowled a few feet off shore obscured by turbid water and freshly disturbed detritus. I hunkered down and tied on some fresh 4x and paired it with a size 14 glo bug. When I arose, the fish was nowhere to be found but I knew it would only be a short time before I saw him again. That moment came fifty yards down the bank. Fresh mud billowed from the depths and my eyes strained for any sign of the carp. As my contacts began drying, I finally remembered to blink. Amidst the plume, a dark shadow lurched forward. A flick of sixteen feet of leader and my fly slowly descended at the carp’s ten o’clock. As the fly approached the zone, the shadow shifted 45 degrees to the fly and moved forward. The carp paused and I set the hook into my first respectable carp of the season…
Clouds passed overhead ruining my view of the water and any chance I had of seeing a cruising fish. I walked the perimeter looking for any signs. At the intake of the pond, a carp ascending in the column and hovered precariously near the surface. I clipped off the weighted fly I had on and tied on a weightless soft hackle pattern, which is simply thread and schlappen on a hook. At forty feet, the cast challenged my accuracy. I opted for the drag and drop technique, casting ahead and slightly passed my target. The fly landed with a whimper and I slowly raised my rod tip to bring it into the zone. I dropped the fly directly into the view of the heavily shouldered fish. The fly sank and the carp lurched downwards in the direction of the fly, sucking it in before it even got close to the bottom.
The water in the canal was high and finally clearing from early spring rains. The temperature was unseasonably in the forties and the wind cut through my clothing sending chills down my spine. I was hunkered down on the bank behind the remnants of a bush that winter wasn’t kind to. A large carp was circling in the depths of the main channel occasionally sticking his head deep into the mud to feed. Five good presentations were made directly into his feeding lane and all were ignored. One drift, had the small glo bug drifting directly into his face at mouth level. The carp literally blew the fly away from his face with an expulsion of water. A little frustrated, I retreated from the bush and crawled five more yards the bank to change my presentation angle. Even though I was already casting down and across, kicking a mend, and letting the fly free fall, there was still a minuscule amount of drag pressing on four feet of 4x and a glo bug that the carp wanted nothing to do with.
By this time, I knew the carp’s route so I casted well ahead of the fish as he began his approach. I kicked a large upstream mend and stacked some line for the drift. The fly started its descent looking right on line as the carp creeped closer. I moved any remaining belly out of my fly line changing the drift ever so slightly. This time was different. The carp’s body language changed and he angled towards the fly sucking it in as it dead drifted a few inches from the bottom.
April showers bring May flowers. The last weekend in April produced several inches of rain in the Mid-Atlantic region causing extensive flooding that closed a few school districts. When the rain began on the new moon, I had to go fishing and try and catch a fish before the floods changed everything. I arrived after work to a slight drizzle. As the evening progressed, it began to downpour. On top of the rain, the wind was brutal, making an already difficult outing much more difficult. I spent two hours walking in the rain, getting soaked, with only a few half chances to show for my efforts. I even started walking back to my car twice before returning.
The moment came when I discerned muddy water from muddy carp water and correctly guessed at the direction the carp was facing three feet down in the mud. I led the bubbling mud by a few feet, waited for my fly to sink down, and then watched the mud. As the rate of ascension decreased I knew the carp had picked his head out of the bottom. I waited a few seconds for him to zero in on my fly before a short strip set revealed a nice slab of gold on the end of my line.
People always ask us how to catch carp on the fly. It seems odd responding to a lot of these questions because every single carping experience is different. The list of variables is long but it mostly boils down to the activity of the fish at that moment in time. Read the fish, get into position, and give him a chance to eat your fly. It may take a long time to catch your first carp on fly, but the more you practice, the more efficient you will become.