The if's but's why's and how's..
Amongst anglers, particularly fly anglers, carp are often a contentious topic. Outside of pay ponds in the UK where they are fed for maximum growth and duely worshipped as formidable game, or conversely admired from afar within asia inspired landscape features, where gorgeous ornamentals live on display. (Not to be confused with the jumping Asian Carp currently plaguing many waters in the southern US) The humble common carp is often viewed as an invasive menace who clouds otherwise clear water with plumes of mud while vaccuming the bottom clean of tiny prawns, clams, roe, and nymphs thereby competing with and crowding out more desireable "native" species. The term native itself is a hot potato which I have no specific qualification nor desire to mash today, so we'll just leave that one alone.
Depending on which body of evidence one examines for a given eco system, the negative impact of introduced carp may range from disastrous to negligeable. While in other waters they have proven beneficial. Again, not my intention to open a pandoras box of love/hate debate. Love 'em or hate 'em, carp are here to stay. Going forward this blog will endeavor to sidestep carp politics, focussing more on the natural beauty, adaptability, and unique angling challenge that these fat golden inland bonefish provide. Particularly for the city bound angler.
A quick googling of the phrase "carp on fly" will turn up numerous sites, blogs, pages showcasing carp as the preferred target species of a new generation of mostly urban fly anglers. In recent years these mud marlin as they are occasionally referred have attracted somewhat of a cult following.
Numerous fly carping tournaments have sprung up around the globe, and a few anglers have gained fame on social media for their prowess in consistently landing trophy carp, (John Montana, Dan Frasier) Some have begun building specialized flats style watercraft for enhanced access to carp inhabited waters. Big brands such as Rio have developed specialized carp specific fly lines and hooks. Inovative fly tyers are inventing, and refining innumerable carp fly patterns, with several recent (excellent) books on the subject.
My personal relationship with carp is one of fascination, frustration, and admiration. A lifelong conventional angler it was carp not trout that inspired me to pick up a flyrod.
When I was just a wee tot, my father eager to display his successes as a small businessman, had installed an in ground jacuzzi in the back yard. behind the jacuzzi was a bit of tropical landscsping with a water feature at the center consisting of a shallow kidney shaped coi pond and waterfall. I remember visiting the "fish lady" a few towns over. Likely to the chagrin of the neighbors, her backyard had been converted into a koi raising facility. We selected half a dozen attractive fish to start and nervously introduced them into our pond. They thrived.
Around the age of eight or nine I began introducing channel catfish to the pond. My brother and I would fish them out of local golf course ponds with chunks of hotdog for bait. My catfish though grey and less attractive seemed to cohabitate well enough with the Coi. They wolfed down coi pellets from the surface with veracity and grew at an alarming rate.
One lazy summer day, I was inspired to fish one of my catfish from our pond for sport. Needless to say that didn't go very well. As soon as I dropped a line in the water my fathers most prized 80 cm orange calico ornamental inhaled my bait. I struggled to wrestle the thrashing fish from the pond frantic to free it before anyone saw me. The splash and commotion drew the attention of my father who had been sipping cocktails inside the house. He stormed into the backyard to investigate, snatched the bent rod for my hand, landed and removed the hook from the fishes upper lip. He was angry, near hostile. Yet he understood the impetus for my mishief. he looked me straight in the in the eye with palpable sadness and disappointment in his voice. "You hurt him.."
That experience, those words really stuck with me. From then on I was far more careful with the fish that I caught at the local pond, eventually becoming an almost entirely catch and release angler. Which I still am to this day. There's absolutely nothing wrong with bringing the odd fish home from dinner, particularly from a healthy abundant fishery, but there is simply no joy in killing what are to me very beautiful creatures who provide a tremendous amount of sport, healing, recreation.
My recent angling endeavors are born more out of compulsion and therapeutic necessity than casual pasttime. The healing gurgle of gently flowing water. The meditative, primal tension of stalking fish, criscendoing with a firm hookset and often protracted tug o' war offer sorely needed respite from the rigor and stresses of my otherwise tension filled metropolitan lifestyle.
I'm not interested in limiting my fishing to occasional outings. My desire to hit the water is strong. I NEED to fish.. Often. Weather permitting, I hit the water once or twice a week year round. With foreign fishing trips on my calender every couple/few months. I fully believe my time on the water directly translates to a better attitude and enhanced productivity at work. My wife will certainly attest, it makes me a more joyfull, patient and supportive companion. So.. idly waiting months on end for a specific species to come into season, particularly a species that dwells well beyond the reach of public transport, is not an option. I have a passion for adventure travel in pursuit of exotic species in foreign lands, but like so many of us, on the week to week I am limited by what my local waters have to offer. What my local waters have to offer is mostly warmwater species; seabass, dace, smallmouth bass, catfish, barbel, snakehead, and carp. Lots, and lots, of carp!
In future posts I will share what I have learned and do my best to demystify fly carping for both the novice and the seasoned angler. I will cover appropriate gear and the flies that I have found to be most effective. As well as how to identify catchable "player" and more difficult "non-player" carp that are best avoided. How to present the fly to increase your odds of hook up in a variety of situations. How to properly play handle and release these much maligned yet highly rewarding often trophy size fish.