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'Carp on the Fly' with Paul Sharman

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'Carp on the Fly' with Paul Sharman 'Carp on the Fly' with Paul Sharman

So last time we got you all set up with your new fly-fishing tackle, now you just need to know how to use it right! Well, let me start off by saying that 30 years of bad habits and a singular lack of any formal casting lessons under my belt do not necessarily make me the best person to try to teach you how to cast like the guys and girls you see all backlit and shown in slow-motion in the movies and the more artsy television fishing programs. Still I can at least get a fly generally to go where I want it to, and now and then I even manage to catch one of the less intelligent fish in a school. Perhaps they are strangely attracted by all the commotion of flailing arms, tangled heaps of fly lines and flies dropping like bricks into their domain. 

Angler Scott Donaghe targets some carp in shallow water. Photo by Paul Sharman.

Luckily for you there are plenty of experts out there who are ready and willing to show you the basics (and beyond), which despite popular opinion, will not take long to master enabling you to get out on the water in no time. In the UK you can not really go wrong by starting at the Game Angling Instructors website at GAIA who list all their accredited instructors who are spread far and wide over the country. In the USA the Federation of Fly Fishers, which is a highly respected national body that covers all aspects of fly-fishing, runs certification programs for fly-casting instructors. You can find a list of all their accredited instructors nationwide here.

It really does make a world of difference having someone show you what to do when you are starting out, and just as my father taught me the basics, there are other non-professionals out there who are just as happy to take a novice under their wing. The basic casting stroke is the same whether you are fishing trout, carp or tarpon so perhaps you already know a fly-fisher who you can persuade to show you the ropes. Other good options are to find out about your local fly-fishing club who nearly all have casting sessions laid on at various times, as do most good fly-fishing stores who can also tell you about the local clubs in your area. For example in the USA my old local club, the San Diego Fly-Fishers, had a regular Sunday morning fly-casting session at one of the local lakes in town which is completely free and open to anyone who wants to stop by. They even persuaded the city to let us anglers off of paying the lake fee seeing as we are only casting pieces of wool and so not likely to actually catch anything - not even each other! In the UK the Salmon and Trout Association have local branches designed to help new fly-fishers develop their skills also and are well worth joining.

A black woolly bugger proved the downfall of this carp caught by the author. Photo by Paul Sharman.

Video can be a useful aid, especially if you already have an idea of the basics. Some of the line manufacturers include a DVD with casting tips such as Jim Teeny of Teeny Lines. He has also put them up on his website where you can find them at www.jimteeny.com at the end of the "Trips and Tips" page. They are definitely worth a look, especially once you are beginning to practice which is another easy thing to do. All you need is a large open area such as the local park and as mentioned above, do make sure you tie on just a short length of wool rather than a fly to avoid having to chase down the small child or dog you managed to snag on a backcast, and avoid the wrath of the neighborhood. Instead you will probably just be labeled as the local kook and field the usual "caught anything yet?" questions from smirking kids and adults alike. Not having to worry about such silly things as fish, trees and other hazards does let you concentrate on your casting though and allow you to experiment. If you are also a golfer then you already know about practicing your swing and this really is not much different and will pay dividends in the long run.

Once you start throwing an actual fly at the end of your line please do yourself a favor if you are not a spectacle wearer and always put on some sunglasses, and watch for anyone walking behind you. There is not much worse than you or a stranger getting an extreme close-up of your favorite carp bug!

If you are a complete beginner to fly-fishing which this series has so far been aimed at primarily, then getting past this phase means you are ready to go hit the water and chase some fish. Welcome to the cause, otherwise know as "the sickness"! Over the next few articles we will start to look at where best to find carp if you are throwing a fly, the best fly patterns to use and how to fish them. We'd love to hear from you about your first impressions of fly-fishing and/or carp on the fly and how you get on so please drop us a line and tell us your story. Oh yeah - we love pictures too!!!

Tight lines until next time,



Watch out for the Fish & Fly video course on casting coming later this year with guru Charles Jardine! Join up and watch it for free when it launches.

This series was originally written for the American Carp Society. Check them out!

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