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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

In this article we are going to look in a little more depth about what makes a good carp fly. There is of course no one set of absolute rules to this but I hope I can share some insight into what has worked for me in my own experience, and give you a head start on what to look or aim for when buying or indeed creating your own patterns to try if you are also a fly-tier.


The author with a wild carp caught on a black woolly bugger

As with most species, natural prey items are the best place to start when deciding what bait or lure to use. In bass fishing for example this had led to the huge variety of plastic worms, shad imitating crankbaits and froggy topwater baits. Carp of course love to root around primarily on or near the bottom where they pick up small crayfish, nymphs and bugs such as stoneflies, mayflies, dragonflies and other creatures such as leeches and worms. Not surprising then, most of the popular patterns in use mimic one or more of these in some way. Some are very accurately detailed to only represent one food item, such as crayfish patterns, going so far as to represent little claws so the profile is as close as possible to real thing. At the other end of this realism scale are floating patterns made out of clipped deer hair that while not truly accurate are used to mimic floating bread or dog biscuits for surface feeders. Others are more generalistic and hope to offer a number of enticing features to make a fly look 'real' and alive even if does not look like anything that naturally occurs. This might include a tail made of fibers that undulate in the water and at the moment there is a real interest in including rubber legs to the body of flies which also flex and move as the fly is worked back towards you.

A selection of carp flies inclusing the authors favourite 'Beadhead Aggravator' on the far right.

Color is also a key factor for me. I believe the more natural and muted colors such as the browns, blacks, greens and even grays are generally more successful than unnatural colors, probably due to the cautious nature of the carp, especially in hard fished waters. The other important factor is some weight to the fly in order to get it down to feeding fish. This can be in the form of weighted eyes or perhaps some wire built into the body of the fly and should be noticeable if held in the hand. Because so much fly-fishing for carp is by sight, when you cast to a fish you need the fly to drop quickly into position, yet without so much splash as to spook the fish. Finally, having a variety of sizes of flies is always useful. If in doubt I tend to choose a smaller size tied on size 8, 10 or 12 hooks, than those on bigger ones. However, there are those times when carp may be feeding on a certain size of crayfish perhaps when you'll be glad to have a size 2 or 4 or if the fish are big enough even something larger!

A very good book on fly-fishing for carp which is well worth searching out is "Carp on the Fly" by Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman. This excellent manual is a great reference on all things carpy has a good section on recommended carp flies with some pictures too. The good news is that the major fly-fishing suppliers are slowly starting to recognize the surge in interest in carp and are bringing out their own selections of carp flies as I mentioned in a previous column. These are usually a good buy if you are just starting out as it gives you a selection and allows you to find your own favorites. As for me, I have 3 or 4 patterns that regularly work for me that I can share.


Already a successful trout fly - the 'San Juan Worm' imitates bloodworms and carp love them!

The first is a Black Woolly Bugger, an interesting name for an all-purpose fly that is indeed black and catches pretty much anything that swims in freshwater. Second is the San Juan Worm and is a red worm that mimics the larval stage of the midge. It is a very basic pattern but fished slowly or even left completely still can be deadly in the right conditions. Thirdly I have had a lot of success this last year with a pattern called the Beadhead Aggravator. It sort of looks like a long brown nymph that would crawl along the bottom, with little white wing cases and a long flowing tail as I recommended earlier. For topwater I also recently received some clipped deer-hair dog-biscuit and bread imitations that are fun to cast to surface feeding fish, or mixed in among a little floating chum to get them going. The first three mentioned are all great trout flies also so will pull double duty for you if need be.

So have a look around the local fly-shops, search online and start stocking up that fly box and I'll see you back here next time for more 'carp on the fly'.

Until then….tight lines,


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