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Part 2 – Fly Fishing Carp: Finding Carp You Can’t See

Blog by: David Coulson 2/23/2017
When it comes to blind fishing for any species, you can just walk up to the water’s edge and start fishing.  On occasion that’ll produce fish, but you’re going to improve your odds by seeking out areas were the fish are concentrated and, hopefully, actively feeding. 

When looking for carp, there are a number of things to keep in mind.  First, they are a schooling fish. It’s rare to locate a solo carp.  Spot one and it’s highly likely others will be nearby. Second, while they do feed off the surface, I believe most of the time they feed near the bottom and typically in shallow water, under ten feet.  Third, carp happily feed on what’s readily available and they’re not averse to rooting around to obtain a meal.  Be on the lookout for areas of discolored, muddy water, especially in shallow water. Any time I see changes in water color, especially from stained to clearer water, I’m thinking carp.  Especially when other factors, such as wind or current, aren’t present.  Also, if there are mud “clouds” or “puffs” associated with the stained water, that’s a good indication of feeding fish.  Fourth, when wading or boating areas suspected to hold fish, be on the lookout for puffs of mud caused by spooked fish.  If you’re spooking fish, back off and fish the area. 

Aside from directly spotting fish or the mud puffs they create, pay close attention to other environmental factors.  Carp are comfortable over a wide temperature range. In the spring they have a strong preference for warmer waters and actively seek them out.  Monitor water temperatures and concentrate on areas with the warmest temperatures even if you don’t see fish. Northern shallow coves with muddy bottoms and stained water are great places to look for carp shortly after ice off. Late summer when the waters are hot, look for spots with cooler water temperatures, shaded areas, such as under trees, and waters with higher oxygen content, such as springs, inlets, and windblown shorelines.  It’s not uncommon to find fish stacked up in these locations.

Be on the watch for locations where food is concentrated.  One obvious example would be in the spring when cottonwood seeds are in the air and covering the water.  These often get “pooled” on the surface and carp are drawn to them.  Any windblown shoreline, especially riprap, rocky shores, and dam faces are apt to hold fish, especially during the summer and fall. See a foam line, check it out. Heavily vegetated shorelines with a breeze onto the lake can result in fruits and/or insects getting blown into the water, attracting carp.

Remember that conditions conducive to other species feeding, be they fish or birds, are good areas to seek out carp.  The only downside to fishing for carp in these situations is the “game” fish are frequently more aggressive than the carp. No, complaints as catching is fun no matter what’s biting.

In addition to observing with your eyes, listen.  Carp typically spawn in the spring, but can spawn throughout the summer.  They prefer to spawn in shallow water, broadcasting their eggs over vegetation. Several males will pursue and bump a ripe female prompting her to release her eggs. Often all this thrashing can be heard from some distance. 

In addition to spawn, carp often jump for no obvious reason, and the splash can be heard/seen for some distance. While fishing for jumping carp, as in near the surface, tends to be a fool’s errand, they do show areas where carp are present. Fishing the bottom in the vicinity of jumpers often productive.

These are but some of the approaches that can be taken to locating carp.  No matter the approach, blind casting in areas where fish are present greatly increases you chances of success.  That may seem like a “duh” but I’m always amazed how many overlook that simple truism.
In the next installment, I’ll cover my fly fishing presentation techniques blind casting for carp.

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
bron, CO   2/24/2017 6:25:17 AM
Sometimes you can see them moving the cattails too. Good stuff Dave!
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   2/24/2017 9:37:34 AM
Good point on the cattails and other vegetation. Getting them out of there is a chore, but often there will be fish cruising to the outside.
Steelhead, CO   2/24/2017 10:25:39 AM
my understanding/theory/rumor of jumping carp is similar to spawning/jumping female trout. they are attempting to break the egg sack loose to better release eggs. JMO.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   2/24/2017 10:31:40 AM
You could be right that one reason carp jump is they are trying to break the egg sack loose. The only thing is I see them jump all year, including last weekend in 48 degree water. While they can and do spawn multiple times a year in some waters, I have to believe there may be other reason they roll/jump. What I do know from experience, fishing near surface around jumpers rarely works, but I have had success bouncing flies off the bottom in the areas they're jumping.