In my conclusion to Carp on the Fly Part 1, I will discuss in detail approaching and presenting flies to “clooping” or “surface” feeding carp, but my focus will be on presentations for “mudding” or “rooting” carp and I will share my most recent experience with these aggressively feeding fish.
How many times have we all said “one more cast”? Well recently after a fairly successful outing where I took a ten pound carp, a eighteen pound carp, and two knuckle busting, backing exposing fights that ended in fly, leader, and fish separation. I found myself walking back to the car wondering what if. Maybe one more cast was in order as my fishing partner for the day and I had seen fish in the high twenties and low thirty pound range rooting along this particular shoreline during the course of the afternoon.
It was on this “last cast” that I truly hooked up with a big fish! As I walked the shoreline and approached the parking lot I noticed several “muddy” areas along the lakes adjacent edge. Pausing for a moment I could see fresh mud being stirred up but other than that no visible signs that there were carp present! Knowing that there had to be fish working in the area I stripped out some fly line and cast my Clouser Swimming Nymph beyond the muddied area and allowed it to sink towards the bottom.
As I slowly stripped the fly back through the muddied water I felt a slight bump and then the line came tight! First lesson for those who have not fished for carp in this manner, keep your rod tip at the waters level or just slightly below the surface. This allows you to maintain constant contact with line, leader, and ultimately the fly allowing you to feel the slightest bump or any change from a normal retrieve. Remember carp typically will not charge your fly or rip your arm from its socket with their take. Carp are very subtle in their takes under most circumstances and a tight line is required to detect these takes!
Using a slip strike I raised the rod tip and held on for the ride of my life. The fish that had remained unseen to this point made off for the middle of the lake and I soon found myself more than a hundred yards deep into my backing! Carp are one of the few fish I find in freshwater that will routinely take you deep into your backing! Using only four pound tippet (to allow the fly to sink quicker) I started to wonder whether I would ever see how big this carp might be!
After more than fifteen minutes the fish neared and I caught my first glimpse of the beast. A short time later, a couple of quick measurements for length and girth and a Kodak moment, the fish was revived and released back into the water. The carp taped out at thirty-seven inches with a twenty-two inch girth and nudged the thirty pound mark! For the first time in a long while one last cast paid off!
Rooting or mudding carp are some of the most approachable (they don’t spook as easily as tailing carp in skinny clear water) carp you can put your fly in front of. Additionally these carp are aggressive feeders and while it may take numerous cast to get the fly in front of a fish, you will be blind casting, the pay off comes in the form of aggressive carp for those patient enough to thoroughly cover the muddied area.
I focus my attention in these areas on newly disturbed muddy water which tends to be darker in coloration than areas that had been disturbed previously! You may also actually see some movement from the mud and sediment if a carp is actively feeding in the area. I always look for and cast through these areas first. When I am unable to locate fresh mud to target I start dissecting the muddied area from the outside edges in making sure I cover the entire mud cloud completely before moving on.
Many times you will also be able to determine the direction the fish are working and be able to locate a leading edge. If the wind is not pushing the water to hard you can locate this leading ledge by looking for the narrowest part of the muddy water. When the carp are rooting and mudding the muddied water makes it way towards the surface and then slowly fans out behind them. By learning how to locate and identify this leading edge you will be able to pinpoint where the carp are located within the mud and what direction they are heading.
My favorite flies for mudding and rooting carp are heavily weighted. These flies need to get to the bottom quickly and stay there, as we slowly crawl the fly back. My top producing fly in this situation is a rusty brown Clouser Swimming Nymph tied on a size six, 2X long hook with about fifteen wraps of .020 wire for weight. Carp take this fly for a wide variety of different things (which is why this fly is so effective) but day in and day out I believe they mistake it for a small crayfish.
The other fly that produces for me regularly is an orange Whitlock’s Near-N-Nuff Crayfish. This fly once again is heavily weighted and gets down to the fish quickly and stays there! Small molting crayfish are one the carps favorite prey items and feed on them whenever they find them. Remember to fish these flies slowly and on a tight line and hang on for the ride of your life!
Now that we have discussed mudding and rooting carp lets take a quick look at “clooping” carp! The British coined the term “clooping” for surface feeding carp. When large numbers of these fish are on the surface sucking small insects, seeds, and other debris they create a clooping type noise that can be clearly heard from anglers along the shores.
Two things to know about clooping carp, first is the fact that they can be extremely spooky. Precise, delicate presentations are often necessary. Secondly their path of travel is highly erratic making predicting their direction of movement difficult at times!
My favorite time to cast to clooping carp is during the seed fall which gives a whole new meaning to matching the hatch. In late spring several of the ponds I frequent have Elmwood trees and during the spring seed fall the carp will absolutely gorge themselves on these tasty morsels! I also find excellent top water action during the cottonwood seed fall as well.
Clooping carp presentations can and will run from short twenty foot cast when the carp are milling about the shoreline to seventy to eighty foot cast when the wind or summer breeze pushes the floating seeds further out into the lake. Leaders should range from nine to twelve feet and run from 5X to 3X on the tippet! Easy on the hook set and don’t pull a Jimmy Houston and try to jerk a fish from the water. A simple slip strike works best especially while trying to protect light tippets against big fish.
One last thing, you should try to intercept the carp by predicting their movements. Lead the fish. Don’t put the fly right on top of them! This will require multiple casts, but the take and fight will well be worth the effort! Sometimes you will have to strip the fly slightly to get it directly inline with an oncoming clooper, but do so softly so as to not spook the fish!
As you can see there is a method to the madness! Carp like any other gamefish require some thought process and planning to take on a regular basis. Do your homework, study and understand the fish, observe before you cast, use the right presentation for the right behavior and you will be well on your way to catching carp on a consistent basis and in for the fight of your life.
© 2023 Barry Reynolds
About the author, Barry Reynolds:
Barry Reynolds is credited as one of the leading warmwater anglers in the sport of fly fishing. An author, TV and video personality, professional guide, and teacher, Barry has propelled the sport of fly fishing into new realms like no other. He has dedicated his fishing life to species such as carp, pike, bass, walleye, wiper and numerous saltwater species. He has authored/co-authored several books and produced DVD’s about catching these “alternate” species on the fly rod. Barry is a regular in speaking series and on seminar circuits and is sponsored by Ross Reels and Ross Worldwide, Rio Fly Lines, Smith Action Optics, Simms, and Umpqua Feather Merchants.