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Part 1 – Fly Fishing Carp: Sight Fishing Presentation

Blog by: David Coulson , CO 2/22/2017
Part of Series: Warmwater Fly Fishing
The following is a three part piece on blind casting flies to carp.  Part one touches on sight fishing, part two address how to locate carp, and part three, my approach to blind casting to carp.

Many fly fishers, primarily trout fishers, have found carp to be a worthy adversary.  It’s an easy transition.  Sight fishing for common carp allows the angler to use the same tackle as trout, including flies. Plus, on the rare occasion the fish honors them with a take, carp are challenging to land.  

While sight fishing is rewarding, the reality is blind casting is often more productive.  This is true for most species. However when it comes to common carp, many fly fishers seem to believe that sight fishing is the only way you can successfully fish for them.  Nothing is further from the truth.  While blind casting for carp isn’t as visually stimulating as sight fishing, once you figure how to do it, it’s far more productive.  

Keep in mind common carp are among the most intelligent freshwater fish.  They’re nowhere as intelligent as us, mammals, birds, or reptiles. However, if trout and bass challenge you, carp may baffle you. This I can guarantee, learn to catch carp consistently and other species won’t be near as daunting.  

I believe one for the reasons many fly fishers struggle catching carp is they fish for them like trout.  Unlike trout or bass, carp seem to know that their meals don’t fall from heaven.  Drop a fly on their nose like you would a bass or trout and they’re just as likely as not to give you the fin and swim off. Whereas a trout or bass in a similar situation will most often eat your offering. 

Making matters worse, most anglers assume the refusal was due to their choice of pattern, so they change flies, try again with the same result.  Never once do they give thought to their presentation.  Carp are opportunistic generic feeders. They’ll eat most anything.  A key difference in carp feeding behavior is they seek out their meal and don’t wait for it to come to them.  Consequently, I believe they tend to reject anything that they don’t have to “chase” down, or maybe a more apt description is meander over and eat it. 

So when I sight fish carp, I note the feeding path, and then cast just beyond their feeding zone.  When the fish gets close enough to the fly to see it, I give the fly a twitch or short strip. When possible my presentation is such the fly will move away from the carp.  If the fish is feeding, it’ll often respond positively and take the fly.  It took a lot of refusals for me to realize that carp prefer to go to the fly, rather than have the fly come to them.

Like dry fly or top water fishing for trout and bass, sight fishing opportunities for carp are limited.  Yet, given carp’s abundance, fishing opportunities abound and not just for the bait angler. Plus, it should be obvious to everyone that carp get big by feeding frequently, and not just near the surface.  So the question becomes one of how does an angler go about blind fishing for carp?

I’ll address this question in the next two segments.

Blog content © David Coulson

Other Blogs in the Warmwater Fly Fishing Series

Walleye Fly Fishing by M. Snider 09.03.21
A primer on how to go after toothy walleye on the fly. With a sinking line and some clousers, you'll be well on your way to hooking these predators on a noodle rod.
Sonar Exploration to Catch More Shallow Fish by M. Snider 06.19.21
In this blog I explain a bit about my technique of scanning sonar in deeper water around a lake to find and mark congregations of gamefish and baitfish to improve chances of catching fish when casting shallower structure.
Ready For Carp by M. McConnell 03.18.19
Fly fishing for Carp is a blast! Whether you're targeting Common Carp, Grass Carp, or Mirror Carp - these fish are sure to test your fly fishing skills.
Carp on the Fly Resources - Part 4 by T. McInerney 10.14.18
Here's the fourth and last of a few blogs highlighting some great resources to get you into carp on the fly.
Carp on the Fly Resources - Part 3 by T. McInerney 09.24.18
Here's the third of a few blogs highlighting some great resources to get you into carp on the fly.