Fulling Mill ambassador and fly fishing guide, Phil Ratcliffe gives us an insight to his Carp Fly Fishing Tactics.
We anglers are very much reliant on the great British weather, it, without doubt, gives us the opportunity to conjure up the excuses for a poor fishing day – “It’s far too hot, the river is really low, this muggy weather has put them off the feed, last night’s rain has pushed the river up and is coloured”, sound familiar? I’m sure it does. Over the past few years coinciding with hot summer months when the rivers and Stillwater’s have been out of sorts, my attention has turned to fly fishing for carp.
Carp are high on the agenda for the coarse angler and has somewhat been overlooked by the fly brigade. Many commercial fisheries are available with plentiful stocks of carp, not all, however, welcome the fly enthusiast. Be sure before embarking on your time on the water that you have the fishery permission not only to use fly gear but the use of floating baits, yes baits are allowed.
Before I come onto “baits” and why the purist fly angler may shirk at such a suggestion, the tackle used is worth clarifying. If you are familiar with the water and the potential size of your quarry, nothing in excess of double figures then your standard 9ft #6 Stillwater setup with a floating line would suffice. I have however come unstuck in the past and tackled big fish on light gear, this doesn’t bode too well for the fish welfare nor if you wish to keep your rod in the same number of sections.
I’ve most defiantly upped the ante, moving to a 9ft #8/9 rod which I use for the saltwater, coupled with a reel with sufficient backing and a decent drag system. These carp can have the habit of putting in lightening runs and making light work of stripping you to the backing. Not only that but by beefing up your gear you have more control if you need to bully the fish out of snags and ultimately bring the fish to the net in the minimum amount of time maintaining its welfare. Commercial carp anglers are extremely proud of the fish they catch, even naming them as they smash their own personal best weight. The last thing we would want is some fluff chucking aficionado miss treating their beloved carp. Keep the coarse guys on side and respect their quarry as we do our “Game” fish.
So before I embark on targeting Cyprinus carpio, a small amount of housekeeping regarding tackle requirements is in order; Carp Fly Fishing Tactics
9ft #8/9 – Dependent on size of quarry
Floating Fly Line
8/9 Reel (prefer Disc Drag)
Minimum 8lb Copolymer
FM Dry Sauce (used sparingly)
Weigh sling & Scales (If planning on weighing catch)
Variety of Carp Flies (Dog biscuit imitation, bread flies, floating beetles)
Any other fly patterns – dry, buzzers, nymphs, blood worm.
In the height of the summer the carp are generally looking up, they have been brought up from the murky mud sifting boiley clad depths in search of their next snack. The summer months offers an assortment of food for them and the inquisitive carp will take readily from the surface. I’ve even seen carp take interest in grass cuttings that have blown onto the water, once they are on the feed they are on. For the most purist of fly angler, the natural dry fly as we would use for the trout is a great option as well as a variety of large nymphs or bloodworm patterns if they are feeding below the surface.
Now for the controversial “bait” option, the dog biscuit imitation, several options are available here, you can secure a small dog biscuit through a bait band onto an appropriate carp hook or use the coarse fishers preferred method of hair rigging it. I use an imitation dog biscuit (FM Bonio 1772) which has been tied from deer hair and has plenty more sustainability, particularly when the fish are heavily on the feed. Is it coacher fly fishing? throwing in free offerings to get the carp on the feed? Well in the shorter evening sessions it can be used to your advantage to get them going. Sure it’s not to everyone’s taste but I’ll leave that one up to you. I know I have no problem with it, sticking your imitation around the slurping carp is certainly not one for the faint hearted. Carp Fly Fishing Tactics
Don’t be deceived, or take your quarry for granted when there feeding off the surface. These carp are clever and haven’t got to the size they are without learning a thing or two. Be sure to degrease your leader with Fullers Mud as the slightest hint of line can spook them. The water I fish doesn’t really warrant a long leader the maximum I would go to would be around 12ft(min 8lb) extending slightly longer for the bigger lake. Landing a big carp on a long leader can be tricky on your own, so strike a balance with what you feel comfortable with.
Having thrown a few free offerings in and the carp are up, cast your fly into the mix. Don’t be too worried if you spook them first off, just wait and they will be back. If the carp are competing well for the food, then the take can be aggressive and they will suck in the fly without hesitation. This is not always the case as they can be very inquisitive as they nose the free offerings surrounding your fly. I’ve noticed them do this on several occasions, they are testing to see if the dog biscuit sinks freely after they touch it. They know that this isn’t the one connected to rod and line, when this occurs make sure your fly is sitting in the meniscus and has taken on some water. Watching the way they feed is part of the game and adjusting your fly to sit correctly like the free offerings is essential. Yes you want it to float so a small amount of FM Dry Sauce is needed, but not too much otherwise the fly will sit far too high on the water. Carp Fly Fishing Tactics
From experience the strike is all important, it pays dividends to strike to the side and low. You need to be pretty sharp as they have the tendency to spit out your fly in an instant. Be prepared to miss more than you hook and don’t get too frustrated, as the rubber lips will keep on slurping time and time again. Once hooked hold on! they always make a beeline for the nearest snag and cover, this is where a decent drag and a powerful rod come into play. Bully the fish as much as you dare and once out in the open let the rod do the work.
Don’t be afraid either to experiment with various dry flies, or slow sinking buzzers or bloodworm patterns, the carp not taking off the top will be milling around mid-water for an easy snack. Fish the buzzer or bloodworm static and every now and again draw in a yard or so of fly line to lift the fly up and allow it to sink slowly through the water. You’ll be surprised on the number of takes you can get, watching for the slightest twitch at the end of your fly line.
Once landed take your time in unhooking the fish on a mat, always making sure the pectoral fins are aligned correctly underneath the fish before resting it on one side. Take your time in returning your capture as the bigger fish tend to give their all in the fight, hold them in the margins and you’ll feel the kick that they want to go. You’ll get the respect from the coarse guys in their own back yard and countless times I’ve had them trundle round the lake to see what the “Fluff chucker” is up to. Carp Fly Fishing Tactics
So get out this summer and enjoy your search for the carp, it really is real fun and somewhat addictive. Carp Fly Fishing Tactics Carp Fly Fishing Tactics Carp Fly Fishing Tactics
Fulling Mill Ambassador