Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Carpin' 101

We still get tons of inquiries...around the shop, on Facebook and etc. about how to catch carp on a fly. The sport is really still in it's infancy and there is alot of confusion, and misinformation out there.

Of course, we also still get the folks who can't believe that we do it, and often....they think we are kidding. Then, every once in a while, we get those folks who are completely appalled and write us off as complete and utter fools. Recently, we had a guy on Facebook who absolutely raked us over the coals claiming that we were the scum of the earth and we were "ruining" fly fishing. He went as far as to say that "Carp are for Europeans you Idiots!" Needless to say he was banned from ever again commenting on our Facebook page and hopefully we won't hear from him again. We just don't need customers like that!!!


We love teaching folks about carp fishing and that's not going to change anytime soon. (Despite what a few folks might think of us.)

I thought I'd put together just a few simple notes here about the basics of carp on the part of "Carp Month" at Mad River Outfitters. Of course, there are several great resources out there that can also help you further your knowledge and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention.

First, the DVD that I did with Dave Whitlock, Jim Andrix, Jerry Darkes and Michael Bennett as my guests. "Carpin" takes a lightheared look at catching carp on the fly. It covers just about everything you need to know! We are very proud of this DVD and even after 11 years now, it still sells very well for's on SALE right now as part of "Carp Month".

The next is the new book by Kirk Deeter. It is full of good information as well and should be in any "carp student's" library. Also.....on SALE this month.

Also keep your eyes out here, Facebook, Twitter etc.....Mad River Outfitters has a new website on the way that will be geared towards fly fishing education. There will be all kinds of downloadable information and surely we will dedicate alot of airtime to Carpin'.

Here are a few basic notes on the gear and techniques that we use to catch Carp on a Fly Rod:


I don't really believe that there is such a thing as a "carp rod".....but some manufacturer will probably come out with one eventually. Basically, you want a rod that you are comfortable casting. One that delivers the fly exactly where you want it to go. On most smaller streams, a 5wt or 6wt is plenty enough, and on larger bodies of water I might go to a 7wt or an 8wt. Most often used rods are the 6wt and 7wts.

Probably should be your standard 9' in length but I have had some fun with some of the shorter, "bass and boat" type rods. The BASS II rods from SAGE are actually the closest things to carp specialty rods on the market. The Bluegill and the Smallmouth in particular, but I would definitely switch out the lines that come with the rods to something a bit more delicate in taper. Another shorter rod is the 7'10" Predator Rod from Redington. This length comes in a 6wt and 8wt version and have proven to be pretty good carp rods.

I prefer, myself, a faster action rod. These allow me to form a tighter loop, which translates to better accuracy. But again, you need the rod that suits you best and is most accurate for you. I do believe though that the rod should have a stiff and powerful butt section, and should also have a fighting butt if possible.


A carp reel should have a good drag system to it. You're gonna need it! Get the best drag system you can afford and you'll be happy! I would also much prefer a large arbor type reel over a standard arbor. There are times when you will need to pick up alot of line real fast....and a large arbor does give you an advantage over a standard arbor. Other than that, pick your favorite brand that's in your price range and put it to the test.


Just like with rods, I really never felt the need for a carp line. My favorite fly line (Rio Gold these days and SA GPX prior to), were always just fine and yours will probably be as well. But....a few years back, Rio introduced a Carp specialty line, and now Orvis has even thrown their hat into the ring. I have been fishing the Orvis line now for a bit and I do like the way it performs. I'm not convinced thought that it has helped me catch more carp.

I do want to mention the line color. Although I do think that the Orvis and Rio lines could be of help as an average carp angler......but.......... I don't think that the line color matters AT ALL and I prefer the brightest line I can find. Bonefishing, I use nothing but a bright orange line (Rio finally listened and is making their bonefish taper in bright orange). This was taught to me by Flip Pallot many years ago and changed my bonefishing results dramatically. I also don't believe that it makes a spit of difference when trout fishing either. Bottom line is this......if you are a good caster, the line color DOES NOT matter and a bright colored fly lines makes ME a better caster. Splat a bad cast down on the water and olive, gray, blue, tan, orange......they all spook fish.


Your 2nd most important piece of gear!!!! Second only to your fly!!!

It is so wickedly important to have the right leader attached to the end of the line. I really don't care what your rod long as it has what it takes to deliver the fly and then fight the fish. I don't care either about your long as it has what it takes to land the fish. And, I don't care that much about your fly long as it is Weight Forward and as bright a color as you are comfortable with. But I do care immesnely...immensely about your leader.

First of all, let me put a plug in for my new book..."Knots and Leaders". I truly believe that this book will change fly fishing in a pretty big way once it hits the stands. It will be available sometime in the Fall or over the Winter and will be available in print or in e-book form on our new website. It will also be available in a DVD counterpart that will be available for purchase or for download. More on that later for sure but the whole "philosophy" on leaders will be explained ad-nauseum in the book and DVD.

The bottom line is this:

You need a leader with a stiff butt section- much like one that you would use for bass or for saltwater. A typical Orvis, Rio or SA "Trout" type leader (Superstrong, Powerflex) really doesn't do the job. The butt section should be about 60% the diameter of the tip of your fly line, and similar in stiffness. (When was the last time you checked the butt diamter on a leader?) 

Then, it needs to be tapered down to the tippet. The tippet size (X) of course determined by the size of the fly that you are trying to cast. Most often used tippet sizes for carp would be 1X, 2X and 3X.....again, depending on the size and weight of the fly, and only secondarily by where you are fishing.

Here is a typical carp leader formula- one for a 6wt and one for an 8wt-

6wt- 4' Maxima Clear .017" (20lb), 2' Maxima Clear .015" (15lb), 1' Maxima Clear .013" (12lb), 6" of Maxima Clear .011" (8lb) and then 2' of 2X or 3X Tippet

8wt- 4' Maxima Clear .022" (30lb), 2' Maxima Clear .017" (20lb), 1' Maxima Clear .015" (15lb), 6" Maxima Clear .013" (12lb) and then 2' of 0X or 1X Tippet

I do, wholeheartedly recommend Fluorocarbon Tippet. No question when it comes to carp fishing. It is less visible to the fish, it sinks better and faster, and is much more abrasion resistant. 


Your fly is your #1 piece of gear!! No question about that when it comes to carp. The hard part about this is....carp love to eat so many different things. The best advice I can give you here is to try and determine what your fish are feeding on. If you can do that, the fly choice will be much easier for you!

Carp do love crayfish. If I had to pick one fly, it would probably be a crayfish imitation! But then again, they also love you need to have some of those also!!! As I stated in the Carpin' DVD...."A good carp anglers box may be as overstuffed with offerings as a trout fisherman". They can certainly be as or more picky than any ol' trout.

The two things I will say is this- most carp takes will be with the fly on the bottom and the carp "nosing down" to it, so be sure that your hook rides UP. Bead heads, bead chain or lead eyes are a critical component to most any carp fly. Carp also tend to prefer more neutral colors. They have very good eyesight and are often turned off, or even spooked by bright colors like chartreuse. These ain't steelhead!!!

For more on carp flies- please check out the Carp Fly Department on our website. Great offerings there!


Just a few random notes here now that you have your gear and flies together.

* Find feeding carp. Don't mess with the ones that don't want to play your game
* Wear drab colors....even camo
* Wade/Walk as stealthy as possible. Maybe don't even get in the water if you don't have to
* Cast only when you are sure
* Don't let them hear your fly hit the water
* Lead the fish
* Don't ever bring a fly towards a carp....they know better
* Watch for the take as well as feel for it
* Talk to your local fly shop about hot flies in your area
* Hire a guide for a day....this could take years off of your learning curve 

That's it!!!

Carp on the Fly 101

It is really exciting to see the commotion going on in the industry about carp right now. It's catching on!!! It's about time that the "Queen of Rivers" gets her due!!!

Thanks for reading and when you think of Carp on the Fly, I hope that you will think of Mad River Outfitters.

We should get a few more blogs up before the end of "Carp Month" so stay tuned if you haven't voted in the "Carp Photo Contest" yet....please do.

Brian Flechsig
August 2013

Click Here to learn more about Carp Month

Click Here for details on the Carp Photo Contest

Click Here to view the Photos Entered and Vote

Mad River Outfitters
Outfitters for Carp on the Fly
813 Bethel Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214