Re filling my Carp box

So I bought a new boat…This involves many things that fall in the category of a pain in the butt, granted Sutter Marine in Yuba City, CA made all the DMV oriented stuff pretty easy. The pain in the butt stuff is cleaning out the old boat, getting all my gear swapped over, and selling the old boat on Craigs List. That said, when ever I clean out an old boat, my truck, or any vehicle or vessel I own I find some interesting stuff…while cleaning out my old boat I found my “water proof” Design Concepts box that I keep my carp flies in (I had been missing this for a few months). 

Mind you the box was in a bit of water in a not so dry “dry box.” I wasn’t worried as the box was water proof, so I thought…Not so much…(see picture). The whole box was toast. Totally rusted out and all my carp flies were ruined …So I have to tie all new carp flies and order some flies of my own design from Idylwilde (lets be honest if someone else will tie my own flies… I am buying them). So facing the task of re-filling my entire carp box I have taken some time to re-think my theories on carp flies, look at some new materials, and drop some knowledge about carp fly design. 

Toast...time to re fill the box

Never have I met such a finicky, inconsistent (from location to location), and down right mysterious fish then the carp. Flies that nail fish in one body of water spook fish to hell in the other and vice versa. I guide/fish about 3 different bodies of water for carp and realisticly need a box for each body of water as there is not a lot of cross over. That said the conditions at each place are pretty similar so one would think the same flies would work…not so.

What I am going to eat...
The first thing with carp flies I do is make sure the fly has lead eyes so the hook point rides up, just like any permit or bone fish fly, as carp are usually caught while foraging for food on the bottom. Now I do very weight of the eyes a lot based on the situation. When fish are rooting around or mudding completely focused on feeding a heavier set of eyes that gets right down and infront of the fish is necessary and the splash created by such a fly is usually ignored based on the singular focus of the fish. If the fish are in clearer water cruising the shallows occasionally exhibiting short burst to chase or inspect a possible meal a lighter fly that still gets down but does not make a big splash is important. The weight of the eyes will dictate how far an angler will have to lead the fish as the weight of the fly and distance from the fish that the fly needs to be cast are linked. Ideally that fly needs to be on the bottom and cross the fishes field of vision or run right infront of it without spooking the fish. Because of these things I tie many of my patterns in 4 different “weights” lead eyes with a lead wrap around hook shank, lead eyes, barbell bead chain eyes, and large mono eyes for the super clear water spooky or laid up fish. Many times carp anglers assume a fly doesn’t work, is to big, or spooks the fish and the real problem is not the fly but the way the fly enters the fishes environment.

Next I focus on movement. The days when carp just blindly assault my fly are not very common and many times I feel that I have to entice them to eat. This requires the angler to keep the fly in the carps field of vision as long as possible. Now this usually requires the fly to move slowly or with quick bursts and pauses. This type of retrieve requires the fly to look alive and move with minimal movement applied to the fly by the angler. I always find myself telling my clients to let the fly dance. With this presentation materials that “dance” or move in the water with out the angler applying motion to the fly are key. Marabou, schlappen, small diameter rubber legs, and synthetics that are of a fine diameter or very supple are my favorites. Flash can be nice to catch a fishes eye in clear water from a far distance but usually is over applied. When I think flash I think like 2 strands of krystal flash, no more.

Other things I take into account are main food sources and size of those food sources. Look around and see what the carp have available to eat…rocky banks equal cray fish and bait fish usually. If you see dragon flies flying around there is usually some dragon fly nymphs available. Also look in the shallows to look for bait fish or other forage…like worms, damsel flies, or other creepy crawlers. Then match your fly to the size of the forage. I also look at water clarity and apply the darker the water the bigger the fly, the clearer the water the smaller the fly…might even be smaller than the naturals. Then it is all about trial and error. Watch how the fish respond to the fly, you can learn a lot about what they think about your offering and presentation by how they react when it is in the water.
Hogan Brown