by Miles Nolte
“I’m not naive enough to think I’m going to convince everyone to love carp. You either get it or you don’t.”—Kirk Deeter, The Orvis Guide to Flyfishing for Carp.
How do your favorite trout guides spend their rare days off in August? If they’re not catching up on sleep or domestic necessities, they go fishing (duh), but they’re probably not trout fishing. Chances are, they’re chasing carp.
Fly fishing for carp is no longer subversive, rebellious, or novel. A decade has passed since Orvis published their Guide to Flyfishing for Carp, which did to carp fly fishing what Blink 182 did to punk. You’ve heard about carp fishing, read about it, hopefully watched the defining film Carpland and even done a little brownlining yourself.
Or, maybe not.
While pop-punk eviscerated an entire genre and musical ethos, the now decade-old carp craze has not actually spawned the goldfish rush that many hypothesized. Carp fishing remains, by and large, a marginalized pursuit. As trout water gets progressively more crowded and difficult to access, and saltwater flats begin to resemble trench warfare, carp fishing is still delightfully unpopular, at least here in the U.S.
You may not be out harassing rubberlips on your local rivers and reservoirs, but your favorite guides and anglers are. Carp have become the Sonic Youth of freshwater fly fishing, the band that all your favorite bands listen to...even if you find them a bit too challenging. The corporate mainstream of fly fishing tried to make carp the next big thing, but failed, so they remain the anti-elitist fish: widely accessible, easy to spot, incredibly difficult to catch.
You can’t buy a helicopter ride to a magical pond of big, dumb carp. If you’ve got a bicycle, some old Chuck Taylors, a 6-weight, and a fist full of flies, you can probably go carp fishing, but that doesn’t mean you can catch them. Have you got your local carp pond dialed?
We chatted with some of the anglers, guides, writers, and filmmakers who you probably know for their pursuit of other fish about why they keep coming back to Cyprinus carpio.
Kirk Deeter—Writer, Host, Fish Advocate (also author of the aforementioned Guide to Flyfishing for Carp):
Carp are everywhere, and everyone can fish for them. You don’t have to pay to be in a fancy fishing club, and you don’t have to jet off to some exotic location to find world-class action. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have perfectly good carp-fishing gear, and some of the ugliest, homespun flies are the most effective.
Catching more carp on the fly will make me a better fly angler. Carp are harder (at least for me) to catch than trout and bass. That’s not to say that I think trout and bass are easy, nor that those species bore me. But carp are very interesting.
I think catching carp on flies is a supreme test of angling skill. On some days, sure, carp can be easy to fool. On others, however, you can bring your “A” game and get denied. An angler can “pattern” trout and bonefish (and certainly bass). You find the fish. You figure out what they’re eating. If you make a decent cast and presentation, you catch the fish. It isn’t always so simple with carp. I believe if you can get your game to the point where you consistently hook carp on flies, there are no fish that you cannot catch, permit included.
Austin Trayser—Guide, Photographer, Filmmaker:
I'm drawn to carp because of my love for sight fishing. It's more like hunting than anything. I carp fish from the spring into late summer. Oftentimes high water and flood stages on our river and lake systems push fish into really unique places that are only temporary. It can be very fun to cast at tailing or mudding carp in the grass. It can resemble the feeding patterns of Redfish in the marsh and is great practice for Salt.
If I've got a day off in the summer, you can bet your a$$ I'm burning gas. There's nothing sweeter than the smell of ethanol free premium burning through a two stroke Merc jet. Wet wading and targeting a big river carp is just the cure for the summer guiding grind.
Like my buddy Jed says, "Trout live in beautiful Places." I wouldn't disagree but I would also say that carp do too. Places like the Missouri River in Montana, or the Columbia Gorge in Washington. Beaver Island in Michigan with its white sand flats, all incredibly beautiful places in my eyes.
Corey “Sleddy” Haselhuhn—Sales Manager at Schultz Outfitters in Carp Valhalla:
The durability, wit, and overall power/build quality [of carp] is humbling and full of stoke, because it's often very visual.
I’ve spent lots of time watching carp and lots of time failing to catch carp. Even when you think you're good at it, you receive humbling refusals and changes from them that force you to take a seat and reflect. They are smart and learn quickly. I enjoy watching or putting my friends and family on them over just hooking tons of fish.
A 6-weight in hand, a puck of flies, some fluoro, and crisp summer evening stroll through the local waterways are all I need these days.
NEED SOME MUSICAL INSPIRATION FOR THROWING FLIES AT DUMPSTER DOLPHINS? CHECK OUT THE CARP ARE PUNK PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY HERE.