Carp On The Fly

Kieron Jenkins of Fulling Mill talks about his summertime passion for catching carp on the fly rod – an adrenaline filled diversion when trout fishing is at it’s worst!  Read on to discover the tackle, tips and tactics Kieron employs for carp fly fishing.

At this time of year it tends to be too hot for traditional fly fishing. Trout often go deep and sulk in the hot weather, but carp on the other hand provide immense sport on the fly! Fly fishing for carp is a sport that has only recently taken off here in the UK and is becoming many anglers favoured quarry.

Most anglers who fly fish for carp in the UK encourage them to eat from the surface, but carp can also be caught on lures and bloodworms when the conditions dictate. Personally, I enjoy the surface action.

Fly fishing for carp in the UK is really taking off!

Fly fishing for carp in the UK is really taking off!

Getting started – What to feed?

Keep it simple – carp absolutely love dog biscuits. Mixers are perfect, they’re fairly large and float well. Most carp lakes are inundated with silver fish that are attracted to smaller baits, so I tend to use mixers to discourage them from attacking the bait – which unfortunately, doesn’t always work! The lovely, meaty smell of the biscuits will drag carp from all over the lake, so it’s worth spending the time to bait up, feeding small but constant amounts of bait into your swim before starting to fish. Be careful not to overfeed, carp will gorge and lose interest quickly – feed little and often. A catapult will come in handy too.

What fishing tackle do I need?

Small carp can fight, but a big one is something else. The power of even a fish 5lb + is immense, be sure to use tackle to cope with fast surges and big runs. I prefer to use a 10ft 8# Airflo Airlite Competition Special, a fly rod that was designed for playing fish hard and to cast heavy sinking lines. The 8# gives you enough back bone to hold the fish hard to stop them running into the snags, as well as great casting performance over long distances.

The power of carp is immense - a great fight on a fly rod!

The power of carp is immense – a great fight on a fly rod!

This year I’ve been using the Airflo Switch Pro Fly Reel, it has an extremely hard drag system that has stopped almost everything I’ve hooked on my local carp water. Carp often take long, hard runs towards cover, so your backing is regularly out of the rod rings! Ensure to use a fly reel that is up to the job.

As far as fly lines go, I was always under the impression that I could use just about anything and get away with it, but since the introduction of the Super-Dri range from Airflo It’s certainly helped me catch more carp on the fly, let alone trout! The higher floating properties of the Super-Dri Lake Pro fly line ensures a quicker lift off, especially at distance, allowing you to set the hook quicker before the carp has time to spit the fly out. They’re notorious for ‘mouthing’ the fly and letting go, so if you can connect quicker, why not? The non-stretch core of these lines allow you to put more pressure on the fish too, hopefully getting them quickly away from snags.

At the business end I like to use a 5ft length of fluorocarbon, attached to a Salmon/Steelhead floating polyleader. The polyleader allows good turn over with chunky flies – a splashy landing can sometimes deter carp that are high in the water. The trout version is too light, I’ve lost many large carp because the polyleader as broken, but the 24lb breaking strain Salmon/Steelhead version is ideal. A simple loop to loop connection is all that is needed to join your tippet.

If the fishing is fast and furious I prefer 10lb Fulling Mill Fluorocarbon, the leader sinks quickly and is extremely strong, allowing you to really clamp up without breakages and pull carp back through some serious snags! Other times carp can be quite fussy, especially in flat calm conditions. Then I prefer to use a lighter breaking strain – the new Airflo Sightfree G4 Fluorocarbon in 8.8lb is superb. Personally I wouldn’t go any lighter than this, but you may find you have to if you don’t get any takes.

As for flies, a dog biscuit imitation is a must. The Close Copy Dog Biscuit, Bonio Carp Fly and the Bread Crust pattern from Fulling Mill are all you will ever need. A fly that closely represents the size and colour of the real thing will always be preferred, so choose your fly wisely.

A dog biscuit imitation fly pattern is a must!

A dog biscuit imitation fly pattern is a must!

Carp on the surface

Once the carp are up and feeding all that’s left to do is to hook one, and land it of course. What I tend to do is sit patiently and spot a fish that is cruising. Carp will sit/swim high in the water if there are numerous biscuits on offer, if you can track a fish and accurately present a fly a few feet in front of it, more than likely it will eat it.

The hardest part about fly fishing for carp is hooking the damn things! They’re cunning creatures and learn very quickly. Carp will often come to the fly a ‘test’ it out, sitting a few inches under the fly, sucking it from the surface. If your line is tight or your leader is floating, the biscuit won’t move and the carp will flee onto the next one. This is where fluorocarbon comes in handy as it’s relatively heavy and sinks. The sunk leader will let the fly get ‘sucked’ into the fish’s mouth.

Once you’ve hooked one, hold on tight and clamp up that drag. More often than not they will head for cover to free the hook. A correctly set drag will save the break offs and give enough stopping power to tire the fish before getting to those roots.

Carp on the fly success!

Carp on the fly success for Kieron!

Finding a carp water can be difficult, many venues don’t mention the fact that they allow fly fishing on their website or facebook pages, so it’s definitely worth a call to your local carp fishing water to ask before turning up…

A quick re-cap to carp on the fly:

  1. Use appropriate fly fishing tackle, there’s nothing worse than being under-gunned.
  2. Cast accurately to feeding carp and try to avoid spooking them.
  3. Play carp firmly and use your kit to its full advantage. Hold them tight and get them to the net quickly.
  4. A selection of carp flies is essential. Change the colours to suit.
  5. Always check with the fishery owner that they are happy for you to fly fish.
  6. You will need an unhooking mat and a decent sized landing net with soft mesh to comply with most carp fisheries rules. Be sure to check this before heading out.
A selection of carp flies is essential.

A selection of carp flies is essential.

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Kieron Jenkins

About Kieron Jenkins

Born and raised on the rivers and lakes of south Wales, Kieron Jenkins won his first cap at the age of nine, fishing for the Welsh Youth International team. He has gone on to prove himself as one of the leading competition anglers of his generation, both on the river and also the stillwater scene. Specialising in nymph and dry fly fishing in the small streams and larger, freestone rivers of South Wales, he’s also a highly respected and innovative fly tier. Kieron regularly contributes quality features to online and printed game fishing publications. When he’s not fly fishing, kieron is digital marketing manager at Fulling Mill.