Carp are an enigma, and fly fishing for them is a contradiction all by itself. I don’t mean the pursuit of carp is a contradiction, but rather the actual technique of fly fishing for carp is confusingly impossible, difficult, and relatively simple all at once. That probably makes almost no sense, which is the point I guess, and probably part of why people like to fish for them.
Typically fishing, or I guess, catching fish comes down to roughly four broad variables; flies, casting, tackle, and yes, a little bit of luck. All anglers do is attempt to control those variables and then hope for the little bit of luck. For example, when tricking a rising trout on a small spring creek in December you might tie on a little RS2 (flies) before flicking a short side arm cast (casting) over to him with a little seven-foot three weight (tackle). If you’ve got a little bit of luck he’ll slurp your midge in. Obviously, it’s rarely that easy and there are several more factors that go into it. Forbid I pretend for a second that fly fishing isn’t half as hard as we make it out to be.
Anyways, I took a bit of a detour there, so I can make my coming point. If I ever get to it. Back to carp. It seems to me that these difficult fish don’t really care for special flies, and just about any decent eight weight with floating line can get the job done. They’ll take a black ball of dubbing or a brown “enter name here” nymph if you lay out the right cast. But the “right cast” is much easier said, or written I guess, than done, and with carp its not even always in the spot you think it should be. This brings me back to the contradiction of fly fishing for carp. In some ways the flies make things simple or I should say simpler. Rarely do I ever change flies when carp fishing because there is really no need to. The difficulty however, comes from casting; changing flies won’t fix an inaccurate cast. That’s always true I guess, but especially for fish like carp.
The great thing about carp flies are their simplicity. Or, at least, their ability to be simple. When I first got interested in chasing carp around I did what any fisherman does and loaded a box with the “best” carp patterns I could find. I don’t know if I ever caught a fish on any of those. In fact, the first carp I caught was on a soft hackle of all things, and the second was on a simple little bluegill fly that was nothing more than a few rubber legs and some marabou. Carp eat everything, so fly really doesn’t matter that much. It isn’t like a trout which may pass up your size 18 Melon Quill because its only rising to a size 20, crippled, pale morning dun with a broken wing.
In general, a carp fly should ride hook up and be small enough to fit in a carp’s mouth, duh. In my opinion those are really the only rules. Most people, including myself, have little tricks or materials they throw into their carp patterns. Like tails made of little foam cut outs or the rubber spine things off a child’s ball, I don’t know what they’re actually called. I like most of my carp flies to have some flash in them, or double bead chain eyes, or Spanflex legs, but I’ll be honest, I don’t think any of that really catches a carp’s attention any more than a fly tiers.
Again, that’s the great thing about carp flies, and furthermore, why I love to tie them. It allows me to be more creative, I can just tie what I like or think looks good. That’s something that can’t always be said for delicate dry flies. So, when you see a video or article about some special carp fly, all that really counts is: Can the hook fit in its mouth? & Does the hook ride point up? beyond that it’s just a matter of taste. Yes, even on my videos very few of the details really matter. The true test is whether you can take that simple fly, make a difficult cast, and catch a little bit of luck.