Fly fishing for carp

Fly fishing for carp

             Can you fly fish for carp?


Daniel Hughes


Fly & Carp



At the right time of year fly fishing for carp can be a devastating tactic, it certainly isn’t the most common tactic to fish for carp, but it can be extremely effective. When carp are being fished for on the surface, they can be tricky feeders, they may be used to dog biscuits and bread and could associate these with being caught. On popular lakes which are pressured, carp can often become wary of blatant surface baits. This is where tempting carp with a more natural looking food source can come into its own.

If you are looking to get a shoal of carp feeding on the surface, using some small floating pellets or dog biscuits can get them feeding if they are not wary feeders. You can use a dry fly on the surface, such as the bread fly, dog biscuit imitation fly and floating pellet imitation fly, which can be created with deer hair which is clipped back, bleached and then stained or dyed to the colour required, usually white or brown. The colour of the fly which you opt for will be dependent on what the carp are feeding on, the surface itself, or dependent on what free offerings you have put out. Very similar surface fishing principles apply to fly fishing for carp as they do for the typical method of surface fishing, such as, finding the carp on the surface, baiting them and getting them confident before you put a hook-bait in the water. You can find further information on how to approach surface fishing for carp in this blog:

Before you have cast out, check that you don’t have memory coil in the fly line which you are using. If you haven’t been using the set up much and this is the first time it has been out in a week then it will always help to try and stretch some of the fly line which you will be casting with your hands to take any of the coils out. This will prevent any tangles when trying to get that all important cast amongst the feeding carp. When you do manage to hook a carp, it will help if you manage to get the fight on to the reel rather than managing it with the line in your hands. This will enable you to keep more tension on the carp, using one hand to support the rod and the palm of the other hand to manage the pace in which the carp is taking line from the centre-pin. This will give you greater control of the fight and help you keep tension on the carp during the fight, with carp being larger and giving a heavier fight than a trout, it is important to remember to manage the fight differently.

What Fly Rod for carp?

When fishing for carp you would want a tougher set up to deal with the weight and the power of the carp. But with carp being quite spooky if you decided to use a heavier fly rod, for example an 8 or 9 weight fly rod, when casting the fly line out it will have a heavier impact when it hits the surface and could spook the feeding carp. If you were to opt for a 5 or 6 weight fly rod, you may be able to get a better finesse with the cast and limit the amount the carp are spooked when getting a bait into the water. However, you will have a harder fight due to the lighter rod, but this should be fine with an average sized carp.

Do carp eat dry flys?

Carp will often naturally take insects off the surface. When you find carp which are feeding on the surface with no free offerings available to them, they are often feeding on the natural fly’s and insects sitting on top of the water. So a normal dry fly which isn’t an imitation of a dog biscuit can be great to use if they are feeding on a hatch on the surface. Between casts, it is important to dry the fly off to keep it buoyant and floating on the surface, a good tip for keeping the fly buoyant is to use trout fishing floatant. A couple of drops of fly floatant in the hair of the fly will keep the fly on the surface a little longer, let the floatant dry and get the fly back out amongst those surface feeding carp!

In the UK, a lot anglers who are dry fly fishing for the carp will often put out free offerings to the carp from the bank, this would usually be floating pellets or dog biscuits. If the carp are taking just below the surface, you can adapt and actually use a slow sinking nymph or blood worm imitation for example, which will sit just beneath the surface of the water, if you feed some slow sinking pellets to encourage the feeding under the surface, this can be a great tactic. You won’t be able to see when the carp has taken the fly, due to it not being on the surface, so you would require a sight bob on the fly line to indicate when a carp has taken the fly under the surface.

With fly fishing being such an alternative tactic to fishing for carp, this can give anglers who choose to use this technique a huge edge against other carp anglers. When the carp aren’t feeding on the bottom, and they are cruising mid water or just beneath the surface, most carp anglers will fish for them on the surface, if they can’t tempt them they may assume they are not feeding. If the carp are swimming beneath the surface, they may also be feeding in this layer of water. If you can present a slow sinking fly which is matched closer to the naturals which they are feeding on, it could be blood-worm, mayfly’s etc you will certainly have a bit more of an edge over the anglers which are fishing for them on the bottom.

How do you fly fish for grass carp?

Fly fishing for grass carp can be tricky, but grass carp can definitely be caught on the fly. A lot of anglers assume it is the type of fly which you use which will determine whether you catch a grass carp or not, but it is more the approach and learning to not spook them. When approaching feeding grass carp you need to take a gentle approach, try not to cast shadows on to the lake, and keep your footing quiet. The simple shadow of a bird flying overhead can spook grass carp which are basking beneath the surface.

You want to be able to sight fish for grass carp and make sure you locate them before you attempt to fish for them. This is an art in itself; you need to look out for the carp tailing. This can often be a giveaway of the carp feeding in shallow water, you may also find them basking and taking items off the surface. If you can find them feeding on the surface, this is an ideal opportunity to get a fly in front of them. They don’t tend to chase down bait, so you will need to take the window of opportunity and land your fly as close as possible to them, they may spook off, they may ignore the fly or they might take it and you manage to hook one!

If you are using a boat or kayak which is commonly used on the shallow lakes in America to locate the grass carp, again you will often be sight fishing. So when you do locate grass carp which look like they are feeding, you don’t want to ruin this opportunity by banging ores around or dropping something on your boat or kayak. Make sure you have everything to hand and try and keep to a convenient casting distance, but not to close that you will spook them. When standing and casting, it is best to be in light coloured clothing to prevent the silhouette standing out against the sky. When casting a fly to a feeding grass carp, be it a sinking fly or a dry fly on the surface, always try and cast beyond the feeding carp and gradually draw the fly back in front of them. If the grass carp are on the move you want to cast ahead of them and draw the fly in the line in which they are travelling to try and get an opportunist take on the fly.

The strip and pull technique which is often used for bonefish fishing it a good way to approach striking into a grass carp, this has been proved as one of the best ways to hook into a grass carp.

Dangler’s Tips

Most anglers who end up fly fishing for carp tend to be fly fishing anglers who have fished on the fly for trout and other species. Therefore, the casting, the technique and the tackle will be up to scratch for fly fishing for these powerful carp. If you are a carp angler who fancies switching up your approach and trying out a new tactic like fly fishing for carp, then you will need to purchase the relevant equipment. Hopefully the information above will give you a good place to start, from what weight rod will be suitable to what type of dry fly could be effective.

If you are a carp angler who is looking to venture into fishing for carp on the fly, make sure you are able to get some lessons on how to cast a fly rod, how to set up the backing, the fly line and the leader on the centre-pin. You could choose to teach yourself, but some guidance on how to set this equipment up and use it effectively would be crucial before you go the bank with it!

Make sure the lakes which you are fly fishing on allow fly fishing! Some carp lakes may not be too keen on someone roaming around and whipping a fly rod back and fourth, so it is always worth checking that your lake of choice is happy with this! They may also have a ban on imitation baits, which could also be an issue…so make sure you can fish with imitation baits on your chosen venue.


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About The Author

Daniel Hughes Dangler

Daniel Hughes

CEO & Co-Founder

Being out on the bank and catching a fish is just a bonus for me, what I really love about angling is it provides us with the ability to be at one with nature and appreciate what most do not get to see. I discovered my passion for angling at the age of 9 and it has never left me, carp fishing has always been the core of my angling but I will never turn down the opportunity to target other species and enjoy what our waters have to offer.

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2020-06-16T23:54:56+01:00June 16th, 2020|Carp, Fly|