I’ve had a carp fly fishing addiction of late. Many of my trophy trout hunting, Alaska fly fishing clients, might be surprised by this. Hey, I’ve got to fill the void between late October and June somehow, right? I’ve been looking at these winter pods of carp in the Missouri for five winters now. Occasionally, I will go and throw some new patterns at them. Until recently, the only fly that worked was a size 10 Hare’s Ear. That was only on two fish and was a one day episode. A fishy puzzle was in need of solution.
My previous experience with Carp was in Western Colorado. I found them feeding on very shallow flats. I spooked a number of fish before I figured out the trick. It was all about presenting the fly in the right way. If I cast in front of the carp while they cruised in the open, they would spook. I learned to cast the fly as they were tailing. The fly would need to land several inches from the mud in the direction the carp was swimming. As they moved forward from the mud puff, they would discover the fly. It was a sure eat. The timing, location and sink rate had to be perfect. It was all about the cast. The key to the fly pattern was a soft landing and moderate sink rate. Solving the puzzle was very gratifying.
My Montana puzzle has been very different. These carp are grouping in crystal clear spring water, to escape the chill of the frigid Missouri. They see everything. They show no signs of feeding behavior and are spooky (as carp tend to be), because urban trout fisherman are constantly throwing hardware and bait in their vicinity. Initially, I figured I’d need to trout them with light tippets and smaller flies. I drifted and slowly crept all kinds of stuff past those fish. No takers.
Last year, I did not really try them much, because it was so damn cold. But this year, I’ve had it in for them. I tried four different nymphs one day…nothing. The next day, I tried a larger nymph from Rainy’s Flies named the Carp Hex. The Carp Hex worked and connected with a couple fish. I figured I had a solid pattern after the Carp Hex brought a fish to hand on three consecutive trips. It was good, but I still felt that I was not quite in the game.
Then I pulled out the crayfish. The pattern I tried first was Solitude’s Snapping Craw. I’ve tried some crayfish patterns before, but the carp only seemed to laugh. But now, I’ve solved the new puzzle. The pattern is not the primary trigger. It’s all about selling the fly as a crayfish. It’s got to look scared. It’s got to flee away from Mr. Carp. Yesterday, on my first cast in front of a group of fish, the largest one gulped my fly. In moments, I was so far into backing….