Monday, December 14, 2015

My best carp fly of 2015 is in your trout nymph box

Written by Brian Shepherd

After chasing carp on the fly in earnest for only 2 years (4 years total catching carp) I now fully accept the fact that fly fishing for carp will always yield surprises, head-scratchers, and situations that call into question previously held assumptions.  In the past, I typically threw bigger and meatier flies when targeting carp and always wondered whether only a handful of carp each spring summer was all that was to be expected.  Something just didn't seem right about that.

Since April 2015, I have caught 87 carp on the fly.  Not huge numbers when compared to the pros who spend a lot more time on the water than me.  However, for a man like me who has a busy consulting career and a young growing family, I am quite happy and proud of netting that many carp over the past 9 months (also have caught carp each month consecutively since April).  More important than the numbers, I developed great confidence in a pattern that every angler has had in his trout nymph box for probably the past 100 years.

Stepping out of the big carp fly comfort zone early on this season, I began taking carp consistently on hare's ear nymphs.  Last winter I read a few posts from other Colorado carp anglers about the importance of keeping a few nymphs on hand when targeting carp.  This advice was well-taken.  The hare's ear has convincingly outperformed all other flies for me this season.  In fact, I have caught more carp on a hare's ear than on all other patterns combined.  Without getting into the multiple factors that can dictate fly selection (current, depth, water clarity, carp body language, etc.) I encourage other carp anglers to give this tried-and-true pattern a fresh look when chasing these incredible fish.

Go-to carp flies for 2015

I do have a theory on why the hare's ear is so successful.  First, it is a fairly realistic and unassuming pattern, and requires little effort for a carp to inhale it off the bottom or mid-column.  Additionally, since it is a small pattern, it causes far less alarm when one falls in front of a carp at close range.  Think of it this way: if you were walking down the street and the wind carried a dollar bill to your feet you would say "hey it is my lucky day" and pick it up without blinking.  Now if a suitcase full of $100,000 in cash fell out of the sky and landed at your feet most of us would be a little suspicious about running off with it.  The same is true for carp.  Carp see thousands of aquatic insects per square foot of a lake or pond on a regular basis, so if one falls within inches of a carp's mouth he won't think twice about slurping it up.  Now if you throw a size 4 zonker strip pattern with bright yellow lead eyes right on top of a carp, he might be a little suspicious of the offering or get startled and bug out towards the safety of the deep.

I tie this pattern on short-shank wide gap curved hooks (e.g Gamakatsu SL15 and Tiemco U501) typically in size 6 or 8.  The wide gap is key as it helps keep the carp buttoned-on.  As with any other nymph you should carry weighted, unweighted, bead/no bead, and soft hackle versions. 

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