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Summer like weather is finally upon us. Sunshine is warming the water, especially the shallow flats where carp are in their spring time spawn cycle. With higher water in some of the lakes and in the big river, tules along the flats are flooded and provide prime spawning environment for carp.


On a recent outing I found my favorite reservoir about as full as it can get; the water was way back into the tules and surrounding lakeside vegetation. Carp were back in these shallows where the water was considerably warmer than the main body of the lake with most of the fish in full spawn mode. The fish at times are thrashing around in water that’s too shallow to cover their backs but they don’t seem to mind at all. And at times you can get close enough to reach out and touch one they’re so focused on spawning.

When carp are in full spawn mode, it is pretty much game over for the fly fisherman targeting them. But not every fish is seeking love, some are still looking for a snack and by being careful, by being slow and deliberate, by being quiet and observing as much as you can, sometimes you can find a fish willing to eat your well presented fly. Patience, quiet, looking and seeing, sensing even, can help catch carp during this period of the year.

Fly fishing for carp requires the angler, especially the wading angler, to become a carp stalker. As a carp stalker I am stealthy and confident. Stealth helps me sneak up on carp to make accurate presentations. Confidence is important so I can get the fly presented accurately and quietly.

If you line a carp, game over. If your fly “splats” loudly near the fish, game over. But if you present the fly so that the fly gently lands near the fish, you can pull it to the fish or twitch the fly as the carp comes near then you have a good chance of the fish eating your presentation.


As the waters continue to warm and carp move out of their spawning cycle they move out into the lake or along the shoreline in search of prey. Carp are omnivores and opportunistic feeders. At times they seem to be incredibly selective and at other times you can see and hear them sucking scum off the surface of a lake or river. It is these post spawn carp that are the most fun for this wading carp angler. Say goodbye to waders and hello to flats booties, shorts, light shirts and sunblock.

Carp in twos, threes or larger groups quickly swimming along the shore line are what I call cruisers. Just like the kids cruising Cal’s in their hot rods; just out for a spin. These cruisers are not feeders yet I rarely don’t take a cast or two. Almost never do they chase the fly and often a fly sinking in or among the group will split them up, they’re easily spooked. Cruisers aren’t eaters.

I like to look for carp who are just busy rooting around on the bottom. Sometimes you can find ten or more fish actively feeding in a small cove or bowl. If you are careful and cast to fish on the outside of the pod, you might be able to pick off several fish, assuming a hooked fish doesn’t immediately blow through the pod.

If carp are feeding in gravelly and sandy bottoms, you can usually see the fish clearly so there’s no guess work which way the fish is facing. I really like to find a fish that is facing away from me, head down and rooting away in sandy gravel. A perfect way to take this fish is to cast the fly several feet out in front and just to the side of the fishes head and then pull the sunk fly towards the fish. If your cast is directly above the fish, the leader will spook the fish. If your cast is on target, the fly lands softly and you are able to pull the fly within a foot of the fish’s mouth, there’s a good chance the fish will move to the fly and eat. A nice slip strike will usually set the hook and it is game on!


When carp are congregated on large mud flats and actively feeding, the mud can be really stirred up and seeing individual fish is a challenge (this is where it helps to be on the bow of a boat). If conditions are right, you can still catch these nearly invisible fish. Again, stealth is critical. But usually you won’t be casting distance, more than likely a really short roll cast or even dapping the fly down once you determine where the fish’s head is. In really muddy water, seeing the take is rare, instead it is more a sense of seeing a shift in the tail of the fish. No slip strikes here, a quick lift is needed.

I watched a local legend fish tules on a very muddy shoal. Bill was using his spey rod, slowly wet wading along the weeds and dapping flies down to carp that were feeding. His 14-foot rod really gave him an advantage in stealth and presentation. A word of caution, keep that rod tip out of the tules and be really quick on the hook set. Get that rod tip up quickly or you will be sending it out for a new tip.

Sunbathers are another group of fish you sometimes see. Often as the day wears on, many carp seem to take a nap. Sometimes right on the surface, sometimes suspended. They aren’t swimming; pretty much motionless. Randy says they’re sunbathing. A very carefully presented fly that sinks slowly past the fishes head (assuming no “splat” on the cast) sometimes results in a follow and eat. This is best done from the bow of a boat.


I have a 45 year old 14-foot Hewescraft as my carping machine. Randy sold this gem. We take turns on the bow and stern. I have a wood dowel coated with bed liner material I use as my push pole. It works pretty well.

Pushing a boat along with the pole requires a bit of caution to control noise: don’t bang the pole against the side of the boat or it is game over. When carp are really skittish, mud plopping back into the water from the end of the pole can spook the fish. I don’t use my electric motor (transom mount) to stalk carp, they can hear and feel the motor and propeller from a long distance.

Standing on the bow of a boat offers a much better vista of the river or lake bottom, especially if you’re vertically challenged.

I’ve chased and caught a lot of carp with my 5-weight fly rods but have pretty much retired them for carp service. Some of the carp we find are well over 10 pounds and when the water is warm, say 70°F or better, carp get mean and nasty and a 5-weight is under gunned. I use a couple of my 9-foot 8 weights with a floating line and tapered leader (0X works).

I was fishing with the local fly shop guy one day, it was my turn on the bow. I saw a sunbather suspended about halfway between the surface and bottom. I rerigged with an unweighted woolly worm, made a good cast and the fly slowly sank near the fishes head. The fish woke up, chased the woolly worm, ate and I set on it. That fish was big, hot, bad and on a tear! Thankfully I had my 8-weight and was able to really lean into the fish.


Fly selection – there’s a school of thought that fly selection isn’t too important and there are days when carp seem eager for whatever you present but there are far more days when the fish are more selective so I have a wide variety of carp flies.


On of my favorites, the crayfish..........


A peacock breast woolly worm........

Randy tied up some black crayfish patterns one time. I laughed when I saw them and said “never saw a black crayfish, bub”. He got the last laugh; he spent almost no time on the bow because as soon as he’d get up there and make a cast, he had a fish on and then it was his turn to pole the boat. The carp were, for some reason, keen on that pattern. I finally swallowed my pride and stole one of his flies.

I really like crayfish patterns and “carp candy” flies (Jon Luke pattern) when I’m fishing clearer water. As time goes on, though, I’m finding other flies that seem to work. When I’m fishing really dirty, muddy water, I go simple. A black woolly worm seems to get the job done and so what if you break a few off on bottom?

A gentleman I’ve met lakeside uses really small nymphs for carp angling. He’s a very good carper and very patient. I need to take a lesson from him.

Indicator fishing for carp: I haven’t done much indicator fishing for carp but it is something I think has merit. I was fishing the big river one day. We pulled the boat up on the bank and were walking up a very muddy slough. We knew there were lots of fish in the slough because it was so stirred up but we couldn’t see fish, certainly not well enough to tell when they were, or if they were taking the fly. Out of frustration, I slipped a corkie on my leader and secured it in place with a toothpick and knotted on a woolly worm. Bobber down. It worked for a while. Then I forgot about the technique until a week ago when I tried it again and was able to hook four carp (and two smallmouth and a trout).

Carp seem to inhabit all kinds of water and structure. Basically I think carp can be found wherever they can find food.


One benefit to having some rocky structure is you might get a smallmouth or largemouth bass to bite, trout have been known to swim in some of the water I fish.


Clouds obscure the bottom of the lake, even with the best polarized sunglasses, clouds destroy the stalker’s vision of the lake bottom and wind that creates a surf and white caps moves the fish out into deeper water. My theory on strong wind is the waves make so much noise crashing onto the beach that the fish lose their ability to hear predators, such as stalkers like me, so they flee the shallows seeking refuge in deeper water.

The ideal conditions for stalking carp are cloudless skies and a light breeze. The breeze camouflages slight noises made wading and likewise, the riffles created by wading. Polarized sunglasses and hat to shade your eyes are a must. When the water is 70°F or better, there’s a good chance you won’t be chasing trout so turning to warm water species is a great choice and the warmer the water, the hotter the carp. When the air temperature is 90°F or more, wet wading for carp is a very pleasant way to spend time.

Post spawn carp on the prowl for food often excavate large areas of the lake or river bottom. When you see large areas that have been recently disturbed, there’s a good chance carp have been feeding.


Rooter's hole

found near a rooter's hole


A slow wade is best when there's no breeze or chop, Randy is doing it just right


Really good fish


Mirror carp


Saying goodbye.............


Anywhere ~ Anytime
Great write! Convenient for me as Carping will be kicking off very soon. Something I've only tried a couple times with no luck.. but no lack of fish either. Recognize several of the 'moods' you describe.. especially the 'crusiers' whom I found pretty frustrating. Also found a pod of 7 - 9 fish lazily daisy chaining in a good sized pocket formation out on a gravel / rock mix bar, something I'd never seen before.. weird.

You Crayfish pattern looks right up my alley. Picture will be pirated to the ol' warm water flies folder (thanks)

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