• 3 things you must know to chase carp on the fly.
  • Post author
    Jakob Barlow
  • carpfly fishingfly fishing tipsfreshwater

3 things you must know to chase carp on the fly.

Carp have been rising up on the list of desired freshwater fish to experience on the fly.

Some will even go so far as to compare this freshwater monster to the notorious bonefish, earning the carp the nickname of the golden bone.

Many factors will greatly determine your success rate when fly fishing for carp. To name a few: location, mood, posture of the fish, and time of year.

For example, if it’s winter you’re not going to throw a 3” crawfish pattern at huddled carp. Why you ask? Crawfish are dormant in the winter due to being cold blooded. If you throw that rusty orange pattern at a carp in the winter he’s going to know something's up because it’s not normal for him to see that in the winter months. He will be gone just as fast as he appeared.

If you've been wanting to try your hand at chasing these golden ghosts of the shallows, here are 3 tips you must know to get in the action with these easily spooked creatures.

1. Being able to read the carp and know how to act accordingly.

Dane Schmucker caught the big fish of the weekend at the Midwest Golden Bones Fly Tournament near Chicago, IL. The 2018 event is coming up July 27-28 and is sponsored in part by Flymen Fishing Co.

The number one mistake that beginning carp anglers make is casting to non-receptive carp.

Here's how to read carp in some common fishing situations.

Carp splashing on topwater.

If you happen to spot this, you might as well put down your fly rod and head on your way.

These carp won’t pay attention to even the tastiest-looking pattern in the world; they have one thing on their mind, and that’s reproduction.

However, the upside to this process is the awesome post-spawn bite!

Fast-moving pods.

Once again, don’t waste your time – these carp are either spooked or heading on a mission, not even a bag of pellet carp food will stop these beasts. Keep searching for more fish to cast to.

Slow-cruising pods/singles.

Get a fly right in front of their faces and below them.

Why? Carp like to cruise while searching the bottom for a quick and easy snack. This means their eyes will be focused below them right where your fly should be!

Heads down and tails to the sky with a mud cloud around them.

This is the most important one of all!

Slow down, take your time, and cast to this feeding mud monkey, then hang on because you’re about to have a gnarly fight on your hands!

Sunning carp.

These carp are the ones kicked back enjoying the warmth of the sun. Toss a small unweighted fly to them and hope for the best.

2. Choosing the right fly weight and pattern (I can’t stress this one enough!).

Fly patterns and weight are often overlooked when carp fishing. Most people think any
old pattern that looks appetizing will work.


Carp have feeding patterns and certain food sources they like better than others. Carp are very boring when it comes to fly patterns. They like rusty, orange, olive, brown, and black. These color patterns are usually the go-to for carp fishing, but it depends on what location you’re fishing in. I’ve heard a great tale of western carp actually chasing streamers, but I haven’t seen this firsthand.

The Fish-Skull CrawBody paired with a Shrimp & Cray Tail can be a deadly combination.

I fish and guide in the waters of North Carolina where we have the more calm and gentle carp that have very subtle takes.

Do your research on the body of water you’re fishing and stop and watch the carp. If you stop and watch you can usually figure out what they’re feeding on.

People overlook weight because they think it isn’t important in carp fishing, but weight is crucial in carp fishing.

Fly selection and speed of current.

Unweighted flies.

These unweighted flies are those you throw at the sunning carp. You don’t want it sinking too fast because these carp are closer to the surface, but you also don’t want it to float.

You want a slow gentle descent to get the carp's attention.

Medium-weight flies / Heavyweight bombs.

These are used for slow-cruising carp and those mud-sifting bulldozers who are bottom feeding.

You want to send your fly straight to them and get it down on the bottom right in front of their faces.

3. Presenting your fly.

Fly presentation is important when carp fishing – if you throw the fly too hard and smack the water, the fish is going to spook.

Pursuing carp on the fly takes a skilled and accurate cast, so before heading out on the water, take a few practice casts to get ready.

You may only get three chances on a carp in a whole day of fishing, so you don’t want to blow these chances by not being ready. It pays off to take the extra time to prepare for the main event.

The most known and productive action method for carp fly fishing is called the drag and drop. To do this, drag your fly away from the carp and let it sink, mimicking a fleeing crawfish or nymph. This is usually used for slow-cruising carp and sometimes for the feeding carp.

Follow these tips to increase your number of hookups and catches when fishing for this elusive fish.

As always, best fishing to you all!

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About Jakob Barlow:

Jakob Barlow is the head guide/owner of High Grass Guides in Western North Carolina. He has been fly fishing since he was 6 years old. From the pumpkin seed sunfish to the big bull trout to the tarpon of the salt flats, he has experience in it all. He's been guiding locally for 10 years and then decided to take it to the next level so he opened High Grass Guides with two of his buddies, hoping to make it into a living. “I've experienced nothing that consumes my mind like fly fishing, it’s all I think of all day every day.” Jakob is well seasoned with most freshwater species around his area with some saltwater species as well. Jakob has a passion for getting new anglers involved with his obsession of fly fishing. "I live to see that big smile on my client's face when hooking the fish of a lifetime.” You can follow him on Instagram @the_jakob_barlow or check out his website at www.highgrassguides.com.

  • Post author
    Jakob Barlow
  • carpfly fishingfly fishing tipsfreshwater

Comments on this post (12)

  • Jun 29, 2022

    Thank you for your insight!

    — Greg Bright

  • Jun 09, 2022

    I live in Lake Havasu AZ, a great fishery and one of the most under rated carp fisheries in the states. Huge carp here, up to 50 lbs. NOBODY fly fishes carp here so I’m giving it a try. Found a nice shallow beach where early morning carp feed, from 3 to 15 lbs. Great article and tips, all makes sense.

    — james

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Have chased carp for several years. berleyed with white bread and fished with bread flies, great fun good results. 70 – 120 per day. A pest species that is fun to fish for. All removed from the waterway. a win for the angler and the waterways

    — Ben Hicks

  • Dec 03, 2020

    I got 13carp and 3 cat fish on a 6wt fly rod and reel 6lbs test with a 6wt floating line and 6lbs line 8lbs all up to 25 lbs cats were 3 lbs to 8lbs on carp best have 200 yards of backing @ least 3 bigger ones almost spun 100 yards out I used a really slow sinking method for my carp fly’s I am so hooked on fly fishing carp

    — Alvin vaughn

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Hooked on carp on the fly

    — Harold Fenhaus

  • Dec 03, 2020
    About fly fishing for carp.

    — Don Smith

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Nice Blog ! Try fly fish Colorado here : www.shoprma.com/fly_fishing_classes.htm

    — Shoprma

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Here in the desert of Central Washington, carp offer opportunities to chase big, hard fighting fish during the heat of summer. Very good information!

    — Patrick Burdick

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Hit the 17 year cicada hatch. Carp on the top. Best fish was 29+ lbs. Talk about fun!

    — Andy Braznell

  • Dec 03, 2020

    @Wayne Walts, no they’re not as fast as a bone but: if you hook a big one they just go, slow but they go and it’s like you hooked a garden tractor!

    — Keith Antell

  • Dec 03, 2020

    They are not bonefish nor will they ever swim
    like a bonefish. Bonefish can swim over 30mph.
    That being said they are fun to catch, when I can’t go bonefishing

    — Wayne Walts

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great information on Carp fishing and have been having a blast tying up and creating pattern targeted for crap.

    — Rick Takahashi

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