The Article below was published in The New York Times and can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/sports/carp-now-a-worthy-fly-rod-target-in-united-states.html?_r=1 . I take no credit for any of the writing or pictures.
Carp Gain as a Fly-Fishing Favorite
Will Rice caught a carp in the South Platte River in Colorado. Carp can grow to more than 4 feet and nearly 100 pounds.
By CHRIS SANTELLA
Published: February 12, 2012
Fly-fish for carp? For many anglers, the first response might be, “Why?” For coldwater anglers, carp have long been the fodder of mean-spirited jokes, a species more likely to be pursued with a bow and arrow than a bead-head nymph. But the fly-fishing frame of mind regarding Cyprinus carpio is changing.
Will Rice, an outdoors writer based in Denver, had his moment of “carptharsis” a number of years ago.
“During the spring runoff, trout fishing in the Colorado Rockies is just not happening,” Rice said. “One May, a friend and I were eager to wet a line, so we headed east from Denver to fish a reservoir for wiper,” a striped bass and white bass hybrid.
“We rented a boat and began zipping around,” he said. “At the edges, high water had pushed over the banks into some grass flats. We took a closer look and saw all these fish moving around — 10- to 12-pound fish — finning, mudding, even tailing. They were carp. We didn’t catch any that day, but it was eye-opening to see fish behaving like this — the way bonefish and permit behave. Carp are a species you can sight cast to with a fly rod without traveling to the Caribbean.” Comparisons to bonefish in terms of their skittishness and strength have earned carp the nickname golden ghost.
Common carp are of the cyprinidae family, the largest group of freshwater fish. Distinguished by large, sometimes golden scales, barbells, a stout profile and a small mouth, carp can grow to more than four feet and nearly 100 pounds, though 2- to 3-foot specimens of 10 to 20 pounds are more commonly encountered in the United States. Aesthetically speaking, carp, which lack the streamlined shape and the delicate watercolor patterns of trout, are an acquired taste for some.
“I think carp are maligned here because they’re not considered classic table fare — though they were brought to North America in the 1800s specifically for that purpose,” said Kirk Deeter, an editor-at-large for Field & Stream and part of a clan of fly-fishers who regularly stalk carp in the South Platte River in downtown Denver. “They are one of the most resilient fish in the world. They can live in almost any conditions — warm or cold, clean or dirty water — and are readily accessible just about wherever you live. Go to a local lake or a golf-course pond, carp are the fish you’re likely to see. If you want to sight cast to a tailing fish that might be 10 pounds or more, carp are it.”
Deeter added: “I like to equate carp fishing with soccer. Around the world, carp is the No. 1 sport fish. A staggering amount of money is spent on carp angling. But here in America, it’s just starting to catch on.”
This may be true among casual anglers, but many professionals know better. Ask guides on the finest trout streams in the American West what they do on their days off, and they will sheepishly admit that they chase carp.
“There’s a pretty common theme for anglers who get excited about carp,” Rice said. “They start out fly-fishing for trout, and then take a saltwater trip where they catch bonefish and tarpon. In the course of the saltwater fishing, something clicks about getting bigger fish on the fly. When they get back home and fish for trout again, that big-fish thrill is a little lacking. Then they discover carp.”
Carp are catholic feeders; they will feast on aquatic insects in all life stages, crayfish, baitfish — even plant matter, like blackberries. Anglers should not mistake the carp’s broad appetite as license for sloppy presentations. Carp possess highly developed senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch. This makes them spook easily. A spooked fish emits a pheromone that warns other nearby fish of potential danger. If you misfire and put one fish off, odds are good that any other fish in the immediate area will go off the bite as well.
“On the South Platte, I believe the fish are mostly eating crawfish, so I rely on crawfish or crab imitations,” Rice said. “I use the same crab patterns that I use for permit. In the end, it’s all about watching the take. Seeing a nice carp suck up a fly is always a thrill. When you set the hook, they don’t even know what’s going on — they just continue on their way. When they do realize that something’s wrong, the water explodes, and they’re gone. The big ones roll off slowly like an 18-wheeler in low gear. The smaller fish can melt line off the reel.”
Chris Wood, the president and chief executive of the conservation organization Trout Unlimited, said: “Before I had a family, fishing meant going to the end of the road and bushwhacking as far back into the woods as I could. The farther back you go, the fewer people and the better the fishing. Now, one of my favorite places to go is the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C. I take my sons out with me, and we fish from the towpath and we catch some big carp. When the Texas mulberry trees are ripe with berries and the berries are dropping in the water, the fish will take them on the surface. We use mulberry patterns and fish them like dry flies. If the hatch is on, it’s as exciting as catching bonefish.”
A version of this article appeared in print on February 13, 2012, on page D8 of the New York edition with the headline: Carp Gain as a Fly-Fishing Favorite.