Featured image from Brien Hansen (@brienedwardh)

Fly fishing for carp has totally changed my fly fishing mindset. To be honest, it’s very hard for me to think about fly fishing for anything else. There is something special about seeing a 15-25 pound fish swimming in skinny water that you can sight cast to! With a lot of patience and persistence, you might just find your new favorite fish to fly fish for!

Photo: Dan Zazworsky


If you are just testing the waters to see if you really want to start going for these fish, you will be glad to know that you don’t have to have expensive, high-end equipment nor a boat to land a lot of carp. Here’s a list of things I would start off with:

  • A 7-8 weight fly rod (you can use lighter tackle for accurate casting but just be aware these fish are powerful and can run like the devil and braking power is needed)

  • A large arbor reel to hold a lot of fly line and backing, which is nice to have (you can use what is available to you, but again be aware these fish are capable of running yards and yards into your backing)

  • Floating line that has a delicate presentation (these fish are extremely spooky and too hard of presentation can make them all spook)

  • For leader and tippet, I use 0x to 1x (13-15 pound) but you can use as little as 4x (6 pounds)! I use super strong line because my home waters have a lot of log jams where I have to put the brakes on

  • Waders, wading shoes, or boat that can perform in shallow water (utilize what you can, whether that is wading in a little urban river or on a boat at a lake)

  • Polarized sunglasses (glare is a big issue with murky freshwater so get some, it is pointless going without them)

  • A large net with a long handle (preferably I would get a net that you can reach a long way out without having to double your fly rod over because these fish are heavy)

  • Some sort of bag or vest to hold your flies and accessories! The more convenience you have, the more time you will be fishing

Finding the spots:

What is so awesome about carp is that they are everywhere! If you have permanent freshwater systems near you, chances are, there are carp eager to bite your fly! Get to know your area and really start to scout for carp. Take the time to check under bridges, the shallows of lakes, and nice long shallow stretches of river water. I start seeing carp as early as April and into the fall season.

Usually, when I am scouting out a new area the number one thing I look for is DUST CLOUDS. I emphasize this because carp are known for their huge plumes of muddy or sandy dust. If you see any unusually large dust clouds, then that means one of two things:

  1. You have crept up on a school of carp that have detected you and are fleeing leaving huge clouds of dust with their big tails.

  2. You are really close to a feeding carp that has its face in the dirt sucking up the ground and filtering dust through its gills.

If this is your first time seeing these signs, then stop the boat or whatever it is your doing, and find the source. Gather as much information as possible. Hopefully, it is a feeding carp, and if this is the case then get a fly 2-3 feet in front of its nose ASAP!

Reading Carp Body Language:

One of the biggest learning processes that I went through when I started chasing carp was reading their body language. Once you figure out their body language, then you will know which carp are more willing to take a fly or not. For the basics, I will break up the body languages into 3 categories:

  • The first type of carp I will talk about is the cruising carp. This is the carp that is swimming very fast or moderately fast. These carp are pointless to throw a fly at! These fish on are a mission to get somewhere and are not even thinking about eating at the moment!

  • The second type of carp is the slow-moving carp. A slow-moving carp is a relaxed carp that is not feeding and might be sunbathing. There is a possibility it will take a well-placed fly. If you can cast a fly gently 2-3 feet in front of its nose, let it sink in line with its eyes, the carp might go for it and suck it up! If it does, GAME ON!

  • Lastly, the third type of body language is my favorite, and that is the feeding carp. If anything, always go for this type of carp! A feeding carp is one that is in the shallows with its face in the ground dining on whatever forage it’s looking for! 90% of the time, if your fly is well placed, this carp will not turn down your fly! Its main focus is to EAT, so if given that opportunity, it’s going to do just that! Cast 2-3 feet in front of it with a GENTLE cast and with your fly hitting the water softly and sinking at a moderately slow rate. Even though this fish is relaxed, it will still spook easily! Stealth is key when fly fishing for these giants.


Probably the most asked question I get from curious people is “what do you use?” The primary idea of carp flies is to imitate crawfish or buggy-like flies (at least in my home waters in Indiana). These flies are generally smaller because they need to eaten by carp with smaller mouths. A lot of my flies are from size 8 to size 14 hooks, and there are hooks specifically designed for carp which are probably better for hook-sets and not losing fish! Here is a small list of flies that I tie which all can be found on Youtube:

  • John Montana’s Hybrid Carp Fly

  • The Backstabber

  • Common Craw

  • Any type of crawfish pattern

  • Barr’s Spork Carp Fly

  • McTage’s Trouser Worm

  • Smaller Woolly Bugger

Carp are very picky, so if your fly is just not working, move on to another.

My Boat Setup

If any of you have seen my videos I post on Instagram, then you have probably noticed my crazy boat platforms. The biggest problem when I first started fishing was just being able to see these fish before they saw me. I have a 14’ Smoker Craft Jon boat with two 30” platforms that I stand on and push pole off of, and a 1989 Bass Tracker. It was amazing to see how fast I started seeing results as far as catching numbers. In my opinion, the higher up you are, the better. Glare is a huge issue here in my home waters when you have trees and clouds blocking sunlight, so the platforms help take that horizontal glare effect away.


The first thing I want to say about my tips is that some of them do not apply to certain waters. For example, when fly fishing up near Beaver Island and Traverse City, Michigan, fly fishermen are chucking big sculpin streamers at schools of meat-eating monsters just like bonefish. Where I live, it is more of smaller and close quarters fishing. Each environment has different situations, but generally, I would follow the tips I have provided then go from there.

The number one tip I would give anyone who is just getting into this lifestyle is to BE PATIENT!!!! Do not expect to have your first cast to produce a record Carp… Although it could happen (and I hope it does). I would guess it probably won’t because it takes time to find that sweet spot in front of a feeding carp. Another huge piece of advice I want to give is I went through a huge dry spell where these fish made me look stupid. I probably went over 30 times before finally getting hooked up again. The biggest reason this happened was, as spring progresses into summer, you will find out quickly that vegetation and the number of people on the water explodes. These both have huge effects on landing carp effectively.

If you need more information, feel free to follow me on Instagram @dane_s_gopro and message me! Also check out carponthefly.blogspot.com and www.flycarpin.com for more awesome tips, information, and great content!

Why Redfish Fly Fishing Reminds Me of Carp Fly Fishing

Grass Carp: Chasing the Eat

Video of the Week: Carpoon


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.