Nothing to be ‘Koi’ About: Spring Carp on the ‘Fly’

Here in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest we’ve been experiencing warmer weather. One would think my exploits would turn to the winter trout seasons found in many states, or, perhaps to the pursuit of steelhead in Michigan.

Well, you’d be mistaken.

I recently headed to the open waters below a dam on the Ottertail River in western Minnesota in search of members of the Cyprinidae family, the “Golden Ghost,” or just the good old common carp, my current gamefish of choice. Despite the popular misconception of this species being rough fish, they will put you to the test in many different ways.

Around the world, carp are sought by many and are considered to be “top-of-the-line gamefish.” Several flies are in order here, plus a float and a stout 5- to 8-weight fly rod. Nymphs, streamers, wet flies, San Juan worms and even dry flies are effective as well as a strong landing net because most of these critters are neither dainty nor little.

On this particular day, I fished below a dam using a 5-weight rod from shore. I was mostly sight-casting to a large pod of carp while drifting a variation of a fly called “carp candy” and above it I had a “thing-a-bobber” down along the edge of the current. Carp are normally skittish, but this time of year they can be rather sluggish though put up a good tug of war once hooked. The real catch to all of this was to drift the fly and watch for any hesitation on the bobber. You cannot just strike and set the hook. Instead, gently lift the rod until you feel a bit of resistance, and then set. You will be rewarded many more times than not by using the slow, easy method, although admittedly with an occasional snag.

If the pod of fish moves off, be patient. Either move to another spot or wait for the pod to reset itself. They were holding there for a reason and will more often than not return. On this outing the carp and sheepshead were feeding together in these runs, providing an opportunity to catch both species.

Anytime of the year is a good time to fish for carp, and I don’t know of any state that has a closed season for this species. If you enjoy tying your own flies, seek out additional techniques too, as fly fishing is a growing sport.