Wading for Carp

by Brandon Butler

Stopping on a trail above a large pool on a local creek, I wiped the sweat from my brow and peered down at cruising shadows below. Carp were schooled up and actively feeding just below a small riffle—prime targets. Common carp are found in many areas, and fishermen pursue this species using many different techniques in diverse environments including clear lakes, rivers, small creeks and flooded fields. Their preferred habitat is slow or still water with a vegetative, softer bottom and in shallow backwater bays and along shorelines.

Wearing waders or using wading shoes is recommended when stalking carp in the water. You don’t want to take any chances of cutting your feet on an old bottle or piece of metal. Polarized sunglasses, a landing net, waders or wading shoes are important pieces of equipment when pursuing carp. The polarized sunglasses help when searching along the shore or in shallow bays. You can beach carp if you’re fishing alone and don’t want to drag a net along, but netting is best.  A small trout net won’t cut it.

Stalking carp in small creeks with fly-fishing equipment has become one of my favorite summertime activities. I really enjoy catching trout, smallmouths and goggle-eyes, but hooking into a 10-pound-plus carp on a fly rod in close quarters is an absolute thrill. When a carp takes off screaming downstream and empties your reel down to the backing, it’s simply exhilarating and puts catching a 12-inch trout into perspective.

Of course, using a spinning outfit can be just as exciting.

Longtime Michigan salmon and steelhead guide Kevin Morlock has become a recognized carp expert over the last decade.

“Few aspects of my job are as enjoyable as watching a client change their perception of carp. As soon they hook into their first carp, I watch disbelief disappear before my eyes. Most people hardly believe the strength of these fish. It’s great.”

When I’m creek-fishing for carp, I’m sight-fishing. This means I spot the fish and then work out a plan to try and catch it. Look for cruising carp along the shore and lay a cast out in front of where the fish is heading; let the fly settle to the bottom. Wait until the carp and the fly are together in an area the size of a basketball hoop and then pop the fly a couple of times to get the fish’s attention. If the carp turns on the fly, gently pop it a couple more times to make the fly appear as if it’s trying to escape, then stop. Wait. Then be quiet and patient. When you see the carp suck in your fly or you feel the tug of the carp swimming off, set the hook and hold on.

Carp feed on an omnivorous array of plants, insects and crustaceans. Your flies should imitate what the carp are feeding on in a specific body of water. Minnows, crayfish, leeches and mayflies are all found where the carp are so patterns tied to imitate these are good choices. Morlock’s Carp Bunny, Whitlock’s Near-Nuff Crawfish, Clouser’s swimming Nymph and Wooly Buggers are flies known to catch carp. Spin-fishermen can use these flies too by adding a few split shot to their lines.

Although common carp are officially classified as a “rough fish” and have been looked down upon for years, they are beginning to gain mainstream appeal. As more and more anglers begin to look beyond past perceptions of these formidable fish, they’re realizing these carp offer excellent angling for size, fight and numbers in waters close to home.

Many rivers and creeks are home to the common carp. When the weather is too hot to sit in a boat or on the bank like now in August, slip on some wading shoes and spend some time wading your local river or stream in pursuit of one of the hardest-fighting fish you can tangle with.  MWO