What you need to know before going carp fishing

It’s generally accepted that carp have a liberal diet but even that description doesn’t say enough. These Carp Crack flies are among the selection carried by local carp fly anglers.

Under the general heading of “Know Before You Go,” having at least some idea of how and where to catch carp will be of service prior to Saturday’s Carpocalypse 2014.

This is the one-day carp-only fly fishing tournament held on waters around the Grand Valley and sponsored by Western Anglers Fly Shop and Edgewater Brewery.

You can register up to Saturday morning at the shop (413 Main St., 244-8658) or online at www. westernanglers.com.

Much has changed in the world of fly fishing for carp since 1996, when fishing writer John Gierach wrote, “So few people fly fish for carp that very little is known about the sport.”

Today, there are several well-selling (we’re hesitant to say “best-selling”) books about catching carp on a fly rod, including George von Schrader’s Carp Are Gamefish (1990, Gil Finn Books, available from used-book dealers); and Carp on the Fly: A Flyfishing Guide by Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman (1997, Spring Creek Press/Johnson Books; $17.50; johnsonbooks.com).

The latter, although a bit dated, still is one of the best source books available.

In the book’s foreword, angling author and artist Dave Whitlock suggested carp were the “last great frontier of opportunity for flyfishers,” calling them “neat, magnificent fish.”

And to be successful, Whitlock said, it’s important to “be very skilled at fly selection, casting, presentation and fighting fish.”


Carp are found in nearly every pond and lake in the valley and in the sloughs and side channels of the Colorado River.

They swim in both discolored and clear water (Lake Powell has some huge carp) but with runoff making havoc of most moving waters, many anglers will be looking at stillwater fishing.

Suggestions include the lakes and ponds in the James M. Robb Colorado State Park chain, the Audubon Nature Center lakes, Highline Lake and Mack Mesa Lake, where you might hook a grass carp.


The staff at Western Anglers Fly Shop (413 Main St., 244-8658) can offer suggestions on tackle, flies and techniques along with places to go.

Orvis has a website (http://bit.ly/1kMyIsB) with information and articles.


As Gierach noted, in the early days you needed to know the right someone to get clues on carp fishing.

Today, however, it’s known that carp have a liberal diet and feed both on the surface and sub-surface. Fly anglers are using their favorite fresh and saltwater patterns with success.

Everything from Crazy Charlies and crab patterns (salt) to San Juan Worms and mayflies (fresh) have fooled and hooked carp.

“I’ve been catching them on cottonwood seed (patterns) and adult damsel patterns,” said fishing guide Justin Edge of Western Anglers in Grand Junction.


It’s going slow and easy, as noted fishing writer John Merwin said in a 2006 article titled “The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp.”

The keys to success, according to Merwin, include casting ahead of tailing fish; letting the fly sink, then twitching it gently; and setting the hook when you feel a tug.

We might add: Don’t let the reel handle hit your knuckles.


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