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Utah’s temperamental spring has finally given over to summer - no longer do we need to use heaters and air-conditioners on the same day. The waters have warmed considerably and that means it is time to go fly-fishing for carp! Let’s briefly review the benefits of going after Utah’s golden bone fish and if you haven’t fished for this excellent quarry, you are simply missing out on one of Utah's finest and most resourceful game fish. They are large, wary, and strong and will test your skill and equipment to the breaking point.
Photo Utah Carp Caught On A Fly
So, how do we fish for them? Your first step is to find water where carp are visible in shallow, clear flats. In Utah, the warm, fresh water flats adjacent to the Great Salt Lake afford quite a few locations, as well as Utah Lake and other waters. Your next step is to make sure your equipment is ready. You may be able to land large carp on less than 6 lb. test tippet, but we do not suggest going any lighter. I fish with a 9’ 5 weight rod and consider this the minimum weight fly rod capable of reasonable landing of the carp. We want to land them, not tickle them into submission. Your choice of fly can be just about any available nymph pattern matching the natural food sources available to the carp.
Pick Your Flies Wisely and Cover Your Scent
Remember that carp are omnivores and eat plants as well as insects. Nymphs which match the color of the available plant life seem to be more successful than other colors. Also, do not hesitate to fish in the moss or algae where the carp often feed. One secret technique is to rub your nymph or even a sculpin with local mud and moss to cover your scent! Experience has taught us that carp have an unbelievable sense of smell and if you want to get a “quick” hit, get rid of the human odor. Otherwise you may end up letting your fly soak in the water and after some time goes by the scent will eventually be gone but so may be the carp. So use this tip wisely.
Cast Where Your Target Is Going
Photo monster common carp Utah
When you see the carp cruising or see them rolling on the surface, do not cast directly to them; rather, try to guess which direction they are moving and place your cast in their path. The clearer the water, the longer the lead; if the water is very clear lead by 6 to 10 or even 12 feet. In water less clear, your lead can be shortened to 3 feet. Sometimes, you will need to tease your nymph jerking it 6 to 12 inches to entice a strike. More often than not, however, simply letting the nymph drop and sit on the bottom induces a strike. An adjustable strike indicator is also a good idea and may help suspend the fly just off the bottom of the pond or lake in the proper water column the fish are feeding in.
Set Your Hook and Hang On !
Photo trophy carp caught at Lake Bountiful Utah
A solid hook set is then required, this hooks the carp in its rather rubbery mouth. Now, hang on for a reel burning first run! Keep your hands clear of the reel or you will get a really bad “knuckle buster” of a “whack” on your fingers. You need to fight Carp aggressively; do not “horse” them in, but keep pressure on them, work you line back onto your reel, and let your reel’s drag and your rod fight the fish. Carp typically “run” parallel to your position so gently swing the rod tip in the opposite direction of the run. Also maintain the reel position about navel high with the rod pointing at the fish. To slow the run slowly point the tip upward. This lets the rod work in conjunction with the drag of the reel so you don’t apply too much pressure and risk breaking the line. If you feel this tension is too great simply lower the tip and point at the fish to relieve some pressure and allow the drag to run out some more line or backing. Big carp will let your line see sunlight for the first time in years! This technique is used to successfully land all big freshwater or salt water game fish.
He's Running South To Mexico !!
(and taking all of your line and backing with him)
Photo Monster Common Carp Utah
Make sure you get the fish on the reel, your hands can’t compensate for the changing line pressures like the reel and rod. So use the tools that were designed for the job. As you direct the fish from one side to the other during the parallel run you can reel in line as he comes directly in front of you, if you reel quickly . You can also point the tip of the rod up to “coax” him to come straight in for a few seconds. Trust me; it will only be a few seconds before he goes sideways again. Carp are some of the finest fighting fish I have experienced in the Western States. So go out and have some reel fun. Be prepared for several hard runs, like he’s going to Mexico and watch him closely near the shore. They don’t give up like trout or bass often do when they see a human. I have seen many a carp head straight south after I have had them to shore two or even 3 times.
Say "Golden Bone Fish", Click
Photo another uncommonly big carp in Utah
Once you have landed your fish, take pictures and revive the carp quickly. In some waters, you are encouraged not to return the carp to the water. Unfortunately, the bias against carp is justified in some waters so we suggest following the recommendation; however, wherever possible, release the fish so someone else has the honor and opportunity to catch it.
No fish is better suited to test your skills of casting, fighting and landing large game fish with exceptional fight and stamina. They are great practice for landing that trout of a lifetime.
It may be true that in spring, a young mans thoughts turn to love but as the afternoons warm and evenings lengthen, the summer fly fisher begins to think about his strongest – and possibly wariest – adversary. And that is why we call them Utah’s golden bone fish.
Fly Hatch For Week Ending Saturday June 6, 2009
Afternoon rain turns to dry sunny afternoons this week and that will affect the evening hatch pushing it later into the day, in some cases right up to dusk. The time just before sunset when the Sun drops below the West mountains and the air begins to cool and the emergers become active as well as the older adults from hatches of days gone by that come into the pond area to deposit eggs for the next generation. The old adults "flit and Skirt" across the waters surface trying to avoid the preditors that lurk below while ovipositing the next generation of eggs into the pond. This is also the time when the fish rise high in the water column to feed. The dinner bell has just sounded and the lunkers are ready to "Come and Get It" !!!
Generally ignoring the older adults, they feed on the emergers as they try to escape their shell and crawl through that thin layer of water surface, the miniscus, to escape their water world and enter the air as a new adult. This is the time the trout are feeding and taking advantage of the moving "buffet" as it makes its break for the new world. It is also the "magic" time for the dry fly fisherman. The trout seize the emergers and turn down with the mouthful they have just slurped or gulped. If that happens to be your fly the trout is about to get a really sharp surprise and the reaction is typically to go back to the surface and rocket out of the water like a missle launched from a submarine. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!
Check out our Fly Hatch Chart at: