It’s hard for me to explain to people exactly why I love pursuing carp on the fly. It's hard enough just explaining to people why I fly fish period for Christ's sake, let alone for carp. You're taking a hard fish to catch and then purposely making it even harder. Those split-second visuals of a large, well-earned fish taking your fly, followed by a deeply bent rod, singing reel and line-burnt fingers keep me up thinking, designing, planning and dreaming at night. You either get it, or you don't. Chances are, those who don’t get it, simply haven’t done it yet, or didn't have the patience to solve the many riddles that carp present. And for the few that do do it and take it seriously, are often heavily infatuated with it. I'm not trying to swing you over to the dark side of fly fishing and make you a carp convert or anything. In fact, I secretly keep hope that all of this new carp hype in fly fishing will subside. More water and more fish for me, right? I'm just simply trying to say that I enjoy the challenge of the carp.
One of the coolest aspects of carp fishing in my opinion is that even though some chase them around from time to time, they're still not popular enough for people to spend money and travel to catch them like say, trout, Atlantic salmon, or bonefish. I think it’s safe to say that I don’t foresee many of our clients wanting to go carp fishing in July or August when the green drakes, PMDs and caddis are hatching on our fabled, local trout streams (notice I said clients not guides). This leaves carp fly anglers like myself with no shortage of solitude and a large array of “unspoiled” fishing locations. Maybe I should've said untapped or underutilized, as many carp fisheries are not necessarily unspoiled if you know what I mean. They get fished alright, just that it's usually by the odd rancher or local kid drowning some worms, looking to put a little meat on the table. Plus, I don't guide much anymore which leaves me and my non-fishing guide fishing partners (guides are busy working) free-range on our carp water. I say our carp water like we own it, which is only natural when you've fished an area for so long that you feel entitlement towards it. On the very rare occasion that I do bump into another fly angler on our carp water, I usually end up knowing the angler, even when I'm over a hundred miles from home. If you think that fly fishing is a subculture, then being a carp fly fisherman is like being involved in Freemasonry.
People are always amazed to learn that I spend the majority of my year chasing these alarmingly beautiful and rewarding fish, especially since I live smack-dab in the middle of a trout fishing Mecca. But it really is quite simple for me; they are big fish that demand -but are yet willing to eat- a well presented fly, and often feed in shallow water, making them visible and accessible to the willing freshwater angler. Add to this the fact that they are an incredibly shy and skittish fish; one whose entire body has been dubbed as "one big sensory organ" by my friend and veracious carp-hound, Thomas Clennon. And they pull hard; damn hard. It’s the inland working man’s redfish, complete with tarpon and bonefish like characteristics. If you're anything like me and can't afford to go on expensive saltwater fishing trips often, carping helps fill the void (minus the palm trees, mangroves and bikinis of course). Fly fishing for carp will not only make you a better trout fly angler, but a better angler period. That in itself should be incentive enough to make you want to learn how to fly fish for this masculine fish.
The Knowledge Webb Diaries is written and photographed by Kirk Webb
This is the first in a multi-part series about carp, carp fishing and whatever else I'm inspired by.