How did you get into fishing for carp?
Mike Kuzma – A high school friend and Australian who lived in Poland for several years. He showed me how to catch carp the European way, with spinning gear, chum, boilies and strike detectors. Golf course ponds (snagging grassy’s) and local reservoirs (Cherry Creek, Chatfield) are where I first really got into carp fishing. While working at Discount Fishing Tackle on the South Platte River along S.Santa Fe Dr in Littleton and Denver, I fly fished for carp daily. I was also enamored with carp while trout fishing 11mile Canyon and on Spinney and 11mile Reservoirs.
Photo courtesy of Kirk Webb
What is it about this fish that keeps you coming back? Why carp out of all other fish?
The challenge of battling wits with such a regal and smart animal (fish). I can’t say this is a scientific fact, but carp have the ability to retain memory. They remember flies, locations, bad presentations and other facets of memory retainment. Truthfully, I think that I enjoy carp and carp fishing because it reminds me of my childhood, coming back full circle; same reason I also am in love with bluegill and bass. Plus, carp fishing returns on my radar in March, right after a long winter of trout fishing, light tippet and tiny flies. I have solitude while carp fishing. This is something that, besides fishing the high country, doesn’t happen much in this day and age. The fact that I’m part Japanese also might play a role in my love and respect for carp. The Japanese have long regaled the carp as the peaceful warrior (samurai), where it is said to represent bravery, strength and the ability to overcome obstacles, where when placed on the cutting board, it awaits the knife without tremble. On another note, carp in my mind are the ultimate gamefish. If you took the best qualities of every gamefish and blended them to make the ultimate gamefish, you’d come up with a carp. In my eye, they are most reminiscent of tarpon and redfish. They live everywhere and in any environment. They like to eat flies and spend time in shallow water where I can sight fish to them. Lastly, they’re big. Who doesn’t like pulling on big fish?
How much time and effort do you put into trying to catch this fish with no reward?
I spend a great deal of time and effort in my pursuit of carp on the fly, but as is the case with all species of fish, I learn more from my failures than I do in my successes. That being said, there have been times when I have gone weeks – months – and in the beginning YEARS, without catching a carp. Nowadays, with the popularity of fly fishing for carp, some of the more popular destinations are seeing the fish becoming increasingly more difficult to catch. This is okay with me, as this is how fly fishing for carp is continuing to evolve, where anglers are forced to come up with new tactics, flies, gear etc. Fly fishing for carp is still in its infancy. In a way, this reminds me of how tarpon fishing and its early fly fishing pioneers might have been like back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. They were breaking new ground, just as I see carp fly fishing these days.
Photo courtesy of Travis Lyons
How has the addiction to catching these fish affected your life?
It really hasn’t affected my life in any particular way. Sure, I spend a lot of time in the field pursuing them, but I suppose carp have allowed me to introduce this awesome, fly-eating specie to others. It did consume me for a period of maybe two or three years where I was trying to “figure” them out. Now, I get more pleasure seeing others have success with them; I enjoy sharing my passion. The pursuit of the hunt and the visuals of the eat are what continues to feed my love affair with the carp.
What is the hardest thing you have encountered carp fishing?
Hands-down, the hardest thing about carp fishing is being mentally tough enough to match wits with such a smart fish. As a beginner carp angler, simply gaining some confidence that they will in fact eat a fly is often the biggest hurdle. In thinking about this, that period of time when you finally get that first carp under your belt can often take a long period of time. Again, having the mental fortitude to “never give up” is probably the hardest thing in carp fly fishing. Once you’re able to break out of that initial slump, you get used to the extreme lows and highs of fly fishing for carp. Like all fishing, a little luck never hurts either.
What do you gain out of fly fishing for carp?
Pretty simple; they make you better fly-fisherman. They teach you so many things and there is no room for mistakes with them.
How do you feel about people bow hunting and killing these fish.
I have zero issues with it. It’s their God given right to do so. Yes, there have been times when my own personal fishing has suffered due to a bow-fisher being ahead up me on the same piece of water, but that’s just a fact of life. There are other places to go, so I just go somewhere where they aren’t. The only issue I have had with the bow-fishers I’ve come across, is that they waste the fish, leaving them to die on the bank. It truly breaks my heart to see any animal being wasted. If you shoot it, you should at least eat it, donate it or use it for nutrients in your garden or something.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Outing Photography
What are your thoughts on how invasive these fish are and what people are doing to stop them?
Boy, that’s a tough one to answer as there’s no one right answer. I think Asian Carp are invasive and need to be dealt with more seriously than common carp. Since I’m originally from Michigan, our Great Lakes had everything from carp to catfish, salmon to trout, bass to bluegill, pike to walleye – all coexisting in the same environment, with each one thriving. Now if you’re referring to common carp in our part of the Lower Colorado River, all I can say is good luck. The CPW has been trying to eradicate ALL invasive fish in efforts to restore populations of some native chubs and suckers. I’m all for native fish and everything, but sometimes you’re fighting a losing battle with no chance of winning. This includes gamefish like smallmouth and largemouth bass and in particular northern pike. I think the CPW forgets that rainbow and brown trout are also invasive (non-native). Not to mention the fact that they are the ones who originally transplanted and stocked all these non-natives around the state in the first place. All I know is that carp are like the cockroaches of the fish world; they will survive in practically any environment. Even the CPW officers that I’ve spoken with, openly acknowledge the fact that they are wasting their time shocking the river trying to eradicate carp, bass and pike among other “invasive” fish species. Simply put, the carp will continue to survive and thrive. Should they be stocked in places where they haven’t existed before? It’s situational; in some places definitely not, and in other places, sure. These are tough questions to answer. I’m a simple fisherman, not a politician or biologist.
What is your best story from carp fishing?
I really don’t have a particular favorite story. For me, they all blend together where the carp become the story. If you’re looking for a big fish story, here’s one that I’m proud of though. About four or five years ago, I was teaching a friend and younger angler how to carp fish. He had that “drive” for trying to figure these fish out. He got his ass kicked for a few years, stuck with it, began unraveling their secrets and finally started to “listen” to what the fish were telling him to do. I took him to a lake that had a few giants in it. These big-boys very rarely come onto the flats. In the course of an average year, I might see 2-4 fish of this size. To not cause the usual big-fish anxiety, I simply told him where the fish was and how and when to retrieve his fly; slide it, bump it, baby bump it – SET! I never told him how big the fish was that he was casting to – it was a freakin’ giant. Adjacent to the flat was a deep drop-off where he was able to fight the fish over 40’ft of water. That makes for a long fight, but is also the reason why the fish never broke off. Anyhow, when we finally boated the fish and I netted about a 40” inch carp for him. It was the biggest fish of his blossoming career and was the longest fight I’ve been witness to for carp – about twenty minutes. That fish exuded regalness. Hell, it’s tail was nearly a foot in width. Now that’s a motor!
Photo courtesy of Kirk Webb
What is your worst story from carp fishing?
This is an easy one. I don’t have one! Like I said earlier, it can often be about just how much pain you can take before you give it all up. My pain threshold is exceedingly high.
What is the carp fishing community like? Where do you see the sport of carp fishing going in the future?
I’ve often said that it’s like being a free-mason; like being in a sub-culture within a sub-culture. The carp anglers these days are better than they ever have been, and it’s certainly gaining in popularity due in large part to social media and fly fishing films. The younger generation has no disdain for carp like it was when I began fly-fishing for them. I’m excited about that and am glad to see the sport evolving and accepting carp. It continues to make for the never-ending clash of the class wars within fly-fishing, which I’ve always felt was a good thing. Sure, the downside is that there are now more and more people fishing for “my” fish in “my” spots, but I’m glad to see the continued and increasing interest. This increased pressure has really just allowed me to reach out to the beyond and expand my horizons, finding new water and new fish where there is no pressure. Kind of like tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys versus tarpon fishing in the Florida Everglades…or something like that. You gotta keep pace and continue to evolve as an angler and guide too. I always want to have a few tricks (or places) in my bag that others do not have or know of. I challenge myself to learn something new each and every time I’m on the water.
Questions from TC Guide Shannon Outing
Answers from TC Shop Guru Kirk Webb
Photographs courtesy of Shannon Outing Photography, Kirk Webb and Travis Lyons