In my former days flippin’ & pitchin’ was done with 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig and pig combos. Over the years I've been doing it with a fly that weighs only a few milligrams. Who would have thought that some of my old bass fishing tactics would help me catch carp?
For those of you who don't know what “flipping and pitching” is, it’s an underhand swing which propels your fly swiftly and accurately to a given target. As for “stack mending”, if you’re a seasoned trout fisherman you already know what this is and are very good at it. When trout fishing, stack mending is typically used to create or extend a dead-drift when fishing across an area of mixed current. For example, when nymphing a slow seam on the edge of fast current you would throw tiny roll cast like mends into the slow seam thus "stacking" your line. This slows down your drift and as the stacked line unfolds in the current it maximizes the length of your drift before the current produces drag on your rig. Now that’s enough silly trout talk…
In the summer months my stillwaters become thick with weeds. The only way to successfully target carp is to incorporate flipping and pitching into my casting repertoire. This is executed at very close range, usually within a few feet. Although once proficient you can successfully and accurately drop your fly on targets as far as fifteen feet away with little effort. Accuracy is very important when it comes to this technique, most of the time I’m flipping my fly into an area that’s only a few inches in diameter. If the target is very close to you stack mending is usually not required but the further you are from your target stack mending becomes crucial to present your fly to the fish.
Let’s say you successfully creep to within fifteen feet of a carp feeding/cruising under dense surface vegetation. You will need locate a hole/pocket in the weeds and time your flip/pitch as to intercept the fish and present your (weightless) fly on the drop. In other words, make sure the fish sees the fly parachute to the bottom because after the fly hits the water you don’t apply any additional action to the fly at all. Once you've successfully flip/pitched your fly into an opening in the weeds that is any distance greater than a rod length away you’ll need to stack mend your tippet on top of the opening. This needs to be done constantly to allow the fly to free fall to the bottom. If you don’t stack mend your tippet the fly will hang in weeds well above the fish and you'll miss your chance. This type of mending must be done delicately as not to create ripples on the surface, any sort of disturbance will send my fish in the other direction. Also, knowing when to set the hook is dictated by your sixth sense because nine times out of ten you will not visually see the fish eat.
As with any new technique, practice makes perfect. It can be extremely frustrating even once proficient. More often than not when you accomplish that perfect flip and mend a sunfish will be right there to blow your chances at gold. Keep your head up and stay with it. You will eventually be rewarded.
My weapon of choice for flipping and pitching...
A Carp Damsel tied on a Gamakatsu split shot/drop shot hook.
Even this scenario calls for flipping and pitching...
Notice all the small pieces of weedy debris floating on the surface. Although it looks like open water, a weightless fly will not sink to the proper depth if your tippet is lying in surface debris.
How many carp do you see?
Carp Dragons are another excellent choice. They tend to hold more water and break the surface a bit harder but once you get the hang of flipping you can slow down the entry of the fly, reducing the risk of spooking fish in shallow water. They are also bulkier than the damsel, they create more drag in the water which makes it easier to stack mend your tippet without pulling the fly upwards in the water column.
This is a carpers worst nightmare...
Venues with thick weed mats that consume the entire water column are still fishable if your're willing to go for a swim to untangle and dig up your fish.
Victory in Vegetation!