Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Stalk

There are very few times I find myself entering the water to chase after carp. Most of the time, this is a recipe for disaster given their hypersensitivy to vibrations, noise, and smell. They often see and hear you well before you ever see them. My pond has given me a rather tough equation to crack with very limited shore access and thick brush encircling the arena. A few weekends ago, I found myself in that arena with clear skies and cold temperatures for March. The carp were very visible but as usual completely out of reach. It made for some great pictures but I knew that there was only one way to get them. I had to go in. 

I See You.

Building a Better Mouse Trap.

Two Out of Reach Feeding Golden Ghosts.

I usually only enter their element after several conditions can be met. For one, you need clear skies and bright sun. This gives you roughly twenty feet of visibility (depending on the clarity of water) to work with, which isn't much at all for sight fishing on a flat to wary fish. You also have to make sure that the sun is at your back. This increases the visibility and makes sure that you have that 20 ft. mark. However, the best benefit to having the sun at your back, is that it blinds the carp. It is very similar to us humans driving into the sun. It hides my silhouette and allows me to get very close to my quarry. Close enough to watch them take. The final condition is wind. A slight breeze at your back can be very beneficial for stalking carp on flats. Yes, it takes away your visibility but it also takes away some of theirs and allows you to make closer presentations without spooking fish in skinny water. 

Laid Up Sleeping Carp.

Unweighted Damsel.

Stalked & Sight Fished.

I'll Take It For 39 Degrees.

With those three conditions in place, I slid into the water and began the stalk. With ultra wary quarry, this is probably the most important part of the equation. If the surroundings and water clarity changed slightly, I might as well be on a flat in the Caribbean stalking bonefish and permit. It is a game I have played before and this is its closest comparison. While stalking these fish, one must be extremely careful to make as little noise as possible. On a large saltwater flat with a lot more visibility, it might be even more beneficial to stay still and watch. Here, I find myself slowly making my way down the shoreline looking for the tell tale outlines of carp. Its a brown on brown world and your eyesight will only get better with practice. Just like bonefish or the tail of a permit, one you become familiar with their image, they can become unmistakable, provided the right conditions. The stalk is troublesome because my feet sink several inches to foot into mud with every step but soon I see my first carp. 

The Carp Face.

There are Two Carp in this Picture.

Bottoms Up.

Looking Like a Gang of Reds Coming Down the Flat.

Once the carp is spotted, it becomes a game of angles, timing, and body language. You have to read the fish and find out what exactly he is up to. If the fish is feeding, by either dipping down to the bottom and rummaging or slowly picking things off or below the surface, your in business. If the fish is on the move, business is not as good. Either way, you have to intercept the fish with your fly and feed it. This is done best, when the fish is moving towards you or to your right or left. From here, it is all about timing. Using an unweighted pattern, that you know the sink rate of, the presentation is made to have the fly descending and within a foot of the carps face. Picture a large dinner plate. Often, I lose sight of the fly and end up reading the carp's body language. If he moves in the general direction of the fly and stops in its vicinity, opens or closes his mouth, or flares his gills this often means that they have taken the fly. This is also learned through practice and can become sort of a "sixth sense". 

The Equation Solved.

Gold Rush.

I Need To Catch a Bruiser Sometime Soon...


testflycarpin said...

I am with ya man...I need a bruiser! Nice write-up. Im gonna try that damsel soon as I manage to tie one that doesnt look ridiculous.

Unknown said...


A wonderful post full of excitement, and great pictures, thanks.

Bigerrfish said...

I just stood up, turned a circle, remove my hat, threw it on the floor, picked it up, put it back on, and shook my head at the thought of your blog and the carp stories that we can expect this spring....gee's

John Montana said...

Good stuff. As if I needed more help dreaming of warmer water!