We had the pleasure of meeting, fishing, and sharing a few laughs with local guide Henry Fowler. Henry is a military man, pilot, and great carp guide in the Charlotte, NC area who does not disappoint when targeting common carp, grass carp, and gar. Below are a few tips and tricks that proved to be helpful. Email Henry if you want to take a trip – firstname.lastname@example.org
We met at a boat ramp on Lake Norman and, to our surprise, we found fish of the bat on a skinny flat near a point. Unlike ocean flats that are the size of a few football fields, carp flats are long, expansive shore lines close to deep water. Tip #1 – find shore lines that are 2 feet deep, near deep water, and are wide enough off the bank for fish to feed (30 feet).
Afterward we headed towards the back of a long cove to a more expansive flat where were found two feeding common carp, including this giant below! Tip #2 – be stealthy. Common carp know when they are being stalked; so, pay attention to boat position, closing hatches, walking around and throwing a pressure wave, etc.
So, we poled this long edge and came to the back of the cover where a common was mudding (face down, tail up looking for things to eat). Tip #3 – fly location is more important than selection. I found that common carp are opportunistic feeder and might eat a clam, crayfish, nymph, etc. as long as it is presented correctly. Because of this, Henry recommends to tie or buy flies that can impersonate a wide variety of food options. This carp ate a fly no longer than an inch; however, we used the drag and drop method to get the fly in the softball size feeding zone.
After the eat, we had the pleasure of fighting the fish for a few minutes. Tip #4 – clear your line and keep pressure. Once a carp eats, they peel line. So, make sure it isn’t wrapped around something on the deck. Secondly, once they eat, they go towards cover as this carp did. Applying side pressure will turn the head of the fish and cause it to move in a different direction.
This is a different style of fishing that most freshwater anglers may be foreign too. So, you should do it. Tip #5 – hire a guide. Don’t expect to run and gun to catch your first carp in the first day. Anytime I fish a new species, I hire a guide. The money is well spent because you learn fish behavior, how to cover water, what to look for, and so much more.
This last tip may come to a surprise…and I hope Henry doesn’t get too mad. Tip #6 – a fish is a fish. Fish need to eat and they typically feed daily. Try to find feeding fish throughout the day and don’t waste time on fish that are not in the mood or spooked. Look for a line of mudding fish and follow the mud as carp feed in a line. Look for sights of carp: holes, overturned clams, muds, even the smell. And…don’t overthink it. Find a feeding fish, present the fly in a way to not spook the fish, and set the hook once you see the carp eat (usually with a lip flare).
Also, have an 8 weight handy for gar!! They tend to hang out together.
Flies: Any nymph size 4-14. We used a flies that had a pink tail and a peacock body. Look up the hybrid carp fly and a swimming nymph. Woolly buggers work too.
Gear: 3-8 weight depending on cover and size of fish. 6-10 weight tippet depending on water conditions. Floating line.