In The Mail: Quixotic Carp Question

In the mail this morning…

Dear Carp Gangsta,

I come to you with a problem. My homeboy XXX hails from XXX XXX. We’re good pals from back in the day when we used to fish for small troots here in XXX. XXX has since moved on and is an avid XXX steelheader. I, however, have lured him to the dark side. He’s been prowling the back waters around XXX looking for an urban fix.

Young jedi XXX has apparently figured out the first two critical steps in tricking a cyprinid: 1) he’s found fish, and 2) those fish are apparently eating.

Here is the issue: he’s explained a scenario that vexes me. He talks about a situation where he comes upon a back water slough of some sort where there is heavy grass or milfoil and the fish seem to be tail down, nose up…slurping and eating. I asked if they were sucking foam…nope. XXX has put a bunch of different patterns into the “zone” and they are indifferent. I asked if they were spawning – nope. Tail down, nose up, chuffing grass.

Any ideas to help a playa out? I haven’t seen this before. Think he’s on a pod of grass carp?

Please drop some science so we can help pop XXX’s carp cherry.



And now for the response…


What your friend is observing is fish with IQs that exceed that of a Border Collie, and who, if they were not protected by the cover nearby this slough (which is quite obviously a bed of baby crayfish being guarded come dinnertime) would be acting more paranoid than talk radio’s Alex Jones.

No, your friend has not run into a pod of grass carp, as that species is more apt to be found cruising for surface fodder. Coming up with excuses for failure to hook Cyprinus carpio is more common than the cagey beast itself, but nice try anyway. Instead, he simply faces a problem every fly angler comes across when they begin their pursuit of the finest gamefish alive.

My recommendations are as follows…

Tell your friend to quit his job, and dump all his friends and loved ones. Avoid bathing more than once per week, and throw away every razor in the house. Begin a subsistence diet of 7-11 Quarter Pound Big Bites, Red Bull, and Blueberry Pop-Tarts. Send all rods, save a few six or seven weights, to my attention – include all reels with less than 200 yards of gel spun capacity, and all flies smaller than size 8. Cut teeth day in and day out like Don Quixote himself, and don’t miss a single psychotherapy appointment.

Should Mr. XXX follow this advice, he should be catching those fish in no time.


MG signing off (to be the happy helperton)


Wally says:

When I see them doing that I wonder if they’re not gulping air. Not because the O2 content is so low in those tepid backwaters rather because they are curious as to what it will be like when they take to the land – which will be soon, sometime tomorrow probably.

All hail our future overlords.

John says:

XXX is describing my own backwater slough. Michael’s response is dead on. That is the only remedy. You can’t overlook the diet and cutting teeth daily. Also having a job is such a distraction.

Kevin says:

Any advice on technique? I was basically throwing crawfish/clouser type bugs into the weed piles they were munching on in hopes they would find it – nope.

Is their a technique or bug I should focus on? I’ve been rotating through the usual bugs (buggers, carpy type flies, crayfish, clousers dries, etc) and techniques, (putting it close, letting it drop, baby strips, bonking them in the snout). Anything I should focus on? If they’re as smart as you say, does leader size/length matter?

John – I’m in your neck of the woods. Love to buy you a beer sometime and pick your brain on technique. I’m getting advice from a CO buddy and I’m hearing our carps behave differently.

If they seemed to be sipping off the surface, in what seems like stagnant water…

1) Mix three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one of vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet
2) Shake it very well until it’s ice cold
3) Add a large slice of lemon peel

Repeat a half-dozen times within an hour or so.

And get yourself a few small chronomids after waking.

Once a week? Seems like overkill. To think like a carp first try smelling like a carp!

Seriously though Kevin – if the carp you find are giving you fits sometimes the best thing to do is just keep walking. The hardest thing to learn carpin is when not to draw to an inside straight.

Agreed. When the caprs ain’t eating, go find others that are. Barry Reynolds’ seminal work on the matter, Carp on the Fly, says as much. And frankly, the “get your feet moving” strategy seems to work much more than not.

[…] Quixotic Carp Question.  A funny man writes a funny response to a funny question about funny fish. […]

Well? This deserves a follow-up, Kev. But only after all of the above advice has been followed, of course.

Kevin says:

UPDATE: Hit it hard again yesterday equipped with all the knowledge you were all kind enough to share – and much more booze. Walked about a mile casting to feeding fish the whole way. They are still eating floating pods of green algae on the surface. I saw them cruising through the water engulfing smaller chunks of greenery. I brought a buddy who is a better angler then I and both of us were putting casts right in front of them – still no luck. Using smaller flies, lighter tippets. Next tactic is to listen to Trevor and find new water/fish. It’s prob. an overdue tactical shift because this water is so awesome (close by, lots of fish always eating, lots of cover, etc.). But we can’t see the bottom – wonder if that’s a problem. I’ve got a list of places to scout so that’s what we’ll do. However, summer steel head are here and they are so much easier to catch.

“However, summer steel head are here and they are so much easier to catch.”

This bears repeating.

Keep us updated. And if we need to send a crack team of specialists out, call the bunker on the red line.

Size 12 TMC 5212. Small strip of foam across the shank. Heavy dark olive dub.

We could call it Gracie’s Algae Eater, but Charlie Craven has probably trademarked the name already.

And besides, you already have “Gracie’s Greasy Clam”…

Too much resin in that batch. Sorry!

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