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How To Catch Grass Carp on Fly

Fly Fishing For Grass Carp Information

Catching a Grass Carp On A Fly is the most amazing  freshwater experience on a fly rod.  Grass Carp are wary and picky creatures and will often refuse a fly.  Grass Carp are originally from Asia, more specifically Malaysia.  Here in the United States, Grass Carp are most often sterilized by cooling, heating and pressurizing the eggs.  In US ponds, the Grass Carp are used for vegetation control, but also make for a sporty catch on a fly rod!  Grass Carp share little characteristics and habits with the Common Carp.  I actually treat them like two totally separate fish.  Grass Carp have forward facing mouths made for eating grass and bugs.  With that said, the primary diet of Grass Carp are grass and bugs.  Grass Carp do not eat algae (nasty bright green or brown slime), they feed on the grass and foliage growing off of the bottom of ponds, as well as cottonseeds that fall into the pond.  Grass Carp also eat damselflies, scuds, chironomids, callibaetis, grasshoppers, beetles, ants and any other insects that fall into the water.

Unlike their Common Carp cousins, Grass Carp will readily eat flies off of the surface of the water.  Grass Carp that are “sitting” or “laid up” can be coxed into eating.  Grass Carp are much more opportunistic than the Common Carp, meaning you do not always have to find a feeding fish.  Moving fish and cruisers will eat your fly if it is placed in the right spot.  The most effective way to catch a Grass Carp is below the surface.  Small to medium sized nymphs such as a Stillwater Nymph, Hares Ear, Scud or Chironomid are hard for a Grass Carp to pass up.

Presentation is everything with Grass Carp.  They are extremely spooky and finicky.  Grass Carp have enormous lateral lines, so they feel anything that hits the waters surface.  Your first cast must be spot on and right in front of the fish.  It is a delicate balance between getting your fly in front of the fish, while not spooking the fish.  If the fly is more than a couple feet away from the fish, it is most often ignored or never seen by the fish.  Grass Carp prefer the fly to moved very slowly, move it too fast and they will spook or ignore it.  The fly must be light and not too heavy.  Too heavy and the “plop” from the fly hitting the water will spook the fish.  The fly must barely break the surface of the water and sink very slowly.

Grass Carp On The Fly

Once a Grass Carp is on your fly, DO NOT pull it away.  Grass Carp eat very slowly and you must let them eat the fly and close their mouth before you set the hook.  I prefer to let the fish hook themselves.  Just keep stripping the fly until the fish is hooked and then let her run!

Grass Carp Flies

  • Hula Damsel Olive
  • Hula Damsel Tan
  • CDC Callibaetis
  • Scott’s Lil Bugger
  • Egan’s Headstand Chartreuse
  • Olive Backstabber
  • Olive Barry’s Carp Bitter
  • Poxy Back Callibaetis
Carry a BIG Net for Grass Carp!

You are going to want to carry a big net for Grass Carp.  I prefer the stout and solid Carbon Fiber Nomad Net.  It is super light, strong and large enough to land a 20+ pound fish!

Admiral Ackbar the Grass Carp

Grass Carp Fly Tying Videos:

11 Responses to How To Catch Grass Carp on Fly

  1. Good info, particularly about the hook-set. I have had two takes and failed to put steel to lip both times. I will try and be a little more patient than for common carp next time.

  2. Great read James…question. How far in front of them do you typically try to land your fly when they are cruising? 2ft? 5ft? 10ft?

    • It just depends Tom. The faster they are moving, the farther you lead. Same for depth, the deeper the farther you lead. Just trial and error, no clear cut answer for ya. What I can say is that the fly needs to be about 1-3 feet in front of the fish for them to see it on the bottom. Much farther and they never find it.

  3. Nice Info, I´m yet to catch them subsurface, what we do in South Florida, is locate Ficus trees or any tree that drops berries on the water, and we use a berry fly, which is nothing but deer hair spun and trimmed into a small ball #4 hooks usually. I’ll try your Moss fly and Stillwater nymph, what size hook do you recommend for those patterns?



  4. That is awesome. We caught grass carp a couple of years ago while kids were throwing bread to them. I just put a butt load of floatant on a white wooly bugger and the carp took it immediately. They are a blast to reel in. It’s good to see other people interested in these fish. There is a pond full of these guys by my in-laws house. Nice reason to escape for a few hours.

  5. Hey mate I’m from New Zealand where here we also have grass carp that are used for cleaning up some polluted waterways of weed infestation, just wondering if you think they would respond to the same flies you have listed above?

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