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Choosing the Right Carp Fly

Choosing The Right Carp Fly

Common Craw Best Carp Fly Fishing FliesChoosing the right carp fly is very important.  I prefer to choose Carp Flies based on the conditions and not how the fly looks or it’s appearance.  Many fly fishers choose a fly based on looks and not by the properties the fly has.  Every fly acts different in the water, sinks at a different rate and moves differently depending on the material.  There are three main guidelines to follow when choosing the right carp fly.  First and most important is weight.  Some carp flies are heavy and others are light.  The wrong fly can easily be chosen if you ignore the weight factor.  Tungsten and lead eyes flies are great for deep water.  Carp need the fly on the bottom, so a heavy fly is need in deeper water.  A heavy fly in shallow water will spook every fish in the area and a light fly in deep water will never reach the fish.  Weight is the most important property in a carp fly.  Below is a rough list of different flies and when to use them.

Deep Water Carp Flies (3+ Feet Deep)

Medium Depth Carp Flies (1-2 Feet Deep)

Shallow Water Carp Flies (1 Foot or Less)

Best Carp Fly Fishing FliesCarp Flies and Carp Food Sources
Backstabber Carp Fly Best Common Carp FliesThe next thing you need to think about is what the fish are eating and what food is available to them.  Most lakes and rivers have crayfish and crayfish play a huge role in the diet of carp.  So crayfish go across the board as an effective pattern for carp.  The other food types can vary depending on whether the carp are in a lake or river.  Stillwater carp have very different feeding habits than river carp.  Stillwater carp feed heavily on aquatic vegetation and insects, along with other things that fall into the water (and of course crayfish too).  River carp feed mainly on crayfish, aquatic worms, leeches and some aquatic insects (though they are different than stillwater insects).  Stillwater carp eat a lot of damsel flies, callibaetis, cottonseeds, aquatic vegetation, minnows, eggs, seeds and just about anything that falls into the water.  Below is a rough list of the different flies for lakes.

Best Carp Flies Fly Fishing

Stillwater Carp Flies

Carp Fly Movement
Best Carp Fly Fishing Flies Mirror CarpMovement is also very important in carp flies.  Some carp flies are meant to be stripped/moved and others are meant to be eaten on the drop and not moved at all.  Flies that are eaten on the drop are tied with materials that move in the current and require little to no movement by the angler.  The materials themselves, such as rabbit and marabou, do all the moving for the fisherman.  Now, some are meant to be both and fish very well either way and can be used in both situations.  Below is a rough guideline.

Flies Meant to be Moved

Flies That Need Little to No Movement

Pay attention to these 3 guide lines: weight, available food and movement.  It will take the mystery of choosing the right carp fly for the situation.  There are many carp flies out there, but these are tried an true and have caught many fish over the years.  Keep in mind, that a good presentation is more important than any fly out there!

Want to learn more about carp?  Check out the following articles:

9 Responses to Choosing the Right Carp Fly

  1. I’ve gained so much knowledge looking through the ‘In The Riffle’ website about carp fly fishing. The videos and articles are THE place to go if you want information on HOW TO.

    I’m giving your site a mention on my blog this week as a thanks to all you hard working guys!

    Thanks all.

    • Yes sir! A lot to be said about leading fish a how weighted flies act in current. That is the name of the game in the DSP!

  2. Great article, but when you say “Carp need the fly on the bottom”. That couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of fishing I do. I catch the majority of my carp with my fly in suspension feet off the bottom. Carp are very opportunistic feeders and its worth mentioning that they can be caught when they are actively cruising the column.

    • You are right Adam. Column fish can be caught, but the odds a usually far less than actively eating and mudding fish. There are always exceptions the rules (like dries on top, cruising fish, sun bathers, column fish and other situations). The comment I made was in reference to fish actively eating and looking on the bottom (just because it is the most common scenario and gives most anglers the best chance). Didn’t mean to put you off the comment. Sorry mate..

  3. Great article. I really wish I would have read this before this weekend. I hit up the Pedernales River and there were monstrous carp just waiting to be picked up, I just had no idea what to give them. Thanks for the insight!

  4. James – just wanted to say thanks for all the great carp resources over the past few years. I’m going on 10 consecutive months of carp on the fly including 2 carp last week. Great videos and tutorials.

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