I have a new book out. It’s all about fly fishing for carp. Now, those of you Fly Talkers who have been following along know that I wear my affinity for chasing these “trash fish” on my sleeve. And yet, every time I write a post on carp, I inevitably get a comment or two like, “I cannot understand why anyone would bother chasing those filthy things.”
It’s a fair point of view, and one that I shared until several years ago. My friend the late, great John Merwin once described carp fly fishing like dragging a chicken leg through a senior’s center–cast a fly enough and sooner or later something’s going to pick it up and gum it. Heck, I’m the editor of TROUT magazine, and an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, both icons of outdoors tradition. Writing a book on carp is nothing short of heresy, right?
I truly don’t think so, and here’s why:
1. Foremost, I think catching carp on flies is a supreme test of angling skill. On some days, sure, carp can be easy to fool. On others, however, you can bring your “A” game and get denied. An angler can “pattern” trout and bonefish (and certainly bass). You find the fish. You figure out what they’re eating. If you make a decent cast and presentation, you catch the fish. It isn’t always so simple with carp. I believe if you can get your game to the point where you consistently hook carp on flies, there are no fish that you cannot catch, permit included.
2. Carp are everywhere. As you read this, what fish is likely closest to you right now? I’m going to guess that for 80 percent of you, it’s the common carp. As a believer in the “all fishing is good fishing” philosophy, I’m all about angler opportunity. I think it’s great to have an opportunity to go “flats” fishing without having to shell out thousands of dollars to fly off to some tropical locale.
3. It’s a culture. The more I travel, and the more people I fish with, the more I realize that the best anglers are carp nuts. Conway Bowman? Carp crazy. Dave Whitlock? Literally wrote the book on it. Geoff Mueller from the Drake? A carp fiend. When the best trout guides get off the river at the end of the day, and they want to do a little fishing on their own, many chase carp.
4. Carp are good for trout. I know, they’re “invasive species” (but so too, technically is the brown trout, or rainbow trout in the East, or brook trout in the West). Where carp threaten habitat that trout need, I say kill the carp. All of ’em. But if a good percentage of anglers stay in the city or suburbs on a given day, that leads to less pressure on the trout rivers. That’s good for trout, and good for other anglers who prize their solitude.
5. Lastly, there are plenty of carp to go around. If you want to shoot them with your arrows, great. Knock yourself out. That won’t bother me in the least.
I know some of you won’t ever get the carp thing, and I respect that. But for those of you who do, I hope this book helps you not only get better at this game, but also appreciate it more for what it is really worth. You’ll see that a lot of thought and effort went into this project, and I am indebted to the many other writers, photographers, artists, editors, guides and angler friends who helped me pull it off. I could not have done it without them.