European carp are a highly invasive species proliferating many freshwater creeks, ponds, dams and rivers around the southern half of the country. Their bottom sucking nature makes them particularly destructive as they destroy habitat for native species, and their sheer numbers depletes available food sources in quick time and adds to the general degradation of a waterway.
While an unfortunate scourge on the environment, the humble carp can reach mighty impressive sizes, is easily accessible and in the right circumstances can be quite an aggressive and opportunistic feeder. It's this aggressive side of their nature that the light tackle lure fishos can really exploit and have a ball doing. Did I also mention that these slabs of muscle can seriously stretch you out also?!
While traditional bait fishing methods work well, there's so many sporty ways to catch 'rusty snapper' to keep the experience fresh and highly entertaining, and using lures or fly only adds to the challenge and fun of it all.
Where I live I'm surrounded by freshwater lakes, creeks, rivers and even quite small ponds that hold populations of carp, varying from a kilo or two of mud sucker right up to 10kg plus monsters that will test you on any tackle. We've caught incalculable amounts of these ferals on bait over the years and it wasn't until we reduced our tackle right down and introduced various sporting techniques into the equation that we gained a true appreciation of what they can offer.
One of the first methods we turned to when looking for a break from bait efforts was fly fishing for carp and immediate results were experienced. Without doubt the most effective fly pattern for carp is the bread fly, which can be fished in conjunction with a bread trail. When the fish are fired up into a frenzy you'll catch them one after another for hours at a time fishing this way.
Bread flies are easy to make yourself with a #1-2 hook, white or off-white Chenille, wax thread and glue all you'll need. Most of our flies are fished on a 6-kilo leader and going much lighter is often done at considerable risk when fishing near reeds and other structures the carp will run you into. We find 6-weight outfits ideal for this fishing, and they offer some turning power on the bigger fish, but importantly you can get plenty of backing on which can be needed when you're strung out and getting smoked by a double figure carp. Bread flies aside, many other patterns will work on these highly visual feeders when you're sight casting for them.
Using various hard-body lures on carp is sweet fun in my book and I've found bream-sized minnows (4-6cm) and poppers to provide consistent fishing when you strike the fish in the right mood. Some of the best carpin' action I've had on hard-bods has been walking the shallow flats presenting lures to fish in hardly a couple of feet of water. This highly visual fishing takes some topping as you watch fish chase down your lure, or those rubbery lips extend out in a lightening quick manner and inhale your lure.
While you'll get plenty of 'blind strikes' when using hard lures, that is getting belted without spotting fish first, a majority of the big sessions I've had have been when making accurate presentations to fish that have been spotted first. Fishing shallow backwaters first or last light and working the shallower fringes of a watercourse is best suited to sight fishing. Precise lure presentations are the order of the day for these fish, which can be head down bum up sucking away on the bottom. Unless you can get your lure spotted by a carp and within easy 'striking' range you may not get the hook-up. The one exception to this is when carp are in breeding mode and they can form large schools. When they're breeding carp become suicidal and their natural cautionary senses seem to go by the wayside and are replaced by reckless feeding. This event isn't easy to find regularly however, and for a bulk of the time you'll be stalking fish and making casts as close as possible to the whiskery end of the fish without spooking them.
Poppers seem to work great on carp also when you can get them feeding off the surface, often first initiated by a floating berley trail. Soft plastics are also gaining momentum as a method, with prawn and worm imitations the most likely to be eaten. Some extra scent on the lure will only further encourage mister carp.
After your encounter with these fish admire their good traits, such as their thick sides, golden scales and highly resilient nature, but then do your bit and tap them on the head and correctly dispose of them.
I don't know if it's just a local trend in my area, but carp seem to be becoming more aggressive and diverse in their feeding ways. We regularly see them jumping well clear of the water chasing insects and the like, and their willingness to eat lures is certainly only on the rise. Whatever the reason I say embrace it, go light, grab some lures and get stretched out by these rampant ferals!