I haven’t had much fishing time over the last few weeks which has seen me “making do”. Being a fly bum, living in the centre of Melbourne can mean options close to home are limited. In my case its pretty much carp or bust. Urban carp are a gift from heaven for the city bound fly bum. They tick all the boxes. Sight fishable? Tick. Challenging? Tick. Long powerful runs? Tick. Catchable within five minutes from home? Tick. Sure they are pests, but when you are making do, fishing stolen hours between going to the markets, work and lunch with the family they are a godsend.
So, over the last few weeks I’ve found myself throwing a rod in the car and taking the dog for a “walk” up one of the local creeks on more than a few occasions. To be honest, fish walking isn’t the hounds favourite activity, but he obediently follows as I slowly stalk up the bank. When I spot a fish and stop, he entertains himself. He eats some grass, maybe plays with a grasshopper for a while, if we have been fishing for more than half an hour he simply heads off to have a nap in the shade of the nearest tree.
For me (not the hound), once a fish is sighted the fun begins. One of the best part about carp fishing is the the stalk. First you have to watch and read the carps behaviour. Is it mooching, slow cruising or actively feeding? Is it tailing or simply hoovering up anything that comes past at the top of a pool? After watching for a while, it is time to chose a fly. Fly choice depends heavily on the carps behaviour. For moochers sitting near the top or fish cruising in the first foot of the water column (which is most fish at the locals at this time of year), something light, maybe a soft hackle, unweighted sucker spawn or unweighted damsel nymph. For fish sitting deeper, more heavily weighted flies. Once the fly has been chosen, the stalk begins. Getting in position is key to successful carping. To make the soft, pinpoint presentations necessary, you’ve got to be close. Carping isn’t about 80ft casts, most of its done within 40ft. Its hand to hand combat.
Next comes the presentation. The presentation is often a killer. Slap down too hard. Spooked. Land your fly line too close. Spooked. Move your fly too much. Spooked. Land the fly too far away. Not a chance. Getting the presentation right is one of the best parts of carp fishing. You’ve got to be exact, 20 cms in front of the fish. If its mid water, you’ve got to time the decent of your fly perfectly. If its near the bottom, you’ve got to get the fly right in its face on the first attempt.
Get that right and you might get an eat. Not all the time. Carp can be fickle. Some carp just won’t eat. They will swim cms past your offering without giving it a second thought. Others will show interest. As the fish swims towards the fluff and feathers tied to a a hook, the anticipation builds and builds. So often disappointment follows. Carping ain’t easy, even if your presentation is perfect, you won’t necessarily get an eat. On countless occasions fish will swim to within a cm or two of your fly, have a long hard look at it, sometimes staring at it for 10 or more seconds and then slowly turn and swim way. Often thats it. Leave it though. Sometimes they come back. One fish a few weeks ago had three looks at a very slow sinking sucker spawn before one of the most aggressive eats I’ve yet seen from my local carp. It slowly swam over to the fly, had a look and turned away. It swam a few feet before turning back to have another look. Another rejection. It swam away again, further this time. Then it turned again and accelerated. I thought I’d spooked it, but no, it swam straight at the fly at speed and inhaled it. Most of the time eats aren’t like that though. Most of the time, a subtle movement of the head or a barely perceptible flaring of the gills is the only indication. With time you learn to read the carp and as soon as it gives you the signs you strike. The eat is one of the best parts of carp fishing.
Once hooked, mayhem breaks out. Carp are powerful. They run HARD. The creeks are strewn with rocks, reeds and logs. There is plenty of cover for them to find, plenty of ways for them to win their freedom. Add to that that you often need to use light tippets and that the average fish close to home is 5kgs and the fights can be hectic. Proper hectic. There is lots of frantic running up and down the creek trying to get an angle on the fish that will keep you out of trouble. Tippets often need to be redlined as the fish makes a beeline for the tangle of logs in the corner of the pool. Fighting carp in the local creeks is an adrenaline packed activity. Its fun, lots of fun. The fight is the best part of carp fishing.
Of course, with all that against you sometimes you lose. A lot has to go right to catch a carp on fly. When you win, its great when you win.
As a make do option, urban carping ain’t half bad.