Carp. Making lemonade out of lemons is what it’s about. Besides Oklahoma State University and Eskimo Joe’s, Stillwater is just a dot on the Oklahoma map. I am currently living there because of my dad’s Air Force ROTC job at OSU. When moving from fishing the greatest tailwater fishery on the planet, the Missouri River in Montana, to fly fishing for carp in Northern Oklahoma, one can certainly count on being bothered by the itch to get out West. But there are ways fly fishing carp can help one become a better fly fisher in general.
The number one thing fly fishing carp has taught me is how to spot fish.
I have spent hours walking a high bank along Lake Carl Blackwell looking for the slightest movement as well as the large dark outline of these spooky fish. Training my eyes to the different ways that fish may appear has helped me identify fish when I normally would have walked over them. I really enjoy watching fish and how they behave. As a result, I have experienced better trout fishing during recent trips to the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers and in Wisconsin’s small streams and rivers. I was able to catch fish that I would have spooked if I had not seen them and then walked over them.
Stealth is almost as important as spotting the fish.
Carp fishing showed me why it is impossible to stand right on top of the fish if catching is on your agenda. I have lied down and made casts to ugly carp, which is great practice for when I spot a beautiful 10-inch brookie. Carp are surprisingly wary, so flies need to be delivered in a way that won’t spook them. This can be critical when fishing dry flies and placing a small Parachute Adams on the surface without creating a large disturbance on the water.
Last, but not least, is how carp made me become a better caster.
Carp are very selective and rarely eat outside of a one-foot radius. One may believe that landing a fly inside this radius would be quite simple. However, this is the opposite of the truth: A fly cast into the circle will send the carp to the other side of the lake. The fly needs to be placed outside of the circle and slowly brought in with small strips. This relates perfectly to dry fly fishing because there is little chance a two-foot long brown will not spook if a size 16 Adams lands on his nose.
I know my catch rates will be much higher when I go fishing for trout because carp made me realize how to spot, stalk and present flies. Next time you get a chance to fly fish carp, I would highly recommend it. As a bonus, they fight a tad bit harder than trout!
Written by Noah Dahlke
I have lived in 6 states and love fly-fishing for as many different fish as possible, but cutthroat trout is by far my favorite. I am a fly tier for Umpqua Feather Merchants since age 14. Fly fishing and tying are my two favorite passions, but I also love to hunt and camp with my family.
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