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Closed-mouth Sunday

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Last Sunday morning I visited my usual spots here in SE Pennsylvania. Normally I hope to stalk a few actively feeding carp and when I find one I usually get a take. When I arrived at my first spot, I saw many feeding carp (mud trails all over the place). For two hours I cast flies to feeding carp without a single take (and people think trout can be tough). Gave up and went to my next spot and the scene repeated itself for the next two hours. The carp didn't spook but rather just ignored my fly(s) (many patterns). With more casts to feeding carp than on my last 5 (successful) trips combined , I headed home without a single catch. Left me questioning my patterns, leader length, tippet (and sanity) :D . I've had this experience with cruising or basking fish but never with active feeders. Any similar experiences? I plan to try again this weekend with a 3' longer leader and dropping one size in tippet. No attachments on this post!

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macfish here. Carpflyguy, do you think it's possible that like trout the carp may have been so preoccupied with some preferable food that unless whatever you had closely resembled it they wouldn't even look twice? Jonathan

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In other parts of my life I have said and written that "Hope is the breath of the soul."

Fishing, in particular fly fishing for Carp, would not touch our souls if we didn't have to fish sometimes with faith and hope in the face of discouragement.

On a more practical level, ditto what Macfish said, maybe changing flies yet again would have made the difference. I know this sounds counter intuitive but instead of trying a longer leader, try a shorter one. Seriously. A lighter leader maybe, but not necessarily. Also, try crouching or even sitting down if possible, particularly if the water is clear and the fish can see you every bit as easily as you can see them. That said, sometimes, it just ain't gonna happen. Come back another day with a soul full of hope.

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I am right there with you on this one. I started out carp on the fly here in MN with a really good bang - in fact for my first 5-6 outings I never came home without having hooked and landed 1-3 nice carp. Then something happened... and my next 5-6 outings have all been blanks (except one successfuly sight fishing to a buffalo fish - thought it was a carp when I spotted it at a distance), despite finding plenty of carp to fish to in each instance... In some strange way, I feel like it has to do with the virginity of the water disappearing - it's like the carp are tougher every time I come back to the same place. I'll need a longer carping career to verify that, but somehow I've detected it even in this short stretch.

My plan is to change up my gear - new flies and maybe go from 3x to 4x tippet. Also, I'll be looking for new water and untouched carp.

In the meantime though, I focused my flies on some other fish - went back to the coldwater once, and got into some fun topwater lake action. You can read about any/all of these exploits here:http://www.fishingandthinking.blogspot.com/

I won't give up on carp though - heck I just got a new 7wt I need to try out. I really want to feel a fish rip some line.

Mr. P really said it well - being humbled is just as important as finding success... all part of the great wheel of fishing.

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There are quite a few studies indicating that carp can and do adapt in response to negative stimuli (like getting caught). In the bait fishing realm, it is part of the driving force behind the wide variety of flavorings used. When the carp begin associating one with danger, it is time to make some changes. These fish get clued in pretty quickly.

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Guest KSFlatsLander

Carpflyguy - were you throwing to visible fish, or to muds and assuming where the fish was? My answer is predicated on you fishing muds, so if you were seeing fish well and you're sure they saw your fly, then MrP is dead on and you can ignore my ramblings.

I find mud fishing pretty tough most times, and I attribute that significantly to the fish stirring up a cloud of mud that prevents him from seeing the fly.

And, the fish in invariably farther out front of the mud than I often think. The fly needs to be close enough for him to see it as a fleeing prey item, but not so close that it gets lost in the cloud. It also needs to flee in a direction he can see, and muds out front, where your retrieve will make it look most like fleeing prey, are the hardest to spot.

I think I've had my best luck on mudders with something that tickles the barbels. That way he might just touch the fly and choose to pick it up without really seeing it. I usually go with an artic fox crazy charlie style or clouser style fly. That stuff really moves well in the water and is more durable than marabou (but 'bou will work, too). I tie larger than normal dumbell eyes so I know it will get down fast. That way, if I see a tail swirl and can estimate where the head is, I can be fairly certain I've dropped it in his strike zone. The disadvantage is that when you see a shallow water tailer or one with his back out of the water, the bigger eyes will often spook them when the fly lands.

MrP may also be on to something with the shorter leader, too. Might give you a bit more control on the placement of the fly. Be careful about going too small and not reducing the size of your fly to accommodate that lighter tippet. Going too light will not provide enough energy to turn your fly over correctly. A shorter leader can compensate for that.

Those are my thoughts. And I agree with Wendy - carp do learn. I've hit the same hotspot 3 times in the last threee weeks and the numbers of takes have gone down each time. I swear they have a meeting every evening to debrief what they learned about us that day!

Good luck.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Slump is Off!!

Here are details from most recent carp outing.

This carp slump had been killing me… the last 6-8 outings have resulted in zero fish landed. I needed some virgin water – or water that hadn’t seen many flies. Finally one day I happened to be driving by a certain river… had 30 minutes to spare so I went for it. I crept up to the hole that is frequented by wife-beater-wearers (see previous post), and as expected, it was TEEMING with carp. I would estimate 50-100 in this little hole, but it’s hard to say just how many were beneath the surface and out of my sight. They were not klooping, but they were actively feeding on something that was just below the surface – I could see big white mouths pulsing open-close-open-close. They were hanging out right on the seam between the backwater and the main current. I ninja walked through some woods about 50 feet away from them – hidden in trees… and they saw me anyway! Somehow they figured out that I was there, and they bolted out of there like a herd of horses – the water just erupted. I stood stone still in disbelief and looked around me… dark, tree cover and such a distance between me and the river – I couldn’t believe it. I leaned up against a tree and stared – the nervous water was now calm and not a fish was in sight… I just about started crying. Fortunately I pitied myself long enough to allow for the carp to return…. In about five minutes they were back – same numbers and same position. This time I looped way out of the way and came up behind them. I put a girdle bug on and started working my 4 wt Avid. Right away I hooked one, but I think it was foul, because after fighting for a while it popped off. I then broke off that fly on a fish. After that though I started working them over: I put the fly on the edge of the pod and let it sink… I kept in contact with the fly and if I felt anything at all I set the hook. This got me three fish – all right in the mouth… in fact, the fly was completely inside the mouth of every fish – I think because I couldn’t see the take and I was later on the strike than I would have been had I been sight fishing. For one of the takes I actually saw the end of the fly line twitch too – very cool. Two of the carp were only ~2-3 lbs, but one was around 5-6 lbs, and that one staged a beautiful run across the river… “run, run!” I was yelling because it’d been so long since I’d hooked a nice fish. All that in 25-30 minutes… can’t ask for much more. It was really hard to leave a mass of wriggling carp… as I’m sure you can imagine. I’ll be back though – I really like seeing so many fish – makes the outing very exciting. It felt like a hybrid of sight and blind fishing – I could see the group of fish but I wasn’t aiming at a particular one, and I couldn’t see the takes.

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