Friday, October 23, 2015

Techniques for targeting grass carp on the fly

Below is a collaboration from myself and a buddy** covering nearly 3 years of chasing grass carp.  They're a very challenging fish to take on the fly and it's taken some time to learn their behaviors and develop some techniques that offer repeatable success.  Over the years I'd estimate we've caught hundreds, if not more, grass carp on the fly.  I'm not an expert but here are some techniques that have helped me bring grassers to hand with regularity.   

The first thing I do is look for aggressive behavior and eliminate the carp that won't eat.  In life, there are situations that no matter how hard you work or what you have ZERO chance of being successful.  Searching for carp in the right mood and moving past the ones that only offer rejection will help you in your quest for success.  Some things to look for include:

Caught this sequence of a grass carp porpoising...

If you see this and your w/ a throw his fly rod in the water and move fast b/c that's an eat in waiting

Tailing - Fish feeding on the bottom, tail out of the water. 

Tailing in the shallows

Cruising - When you see them shining or porpoising in the distance.  But don't confuse with fleeing.  When a large group of carp are spotted moving in the same direction, away from your general direction, they've decided they don't like you.  In my experience these carp are on guard and grouped for protection.  Pack up and find new water.

Feeding on a hex hatch - epic days!

Feeding - Obviously if you see a grasser come up and eat something...bees, wasps, water bugs...go that way fast!  Feeding carp are aggressive and seem oblivious to their surroundings.  Example, a few weeks back I saw a group schooled up eating water bugs.  The water looked like bass schooling on the surface (hope you've experienced that situation).

After I find a target, the next part is getting a fly in front of the grasser.  I never blind cast.  I always sight fish them.  Having a kayak is a huge bonus in my opinion.  I've chased them from a boat using a trolling motor and feel like they can sense the motor turning.  The kayak allows me to access the skinniest water without making a disturbance.  The small footprint of a kayak allows me to get close (20-30 ft) to them and make accurate presentations.  I don't have much success outside of the dinner plate area.  They just don't go far to eat in most situations.  

I try to go in the middle of the afternoon with the sun high and when the wind is calm.  The water I chase them in is usually clear so spotting them is easy.  Conversely, it also helps them spot the kayak ninja.  Dressing to match your surroundings will help but it really doesn't matter how many buffs you wear, you'll never blend in all the way.  In the end, I still look like a a$$ clown standing behind an island in the picture below.  

Kayak ninja in action...can you see me?

What I've noticed and feel is vital to my success is how close I can get when I don't move.  See pic below.

2 grassers within 10 ft.  I was eating lunch and drifted into them.  They never knew I was there...until I stood up.

I'm convinced they pick up quick movements very well and react to them in sheer panic.  I try to avoid witnessing such behavior by doing my best to move slowly and being deliberate with my movements.  Example, if I need to squat to put my paddle down, I'll be casting from a squatted's good for the glutes!   

Small bream poppers have been fantastic when they're looking up.  If you can make your own upgrade the hook and you'll lose fewer fish to straightened hooks.  Start with no movement and let it sit motionless on the water.  If that doesn't get any interest I'll give it a little twitch or drag it slowly across the water.  It's 50/50 on freak out or eat.  If they won't eat on the surface I drop something off the hook.  Droppers are typically small bugger types, nymphs, and other slow falling carp patterns.  I've had very little success dragging anything to a grass carp.  They don't like to see things moving around them.  A slow fall seems to elicit a better response.

One of several grass carp posts I have on my blog.

If any of these tips (cough), help anyone land a few I'd love to hear about it.  You can post directly to my facebook page send pictures to me here: and I'll share if that's cool.

**My buddy goes by ark_salmotrutta on Instagram.  He's got some killer pictures from fly fishing around the US...if he'll ever share them.  He just got on social media (has a real job) so keep an eye out for future posts.   


  1. Very informative, and have noticed quite a few of these with my backyard carp. They see me from a far, so, to not disturb them while they're feeding in the shallows near the shore, I stay back about 15 yards from the bank and cast from a distance. No grassies, but common carp. I'm sure the same rules apply. Good stuff, Drew!

    1. Thx. I'm sure they apply in most situations. I've heard similar reports from guys who target commons mostly. I think the one thing all carp have in common is they are fun on the fly and make you a better fly angler. One day they'll get their due respect.

  2. On the occasions that I go out specifically for carp, stalking them is the most enjoyable part. I'll give these tips (cough) a try Drew.

    1. Stalking is also the part I enjoy the most. I get lost in the hunt and sometimes lose track of how many hours I've been on the water. If you ever get the chance to chase redfish, do it, it's so similar in tactics...but reds are so much more aggressive and stronger.

  3. Drew
    Once one gets the carp fever it never goes away, if one thinks this fish is your average dumb smallmouth fish think again, its like hunting elusive wildlife. thanks for sharing

    1. I agree Bill. Chasing carp on the fly is growing quickly. It incorporates so many skills that are useful in fly matter what the species. I think it keeps me ready for the many types of water I fish...salt, fresh, warm, cold, large and small streams.

  4. Drew, what size tippet do you prefer? and with a 6wt or 7wt rod?

    1. I keep 8-14 mono and fluoro on hand (off the self at Walmart). I never taper the leader...never found a need to and go with 4-6 ft in length. If I can get away it (wind or murky water) I'll use 14 and try to land the fish quickly. I tend to stay 8-10 Flouro for anything subsurface. If the conditions are glass calm I go 8 fluoro for everything. I know it sinks but never fast enough to pull my bugs down I started w/ a 5 wt, went to an 8 wt 2 yrs ago. Just got a 6 wt and it's my go to for carp now. Wish I had done it earlier.