Catching carp on the fly is becoming more and more popular in fly fishing and for good reason. Feeding carp flies is not easy, making them a worthy opponent for fly carp anglers, plus carp pull line more like a bonefish than a trout, so the fight is a ton of fun.
Now, you can’t catch carp without using the right carp fly patterns and these can differ quite considerably from trout flies, but there are some similarities too. In this article, we are going to take a look at the best carp flies out there that will help you chase carp with success.
What Natural Food Sources Do Carp Eat?
Carp are a bottom-feeding species, most of the time, so they spend their time with their nose down into the mud. Their normal diet consists of crayfish, nymphs, and leeches as well as berries and they will sometimes even take a dry fly off the top.
But, fly fishing for carp isn’t about matching the hatch necessarily, it is about getting the carp’s attention and making your fly look alive and enticing. This is especially the case with feeding fish as they can be rather aggressive when they want to be.
Here are our favorite patterns to catch a carp on the fly.
Our Best Carp Flies
Near ‘Nuff Crayfish
The Near ‘Nuff Crayfish carp fly was designed by the one and only David Whitlock, a world-class fly tier and entomologist. Having spent the majority of his life in the Arkansas Ozarks, Dave has grown up around carp and has made some of the most deadly carp flies on the planet.
If you are going carp fishing, this carp fly has to be a part of your carp fly selection as it imitates a crayfish better than any other fly out there. Crays are like crack to carp and this fly has some weight and looks more like a bonefish fly with its long tails.
This carp fly with an accurate cast at a carp cruising along the edge will have a carp tailing to eat it.
Clouser Swimming Nymph
The Clouser Swimming Nymph was designed by Bob Clouser and is an evolution of his smallmouth bass fly called a Clouse Deep Minnow.
The Clouser Swimming Nymph was featured in a book called Carp On The Fly by Barry Reynolds which quickly became everyone’s go bible for catching golden ghosts while fly fishing.
This fly has named the number one carp fly fishing fly as it consistently converts feeding carp into hooked carp. The reason this is so effective is that it mimics large damsel fly nymphs and dragonfly nymphs that carp love to eat. It also has a great action underwater which is one of the many factors that entice a carp into eating.
It is an unweighted fly so you can drop it on the carp’s nose while sight fishing and it will probably inhale it on the drop.
Woolly buggers are one of the most versatile flies on the planet and they catch everything from steelhead to trout and, of course, carp too. The reason woolly buggers are so effective is because they imitate a load of different things including leeches, crawdad, minnows, and more.
The maribou tail on these flies also has an awesome action underwater and this is something that really turns the carp on. They have a great sink rate too so you can fish in the shallows or deeper water, clear water, or dirty water, they work in all conditions.
This should be your go-to carp fly when fly fishing for carp and nothing else is working as it will provoke an eat when fished slow, drifted, stipped fast, and in a lake, or in the Columbia River.
San Juan Worm
Another all-around fly that works in almost all fly fishing situations, will catch almost anything, one that you can find in any fly shop, and on the end of a fly rod or two is the San Juan Worm.
This carp fly is one of the patterns that is deadly when shown to bottom-feeding or cruising carp on a perfect cast. The reason it is so effective is obvious, it looks exactly like a worm, and the best color to use for carp fly fishing is red but brown and pink is also effective.
You should have a few of these fly patterns in your box in different sizes and weights to you can fish the right sink rate for the depth and change sizes when casting to fish that have experienced a lot of fishing pressure.
John Montana’s Hybrid Fly
This fly was designed by John Bartlett, aka John Montana from the renowned carp fishing blog, Carp On The Fly.
The fly is a take on the already very effective carp fly, the San Juan Worm but with a bit of soft hackle added at the front along with bead eyes that make the worm part sit up off the bottom.
If you see a common carp of grass carp cruising the shallows, this is one of the carp flies that will have it tailing and hoovering the fly into the carp’s mouth.
If you like to tie flies, then this one is quick and easy and feeding carp, especially in the early summer and late spring can not seem to resist it.
The incredible action of this fly is what makes the fish go a little crazy and is one of the most consistent carp flies that fish, particularly large carp, fall for.
You might think that carp fishing with an egg fly wouldn’t be your most productive fly choice as an angler but this is one of the carp flies that imitates a lot of what a carp wants to eat.
An egg fly looks like a berry, a piece of corn, or even a pellet, all things which carp love and are used to eating. If you fly fish on a lake with a berry tree next to it and they are ripe, the carp will be well aware of it and this should be one of the patterns anglers tie on immediately.
Be warned though, on lakes where the carp are fished for often with corn or pellets, this could be a fly that they actively avoid, if so, fish a small dropper nymph under it and use the egg fly as an indicator/attractor.
All carp species love the rubber-legged dragon fly imitation, in fact, even trout will eat it at the right time of year. As the name might suggest, this carp fly is designed to imitate a dragonfly nymph and with its weight on the front and rubber legs, it is deadly for tailing or mudding carp.
If you see carp creating a silty mess in the water of a lake, this is one of the flies you should throw at them. The weight will have it sitting on the bottom in their eye line and the rubber legs are a hard thing for a carp to pass by.
Fish this fly slowly in the mud as it might take the fish a moment to spot it in the silt cloud but once they do, chances are a carp will be cruising on the end of your line.
Mean Old Dirty Frisco
Carp are spooky fish and they can hear you coming from miles away and will spook if you so much as blow your nose on the bank. When lake carp are being the annoying spooky fish we all know they can be, the fly to whip out is the Mean Old Dirty Frisco.
This fly was designed for these moments when the fish are on high alert. It is a big buggy fly with very little weight so it lands softly and sinks slowly. You should fish this fly by dropping it delicately right in front of the carp and then watch its body closely as it will often follow it down and eat it on the drop.
This fly was designed by carp angler Ty Goodwin who has been targeting carp on the fly for years and it is his go-to when the fish are being finicky.
Hogan’s Carp Bait
The Hogan’s Carp Bait fly was designed by Hogan Brown, an avid fly angler who is addicted to tying flies as much as he is addicted to catching carp with them.
The Hogan’s Carp Bait is all about taking advantage of a carp’s predatory instincts as it is a big body fly that resembles a minnow or a crawfish, both food sources carp love to eat aggressively.
You should own this fly in numerous weights from heavy to light to match the water depth you are fishing in. It is most effective when cast to a carp following and weed edge hoping to hoover up any prey that it spooks along its way.
Once the fly lands, let it sink and give it a few quick strips and watch for the reaction. If the carp don’t charge for it, drop to lower-weight flies and let them hover in front of them and you should hook up.
With a name like Carp Crack, you might not be surprised to hear that this fly is a super effective pattern for catching carp on the fly. It comes with long rubber legs, a hackle body, and dumbbell eyes at the front to match the legs at the back.
It looks just like a small shrimp or crawfish and is best used when sight fished to carp swimming around on muddy bottoms. You should have a few of these flies in various colors and sizes, a size 8 hook in orange or brown is the most effective though.
What makes this fly so appealing to carp is the action of the rubber legs as it rises and falls on the strip, plus the hot head beads mean it is a fly they can not ignore.
When carp start sipping flies from the surface, fishing for them gets even more fun and interesting as to hook a big carp off the top on a dry fly is a pretty special moment. The fly for this occasion is, of course, a parachute Adams, the go-to dry fly for trout, and now carp too.
The parachute Adams seems to imitate so many flying insects that it is hard for fish to resist, and all you need to do is match the hook size to the flies you see coming off the water. Usually around size 10-14 is best but going as small as 16-18 is sometimes needed.
The fly should be moved as slow as possible so you are just keeping tension on the line and are ready to strike when a carp takes the fly.
The Mop Fly is a deadly carp fly, especially when blind casting in muddy water where sight fishing isn’t quite possible, but it does work in clear water too.
The mop fly imitates a cased insect that is yet to hatch and this is easy forage for carp to grow big on, and it is easy to fish too. Simply throw out the fly in front of the moving carp, let it sink to the bottom, and bring it in as slowly as possible so that you keep tension.
If a carp in the area sees your fly, there isn’t much that is going to stop it from hoovering it up off the bottom. These flies are best used in a size 10 and in orange, tan, or chartreuse colors.
Thank you very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and now know that carp flies you need to fill your box with, plus when and how to fish them. They really are some of the most deadly and best carp flies out there.
Please share the article with your fishing buddies as we all need a hand with this spooky species and why not have a look at some more articles on the site, we cover everything from how to catch carp on the fly to the gear you need for GTs on the fly.