The thrill of catching carp on a fly is gaining popularity amongst fly fishing enthusiasts, and it’s not hard to see why. Carp are a challenging catch, often likened to bonefish in their fight for survival. This makes them an exhilarating opponent for any angler.
However, successful carp fishing is dependent on choosing the right carp fly patterns. Though they share some similarities with trout flies, carp flies have distinctive features that you need to be familiar with. In this guide, we’ll provide an in-depth analysis of the best carp flies to help you achieve victory in your carp fishing pursuits.
What Do Carp Feed On?
Carp are predominantly bottom feeders. They forage by burrowing their noses into the mud, seeking out crayfish, nymphs, leeches, and even berries. Occasionally, they can be spotted nibbling a dry fly off the surface.
Fly fishing for carp isn’t about matching the hatch as much as it is about grabbing the carp’s attention and making your fly appear lively and irresistible. This strategy is particularly effective with feeding fish, which can display aggressive behavior.
Below we’ve listed our favorite patterns that guarantee a successful carp catch.
Our Top Carp Flies
1. Near ‘Nuff Crayfish
Designed by world-class fly tier and entomologist David Whitlock, the Near ‘Nuff Crayfish is a must-have in your carp fly collection. It mimics a crayfish better than any other fly, making it irresistible to carp. It has a bit of weight and features long tails, giving it an appearance similar to a bonefish fly. A well-directed cast will have a carp scrambling to eat it.
2. Clouser Swimming Nymph
The Clouser Swimming Nymph is an evolution of Bob Clouser’s smallmouth bass fly, the Clouse Deep Minnow. Featured in Barry Reynolds’ book “Carp On The Fly,” this fly has been hailed as the top carp fly. It’s particularly effective because it mimics large damsel fly nymphs and dragonfly nymphs, which carp are fond of. Its underwater action is also a significant factor in enticing carp.
3. Woolly Buggers
Woolly buggers are a versatile fly that is effective for catching everything from steelhead to trout and, of course, carp. They mimic a variety of prey, including leeches, crawdad, and minnows. Their maribou tail gives them an attractive underwater action, making them irresistible to carp. They also have a great sink rate, allowing them to be used in various conditions, from shallow to deep water and clear to dirty water.
4. San Juan Worm
The San Juan Worm is another all-around fly that works in almost all fly fishing situations. It’s particularly deadly when presented to bottom-feeding or cruising carp. The fly bears a striking resemblance to a worm, making it highly effective. The best colors for carp fly fishing are red, brown, and pink.
5. John Montana’s Hybrid Fly
This fly was created by John Bartlett, popularly known as John Montana from the renowned carp fishing blog, Carp On The Fly. The fly is a variation of the already effective carp fly, the San Juan Worm, but with a bit of soft hackle added at the front along with bead eyes. This design makes the worm part sit up off the bottom, making it irresistible to cruising carp.
Surprisingly, an egg fly can be a productive choice for carp fishing. It can mimic a berry, a piece of corn, or even a pellet, all of which are favored by carp. However, in lakes where carp are often fished with corn or pellets, this fly might be avoided. In such cases, it’s best to fish a small dropper nymph under it and use the egg fly as an indicator/attractor.
7. Rubber-Legged Dragon
The rubber-legged dragon fly imitation is a favorite among all carp species. It’s designed to mimic a dragonfly nymph. With its front weight and rubber legs, it’s deadly for tailing or mudding carp.
8. Mean Old Dirty Frisco
Carp are known to be spooky fish that are easily alarmed. The Mean Old Dirty Frisco was designed for such situations when the fish are on high alert. It’s a big, buggy fly with little weight, allowing it to land softly and sink slowly.
9. Hogan’s Carp Bait
Designed by Hogan Brown, an avid fly angler and fly tyer, the Hogan’s Carp Bait is designed to exploit the predatory instincts of a carp. It’s a big body fly that resembles a minnow or a crawfish, both of which are favorites of carp.
10. Carp Crack
The Carp Crack boasts long rubber legs, a hackle body, and dumbbell eyes at the front. This fly is designed to look like a small shrimp or crayfish, making it the perfect choice for carp swimming around muddy bottoms.
11. Parachute Adams
The Parachute Adams is a versatile dry fly that works well for both trout and carp. It’s an ideal choice when carp start sipping flies from the surface.
12. Mop Fly
The Mop Fly is a deadly carp fly, especially when blind casting in muddy water. It imitates a cased insect that is yet to hatch, providing an easy meal for carp.
I hope you found this guide informative and helpful in understanding the best carp flies to include in your collection and how to effectively use them. Please share this article with your fishing buddies. We all need a little help when dealing with this elusive species. Feel free to explore more articles on the site. We cover everything from how to catch carp on a fly to the gear you need for GTs on the fly.