They just might be the most polarising species on the planet. Often they stink, mud up cool, clear trout waters and taste like they look. The list of impacts this species has on local waterways and fisheries across Australia goes on and on, however with all that is bad about carp, there's no denying they're damn good fun to catch on fly.
MELBOURNE'S URBAN CARP
Having lived in Melbourne on and off for most of my life, I was always on the lookout for a secluded, local fishery that I didn't need to drive 1.5 - 2 hours to find. There's no doubt that the trout fisheries in proximity to Melbourne are amazing, with a big tailwater such as the Goulburn, an incredible amount of small twigwaters and some of the most productive lakes on the mainland. But I was looking for something I could ride my bike to, be on the water, put a bend in a fly rod and be home (or at the pub) all within an hour.
I've heard a lot about fly fishing for carp from a range of different people both within the industry and not. When I was beginning to fish for these rockets the general consensus was to look for mudding fish (those feeding off the bottom), put a fly in the vicinity of the fish, watch it hoover the fly and enjoy the ride. This was the most common way to fly fish for carp with the addition of some fish sucking flies off the surface. Across Victoria, NSW and ACT I've had great success with this fishing as I'm sure a lot of you out there have too.
So when I found this local creek in Melbourne, chock-full of big carp (I'm talking some up to 20-25lbs easy), all within a 15 minute bike ride from my house I was pretty damn excited. This is certainly not a secret creek by any stretch and the amount of pedestrian traffic this area see is right up there. However, once you're down in the creek, you could be anywhere in the world.
The first couple of outings I had to the creek were a complete disaster. As you can see from the image above, the creek can be seriously clear for an urban waterway. This had me pretty excited as I was hoping to experience some really fun sight fishing. I had tied some classic carp flies, from squirmy worms through to small bonefish style flies and everything in between. Ready to see some mudding fish, I snuck down to the creek and waited, waited, waited.
After about 45 minutes I hadn't seen a fish feed, not once. None off the bottom, none off the top. All they did was swim around in pods, mid to low water as though they were brown trout on a beat. I had flies in the zone, static, twitching, stripping, you name it I tried it. I came away from these first couple of sessions a little perplexed.
I had just spent some time up in Townsville with Amos Mapleston and we'd discussed the waft extensively with regard to barra fishing, the basic idea is to get that slow drop and wafting fly in the face of the fish, enticing a boof as they had no other option but to eat. The most classic material to replicate the waft is rabbit fur, so I was back to the tying bench, tying incredibly simple bunny patterns to essentially replicate food scum, foam, and anything else that would wash into these waterways.
THE CODE WAS CRACKED
The key to these flies was to tie them unweighted and to manage the waft depth to intercept these finicky carp. The plan of attack was to try to anticipate where the fish will be and get the fly to the correct depth so that it was as close to eye (and mouth) level as possible. As the bottom was full of snags, rubbish, old tyres and the odd shoe, if you went too early you were out of the game and in danger of becoming snagged. Fishing with 10lb fluorocarbon meant that if you get snagged, you were most likely losing the fly.
So began the game of waiting, watching and trying to intercept the cruising fish. It became less of a technical, stealth approach and more a game of perseverance. I think because the fish see a high number of people, birds, dogs swimming etc. they were less spooky at the sight of me. I could stand in the middle of the creek, just at the end of a drop off and watch these fish cruise within 8-10 feet of me not bothered one bit. As long as I stood still and minimised my casting movements _15ft leader was a huge help) I could get the fly in the zone and hopefully get the eat.
As I said, it was definitely a game of perseverance but the tactic worked. The cruising fish would come onto the fly, see the waft and movement and couldn't resist. I'm sure it was more of a curiosity take than anything but so far, it has been the most effective way of catching these strange, urban dwelling carp.
I certainly haven't nutted out this fishery, but it's one that keeps me intrigued and adapting more and more. That and the fact that I can scratch the itch within 15 minutes of my house is pretty sweet. As the weather continues to warm and those classic Melbourne heatwaves come through in summer, I'll certainly be leaving the trout alone and focussing on these fat fish.
One day I'll pin the 25lber, then you'll know about it..
ABOUT GUS LAPIN:
Gus Lapin is that guy that can do anything, and do it better than you even though you've been at it way longer. You name it, cricket, photography, art, skiing...he's across it all. He's also completely and utterly obsessed with fly fishing and has applied himself across pretty much every single aspect of that too. Fly tying? Tick. Saltwater? Tick? Cod, carp and other Aussie oddities? Tick, tick, tick. Throw in everything NZ trout related and you've got yourself possibly one of the most well rounded anglers out there right now.
Oh, did we mention he's also a certified casting instructor? Well of course he is. Legend.