Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee
Showing posts with label Tips and Tricks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips and Tricks. Show all posts

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Cicada Carp Fishing

Why Fly Fish for Carp

Carp are not the first thing that most fly anglers think of when planning a fishing trip. For the few dedicated carp out anglers out there, that is just fine. Carp are a mostly untapped fishery that provides a ton of sight fishing fun with little pressure overall, except during periodic cicada hatches that is. 

While I have begun offering a few guided fly fishing carp trips here and there each summer, it hasn't been something I've pushed hard. Carp fishing generally requires both precise presentations along with nerves of steel. Once a fish is hooked, you then also have to ace the test that comes with the fight. Carp are big, strong, and smart, and will try every possible method to break you off. 

Fly Fishing the Periodic Cicada Hatch for Carp

The periodic cicada hatch offers an opportunity for everyone to get in on the fun, however. The volume of big fish up feeding on naturals on the surface is mind blowing. Anglers of all skill levels will get enough shots at fish to eventually make some count. While this may sound crazy to most people, carp fishing with a fly rod is the thing I look forward to the most with these periodic cicada hatches. Don't get me wrong. Catching big trout on dry flies is a blast and something I'll do as much as possible as well, but carp provide a whole different challenge and set of problems for the fly angler to overcome.

Tips and Tricks for Catching Carp During the Cicada Hatch

Throughout this current brood XIX cicada hatch, I have been noticing a few little details here and there that make landing these fish a lot easier. Some of these tips will apply to your trout fishing as well and more broadly, to sight fishing in general. While there are very few absolutes in fly fishing, most of these are good general guidelines to help you find more success chasing carp on dry flies or any fish you are sight fishing for. 

  1. Use heavy enough tippet - This one may seem obvious, but even on 1X I am often outgunned. My philosophy of tippet (feel free to ask me about that sometime if you don't already know) keeps me from going much heavier than 1X, maybe occasionally down to 0X, but 1X is where I usually land for most "big" fish applications. During my first experience with brood XIX 13 years ago, I found myself using 4X on the Caney Fork. It worked fine on the trout, but for the carp, it was a little more dicey. Now, I have learned a lot and fish much heavier tippet anytime I can get away with it. 
  2. It is always better to miss short - This one isn't quite as obvious, but with carp in particular it is important to not cast too far. Carp have a weird tendency to find the end of your fly line and follow it back to the boat. If you overshoot that cast, they'll immediately quite looking for bugs and come looking for the boat. It is better to be a little short than a little long. If you miss short, you can simply recast and try again. If you are little long, you've likely blown your shot. This applies to most sight fishing situations I'll add.
  3. Lead the fish by a couple of feet - Carp move very erratically while looking for cicadas. It is best to get fairly close with your cast unless you are in very clear water. In that case, you might want to lead them by 5-6 feet. In moving water, you have the added problem of drag if you lead a fish too far. By the time the fly gets to the fish, drag has started to act and the fish won't eat. 
  4. It is best to have carp eat coming towards the boat or at right angles to the boat - This one makes sense once I explain myself. Carp have very sensitive lips. If they feel the tippet before eating the bug, they'll freak out. When they are going away from you, their lips will bump the tippet as they rise before eating the fly. If they eat while moving at right angles to the boat or coming straight at the boat, this problem is generally eliminated.
  5. Wait for the hook set - This is obvious once you've missed a fish or two, but trout anglers will generally set way too early on carp. They will be very deliberate when eating your dry fly. Wait until the mouth closes and the fish turns definitively down in the water column before setting the hook. Then, when you do set, really set the hook. No soft trout sets. Give it the ol' bass hook set. 
  6. Low side pressure is your friend - During the fight, carp will generally try to run for structure. They are very good at finding all the obstacles and sawing your tippet off on logs or other structure. At some point, you'll probably have to turn that big fish. Do so using low side pressure, the lower the better. This is good general advice for fighting trout as well. Low side pressure will generally get fish landed MUCH faster than pulling up. Up freaks them out and makes them fight harder and longer while low side pressure can get them whipped quickly. This has the added bonus of keeping fish healthy instead of playing them to exhaustion. 
  7. BONUS TIP: Don't be afraid to twitch your fly but don't overdo it - This one is particularly tricky. I mostly rely on a dead drift only. Carp often refuse naturals on the water because they are fluttering. The time to twitch a fly is when a fish is in the vicinity but seems to be passing by without seeing your offering. Give it a little twitch to help the fish find it, then stop and let it sit still again. Trout are more likely to like some twitching, but carp mostly don't. However, if fish start refusing your dead drifted flies, try adding a twitch. I had a day last week guiding on the lake where the fish quit eating dead drifted flies around 3 pm. We started twitching and immediately were back catching fish. This was the exception rather than the rule in my experience, however. 

David Knapp with a carp caught on a periodic cicada
David Knapp with a nice carp. Photo courtesy Trout Zone Anglers guide Elam Kuhn ©2024


Monday, January 15, 2024

Consider Sink Time

This is a relatively short post that would fall in the category of fly fishing tips for success. It applies to both streamers and nymphs, but the main thing I want to talk about is nymph fishing. I do a lot of both short/tight line nymphing without a strike indicator and also longer line nymphing. One of the most common mistakes I see people make is to not cast far enough above the spot they think the fish is. Remember to consider sink time when throwing flies that are supposed to be fished subsurface. 

In very slow water, this doesn't matter as much. Flies will sink almost vertically, especially in lake situations. However, most trout fishing is done in faster moving water. Even if you are using tungsten (which I highly recommend for the faster sink times) or split shot or both, the flies will still have some downstream drift before getting down into the strike zone. However, if you are using a suspension device (strike indicator), not only will that time take longer, but the suspension device will pull your flies back up in the water column if you aren't careful. 

This is why I emphasize big slack line mends when floating flatter water in the drift boat. After your mend, the flies take some time to get down into the strike zone. Any subsequent mending will pull the flies back up in the water column as the indicator drags them up in the water column. On the other hand, you have to consider obstacles on the bottom of the river as part of your equation. If you have a shallow obstacle and then need the flies to get deep quickly behind the obstacle, we'll often throw our flies directly on top of the obstacle or even slightly above it. This applies a lot more in the Smokies. 

In the Smokies, when you are working around pocket water, rocks, and even some logs, you have to be even more careful about both avoiding snagging the bottom, but also getting your flies deep enough. Add multiple currents, both upwelling and downwelling, into the mixture and it can be downright tricky. As a general rule, in the Smokies, I don't like my flies going through pour overs or tailouts of any kind. The reason is that they tend to have sticks wedged into the rocks in those slots that will eat flies. However, those are also some times the best place to throw your fly to get maximum sink time going into the next run. In other words, sometimes you take some chances when throwing nymph rigs in the mountains. 

The same issue with strike indicators applies in mountain streams and is often even exacerbated. The fastest water is nearly always on the surface, so a strike indicator suspension device will usually  have a tendency to drag flies upwards in the water column. This is one reason among many why veteran Smokies anglers usually gravitate towards high sticking without indicators as much as possible. However, there are times that some type of indicator is highly recommended. In those cases, just remember to add plenty of weight to get down. 

Finally, using the lightest possible tippet will help immensely in obtaining good sink times. Thinner tippets have less surface area and result in less drag. Thus, flies are able to sink faster without that extra drag. 

If all of this sounds like more than you have ever thought about while fly fishing, then consider it next time you are out on the water. Putting more thought into presentation than simply just chucking it out there will help your success sky rocket. If you want some on the water coaching, then consider booking a guided fly fishing trip with us at Trout Zone Anglers!

Oh, and about those streamers, if you are using a sinking line, this process can be simplified by understanding your line's sink rate. If it averages 5-6 inches per second, then you can count down until you reach whatever depth you want. For example, 5 feet would be about 10 to 12 seconds. If your streamer is weighted, take that into account so you don't get too deep if you're fishing over structure. 

Good luck and I hope considering sink time will help your fishing!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

After the Sun Goes Down

No, I'm not talking about nighttime fishing, although I have covered that topic some before and found great success fishing through the night. In this instance, I'm actually referring to the late afternoon and early evening hours on bright sunny days. As the sun sinks below hills and ridges, fish that were almost impossibly shy just minutes earlier begin to feed. 

Interestingly, this is not always consistent, but when it happens the results are striking. The difficulty of bright sunny days is exacerbated in the Smokies in particular early and late in the season. This is due to the lack of leaves on the trees. This year, we lost all of the leaves earlier than has been usual the last few seasons. Thus, we have been dealing with bright sunny days since the last week of October. Last year, I was still enjoying a reasonably decent canopy on Veteran's Day week for my annual fall camping trip. For this year's camping trip, the leaves were all down.

I drove over to the Smokies on Wednesday to camp and fish the Oconaluftee River with my buddy and fellow fly fishing guide, Pat Tully. We had a great time fishing, but the catching was slow. This isn't entirely unheard of this time of year, but the super low water from our recent drought conditions along with the sunny day was making things more difficult than usual for fall fishing. Eventually, Pat had to leave to make it back home at a reasonable hour.

Since I was spending the night at Smokemont campground, I headed over to set up camp. By the time this task was finished, the sun was beginning to sink below the hills above camp. This time of year that happens early each day. I had enjoyed a late lunch, so instead of proceeding to supper, I decided to get back on the water for another couple of hours. That proved to be a great decision.

In the first small run I fished, I had numerous strikes on a small parachute Adams. Best of all, the fish were hitting it within just a few feet of where I was standing. They weren't spooky any more. As I always like to say, fish have to eat eventually. I was about to be rewarded for hanging in there after a long tough day. 

Over the next hour or two, I caught double digit numbers of trout. Two were very nice brown trout for in the Smokies while the majority were rainbows. Often, I was catching what was probably the "best" rainbow trout in each little run and pocket. These fish would have run from their own shadow just hours before. Now, they needed to get those calories in. Winter is coming soon after all.

Great Smoky Mountains brown trout near Smokemont Campground North Carolina

By the time I decided to call it an evening, I had caught more than enough fish to make up for the slow day. As I headed back to camp, I was reminded why it is worth fishing as long as possible. On some days, responsibilities back home or otherwise mean I quit before the end of legal fishing hours. In fact, it is rare that I have the luxury of fishing as long as I want. Still, it is always good to be reminded to keep after it even when I'm having a difficult day.

And isn't that what drives us on as anglers? The chance of a new superlative, be it a monster fish, a big numbers day, or maybe just an incredibly unique experience on the water. Perhaps a particular hatch keeps bringing you back or even a particular fish. 

I have a brown trout on Little River that I've been keeping tabs on for about a month now. It is built like a torpedo. A super fat torpedo. I'm still not certain it would break 20", but it will be extremely heavy for its size if I can ever get my hands on it, that I'm convinced of. When I go after it again, I'll stay out as long as possible, hopefully after the sun goes down behind the nearby ridge...