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harriemaulana
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« on: July 20, 2009, 10:32:49 PM »

The carp may be our smartest, and most challenging freshwater gamefish.

BY DAVE WHITLOCK


Dave and Emily Whitlock (above) fish for carp on the flats of Green Bay on Lake Michigan.
This golden ghost weighed 38 pounds.


Let's create a super-fish for fly fishing in the 21st Century. It should be smart, selective, strong, fast, almost indestructible,
and plentiful in cold, cool, warm, and tropical waters from coast to coast and border to border. This super-fish should never
need stocking, must coexist peacefully with other gamefish, feed on flies from top to bottom, and be as colorful as a Snake
River cutthroat. Such a mysterious wonder-fish would be as valuable as gold, so we should call it something special; how
about the "Golden Ghost?"

What fish could we cross to develop such a magnificent super-hybrid? How about first crossing a bonefish with a permit for
speed, strength, wariness, selectivity, and prestige? For durability, let's cross this "per-bone" with a redfish and a cutthroat
for brilliant color, ability to live in warm or cold waters, and a distinct willingness to feed from top to bottom on flies that
imitate almost every conceivable natural food.


    Dave's Popcorn Bug                  Dave's Damsel Nymph                   Whitlock Chamois Leech         Whitlock's Bright Spot Carpenter Ant

There's still one more ability that this wonderful fish needs to posses: the ability to survive man's pollution. Resistance to acid
rain, PCBs, heavy metals, siltation, and oxygen depletion, as well as disease and parasites, would be a distinct advantage. It
looks like we'd have to find a stainless-steel fish for the final hybridization. The crazy twist to this fantasy fish idea is that
nature has already evolved it for us, and it has lived in the United States for well over 100 years. It's been in Europe and in
its native Asia much longer. This incredible fish is the carp, and I'm coming out of the closet to tell you that I've been quietly
fly fishing for this "golden ghost" for over 50 years.

n fact, since I declared myself a carp fly fisher about four years ago, I've been amazed and pleased at how many people have
told me about accidental and planned encounters with carp as they fished lakes and streams across North America and Europe.
The first carp I caught on a fly hit a #10 black-and-yellow bream fly I was using on Taft Lake in Oklahoma on June 1, 1946. It
fought so hard and so long that it put a permanent bow in my first fly rod, a well-used, 9-foot, 3-piece bamboo that my dad
had bought in a pawn shop.

I never forgave that rod-warping carp, not only because it bent my rod, but because I thought I had a 10-pound bass and it
turned out to be a meager 4-pound, golden-sided, "bugle-mouth bass." Even back then, I was ashamed to tell my folks that
I'd caught a lowly carp, because I thought they might laugh.

The fact is that fly fishers since the beginning have been fooled by carp into thinking they have hooked a world-record brown
trout, walleye, salmon, or smallmouth bass, only to have their elation sink into shame and embarrassment when their "record fish"
rolled to the surface to reveal the golden-laced, checkerboard side of a carp.

Over the years, I've gradually become more interested in these remarkable fish. Encounters with them have always been challenging
and surprising, like my first hookups on surface flies in the spring of 1957.

While spring squirrel hunting from my canoe along Bayou Creek in Oklahoma, I noticed large fish swirling under overhanging mulberry
trees as feeding squirrels and birds dropped the berries into the water. The next weekend I returned with my fly rod and a purple
deer-hair mulberry fly I had tied, and I hooked carp from two to nine pounds, right at the surface!

Any fish is fun to catch on a fly rod, but when a big carp takes a fly, it's more fun than any other freshwater fish. Why? Carp are more
like the elite saltwater flats fish--bonefish, permit, redfish, and cubara snapper. They are faster than a trout, stronger than a permit,
and have more staying power than a smallmouth bass. After all my years of searching, four years ago I discovered a paradise of carp
fishing, and I can't keep quiet any longer.

I have been fortunate to fly fish some of the world's best fisheries, but I rank the trips I've taken for the last four summers to the
limestone flats of Lake Michigan, fly fishing for tailing "golden ghosts," high on my top-ten list.
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2009, 10:43:47 PM »

Acute Senses


Emily Whitlock

Carp are acutely aware of their surroundings thanks to highly developed senses of sight, hearing, touch, and smell. They uncannily seem
to "feel danger" when you stalk them.

Trout, bass, and most other fish have two hearing methods. Carp have three: an inner ear, an extremely sensitive lateral line sensor,
and a webertarian apparatus (several small bones and ligaments that connect the carp's inner ear to its swim bladder). This sensory
arrangement allows them to detect sound vibrations in a lower and wider range than other fish.


Approach and present flies to carp as though they are tailing or cruising bonefish or permit searching for food on shallow flats.
Cast so the fly lands in front of the fish.


Moving toward carp in a flats boat, float tube, or when wading gives you less time to cast than when you stand quietly and let them
come to you. They communicate with each other about locating food and detecting danger. Your image moving toward them, a flash
from your line, or a noisy presentation can trigger first one fish, then several, then the whole school, to vacate the area. I prefer to
find one fish to work to, rather than many sets of those sharp eyes, ears, and noses. A windy surface helps me, as carp move and
feed into the wind like bonefish moving into the tide.

It's a temptation on windy days to cast downwind to feeding or cruising carp, but they pick up your image or scent much faster than
if you cast to them from the side or behind them. They are as sensitive to your presence as a 10-pound New Zealand brown, especially
when you are up-current or upwind of them.

If you've experienced big, spooky, smart bonefish, you understand what you are up against when sighting, approaching, and casting
to feeding, cruising, or sunning carp. One minute there can be fish everywhere, then the next they have vanished. When I spot a
good fish, I know I have only seconds to get one or two casts before it ghosts away. Also, a hooked or injured carp emits an odor
that signals other carp in the area to take cover.


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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2009, 10:45:45 PM »

Why Fly Fishers Fail

Although abundant in many waters we fish, carp are rarely caught on flies. Why? Because most casts made to them are blind;
the cast often frightens the fish or fails to present the fly at the right feeding depth, position, speed, and action at which the
carp are feeding. Even if a carp takes the fly, it can usually reject the fly before the angler detects the take.
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2009, 10:47:06 PM »

Carp Stealthing

The most consistently effective method for taking carp on flies is to sight fish for them. You see them and cast to them, but don't
let them see, hear, or smell you in the process--a technique best described as "carp stealthing."

Carp are tunnel-vision feeders that don't often veer off to investigate and capture foods. (Blind casting, even in the best areas, with
the right fly might get you one fish per season.)

You should place your fly accurately and quietly close to a feeding carp's nose and carefully animate it. If a carp hears or sees your
fly line, it will switch into its self-preservation mode, cease feeding, and begin a cautious retreat. Blind casting, noisy presentations,
and quick or noisy foot or boat approaches will alarm the carp.

To be successful, quietly get as close as you can to make your first shot as accurate as possible to the feeding end of the fish.
Each cast after the first diminishes your success percentage by at least 50 percent.
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2009, 10:48:30 PM »

Stay low

Standing tall in a flats boat may allow you to see, but because you can't get as close to the fish, your casts probably won't be
as accurate. You'll also loom like the Goodyear blimp in the carps' cone of surface vision. You should wear low-contrast clothing
and use side-arm, low-velocity presentations. Try to make your cast when the carp seem most focused on actively feeding or
when they are distracted by other passing carp.

Since most carp foods live near bottom structures, flies designed to make a soft entry but sink rapidly are the most consistent
producers. Casting quickly before your target fish changes direction is of utmost importance.
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2009, 11:00:29 PM »

Strike Detection

A carp's mouth is highly evolved for inhaling food off bottom. It sorts out unwanted particles, then crushes the food in its throat
crushers and swallows. A carp eats a fly by softly sucking it into its mouth, moving very little. The take is difficult to detect unless
it's on the surface, or you see your fly disappear into the fish's mouth, or (in flowing-water nymphing) the strike indicator pauses.

To detect the unseen stillwater take, make sure your rod is low and your line is tight to the leader and fly. Watch for the carp's
hesitation as it captures a swimming fly, or look for its head-down, tail-up movement when it takes a bottom-resting fly, much like
a redfish or bonefish take. When you see this movement, slowly make a line pull to feel if there is extra resistance to the fly. If there
is, begin increasing the pull pressure; then set the hook with a quick rod stroke.


   Whitlock Nearnuff Crayfish                 Caddis Larva                             Furry Foam Bread                         San Juan Worm             Red Fox Squirrel-hair Nymph



Carp have the best-textured and -shaped mouth, jaws, and lips for hook penetration and holding of any fish I've encountered. Their mouth
tissues are rubbery-soft but stretchy-tough. They seldom pause or shake their heads to cause slack line during the battle. They are easy
to hook and seldom come unhooked during the fight.
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2009, 11:15:12 PM »

Green Bay Flats


Whitlock Nearnuff Sculpin

If you like saltwater flats fishing for bonefish, permit, or redfish, you'll love the Great Lakes flats "golden ghosts." The flats are
just as beautiful, much more accessible, and they resemble saltwater flats. There are more fish, no crowds, and the fish are as
hard to fool and land as the big saltwater flats fish.


George von Schrader (above) author of Carp are Game Fish, poles his Boston Whaler (right) along the carp flats of Green Bay to make
it easier to approach his spooky quarry. Lake Michigan's Old Reliable nymph (below) is made with red fox squirrel hair and rubber legs to
enhance the fly's movement in the water.



  Lake Michigan Old Reliable           Whitlock's Mulberry Carp Bug

As we fish these flats, my wife Emily and I constantly remark how much it feels like we are bonefishing. In the diverse Great Lakes
fisheries of salmon, steelhead, trout, char, pike, walleye, perch, sunfish, bass, and alewife, the carp has found its own unique niche,
evolving into a superb gamefish. In my experiences no better carp fishery exists, although there are many across the country and all
provide unexplored opportunities for fly fishers.

Great Lakes carp have found a niche that does not encroach on other gamefish. Vast areas of shallow shorelines are nearly devoid,
except for carp, of daytime foraging fish and fishermen. The carp average between 8 and 16 pounds, and many reach 30 pounds or
more. The shorelines and flats are scarce on vegetation, so the carp forage primarily on shellfish, aquatic insects, leeches, crayfish,
worms, and small minnows. This menu makes them a gold mine for fly fishers.

I was introduced to this fishery by George von Schrader, the author of Carp Are Game Fish, a splendid book about his lifetime of research
and exploration of carp fishing around the Great Lakes. I became friends with George when he lived in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where we
canoed and fished for smallmouth together in our favorite Ozark stream, Crooked Creek. For years George invited me to join him on his
annual two-month summer carp-fishing vacation on Wisconsin's Door Peninsula. My first two-day trip with George exceeded all my
expectations.

George poles his Boston Whaler and wades over his favorite "golden ghosts" flats, so excited that he ignores nearby fishing for pike, salmon,
steelhead, and smallmouth. That's easy to understand if you fish with him. He opened my eyes to how special carp are. I once asked him why
he wanted to let the world discover and invade his beloved fishing. He smiled and said he wanted carp to finally gain the respect they were due.
I can agree with that.



The large carp that live on the limestone flats of Lake Michigan travel in pods (above) as they feed.
Keeping a low profile and making accurate casts are two keys to successful carp fishing.




From June to September, the fish move each morning onto the flats in pods or schools, scattering into singles, pairs, or small pods to search
for nymphs, leeches, and crayfish in from one to four feet of clear water. They cruise and feed upwind, like bonefish feeding into a tidal flow.

We approach and present the fly to them as though they are tailing or cruising bonefish or permit. When a carp eats the fly and you hook up,
it's into your backing so fast that you are taken off-guard. The powerful fish rocket down the long flats or occasionally disappears over the
horizon into the deep blue water at the edge of the flats.

They never stop, and 50, 100, 200, 300 yards of backing melts off the reel as you run, pole, or motor after them. After two or three
backing-stretching runs, they subject you to another 15 to 30 minutes of close-in Jack Cravalle-like fighting.

After my second trip with George, I realized that I'd seen the end of my backing more in one week than in all the rest of my life's fishing experience.
Often while I fought a big one, it joined several other fish and they cruised over the horizon and down the coast with my line and backing. What a place!
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2009, 11:18:05 PM »

Carp Flies


Prince Nymph

Carp will eat any fly that a trout will eat, if it matches a natural food item of the fish. Nymphs, fast-sinking
bottom flies like lead-eyed crayfish, and slow, deep-swimming leech flies are the most consistent producers.

Most of my carp catches outside the Great Lakes have been on small, dark- or light-colored, fur-dubbed
nymphs in sizes #8 to #16. Nymphs, Woolly Buggers, and marabou leeches seem to be the designs that
most fly fishers prefer. I have no doubt that the fish will readily take most bonefish flies and microjigs.


Crazy Charlie Muddler

If I had to chose one fly for carp in the Great Lakes, I'd take my Red Fox Squirrel-hair Nymph (#4 to #14).
I've had especially good results with the gold-bead, rubber-leg version. It simulates a lot of the carp's
favorite foods. In a #6, it's my most reliable carp fly for the Lake Michigan monsters.

Surface Flies

Carp feed on abundant floating foods--seeds, fruits, tree buds--by cruising in a zigzag path, mouths up,
vacuuming the items. They also gobble midges, ants, mayfly spinners, spent caddis, and moths.

Late one August, I was driving from Freeport, Maine, to Livingston, Montana, when I reached the shores
of northern Lake Michigan. I stopped to wade and fly fish at a state park for a break from the long drive.
I hoped to catch a smallmouth or two or even a northern pike.


Pellet Fly

As I waded, I saw big noses poke up everywhere in the little bay--big carp surface-feeding on big
reddish-brown mayfly spinners! I hooked four of them, but they were so strong and long-winded that
I lost them when my reel emptied. I'll never forget how they humbled me.


Flashback Hare's Ear

It's important that you present your floating fly softly and close to the path of the rising carp, similar
to fishing gulpers on Western trout lakes. In waters adjacent to parks and boat docks, you can take
carp on surface imitations of fish pellets, popcorn, or pieces of bread.

A few years ago, I conducted a fly-fishing school for Gander Mountain in Madison, Wisconsin. We used
a park lagoon for our casting practice. There were large carp everywhere in it, and they repeatedly
took the students' hookless white or yellow poly-yarn practice flies, which must have imitated bread
or popcorn. I visited the lagoon as I drove out of town after the school. The first fish I rose was a
16-pound golden beauty. What fun I had for several hours, with my poly-popcorn fly.


Carp feed on a variety of foods including leeches, crayfish, minnows, popcorn, potato chips, and
terrestrial insects. Your flies should match important food sources on whatever waters you fish.
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2009, 11:21:43 PM »

Carp Tackle

I've caught carp on nearly every type of fly tackle, but here are a few guidelines on what you'll need.

Rods. Graphite or glass, 6-weight for 3- to 8-pound carp. Carp fight too hard and long to make bamboo practical. A small extension
butt helps. I use 7- and 8-weight rods for the Lake Michigan fish, but I go as small as 3- to 5-weight for smaller fish that might be
eating small nymphs, spinners, or midges.

Reels. Use a single-action reel that holds at least 100 yards of 20-pound backing, the more the better. I recommend a large-arbor reel
(Loop II or III) for the fastest, less tiring backing recovery.

Fly line. Use a weight-forward floating line or a weight-forward Scientific Anglers Stillwater line.

Leaders. I prefer 9- to 12-foot, knotless tapered leaders, and from 1X to 3X nylonorfluorocarbontippets. Fluorocarbon resists abrasions
and cuts better than monofilament.

Choose your fly tackle weight based on the size of the flies you are going to cast, how far you will cast, how much wind you expect to
encounter, and the size of fish you expect to hook. Since carp are difficult to grasp, it's important to have a net handy (a big one).

Grass Carp

Grass carp have a more pleasing mouth shape and are similar in fin and body shape to trout or salmon. Only sterile fish are legal to stock
in ponds and lakes. They are voracious vegetarians, used to control excess aquatic vegetation. When correctly introduced, they are an
inexpensive, environmentally-friendly, solution to chemicals. They grow rapidly, reaching from 40 to 50 pounds and are considered excellent
eating.

Flies that imitate their favorite plant foods are most effective. However, I've occasionally caught larger grass carp on streamers, nymphs,
and drys. In their book Carp on a Fly, Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus, and John Berryman report on their success catching grass carp on nymphs
and Crud Flies.

A good way to put the fish into a feeding mood is to chum the area with grass clippings or catfish pellets. I recently stocked about 20 grass
carp in my fly-fishing school pond to control the weeds. When I finally learned to hook them, they proved to be as fast and as powerful as
they are selective. I lost about ten fish from power-run break-offs before I landed my first one, a wonderful 38-inch fish.
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2009, 11:26:45 PM »

Locating Carp

You'll most likely find carp living only minutes from your home in park ponds, golf course ponds, farm ponds, and small and large streams
and lakes. For the best quality of this fly fishing, here's what to look for in these waters:

1.  Clear water: Fly fishing for carp is a visual sport.
2.  Extensive areas of shallow, still, or slow-moving water: Feeding carp are easiest to present flies to in areas of from one to four feet
     of still or slow-moving     waters.
3.  Plentiful invertebrates: Waters with food chains that support good populations of panfish, bass, catfish, and trout are also ideal for carp.
4.  Water temperatures of from 65 to 85 degrees F.: Carp feed most aggressively at these temperatures. In most of North America, this is
     usually between May and September.
5.  Sunny midmorning to late-afternoon hours: This period is the best time to locate and see feeding carp. Use polarized glasses
     and be very quiet.
6.  Fly-fishing guides: Many guides know of excellent carp areas, but you usually have to ask.




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