Do you want to know how to catch a carp on the fly?

Well bad luck buster, you´re asking the wrong person!

It´s not that I haven´t tried. In the last week I spent a couple of afternoons chasing carp and my personal tally of our old friend Cyprinis carpio adds up to precisely zero.

In fact it felt like less than zero because, not only did the carp refuse everything I had to offer them, but they did it with such indifference that I left the river feeling like an abject failure. Like everything else, fishing has its ups and downs. In my experience, this is more true of carp fishing than any other kind. Recently there seem to have been many more downs than ups. This year so far I have not hooked a single carp. In fact before this week I hardly saw any but then, last Sunday, I visited a beautiful stretch which was heaving with them.

In theory catching those carp ought to be pretty straightforward. First, obviously, you need to find your carp. This is often the hardest part because you are looking for not just a carp but a feeding carp or a carp you can persuade to feed. Often these fish will be margin patrollers and, when they are in the mood, they can make themselves visible from some distance as they bump the stems of plants. They may even break the surface with their backs or their tails.

And then there are the bottom feeders that rummage and snort in the mud. Where there is sufficient current they can produce a seam of disturbed sediment that can direct you upstream to locate them in the same that following the white contrail across the sky can take you to an aircraft you might not otherwise notice.

Once you locate your feeding fish the real work starts. I am usually pretty nervous at this stage because I realise you may only get one shot at a fish. This is particularly the case of the margin feeders that ghost in and out of view and can vanish at will.

Carp don´t seem to like the sound of a nymph plopping close to them and so you have a little dilemma on your hands. If you cast close enough to give them a good view of the nymph you will possibly just spook them. Thankfully there is a way around this. I find that it helps to cast beyond the fish and to draw the nymph along the surface before letting it drop in front of the fish. Another solution for carp that are feeding tight to the near bank is to lower the nymph rather than cast it so that it dangles in front of the fish. If you keep yourself out of sight and use the full reach that your rod affords you might just get away with this.

I was fortunate enough to come across a bunch of fish on Sunday. They were tightly grouped and they would move around the like a pack of rucking rugby forwards. Several times I had a nymph in front of a fish but they were preoccupied with whatever game they were playing and showed no interest whatsoever.

On Wednesday I traipsed off to the river to see if I could do better. I had tied up a few nymphs that I hoped might appeal to the carp. I tied them a little larger than normal on hooks of around a size 12. They were also less dense so that I might have a better chance to draw them over the surface and allow them to sink slowly in front of the fish.

On a few occasions I managed to pull of this stunt and found myself looking at a carp with my nymph just in front of its snout. And what happened? Sadly, nothing! While my heart was in my mouth those carp just shrugged their shoulders and carried on about their business. To be honest they were not feeding but I thought I done the hard yards and deserved some kind of a reaction from them.

Those Guadalhorce river carp remind me of chubby babies or wee toddlers sitting in high chairs. It may well be that you have been asked to give them their supper but they are stubborn little buggers and, if they have a mind to refuse, they will not so much as open their gobs. I remember this vividly from when my two were small. You have your plastic spoon loaded with gloop right in front of them and you are more or less pushing it against their closed lips. There is even an instinctive opening of your own mouth to show the behaviour the baby is supposed to mimic but they will have none of it.

Things can only get better. I am tempted to have another crack at those recalcitrant carp soon and maybe they will be more favourably disposed towards my little foam nymphs. But who know what´s going to happen?

After all, you can take a horse to water……..


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I tied up these carp flies and am confident that they will work when I come across more cooperative carp. They have foam in the dressing and so are slow sinkers and they are easy to follow if they need to be moved towards a fish. On Wednesday I used the second to bottom fly and, while the carp didn´t want it, I had 8 barbel with it.


Around this time last year I fooled this carp by simply lowering a nymph under the rod tip as it rummaged around tight in against the near bank. These are very powerful fish and in a small snaggy river you have your work cut out to land them. As it happens it was caught on the day of the royal wedding. Prince Harry might consider Meghan Markle a pretty good catch but I think I did even better!