If you’re like me, you probably spend more time reading about fishing than actually tossing in a line. But when the prey is carp, the more time spent in front of a page or a screen, the better prepared you’ll be when you do actually have time to get on the water.
Four books can really ease the learning curve when it comes to catching this temperamental, magnificent fish. I’ve reviewed all of them separately, so follow the link if you want more.
Way back in 1997, three fly fishers spotted what would become one of the biggest fly-fishing trends of this century. Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman actually extolled catching this “trash fish,” when nearly everyone else was laughing them off the water. Well, he who laughs last, laughs best, as the adage goes. “Carp on the Fly” is the keeper classic I turn to, over and over again.
The chapter heads alone tell you there’s a full education within these pages, everything you need before you pull on those waders: Locating feeding carp (italics mine); what carp eat; presentation. And, interesting for you historians out there, the first chapter is entitled, “Why Not?” “Yes,” the first sentence begins, “this really is a book about fly fishing for carp.” Part of the fun of reading this book is its underdog approach.
In 2013, Kirk Deeter wrote “The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing for Carp,” showing carp had arrived, now being ballyhooed by both a famous outdoor author and a famous company. The book is much slicker than its predecessor, and Deeter put in lots of water time to present the valuable tips contained within its pages. Four-color throughout, publisher Stonefly Press didn’t spare expenses or design talent: After all, So. Cal’s own Al Q. designed the front cover.
Orvis then followed up the next year with “The Orvis Beginner’s Guide to Carp Flies,” which I find a perplexing title. Penned by the admired Colorado carper Dan Frasier, and filled with flies from the sports most trusted tie-meisters, it, nonetheless, seems odd to me that the company puts the word “beginner” in the title, yet only provides recipes for the flies. If a beginner can look at, for example, Jay Zimmerman’s Backstabber, check out the recipe, and reproduce the fly, please let me know.
What makes the book a fun read is all of Frasier’s field work that tells the reader where and when to use the 101 patterns listed in the book.
Two years later , in 2015, Headwater Books published Zimmerman’s own magnum opus, “The Best Carp Flies.” I have purchased many dozen of dollars’ worth of very cool stuff to tie some of these flies, and can tell you I don’t (yet) have the tying skill to do them justice. Zimmerman gives you a deep, long dive into the art of tying. He sources the flies, telling us, for example, that the Carp Carrot first appeared in 1950! He talks creative process, development and “tank tinkering.” I mean, wow, this book is the real deal.
So, if the last time you put a boot into the water, the carp disappeared like you were a fox in the hen house, step back and do some summer reading. I’ll bet things improve thereafter.
See you on the river, Jim Burns