To say that carp fishing is not popular in the US would be an understatement. On most lakes you’ll find DEM (Department of Environmental Management) signs alerting boaters and anglers about the dangers of spreading “invasive” species. This list includes Asian clams, zebra mussels, rusty crayfish and of course, my beloved carp. In one report I’ve read, someone describes a popular local park lake as “infested” with carp. I call it a “runs water”. The general dislike of carp among the angling community and the obsession with bass and trout makes it hard to become educated about carp fishing, let alone become properly equipped to safely catch and release a potentially humongous fish. Then again, I’ve seen this ignorance practiced in bass fishing. People handle fish poorly and heaven forbid they catch a “less desirable” fish. The lack of carpy information means that it is up to the new carp angler to go out and find what they need. There is a group in the US called “Carp Anglers Group” or “CAG”, whose members are almost all dedicated carp anglers and there is a spectrum of knowledge there. However, to find this group you must know about it; its existence is not exactly being shouted from the rooftops.
My journey into carp fishing started with a slight obsession I developed with British television. It started with “IT Crowd”, then “The Mighty Boosh”, “Father Ted”, “Reeves and Mortimer” and on and on. When I became interested in fishing, I somehow stumbled across a YouTube video of Matt Hayes catching dace on some English river while I was watching some “Reeves and Mortimer” clips. A rabbit hole of videos later and I was deep in the weeds of British fishing. Some man on an elaborate chair was wielding a gigantic pole with a small rubber band on the tip catching what he kept referring to as F1s. My mind was boggled. Why on earth would you carry around all this strange equipment to catch these odd fish? I went further down the rabbit hole. Matt Hayes was presenting something along the lines of “How to fish for carp” and he went through all the bits and bobs required. Again, I didn’t understand. What is this ridiculously long rod? And what is this over engineered “lead clip system”? No matter how strange and even annoying I thought these videos were, I kept coming back. For the next few months I lost myself in every video I could find. I watched “Record Breaking Fish”, “The Great Rod Race”, “The Greater Rod Race” and on and on. By this time, I had started looking for equipment similar to what I had seen. I found a specialty online shop in the US that carried ONLY carp equipment and I ordered my first carp rod, a Daiwa Black Widow. I found an Okuma reel with a bait runner feature and I was officially carpy. By the time I had accumulated enough knowledge and gear to actually try having a session, the winter had showed up and it was brutal. No matter, I kept watching anything I could find and ordered a books and any piece of gear I thought I would need when the ice thawed. This was the beginning of my “journey” into carp fishing. It’s a smattering of gear and knowledge gathered from here and there. Its not mainstream stuff and finding what you need requires effort.
For several weeks I drove by a local reservoir on the way to work to see if the ice had thawed. Some days I would even get out of my car and hurl rocks at the ice. The ice rejected them all. It was several inches thick and apparently not going anywhere. Even the largest rock couldn’t crack the ice. Finally, in late March, I noticed that the ice had begun to retreat on a far corner of the reservoir and the following weekend, I would make my first real attempt at carp fishing. I had spent the whole winter learning about carp fishing and purchasing the required equipment. By March, I was fully equipped, to say the least, and I was antsy to use my new toys. Toys unlike any fishing toys I had ever used; method feeders, hair rigs, two ounce leads, 12 foot rods, bite alarms; the list goes on. Most of my fishing experience had come the previous year fishing the Blackstone River using 6ft rods, lures and slip bobbers. I was certainly not a master angler and that first cold session in March, I was thoroughly reminded of this fact.
Casting a 2-ounce method feeder packed with ground bait using a 12ft rod was not an easily acquired skill. The British anglers made it look so effort less. The spot that seemed thawed out on the reservoir was only accessible on bank with no shortage of trees and bushes, a place where you could probably sneak in an underarm cast with a short rod, if you dared. The first cast was aborted at the back cast and it put the method feeder into a small bush behind me. The next few made it to the tree limbs that hung above me. Progress. The next one made it to the water, or rather, the ice. As it turned out, what looked like thawed out water was actually a very thin, very strong layer of ice. The method feeder made the same sound the rocks made when they met the frozen wall. I did manage to get a cast onto some thinner ice and the feeder was partially submerged into the frigid water. This was enough to make me feel like I was “doing it”. It wasn’t enough to keep me on the bank much longer and after snapping a few pictures of my gear bathed in morning light, I called it quits and went home.
By mid April the ice was gone and I was having two or three sessions a week, usually for about 2 or 3 hours before work. These sessions were all blanks and looking back on them now, I was completely hopeless. Nothing teaches you like experience and even now, having actually caught a few carp, I feel completely inadequate. After a month of blanking and questioning my sanity, I reached out to one of the local carp anglers, a guy called Kevin. “Kev” as I’ve come to know him as, has been catching carp in my state for 30+ years. He is one of the original carp anglers around and takes his angling very seriously. By seriously I suppose I mean; he is extremely passionate. Kevin was kind enough to reply to my first email and many more emails and text messages that would follow. I don’t know whether or not he realizes that he mentored me through this first season, but the reality is, he did. Without his willingness to share his hard earned experience, I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have.