Carp

17th of September, 2015.  Fished a small waterway today with the fly rod.  There were a few fish gulping but they were surfacing in some very tight spots.  Twice I had to climb into the lower branches of the same gum tree to retrieve my fly (gave up on that fish).  I didn't have waders which may have helped open things up for me, but more often than not, as soon as you put your foot in the water you spook the fish - especially in skinny water.  I moved on to the next pool and saw carp nudging the surface.  They were up against some reeds, but not far out.  I changed from a woolly bugger pattern to a floating pellet imitation in the hope one of the fish was stupid enough to eat it.  My first cast was atrocious and had the fly line slapping on the surface.  Both fish sounded and scattered.  I could see their bow waves as they headed for the other side of the pool.  I waited a few minutes and both fish came cruising back towards the reeds, just under the surface.  I could clearly see them slowly swimming side by side.  I lobbed the fly right in front of the fish nearest me.  He stopped and had a good look, edged closer and closer before sucking it gently off the surface.  I struck and he bolted from one side of the pool to the other.  After about 15 minutes he was exhausted and I slid him up onto the bank.  4.13 kgs (a smidge over 9 pounds).  The first fish stupid enough to eat one of my flies for a long time after numerous fishless trips.  It's frustrating and hard work at times, but fly fishing for carp is still very addictive. 

Below is the above-mentioned fish with the fly that he ate.  What he thought it was I don't know - a berry or seed of some kind maybe.

3rd of September, 2015.  The carp have been a bit slower off the mark than usual this year (probably due to the horrible weather we are still experiencing).  I have been out a few times.  A recent trip to the Riverland produced quite a few small fish (the biggest at about 3.5 kgs), but they were all sluggish.  A couple of subsequent outings with the flyrod have produced absolutely nothing.  On rare occasions I saw signs of fish feeding, but they were few and far between.  A couple of warm days and things will improve.    

5th of March, 2015.  Stopped at Meningie on my way to a couple of south-east parks (was off to do some 4wding).  I have been through Meningie a few times heading to the Coorong and the South-East and have always meant to get back there to fish Lake Albert for carp.  On previous stops there I have noticed large numbers of big carp left of the banks (it's illegal in South Australia to return carp to the water alive).  There is a long stretch of Lake Albert foreshore to choose from when selecting a fishing spot and it's very similar to fishing Lake Alexandrina.  It's shallow water fishing and the carp really go when hooked.  There seems to be more underwater structure in the form of weeds and rocks than in Lake Alexandrina and, if this trip was anything to go by, the fish are more plentiful.  I fished into a strong onshore wind, but it didn't affect the fishing.  I rigged up one rod, baited it with corn, threw it out about 40 metres then set the drag.  I turned around to rig up my second rod and when I looked back, the first rod was bent over and the drag was screaming.  I hadn't even berleyed up.  This set the pattern for the day.  The bait was rarely in the water more than 5 minutes before a fish hit.  I eventually gave up using two rods as I was constantly rebaiting or, if I did manage to set both rods, I had double runs to contend with.  Even with one rod, after two hours I had more than 25 fish with numerous runs missed and fish lost.  I was exhausted.  The only down side was the size of the fish - the biggest was just under ten pounds.  Mind you, the way the fish fought made up for their size - definitely the hardest running carp I've caught.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMLTDsAG8_o 

21st of January, 2015.  Camped at a park in the Riverland and, whilst the big fish eluded us, we did manage over 40 carp.  The biggest would have been around 10lb (my son dropped the fish (unintentionally) back into the water before we could weigh it.  We caught a few around the 5 and 6 pound mark and one at 7 and a half pounds.  The rest were all little ones.  Good fun though and the method we used was simplicity itself.  Light gear with a number 6 hook tied to the end of the line and corn for bait.  I threw in some berley about an hour before we started fishing and a few bits of corn every half hour or so to keep them interested.  We lobbed the unweighted bait a couple of metres out and waited for the slack line to tighten up, lifted the rod tip and away we went.  The fish did become a little tired of corn on the second day, so we switched to bread. 

30th of October, 2014.  Just when you think you have a species or a place wired...........My last two trips targeting carp have been blanks.  I fished the Lower Lakes last week and hooked two fish.  Both pulled the hook.  I didn't get another bite, so I moved to a nice little spot near Mannum.  I have always caught a few carp at this spot, but the size is usually well down compared to the Lower Lakes fish.  I sat idle for 3 hours.  Had one bite, hooked the fish and promptly snagged up.  I gave up then.  Just wasn't my day.  This morning I tried the fly fishing.  Quite a few big carp feeding but every one of them ignored my flies.  Very frustrating, but that's fishing I guess.

12th of October, 2014.  Had another crack at the carp today, again targeting them using fly fishing gear.  Despite seeing fish everywhere, I could not tempt one into taking a fly.  They were at their frustrating best.  Initially there was a lot of surface action with fish mouthing the surface in groups of two or three.  When in this mood, carp will rarely feed, turning their noses up at every dry fly I threw at them.  (They also ignored bread thrown to them).  After and hour or so, I saw several fish feeding; heads down, bums up.  Once again though all my offerings were ignored - Woolly Buggers, bread and corn flies and a number of other "go to" flies - didn't matter, they just weren't interested.  Might have to have a bait fishing trip next time, just to even up the ledger a bit.   

10th of October, 2014.  The carp below went 4.95 kilos (about 10.9lbs).  From a small, reedy creek, it fought quite well.  Caught on the fly rod, he was feeding in shallow water along the edge of the creek.  I lobbed the fly in front of the feeding fish (his tail was up and he was stirring up the bottom) and watched the fly line.  Once again I was surprised at how little the line moved.  They really are subtle takes.  When I tightened the line I felt his weight and struck.  All hell broke loose and he took off on a screaming run straight up the middle of the creek.  About 15 minutes later he was done and on the bank, the Identity Crisis fly firmly stuck in the corner of his mouth.  He was the first fish I had targeted and I thought I was in for a good day, but despite dropping the fly in front of a few more feeding fish, this one was the only fish I hooked.  Carp are never easy on unscented, wet flies.  I'm starting to believe some of the American carp fishers who swear they are amongst the most intelligent fish.     

17th of September, 2014.  The fish pictured below was one of 8 (yep 8 again) caught at Point Sturt today.  This one was about 3.6 kilos.  The largest for the day was 4.7 kilos.  Point Sturt is a challenge to fish.  It's a small area and the water is very shallow.  The fish fight very hard and the reed beds are never far away.  Add to that rocks in close and extensive weed beds and you can see why there are always a few escapees.  Before Lake Alexandrina suffered due to the drought (around 2008, 2009), Point Sturt was a renowned big carp spot with fish of 15lbs common and 20 pounders always a possibility.  Now, the carp probably average about 6 or 7 pounds, but 10 pounders are common.  My biggest from Point Sturt is 13.5 lbs (it was 80cm long - still my longest fish, but it was in poor condition), and there have been lots of double figure fish.  The only thing that spoils this spot is the rubbish left behind by some people, especially empty corn tins, so please take your rubbish out with you.   http://youtu.be/WqbM9tK8X6M

12th of September, 2014.  Below is the heaviest carp I've caught to date.  6.56 kilos (14.5 lbs).  Caught in Lake Alexandrina on bread (hair rig).  It's first run was an absolute screamer, but there were numerous further runs.  They never give up the fight.  Caught 8 fish all up, the next biggest was 4.9 kilos (near enough to 11 pounds). 

11th of September, 2014.  Heading into prime carp fishing time, I inevitably seek out new fishing flies designed specifically for carp.  I have quite  few different types now, but the obsession is there and it's hard to pass up the new "sure thing" in carp flies.  The Americans are all over this carp on the fly stuff.  They have some outrageous fly patterns and there are hundreds of them.  The two standouts at the moment are an hybrid type fly and a....ahhh....it's hard to describe, but it's called Identity Crisis Rubber Legs and is usually orange or olive in colour.  I have tried numerous types of flies here in South Australia.  Imitation bread and corn flies, both floating and sinking, have been the most successful for me, closely followed by Olive Woolly Buggers and Woolly Worms.  I have hooked a couple on a heavy crayfish (yabby) imitation called Barry's Carp Fly, but both were big fish and busted me off.  The pattern emerging seems to be that presentation is the key.  If you drop the fly right in front of the fish when it's actively feeding then it will probably eat it.  The trick and by far the most frustrating thing about fishing for carp with fly fishing gear is the presentation.  Our muddy water here does not help either, but if it was easy we'd soon get fed up with it.


5th of September, 2014.  The photo below is of my first carp on a worm fly (San Juan worm pattern).  He is also my biggest fish on a fly to date, around 5 or 6 kilos.  However, I don't know if I can claim it as a legitimate catch......I hooked him fair and square in the backside.  I saw him feeding alongside some rocks in very shallow water.  I cast the fly in front of him and saw him turn towards it.  When a carp "takes" the fly it is usually very subtle.  On this occasion I saw the line twitch, so I struck and off he went.  The fight was disappointing...very sluggish, without the characteristic screaming first run.  As he got near the bank I realised he was coming in backwards; foul hooked.  Bit of a shame, but he's on the bank.  I've got no shame, so I'm gonna claim it....... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV5DwUSwo_A

2nd of September, 2014.  Fished a local spot after a fair bit of rain yesterday and last night.  The water levels are up by about 30cm and the fish are certainly more active, with a few feeding off the top.  This is good news - I can use dry "flies".  Hooked (and lost) two fish this morning which is unusual.  With the fly rod, once a fish is hooked it's not very often it escapes (as long as you take your time).  The fly rod is very flexible and forgiving, so rarely do you pull the hook.  As long as you use a net and don't try and drag or lift the fish out of the water, you will more often than not land the fish.  The two fish this morning......well, one the hook came out after a short struggle.  I lost the second fish through stupidity.  The leader broke.  I didn't check it for wear and tear even though I was fishing in and around rocks.  Disappointing, especially given carp are not easy to deceive into taking a fly.   

(25th of August, 2014).    Early to mid spring here in South Australia produces large carp more consistently than other times of the year.  Big ones can still be caught year round, but late September, early October are prime times.  The carp shown below was caught in Lake Alexandrina and, at 77cm and 5.5 kgs, it is typical of carp caught in this area in spring.  Hair rigged corn and bread are great baits.

Please see https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr3eOVsrh90TXQZXR1RPdzg if you interested in watching some carp runs and fly caught carp. 

(August, 2014).    Fishing for carp has become somewhat of an obsession for me over the last couple of years.  I find myself heading towards the river on a fairly regular basis to target carp and my rigs, bait and areas I fish all change frequently.  I have become particularly partial to fly fishing for carp and I have to say, it is very addictive.

I have decided to keep a blog of sorts, with regular updates of my carp fishing exploits.  I'll use this page as the 'blog' and I'll start with a photo of the first carp I've caught this season.  ("Carp season" here being the warmer months, beginning in Spring right through until April or May - they can still be caught in the winter of course, but they are not quite so active).

This fish was not caught in the River Murray itself, but a smallish creek that runs into it.  It was in great condition considering the skinny bit of water it came from.  It was fooled by an imitation corn fly (sinking) dropped right in front of him whilst he was feeding.


Many people would scoff at the idea of deliberately targeting Carp when they go fishing, but they can be great fun to catch and it's not that difficult to do.

They are a noxious species here in South Australia which means that they can't be returned to the water alive.  They were introduced to Australia in the early 1900's, but spread right through major waterways from farm dams during major flooding.

Now they can be caught just about anywhere there is a relatively large amount of permanent fresh water.  They are hardy fish and prolific breeders.

Here in South Australia, the Murray River and it's backwaters are the best places to catch large Carp.  The backwaters in particular, seem to hold some big fish.  Late September through to mid October are good times to target these areas, as there seems to be a healthy population of large female fish. 

The warmer months are considered to be the best times to fish for Carp, although the lower Murray River, around the shores of Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert, produces fish during the Winter in quite good numbers at times.

My favourite area is the backwaters and swamps around the Barmera, Cobdogla region, in the State's Riverland.  I fish here during September and October when the fish are spawning.  There is a lot of activity around the reed beds, with fish jumping out everywhere.  Although they are active at this time of year, when it comes to taking a bait, they seem to be far less aggressive than at other times.  Fishing with unweighted baits (if possible) is the answer and don't assume a small bite means a small fish.

Other areas where I have had no trouble catching a few Carp are Clayton Bay, Milang and Tolderol Game Reserve (all on the lower Murray/Lakes region) and Swan Reach, Morgan and Moorook.

Great Carp fishing country on the shores of Lake Alexandrina

The consistent catches of bigger fish have tended to come from the backwaters, although a big one does show up every now and then when fishing the main river.  Water depth is not crucial, and the backwaters are sometimes only knee deep.

A basic rod and reel setup is all that is needed.  Make sure the drag works though and use the lightest line you are comfortable with.  Make the trace heavier than the main line.  I use an 8 pound line with a 15 pound trace.  As mentioned above, best results are often gained without using a sinker, but sometimes a sinker is required.  A 14 gram, or half an ounce, sinker will be enough in most cases.  If it's very windy or there is a current running then a 28 gram sinker may be necessary.  (Current though will rarely be a problem in Carp territory). 

I use a size 4 hook.  The larger Carp have big mouths and could easily swallow much larger baits, but size 4 seems to work well.  Carp have a rubbery bottom lip, likewise the sides of their mouth, and if a hook gets in there it is quite difficult to get out.  I found if I used a smaller hook, then quite often the hook would pull out or I would fail to hook up properly at all.

For me, the number one bait for Carp is bread.  A ball of bread moulded onto the hook stays on very well and it is an effective bait.  Years ago, fishing off a small jetty at Clayton Bay, my brother and I were catching Carp one after the other.  It was late afternoon and an older gentleman came down to fish alongside us.  We continued to catch fish.  After about half an hour he asked us what we were using for bait.  I showed him the bread and he didn't believe us.  He was using worms and wasn't getting a nibble.  He had his rod lying on the planks of the jetty and was standing over it watching for bites.  I suggested he bait up with bread.  He scoffed, but did, and cast his line back in.  He had no sooner put the rod down when it shot forward off of the jetty and into the water.  My brother jumped in (it was only waist deep) and managed to retrieve his rod with fish still attached.  Clayton Bay was our stomping ground when we were kids and in the early 80's it was teeming with Carp.  Fish are still caught there today, but not in the same numbers.

Sweet corn is also a good bait, along with worms at times.  Don't be afraid to use berley either as Carp respond well to it. 

Catp are never going to be considered a top class sportfish, but some of the larger specimens, when hooked in shallow water are very reluctant to come closer and will give you a few worrying moments.  I think the South Australian Record for Carp is around 14 kilos.  My biggest to date is only 5 kilos and 75 cms long.  Interestingly, I have caught quite a few at this length and around this weight, and heaps smaller, but not one bigger.

A Carp of about 3 kilos from Lake Alexandrina, this one caught in July.

Once caught, they can't go back.  They make good yabby or crayfish bait though.

My technique(?) refined

I've continued my obessession with catching a carp that measures 1 metre in length.  However, I have recently been told that it may never happen and there is a good reason why.  Carp seem to increase in girth with little increase in length.  This has become apparent even to me recently with my latest two expeditions producing quite a few fish between 60 and 70 cms.  They weighed from 2.5 kgs up to 3.8 kgs (this was a 68 cm fish).  The last trip produced a noticably larger specimen.  It looked much bigger when I netted it.  It measured 71 cm (only 3 cm more than the 68 cm fish) but it weighed 5kg.  It seems when carp reach about 70cm, their weight increases rather than their length.  At least that seems to the case in the Riverland area of South Australia.  So if I did catch a metre long fish, the weight would be enormous.  Just have a look at some of the English carp fishing websites and you'll see what I mean.  They grow big over there.

This is a 5kg carp

Apart from all that, I don't intend to give up.  I have made a couple of changes to the way I fish for them and I have noticed a difference in the number and size of the fish caught.

I have changed to using number 8 size hooks instead of number 4's.  The 8's are quite a bit smaller, but hooking and holding rates seem to be OK.  The reason for the switch was inspired by the English fisherman who generally use even smaller hooks.  Carp can be a bit finicky, even in our murky Murray, but they will suck down a ball of bread on a number 8 hook without it touching the sides.  A lot of fish caught on the smaller hooks have had them lodged in the corner of their mouth, right in the soft, but tough, rubbery sides of the lip, where the hook is difficult to dislodge. 

The hair rig (see here http://www.carpkrazy.com/carp-rigs.html on how to tie it) works very well with the small hooks.  Basically the hook sits above the bait and when the carp vacuums the bait in, the hook goes with it and the point is left free to hook up.  I was a bit doubtful about this, but I tried it and am now....errr.....hooked.

I have also started to berley a bit more, and have put a little more thought as to what goes in it.  Previously I would throw in a few chook pellets soaked in tuna oil.  Now, I'll also add a few handfulls of crushed corn, breadcrumbs and honey.  Apparently carp like sweet things.  It seems to work, although they can take a while to hone in on it, but be patient.

The English fisherman go to extraordinary lengths to catch carp over there, out of necessity.  Some of the carp bait recipes are incredible.  The water is clearer and the fish a lot more fussy and it's all about presentation.  They are a well respected sportfish, and no wonder when you see the size of them.  We are lucky here (from a fishing perspective) to have an abundance of them, in murky water, all willing to eat bread and sweetcorn.