American Fly Fishing

By Jon Luke

The frustrating rejection a trout or bass can dish out when the feeding stops or a cold front moves in usually forces anglers to tear through their fly boxes in search of that magic fly. Carp can be just as frustrating when they cruise around the outside edges of flats and bays. These fish tend to travel in groups, are easily spooked, and generally are not feeding.
   Countless hours of fruitlessly casting to these giant minnows on the Columbia River made me determined to design a pattern that would give me a chance. After several years of experimenting with color, silhouette, and weight, I came up with the Carp Candy. This is the first fly I have found that cracks the combination against cruising carp.
   The biggest problem with cruising carp is that they usually travel quickly in water that is 3 to 5 feet deep. To get their attention you need a fly that sinks fast, has a realistic silhouette, and can generate a lot of movement. The Carp Candy meets all these criteria. Tied on a heavy bonefish hook with Spirit River’s Real-Eyes Plus, this fly sinks quickly to the bottom. Barred rabbit strips, attached Zonker style, and rubber legs provide great action, whether the fly is sitting still or moving. In silhouette, the Carp Candy resembles a crayfish. By simply changing the colors, you can easily match the food source in your favorite carp fishery.
   The most exciting aspect of this fly is the way the fish respond to it. I love the visual element of carp fishing: nothing beats watching a tightly packed school of carp cruising the edge of a flat at a good clip as I twitch the Carp Candy to tease one or two fish into slamming on the brakes, turning abruptly, and charging the fly with abandon. Proper technique is critical to successful carp fishing, whether you target feeding carp or must resort to casting to notoriously difficult cruising fish. For feeding carp, you want to place the fly directly in an individual fish’s feeding lane, so it settles on the bottom about 6 to 12 inches in front of the fish, then twitch the fly with a few short strips of line. 
   For cruising carp, a more aggressive technique works best. In any given “cruiser” scenario, the carp tend to travel in the same direction and same area—sometimes the spectacle resembles some kind of carp freeway.Once you locate this freeway, position yourself so the light is in your favor, because you must be able to see the fish. Remember, carp fishing is sight-fishing. Polarized sunglasses, a good hat, and blue sky are all critical to success. When you spot a group of cruisers, cast several feet in front of the fish, making sure the fly is sitting on the bottom before they get too close. When the carp approach within 2 feet of your fly, make several short, erratic, 2-inch strips of line. The object is to get their attention. Think of fleeing crayfish or startled baitfish kicking up sand or mud.
   When the carp are above the fly, stop retrieving. Though I have been told that these fish have poor eyesight, I’m hard-pressed to believe it, having watched carp swim more than 10 feet past my fly, break from the school, and swim down to investigate. Fish that reverse course and double back to check out the commotion on the bottom often swim right up to the fly and inhale it. For those carp that close in to investigate but stop short, try a couple of short, even strips to show them that the offering is still there.
   The Carp Candy has become my magic fly for cruisers. It’s also my first choice for feeding carp. Also productive for smallmouth bass, this versatile fly is easy to tie and exciting to fish. Experiment with colors and fishing techniques (for nontiers, the Carp Candy is tied commercially by Spirit River, Inc., and is available from Spirit River dealers). This fly should settle on the bottom with the hook point up. If it rolls over, try trimming back the legs until the fly behaves properly.


Step 1: Wrap the hook shank with thread and attach back legs.


Step 2: Secure the Real-Eyes Plus about 0.125 inch behind the hook eye.


Step 3: Using liberal amounts of Pseudo Seal, dub the body, covering the hook shank and wrapping the material around the eyes. Tease out the dubbing to create a soft-textured body.


Step 4: Tie on the front legs in front of the eyes so that the legs protrude from each side of the fly. Cut a 0.75-inch length of rabbit strip, trimming the hair from the hide where the strip is secured to the hook.


Step 5: Remove the fly from the vise and punch the hook through the rear end of the rabbit strip. Leave a rabbit-strip tail less than 0.5 inch long.


Step 6: Place the fly back in the vise, hook point up. Use needle-nose pliers to pull the rabbit strip forward, securing the trimmed hide in front of the legs. Trim off excess rabbit and whip-finish.


Jon Luke is a fly tier for Spirit River and the creative director of Northwest Fly Fishing, Southwest Fly Fishing, and Eastern Fly Fishing magazines.


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