I love all kinds of fishing. I particularly like sight fishing and carp fishing though. So it only makes sense that I would really enjoy sight fishing for carp. It is an exciting pursuit. You locate these big fish then target your casts right to them in the hopes of getting a take. When you do the fight that carp are famous for makes all the effort worthwhile. In the right situation it’s not even that difficult.
Sight fishing just means location fish by looking for them in the water. With carp this can be easier than with some other species. The average common carp is pretty big. On top of that they have certain habits that make them easier to spot than say wild trout. For one, carp tend to feed on shallow flats where you can see all the way to the bottom. Another thing is the way carp feed. They tend to shuffle through the debris on the bottom. So they kick up clouds that can be seen in the water.
Then you can tailing and above water feeding. Tailing happens when carp angle themselves down to suck food up off the bottom. Their tails literally come out of the water and look like little brown flags waving. Above water feeding isn’t as common, but I’ve seen it enough times to know that it happens. In this case carp will actually come up out of the water to feed on food near the shore. This could be anything from worms in the mud to mulberries that have fallen off of a tree. Now the carp aren’t out walking around on the grass. But when their mouths stick out of the water and start feeding on food right near the water line it is a thing to see. And hear!
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The size of the water you are fishing will determine how difficult it will be to find carp. Well that and the weather conditions. One thing you should have is a nice pair of polarized sunglasses to help you cut the glare when you look into the water. Then it is just a matter of checking out the likely locations.
Where should you look? Inlets, shallow flats, bays, wind blown points, banks with lots of bushes or trees, and areas where food comes into the water. Don’t overlook that last bit. A lot of times you can find carp where ants or berries fall into water. But there are also “unnatural” places where people feed ducks or geese with bread or areas around boat docks or even restaurants where “people food” falls into the water. If you check out all of those areas you are likely to see fish at least most of the time.
This isn’t going to work all the time. There are periods and conditions where carp stay out of sight completely. This is especially common during long cold fronts or sudden changes in the weather. In those kinds of situations you are probably better off using other methods like still fishing with a hair rig for carp.
Catching carp you can see
Carp are big fish that can be relatively easy to locate. Yet they are also very intelligent and wary fish. So if you stomp over to the water and stand up on a high bank with a bright pink shirt on, there is a good chance you will scare off any fish that happen to be there. Try to remain stealthy and out of sight of the fish when you do find them.
Don’t just chuck a heavy bait right on top of their heads either. That is more likely to remind them of a bird of prey swooping in for a kill than an easy meal. Downsize your gear and try to get your bait in the water without making a massive splash. You also want to get the bait out and ahead of the fish you see. The idea is to get the food into their feeding lane so they will naturally find it as they swim forward and feed. If they’re sucking up worms off the bottom get a worm down on the bottom where they will come across it. If they’re eating floating bread get a piece of bread floating where they can find it.
Don’t limit yourself to worms and bread though. Any of the common carp baits from bread to corn and even regular old fishing worms will work in these conditions. If you are fly fishing you can try flies that draw carp in by both sight and movement. So flies like a woolly bugger and rubber legs are good choices. Or if the fish are already actively feeding on top you can try a deer hair fly that looks like a piece of floating bread, fish feed or maybe some kind of terrestrial insect.
Normally I will just let the bait fall and settle to the bottom. I try to figure out where the fish are headed by looking at the way they are feeding. Sometimes I will cast way out beyond the fish then reel in slowly so I can get the hook right where I want it. Then it just a matter of waiting for the fish to happen upon the bait. In the case of wild fish and baits like worms the carp will nearly always bite. With artificial lures like flies you sometimes have to wiggle it just a little bit to get the attention of the fish and make them believe that what they are seeing is alive.