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Carp on!

A visit to a commercial carp fishery armed with only a fly rod and a few flies produces hours of fun-fuelled sport

Dog Biscuit flies.
Dog Biscuit flies.
Colin with a good fly-caught mirror
Colin with a good fly-caught mirror
Philip weighs in on the carp-on-fly action.
Philip weighs in on the carp-on-fly action.
Big common for Colin safely in the net.
Big common for Colin safely in the net.

Fly fishing can be a pretty serious business at times for a variety of reasons and it is all to easy to lose sight of the fact that it should also be fun. Setting expectations too high before the start of a session will often lead to disappointment rather than bliss and the therapeutic benefits of fishing lost. And so it was with an open mind that I entered the world of fly fishing for carp last Friday evening, in the capable hands of David Bazen and Philip Spratt.

I was concerned that a gusty 18mph wind may spoil things, but David assured me all would be fine. He was right. Fishing should be fun and judging by the amount of excitement and laughter emanating from the bank during three, turbulent hours of flinging fluff at the piscatorial equivalent of Mick Jagger, fun was had by all.

The lake was situated in darkest Hampshire, just a stone's throw from the Test. An increasing number of commercial carp fisheries are welcoming fly fishers to their waters and I can only imagine this form of fishing growing rapidly in popularity. A number of bait-fishers, complete with bivvies, ringed the lake and all of the anglers we spoke to were friendly and interested in the fly-fishing approach. The technique may not suit the purists, as it involves feeding the water with generous amounts of dog biscuits to attract carp to your swim and keep them feeding there.

The outfits we used were 7-weight or 8-weight rods with floating lines and a 9 feet fluorocarbon leader of 10lb breaking strain. The flies used were either brown deer-hair shaped to imitate a dog biscuit or in David’s case, a fly of his own design, the Chernobyl Badger, tied on wide-gape, barbless hooks. While attempting to tie with deer hair, David realised that he had an allergy to the material and created an equivalent fly using synthetic material. The fly certainly works!

Once the carp are feeding it is impossible to miss them. Large lips suck dog biscuits from the surface with a loud slurping noise, which only adds to the excitement. The lips appear and then submerge quite quickly and part of the challenge is to anticipate where they will break surface next and present your fly. The fishing is highly visual, but far from easy. Timing your strike when a carp ingests the fly is crucial and many more fish will be missed than hooked. A gentle strip-strike in conjunction with raising the rod seemed to work best on the day.

David certainly knows his stuff when it comes to putting a carp or two on the bank and with his careful guidance my first fly-caught carp reclined on the landing mat within five, short minutes. The fight was very impressive and reminded me of doing battle with a tarpon without the jumps. Carp are incredibly strong and their large, powerful tails ensure a memorable contest.

This signalled a period of frenetic action, with 23 gorgeous, incredibly hard-fighting carp coming to our rods, including a fabulous triple hook-up. Final tally was eight fish for Philip and David and seven fish for myself. Certainly a good haul of fish but for me the abiding memory will be one of pure, unadulterated fun.

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