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Monday, September 10, 2012

Answer to a Carp Behavior Question

Here is a question Ex-ex angler posed to me regarding Carp behavior.  

"I don't know how many times I've watched this video, and I keep referring back to it. Lessons from the Carp Lodge: Episode #2--Can you catch every tailing Carp you see?  "I can't seem to catch any public pond carp, because I can't interpret their behavior. They just never seem to pursue a fly and getting the fly too close spooks them. Have you seen carp with their backs out of the water just wiggling about, but not moving? Is that sunbathing? 

Thanks for the questions ex-ex.  It took me a good deal of  time to learn to recognize different Carp behavior.  A very good example is that I had to learn that even a subtle change in direction away from the fly means the fish is now fleeing.  A slow fleeing fish is every bit as bad of a target as a fast fleeing fish.

Yes, I have seen hundreds of Carp with their dorsal fins just out of the water.  Yes, they are sunbathing.  Sometimes they are stationary and the only movement they are making is passing water through their gills.  Sometimes they very slowly and aimlessly amble around.  And yes, they are maddening!

Another lesson for me was learning to interpret Carp behavior versus learning to accept it.  When I see tailing fish then it is easy to ignore the sunbathers and the fast cruisers.  I know they are bad targets and I'm focused on the tailing fish.  When I have waded for an hour and not seen a single fish then even a bad target starts to look tempting.  When I see tailing fish it is easy for me to accept that a fast cruiser won't take the fly.  When I don't see any tailing fish then I have a much more difficult time accepting that the fast cruisers and the sunbathers are bad targets.

If I see a 20 pound Carp sunbathing clearly that fish has done a lot of eating in his lifetime.  No fish eats all of the time.  If I only see that 20 pound fish when he is sunbathing or cruising quickly then he is highly unlikely to take my fly.  My best success on sunbathing fish has been on the drop.  I have virtually no success with those fish when I cast to them.  That is particularly true when they are sunbathing on top of the water.

I know how to interpret the behavior I just have difficulty accepting it sometimes.  (If I reflect on this at all I'm sure I could come up with myriad examples of learning to interpret human behavior versus learning to accept it but that is for another day...)

The Carp I fish for here in the Pacific Northwest will move to the fly but they don't really chase the fly down. When we fished in Idaho we encountered some Carp that we could catch blind casting but this is a very small part of my total experience.

What I have to accept  is that there are some fish I may never actually see when they are eating.  I know they eat but not where or when I can see it and target them.  There are some fish that I only see when they are bad targets.  I can interpret their behavior; I just have difficulty accepting it sometimes.


  1. Great synopsis Mr.p! I often wondered how some huge and non feeding catp got that large. Then my wild carp in a tank would move gravel all night long, I could here it a room away. I have not truely night fished, as in going for the entire night, but I really should try that.


  2. That should be carp, not catp, and hear, not here. And truly not truely. Dang me anyway. Gregg

    1. Very good carpology! Please let us know your observations and findings.

  3. Gregg, it's OK ... we have no problem with tiny typos.
    Just don't spell "ketchup" (catsup or catchup). Ha !!

    Quote: "my wild carp in a tank would move gravel all night long, I could here it a room away."

    Hmm ... you are one dedicated angler, Mr. Martin.

  4. thanks for the reply! i've still had no luck with them, and after trying on a handful of outings, i think i'm starting to accept it. they're just not into me (or my fly). i should move on to higher probability fish.

    1. Ex-Ex, you are exactly right when you say that you should move on to higher probability fish. You may not be able to see them in this particular piece of water. You may have a better chance of seeing feeding fish another day, another time of day, or a different time of year.

  5. "A slow fleeing fish is every bit as bad of a target as a fast fleeing fish."

    And I will cast to him anyway. Curses!

    Great info as always Mr. P.