Traditional Fly Fishing For Carp

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing' started by Eich, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. Eich

    Eich New Member

    Mount Joy,
    Old time Fly Fishing for Carp

    By Raymond C. Eichelberger

    Those far exotic destinations of this world teaming with record book fish will more than likely not be a part of my life list of angling adventures. So alas, urban angling for species such as carp is now and will always be my passion. Most of my adult fishing trips have been geared towards ways to challenge my abilities in order to keep the enjoyment both exciting and demanding. Please allow me now to to share with you one of my most recent endeavors.

    Innocently enough this project became an idea while doing research and writing other articles pertaining to some of the history of fly fishing in the United States. Types of fly patterns, the making of bamboo fly rods, and the evolution of the fly line were all discussed. Then while talking to a friend we mulled the possibility of trying to catch not just any fish, but a carp on fly equipment that was hand made encompassing the same early methods that were in use when carp were first introduced into the United States (circa 1877). This job from the little that was known, would not be an easy task. So the challenge was set to hook and land a carp on this antiquated-type equipment.

    In the beginning of this task there were many more unknowns than what was known about how to tackle this task. How does one go about fashioning the equipment that would be needed to make this plan unfold? Before that…where would someone go to obtain the materials such as horsehair to construct the fly line? The one staple that was in my favor was that of where to go to catch a carp with what was considered early trout fishing equipment. The ever familiar “industrial park” ponds that have been so kind to me in the past would fit the bill perfectly.

    Now began the process of making the actual “fly rod” to be used in this attempt of getting a feeling for what fishing was like in the infancy of carp introduction. What type of bamboo to use and how to select the best possible piece for the “fly rod” was the next process to handle in the quest to fulfill my undertaking of actually landing a carp on such primitive tackle? Worldwide there are over 1,000 different species of bamboo with “canebrake” being the only native species to the United States. Calcutta cane is the primary species used in the making of split bamboo fly rods. My rod however was to be made from a single piece of bamboo reminding one of a pole used in pole fishing rather than a fly rod with eyes and a reel seat..

    Down the road from my home there is a stand of bamboo of which either myself or the owner haven’t a clue as to what type of Bamboo this constitutes. It is fairly straight and grows rather tall (up to 15 feet). So with the proper permission a piece was cut and gathered for this project. Then the 3 month air drying process for the rough material was started. Care was taken as to hang the bamboo horizontally so air could flow the whole way around the entire section. This was done to ensure a thorough drying as well as not allowing for mold to develop.
    The stand of bamboo from which the "rod" was cut.

    Next my attention was to be drawn to the making of a fly line out of horsehair. The utmost challenge was that of where to get quality horsehair on a very limited budget. A little innovation on my part yielded me a supply of horsehair for free. The music teacher at the middle school where my job is located confirmed my recollections of violin bows being made of horsehair. Not just any horsehair, but fine Belgian horsehair. White, just like the research material had stated that was the most consistant diameter. A few bows were being sent to be restrung because of fraying. With permission granted, a quick cut with a pair of scissors and the material for the line was in hand.

    Braiding the horsehair would be the next step in this process. How many strands of hair should be used to make the line strong enough to withstand the small carp that would more than likely be encountered? Again the research stated that talented anglers could use lines tapered down to one hair to fool selective trout. It is estimated that a properly cured horsehair may have the strength capacity equivilent to 4 pound test line. The horsehair being used by me tested to be breaking between 2.9 pounds and 3.1 pounds breaking strength per hair. So being a novice at fishing this way my choice was to braid 3 horsehairs into a section of line connected by monofiliment on both sides. Three strands was also the easiest number for me to braid. The line started with a section of 17 pound monofilament that would be tied to the rod tip. Next was the braided horsehair (3 strands) with a section of 6 pound test monofilament tied to the other end of the horsehair.

    Uni-knot on both pieces Overhand knot on both ends of the Complete Diagram of the
    of monofilament Braided horsehair (stop knots) Leader Made

    ^ ^ ^
    17 Pound test monofilament Braided Horsehair (3 strands) 6 pound test monofilament

    Three months and one week had passed since the bamboo was cut and hung to dry. It crtainly appeared to be dry as it was no longer green and starting to turn a golden color. A light sanding was in order to smooth out the bamboo and prepare the surface for finishing. Three coats of an exterior clear drying finish were then applied by the use of a rag. My anticipation was growing by leaps and bounds every single day that the project was worked upon. But the proper drying time between coats had to be maintained for a nice finished product. The rod was starting to look more like what it was intended for rather than just a cut piece of bamboo.

    Would the rod serve it's purpose? Would the knots in the joining lines prove to be true? Would the horsehair hold to the pressures of a small carp? These and about 3,000 other questions were all racing through my mind as the days passed. "Now is not the time to be second guessing youself," which is what my sub-concious kept trying to tell me. "You have done good research and did your very best." At this point my mind turned to all the things that could go wrong rather than the things that could go right!

    This was the start of a week's vacation for me. You know the time that is suppose to be worry free, not nervous wreck time. Plans were made to give this project a try on Thursday morning. It seemed to take forever to arrive, but Thursday finally dawned as a beautiful day weather-wise. A trip to the ponds early revealed that not another person was there. Okay, what fly should be used on this inaugural trip with this antiquated equipment. The bread fly was chosen as that is the fly that has given me much success at this location through the years.

    First stop was at the small foot bridge that is a magnet for people feeding the resident population of ducks, geese, and swans. At this point a few small scraps of bread were thrown out to see if the resident carp population was in the area and willing to actively feed. The horsehair line was sprayed with water in order to give it more elasticity. Twenty minutes of actively "chumming" proved to be futile at this area that has almost always produced action. Was this trip and the whole project going to be a lesson in humility? This is what went through my mind as a decision was made to change locations. There is a big shade tree by yhe culvert pipe that joins this pond to another one. That turned out to be my plan B.

    Arriving at this second spot my immediate action was to toss some bread into the water in hopes of seeing some carp activity emerging. Ten minutes pass by without so much as a ripple on the water. Then just as another move was being contimplated by me a swirl in the water which indicates a feeding fish occurred within the pieces of floating bread. Was it a carp or just some bluegill wanting to cash in on this feast? Two more swirls in the water and it was plain to see that there were a small group of carp starting to actively feed on the floating bread morsels. One also appears too big for the outfit that is my equipment of choice for this day. The last thing needed in this situation is for me to have a big fish break the line upon setting the hook.

    My hands are trembling as the fly is gingerly placed in the zone where the smaller carp are feeding. Almost immediately there is a swirl in the water where the fly has been carefully placed. The carp actually misses the fly and takes a piece of bread less than an inch from the fly. The tension builds as the fly is left in the water awaiting an eager taker. Then a take happens faster than it can be written on this page. Instinctively my reflexes take over and set the hook. The carp was on. WOW! Can someone please pinch me to see if this is real, or just a dream. The water is actually splashing and the fish is felt on the end of the line, so this has to be real.

    People who have pole fished before are probably going to find this next part quite amusing. Now what is my next move suppose to be since there is no reel on this contraption. Fish a pole length away and angler standing on the bank holding the other end of the pole (rod). The net might be a helpful device, but the handle is too short. Bring the pole toward you to have the fish within the net's reach. Once that mindset was acheived things started to go a little smoother. Just a couple more feet inward and this little gem would be within reach of my net. Would my plan come full circle and the feeling of excitement make all the hard work worth the effort? As the net is slipped under this carp an astounding YES comes from my mouth.

    Quickly pictures are taken, the prize is unhooked and my favorite part of seeing the carp swim away slightly older and perhaps a little wiser becomes actuality. This project was an awful lot of work from planning, to the construction of equipment, and then to the catching of this fish. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank my friends and family for all their support and encouragement of this undertaking. More endeavors await, but for now let me challenge each and every reader here to try something different in your angling approach. It may just add a bit more excitement to your fishing sessions.

    Here's a picture showing the rod, the fly and the line used for this project.

    Hope that you all enjoy.

    Administration: could this please be moved to the articles section when my "Star" is processed. Thank you!

  2. Swampfox.

    Swampfox. New Member

    you should be a writer somewhere. very good post. thanks for shareing.

  3. Eich

    Eich New Member

    Mount Joy,
    Thanks. I'm trying hard to work on being a writer some day.

  4. kyhunter

    kyhunter New Member

    Great story.Thanks for posting.I look foreward to reading your next one.I have tied many flies but never have i tied my own fly line.
  5. Bassmaster23

    Bassmaster23 New Member

  6. BAM

    BAM New Member

    Great story, sounded like a lot of fun.