Nothing beats the experience of traveling to new destinations in pursuit of fishing adventure. When I can’t do that first hand, being able to write about it is a close second. Learning more about the species caught, methods used, and the big fish potential of new waters is one aspect of fishing that keeps anglers continually searching for their next conquest.
What’s great fun about this month’s feature is that Scott Smith is also a carp on the fly enthusiast. While he has a plethora of opportunity in Ontario to pursue trophy smallmouth, largemouth, salmon, pike, walleye, and so many more, he’s got a real soft spot in his heart for the scaled whale. We took some time to learn more about him, his guide service, Tailers and Chasers, and what their seasons and fishing opportunities look like for those interested in heading north (at least north from where I am) to try their hand at a mixed bag of big fish potential.
How did you get into guiding and why do you do it?
My father got me into fishing at around 3 or 4 years old, catching bass, walleye and muskie. It then grew from there, my fishing expanded from fishing with my father to fishing as much as possible with my friends from high school. Every winter/spring we would go to all the fishing shows to see what was new and the next big thing. I began to get excited for the upcoming season. Spring time, this also means steelhead. We traveled to the nearest tributaries to attempt to catch some steel. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was chance to get out and for the first time to fish, meet some people and connect. The obsession continued into college, meeting some more fellow fishermen. They also shared that same passion. I got introduced to fishing the tributaries of the great lakes year-round, by fisherman that knew what they were doing. I found the next best thing, for me. I travelled all over southern Ontario to catch migratory fish. I then made the switch to fly fishing and travelled to all the same places to catch migratory on the fly. I had found my niche.
I then moved to the city for work and my obsession for fishing the tributaries turned into a life style, but what to do in the summer months? Work was busy, not always time to travel to fish. So, I began researching carp, they were big, in every tributary, marsh and in the area that I lived in, so I joined a fishing club, MACO (match angling club of Ontario) & C.C.C. (Canadian Carp Club). My fishing repertoire was evolving from bait casting to spinning rod for warm water species and then float fishing, for everything, the obvious, Steelhead, Salmon and then Carp, yes Carp. Traveling to all the places, sometimes up to 3 hours away to fish these events and meeting new people to learn as much as possible to catch them in my area. As much as I loved sitting, chumming and prepping bait, it wasn’t enough to feed the obsession. So, I began the quest to catch them on the fly, with little to no information on them doing this at the time. It took some time, but I finally managed to get one, two, and well now some almost fifteen years later, they are my obsession.
A few years ago, I took a job at a lodge in Northern Ontario and it was amazing! I set the Ontario fly fishing record for a walleye and got to meet a lot of awesome people. It was an unforgettable experience. It was then, that I knew I was meant to do this. I love to share my passion, help others teach and educate people to catch fish on the fly, while adapting, developing and to keep pushing the fly fishing limits.
What’s been my favorite experience/fish story I’ve seen first-hand as a guide?
It still amazes me how many people still are surprised that 1) I’m fishing for carp and 2) that I’m doing it on a fly rod. I just keep spreading the “CARPY” word and educating others that it is possible to catch a carp on a fly rod. My favorite first-hand experience, it is hard to pick just one, but to sum it up it’s got to be someone’s first fish of any kind but especially carp, as it’s such a visual thing. It’s you against the fish, you are on their turf.
Sight fishing for carp is not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely a thrill, a challenge and a rewarding feeling to have. It’s the ultimate rush, seeing fish, getting refused, spooking fish, but when you finally get it right, “the take” and the fight, man that fight! The satisfaction! Especially on the great lakes fish and big rivers. The carp definitely makes you a better fly angler, it tests every aspect of your game and your equipment, from persistence, stealth, patience, casting and ability to hook and land big fish. Man, I love carp on the fly.
What are the fishing opportunities where you guide & best times to hire me for a given species?
The main fish that I guide for are carp in the early spring, depending on snow and such it can be around mid-April. This is some of the greatest fly fishing you will see, as they are putting feed bags on before the spawn. After the spawn (around June) is also fantastic time to get them, as the water is warming up and so is their metabolism, they are active and feeding. They can be great in the big Lake “O” (Lake Ontario). I also have the option of chasing them in large river if the lake doesn’t cooperate. We fish them till September/October. All carp on the fly days are spot and stalk in shallow water. Canadian sight fishing at its finest.
South Central Ontario is blessed with so many opportunities, so muskie and bass (smallmouth and largemouth) days are also an option. Some days we do all three in one day. (carp, bass, muskie). We also have some unique catches as well such as suckers, walleye, perch, crappie and more.
In the fall, usually around September, salmon (Chinook & Coho) on the fly, and some lake run browns mixed in. Nothing pulls quit like a 20lbs fresh run salmon in a small creek. The fall is a mixed bag with carp, salmon, muskie, walleye and then steelhead, the fall is the toughest time, to choose a species, lots of options. Steelhead, as well as muskie is great in fall (October to November). Some winters (December to February) are fishable for steelhead, depending on snow and ice. Spring (March and April) is primetime for steelhead, again. Then the seasons start over again.
To learn more about Scott’s guide service and to book a trip to catch your own beast, his link and contact information is below!
944 Colonel Sam drive
Call +1 905-922-5153
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. -Francis Bacon
It’s a great thing in life to find friends that are as excited as you are about a shared interest. It’s even better to find people that have not only a couple of things in common with you but several. Then it’s a very peculiar, almost strange thing to find someone who lives in another country you’ve never met in person with so many of the same interests, you wonder if perhaps you’ve been seperated at birth. Jamie Sandford is a friend I’ve known at least a year as another Carp on the fly enthusiast.
Though we live on different continents, Facebook allows us to keep in touch and his updates via Carp Champions are how I first got to know Jamie. Over time I became interested in his other posts on things I really enjoy too: travel, metal music, good beer, fly tying, etc. While I’m not rehabbing an English cottage and not much of a biking enthusiast, just about everything else about Jamie’s into has been interesting to follow. Plus I think we all should have a good variety of pursuits to help us continue learning and avoid becoming a bore.
With that in mind, I hope you find the following anything but boring. This piece is about what I call all things beautiful. The small things in life that can be enjoyed in minutes but are truly big things. These little moments can easily make your day, week, month, or whole year more memorable. The critics say one of the major risks of social media is that it breeds envy. That we only see the sanitized version of people’s lives and therefore it’s deceptive. It makes others feel left out or prone to compare circumstances with others.
All I know for sure is that I’m happy to see others enjoy what I love to enjoy. I get the elation that is bringing a freight train of a carp to hand on the fly. There are few things better to hear than some old school metal on the am drive to work. And a good quality beer is about the best way to wrap up a long day of anything (but of course fishing is naturally included). So if you also enjoy fishing, beer, travel, metal, etc., prove the critics wrong, appreciate this piece minus the envy, and take in all this beauty Jamie’s got to share.
My summer fishing: Carp, Trout, Beers and Metal!
As the seasons change here in the U.K. I look back on the summer I’ve had in 2018, And what a summer its been!
Fishing here in England and abroad in places such as the EBRO in Spain and the flats of Portugal have been very successful making for a really fun and exciting summer.
I was very lucky to have one of my best trips yet in Portugal this year catching over 100 carp, sight-fishing the flats using head-stand flies, And as I’ve previously written my annual trip to Spain lure fishing for Black Bass, Zander and Perch was yet again a trip of a lifetime with some great fish caught on a variety of lures including surface walkers, poppers, jigs and crank-baits.
Once back home I have had some great captures at my local fisheries using all manner of floating patterns for Carp and I have been rewarded with some stunning looking mirrors and commons on the fly.
From funky looking beetles to more natural style terrestrials the possibilities are endless when you let your imagination be free at the fly tying vice and as the go to pattern in the U.K. tends to be ‘Pellet flies’ its exciting catching on creatures & critters that are multi-colored with various legs and appendages!
Now with the weather turning colder in the U.K. I have started getting my ‘Trout’ head on. With lots of local ‘stocked ‘ fisheries all within driving distance I am lucky to have fishing on my doorstep. These stocked waters contain Rainbows, Browns and the odd bonus TIGER and BROOK trout and although these fish are stocked they always put a smile on my face.
Having taken up fly tying over the last few years I have really enjoyed tying up various coloured lures and a favourite pattern of mine at present is the classic ‘CATS WHISKER’ in white and chartreuse, This really seems to be working really well stripped back fast on an intermediate line creating a ‘WHAT’S THAT’ attitude from the trout.
After a good days fishing there’s nothing better in my opinion than coming home and kicking back with a beer and some music…Now I might be wrong here but most lure anglers I know and speak too are metalheads, So I’ve included a pic of my desert island records along with my favourite beers at present! (I’d really recommend the ADNAMS ‘BROADSIDE’)
I think metal music sums up my lure fishing….Its loud, fast, hard and aggressive…And when you get a take from a Carp, Trout or Bass the echoes of Mastodons ‘BLOOD AND THUNDER’ ring through my head!
A great book was published a few years back called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. His golden circle reference has helped define many endeavours since. If you’re curious to see more, check out the YouTube link here that provides his Ted Talk presentation. In a nutshell his message is that no one cares what you do or how you do it if you don’t communicate why you do it. The phrase “your why” is now seen in a multitude business-oriented communications since.
Some have asked me over the course of the past year why this blog is called River King Fishing and the answer is essentially “our why”. I don’t claim to be the king of any river but instead advocate for others to open their mind a bit and pursue overlooked species in overlooked locations so they can essentially own their local river. When you realize the vast supply of strong fighting fish that are available in large rivers, their tributary creeks, and small streams, you can begin to capitalize on that opportunity. You may find it your new favorite fishing experience over conventional bass or even trout fishing. This has meant Common Carp at River King Fishing. No Common Carp are not the fish making the magazine covers here in America. You may find yourself fishing some dicey waters in this pursuit. What you’ll also find however is you will have some of the most fun you’ve ever had fishing, battling absolute bruisers in fast water.
I have been like many fisherman the past 10 or so years. I’m busy with life, kids, and a career that often requires travel, professional development, and sometimes exams to study for outside of work time. That has meant fishing has been limited to local lakes near me. They have been great places to catch fun crappie, bass, bluegill, and catfish, especially when introducing my kids to the fishing basics. I had in my high school days caught carp, catfish, and drum from the river but mostly nothing to get too excited about. Besides, I was too busy chasing game fish like largemouth bass so who had time for the trash fish swimming in the river?
The crossover point was late summer 2017. I had a job change and was interviewing daily for the next opportunity but had a few hours in between so I would get in some fishing. One day I tried a local dam and the carp I landed that day really changed my perspective on fishing overall. This is what I’ve been missing! What a blast! It made me question why do so few American fisherman respect or pursue these fish. What follows are just some of the reasons you should pursue these fish.
- Strength-While carp are rarely pursued for sport in America, it’s a greatly respected gamefish internationally. Anglers already know and appreciate the fighting ability of these fish.
- Numbers – The business world talks to value proposition a lot: what makes a company and what they provide a customer stand out? If we’ve got limited time and money as fisherman, I’m looking to maximize my time catching fish, not dealing with distractions like outboard motors and baitcaster backlash. The days of bragging rights on a 4lb bass that took all day to catch seem more like opportunity cost when contrasted with a 100lb morning spent catching carp at the river. One value proposition for carp fishing is that they are among the best species going for maximizing your time and money. The fishing is fun and fast on the river at times.
Here is one example from one day in August this year. Each fish averaged between 5-15lbs and after snapping pics as I always do, I was able to check the time logged for how many I caught and when. Other than 90 minutes to practice fly casting in between, I was pretty busy this day. There are robust populations out there and they’re often eager to bite.
10:14, 10:25, 10:37, 11:03, 11:23, 11:34 1:14, 1:28, 1:42, 1:55, 2:00
- Challenging conditions-It’s a simple equation: larger fish + strengthened in river current + ultralight gear=A fantastic fishing experience any bass or trout angler would envy (if they only knew what they’re missing!). I seek a connection to nature when I get outdoors. Carp fishing is no different. I prefer to use ultralight and light action gear to pursue carp. I don’t use bite alarms for my lines but attentively watch the rod tip awaiting the next bite. When they do, these fish run, fight so hard, and relentlessly challenge your gear until you land them in your net (if your lucky!). That sound of the drag, pulling line clear off your reel, is the sweetest sound in fishing. It breaks up what is often the only background noise when fishing at the river: the serene sound of the current.\
Where I live in MO, the problem is perception. Fisherman think all carp are invasive. Common carp are thrown on the shore and left to die because “that’s what my dad taught me to do” or they make good fertilizer for a garden(?). Increasing awareness of the carp as a sportfish is one of my drivers in starting my side project. Most of all, I see the opportunity for many families to have great fun like I’ve had with my boys this summer and want them to share that with their kids as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to create on my blog and look forward to continue shining a spotlight on this great sport of carp fishing in the future!
Catching my first carp on the fly was just an electric experience. Catching carp was the main motivator for me to learn how to fly fish. Though more experienced and skilled anglers had warned me that the skill required to convince these intelligent quarry to bite is best left to skilled fly anglers. I taught myself the basics of casting with online videos and scouted new spots for carp that were more suited for a fly rod than the big river spots I fished with bait for carp. On Memorial Day I finally caught my first and thought I maybe figured it out.
The subsequent weeks and months have shown me there is still so much to learn. The stalk, the approach, the cast, are all opportunities to blow it. I’ve blown many opportunities this summer and connecting with Jason Schwermer online, I’ve seen his waters are quite similar to where I catch carp. I was curious regarding his approach to stalking carp specifically. He was willing to share some of his methods, fly patterns, and gear he uses to catch these mud movers in the below interview.
Tell me about how you got started fishing, fly fishing, and then into carp fly fishing?
I started fishing when I was just a little kid my dad used to haul me and my brother in a backpack before we could walk lol but I’ve been fishing for just about everything from bluegill to deep-sea fishing and pike and muskie in Canada. I kinda got away from fishing for a few years and I really got active in hunting with a longbow spot and stalk style and just recently. I bought my first fly rod so I could take it to the mountains and trout fish because evertime I was in Colorado I would see tons of fish in those high Alpine Lakes. So I sprung and bought my first fly rod, a TFO 5 weight. I thought I would practice by crappie fishing and while walking the shoreline I would see these giant beautiful fish and think man I wonder how I can catch those. So I went home Googled fly fishing for carp and man I made it a mission to be the best I could be at fishing for these beasts. I went at it trial and error style until after a few weeks bought a book and caught my first carp on a fly and now I’m hooked for life.
What are the conditions where you fish? Are you sight fishing or casting at bubble trails, mud lines, etc.? Forage and fly patterns that are most favored?
Let’s see most of my fishing is done on a big lake in semi-muddy waters but through sunglasses I start looking for fish to see. I’m a sight fisherman. I walk the shoreline looking for the fish, mud clouds, bubbles whatever I can find but it gets tricky. I had to learn the fish behavior. If I see a pod of fast movers or a single moving, I don’t waist my time but if I see a sun bather I will toss an unweighted fly in front and hope for the best but my 2 favorite are the belly crawlers and the tailers. Those are the ones I like to target. I’m a drag and drop sight fisherman when I see a fish, I look for the head, cast past, drag and drop the fly right in front of their face. 9 times out of 10 bam! fish on!
The flies I like to use are mini craws versions of backstabber I tie and beetles for top water ….
What’s your stalk or approach? If you crawl up to target fish, do you hide behind cover, how do you cast, or other tips for fly anglers to aid in their presentation?
Now this part is where my hunting background comes in play. THE STALK is what I love! Every fish is different but I move very slow along the shoreline looking for the fish . When I say slow I mean slug pace as these fish are extremely smart spooky with excellent hearing and smell. Hell they’re a whitetail deer in the water! If I spot a tailer they are the easiest ones to sneak up on as they are so preoccupied with their face in the mud they don’t notice you so I’ll slowly move into position by sneaking as close as possible and casting a few feet past and drag and drop right in front of their face.
Now the tricky part ..detecting the eat. These fish hit so soft it’s hard to tell so when I drop the fly if I can see the fish in clearer water I watch for the turn as soon as I see that I’ll keep tight line and strip set. The ones I can’t see I drag and drop where I think the head is and watch the end of my fly line for a twitch and set the hook if it moves or I’ll keep the line tight and slowly raise my rod tip if I feel resistance. I strip set and hold on lol!
Now my favorite ones to get are the belly crawlers. If I see one feed in real shallow water I will sneak crawl roll and hide behind bushes weeds trees to avoid being seen. I like to sneak as close as I can like within 15 ft or so. I get a huge adrenalin rush and I use the same drag and drop technique on those as well. I walk light; the vibration of your foot steps will spook them so best tips I can give is walk slow, crawl if you have to. Walk light, cast accurate , and concentrate on detecting the eat and I guarantee you will have tight lines!
My preferred rod reel is a 7 weight Scott Meridian and a Nautilus XL Max reel but I have caught 20 plus pounders on a 4wt it can be done but not recommended lol
Feel free to check out Jason’s Facebook group, flyfishing carp. if you want to follow page updates, fly tying videos, and more. If you love hunting turkeys as well as hunting carp on the fly, Jason makes some pretty impressive calls you may want to check out too.
So many fly fisherman begin with panfish, master the basics, and then proceed to spend the following decades pursuing mostly trout and bass. It’s only been in the past five or so years that interest in fly fishing for carp has developed. Fly fishermen without local access to trout streams took to practicing sight fishing on these “trash bass” near home. What many learned quickly is that carp were often more difficult to land on a fly than anticipated. That frustration eventually became respect for an intelligent, wary fish that more than delivered a bend on the rod. They became a challenge to test their mettle as a fly angler. They became THE fish they were out to catch that day, not just an afterthought to cast at because they were surface feeding or cruising the shallows. Industry publications like Field and Stream and The Drake have been featuring carp content for years. Multiple Carp tournament venues are sprouting up each month.
I have approached fly fishing completely backwards from the earlier description. Having owned a fly rod for 25 years, it was rarely used before falling in love with carp fishing at my local rivers. I was so caught up in the fun of landing these beasts on ultralight gear, I hadn’t looked back to try bass, bluegill, or others. I definitely had forgotten about my fly rod before I started joining groups about carp fishing. With only 3 carp under my belt a few months later, I may eventually get to fishing for bass or trout but for now it’s a singular focus.
Another passionate advocate of carp fly fishing is Andrew McClellan. In short order he’s begun a net company, guides for carp, has been featured on some pretty slick videos, and still manages to keep a day job with 100 days on the water each year. I took some time to catch up and learn more about the ways he’s helping more anglers become carp on the fly junkies.
Have you always been a fisherman or has that been an interest that’s developed over time?
By day time I’m an Engineer for a food company where I get to create kitchen tools to make people’s jobs easier; my hobby and passion is that I’m an avid fly fisher. My goal is to spend at least 100 days on the water a year, and this year I’m on track. I squeeze in a day or a few hours whenever possible. I live in Southern California, where I have carp locally to me, and pristine trout waters anywhere from 3.5 to 7 hours away.
I got into fly fishing about 5 years ago when I showed up to a boys trip to the river and I was the only one with spinning gear. The motion of the cast and the incremental changes you can make to fool a fish to taking hand crafted bug imitations really opened my eyes to the science behind fly fishing. Being a science guy, I really got into understanding entomology and why fish react a certain way.
What’s your average day of guided fishing like? What fish do you target, preferred techniques, flies, etc.
Often times I get asked how to fish for carp, or what they like to eat; when asked, I develop a perception that people are looking to me for professional answers, but in reality I literally stumbled upon carp fishing. Desperate for anything to take a fly, I found a video of a carp jumping like a tarpon at the LA river. Did some googling, and ended up with a 10+ lb carp throwing corn flies. You can see the edited version on Youtube. LA River Piglet, where you can see me using my wooden net. Funny thing was, while I was down on the river a guy mentioned that “you are going to need a bigger net”, and the video displays that.
Since that first fish, I have landed close to 200 carp to date in the 3 years I have been fishing it, often times with double digit days. I really enjoy taking people out for their first time to get a carp on the fly. I charge nothing, IMO carp is not a guided fish…too many conditions to consider and is heavily dependent upon skill and a “ninja-mindset”. My favorite way to get a carp is to dap…top water is always a treat, but to watch a fish stop what they are doing and come over to suck in your clam imitation, a set with glass and game on is something worth living for…….I love how freaked out they get and how far they run. My second outing for carp resulted in a slip and fall and my net broke, not noticing it until I reached for my net when I had a fish on the line. I ventured online to purchase a rubber bag, heavy duty, carp net. I was astonished with the prices. The net I wanted, was more than my fly rod, and there was no way to justify that.
Tell us the story of how you started your net company?
Being an Engineer, I took it upon myself to build one myself and see how much it would be. It just so happens my fraternity brother is an owner of Rhino Linings. Three years later and 400 strong in the Rhino Herd, it’s been the a great part of fly fishing with all the people I meet. My pricing ranges from $75-$120 for my largest net, being a boat net. Nets are meant to be abused and affordable. Keeping manufacturing lean, I am able to afford to donate about 50-100 nets a year to charities and fishing competitions. In my humble opinion, a net should not cost $135 or more. Rhino Nets is the most affordable:ruggedness ratio on the planet. All nets are made to order, and can be customized at very low costs.
How can others learn more about your products or hire you as a guide?
If you want to hire me as a carp guide, I charge nothing…..I only teach.
If anyone would like to learn more about Rhino Nets my website is:
For additional LA River footage and questions,
LA River Gold – UrbananglerUSA visits
“Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes” – Marcel Proust
It’s a part of our human nature that we long for adventure. Being a fisherman means you are first an explorer. This need for new experiences is really part of our DNA. Fishing travel provides just a multitude of ways you can scratch this itch. Tarpon on the Fly in Mexico, Giant Catfish in Spain, and an innumerable number of other adventures abound on earth to fill your bucket list.
For most, our job and home life precludes us from searching the four corners of the globe for new fish. What the travel blogging community accomplishes is truly awesome for those who can swing it but for the rest of us, it’s about all we can practically manage to take a vacation each year or a short weekend out of town to satiate this need. While that is the reality for millions of anglers, one of the best aspects of this sport is that you can still accomplish plenty of new fishing experiences without stamping the passport. Fishing firsts can be achieved in your own backyard if you’re willing to challenge your perception of a good catch or a good spot. This year I’ve invested more time in uncovering spots to fish close to home. Some are within reach of a short bike ride! I’ve been amazed by what I’ve discovered.
After our CARPSTL group was formed earlier this year, I’ve met some really great guys that are in to Carp fishing and also know some interesting places about town to try. I’ve found in recent years that the overlooked, undesirable fish species located in overlooked, undesirable locales can provide your most unexpected fishing adventures. Joe Oelke from our group offered to show me around River Des Peres to see what we could catch on the fly.
The river Des Peres meets the Mississippi in south St. Louis. It’s known for one thing in particular; the smell. “The River of the Fathers” was named after the Catholic missionary efforts here in the 1700s. Floods here have inflicted damage to property, even taken lives and has led to efforts to channel the flow of water. This is when the concrete “banks” were constructed. It’s actually a mixed use sewer and storm drainage facility for thousands of residents. While it’s improved in water quality a lot over the decades, it’s not your picturesque Colorado trout stream. There are trophy smallmouth bass and trout waters just a couple hours away. So why bother fishing in this literal shithole? (just being presidential in my choice of descriptors here)
Guides and other serious anglers have discovered these opportunities in other cities. A great example can be found in Houston with Danny Scarborough of Houston Fly Fishing Guide Service. Running right through downtown is a drainage facility (the “concrete flats”) where a smorgasbord of fish species can be caught on the fly. Tilapia, eels, Common and Grass Carp, Koi, bowfin, catfish, buffalo, mullet, redfish, bass, you name it. Another great example is the LA River that has been the scene for famous movie scenes including Grease, Transformers, and more. These aren’t just random anglers but sometimes professional fishing guides building their careers in what could be considered unconventional urban sport fishing.
Joe and I set out to ring in the Memorial Day weekend at sunrise Saturday morning. A short jaunt from the Walgreens parking lot and we were on the water. We’re seeking carp mostly, fly rod in hand. I have 6wt Berkeley Stinger rod I’ve had 25 years. Fly fishing has only recently become an obsession, brought on primarily in the pursuit of Carp on the fly. I’ve had some great fun landing carp on ultralight gear so fly fishing seemed to be the next curious step in this pursuit.
We were looking more than odd with our fly fishing rods and packs crossing Carondelet. The bikers, runners, and random residents going about life were not stopping to ask what we’re doing and we were definitely the only ones fishing. No worries there at all. Undesirable species + undesirable locales=unexpected fishing adventures.
As we approach the shoreline, it’s clear (not the water) that there are no shortage of fish and activity in this river. We spot gar near the surface, carp tailing and leaving bubble trails. It’s maybe 10 minutes before we have our first fish – a short nose gar. While some may throw them back on the shore, a gar is a great deal of fun on the fly. They give good chase to most any offering. For a newer fly fisherman, they are excellent practice. Casting to targets you can make out regularly just below the surface greatly help in both accuracy and they also provide you some chances at long casts that can generate a catch.
We continue catching gar as the early morning quickly disappears. Time is always evasive once you get fishing. We cast to dozens of bubble trails and spot at least 50 carp but not one had interest. The water clarity was too dark to ID them so our best guess was they were bighead or black carp or perhaps spawning with no interest in taking a fly. Some grass carp were also evident near shore, feeding on and below random vegetation.
The landscape provided no shortage of views while we casted away. Post-war bungalows and ranch homes from the 50s and 60s still line these streets. The blocks untouched by modern home renovation standards like that seen in areas like Kirkwood or Brentwood where homes like this are leveled for a modern, more luxurious structures. Much of the area still retains the charm of a bygone era. Much like the fishing opportunity that is River Des Peres, this area has a peculiar beauty to be appreciated.
So yes, you are free to turn up your nose or plug it altogether if you won’t fish the River Des Peres but it’s your loss. There are a wide variety of species and in good numbers in select parts of this body of water. You’ll get some crazy looks but you’ll also find some adventure. This area is not unique to St. Louis by any means. Get out and explore your local waterways. Many teem with fishing opportunities to be enjoyed for those “seeing with new eyes”.
This feature might raise some eyebrows and hopefully change perceptions. We are featuring a fishing guide service based on Dale Hollow reservoir in Tennessee. It is a legendary fishery for Smallmouth Bass having produced the world record in 1955 at 11.9375lbs. This body of water also produced the Smallies that hold spots 2 and 3 below that world record. But this feature is not about Smallmouth Bass. Dale Hollow has also set state records for Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and the current state record for Muskie came from Dale Hollow. Those fish are not the subject of this piece either. If none of the prior fishing opportunities have sufficiently grabbed your attention, there is still great fishing for Largemouth, Spotted Bass, Crappie, White Bass, Bluegill, Walleye, and more. Again, not being addressed further here. Dale Hollow provides just an all around amazing angling opportunity, yet this feature is really sidestepping all of the before-mentioned, sport fishing species.
We’re shining a spotlight on what can be a rare fish species to consistently catch here in America and are rarely appreciated: Carp. Not just any Carp because many species such as Common Carp or Grass Carp are very plentiful. However the Mirror Carp is less often seen or caught and therefore provide an interesting quarry for anglers. First of all what is a Mirror Carp? Mirrors are a member of the same family as Common Carp. Their large, patchy or often unevenly distributed scales resemble mirrors. Science Magazine did an interesting piece on Mirror Carp in 2016. The below excerpt provides a look at the origins of Mirror Carp.
“medieval European monks selectively bred carp centuries ago to produce ones with fewer scales, thus making them easier to gut and cook. Starting in 1912, these “mirror carp”—so named for their smooth sides—were introduced to Madagascar, where no carp existed, for fish farming, and they quickly spread throughout the island. “
Why do a feature on Carp fishing when there’s all those great gamefish on Dale Hollow to write about? A better question might be why start a guide service or a publication dedicated solely to Carp fishing? As you’ll learn in a minute, Jeff Skelton and Rick Slinker have done both without hesitation. Carp fishing is a fast growing sport here in the United States. There is so much to love in pursuing this often unappreciated, even despised fish. In Europe and Asia, they are held in high regard and respected as a gamefish and that has been the case for decades. In fact, European anglers travel here to the U.S. just to pursue fish deemed by many as “trash fish”. One of the go-to locales for a truly massive Carp of a lifetime has become Dale Hollow and it’s easy to see why. Not only vast in numbers but in sheer size, the populations of both Mirror and Commons are a sight to behold and a joy to have bending your rod. We had a chance to interview one of the two founders of Dale Hollow Carp Adventures Rx, Jeff Skelton (Rick Slinker is co-founder) to learn more about how they got started and just what does the Dale Hollow Carp fishing opportunity look like.
Tell us your story Jeff. How you got into the profession and why you do it?
As you can probably see my passion is fishing and carp fishing to be exact. At ten years old back in 1972, already loving to fish, you see there were three ponds in succession across the field all holding large bass, catfish, and bluegill so fishing was something I enjoyed at a very early age. During this same period I was introduced to carp angling by a friend of the family and backhoe operator for my dad’s plumbing company Willie Richardson. He taught me pack-bait recipes, beads for pickups, flavorings, and all that he knew about this style of fishing. My first set of rods were Zebco 808’and the pod/stands were laying the rod and reel on the bank and sticking a screwdriver into the ground between the reel and rod. This passion has stayed with me for all my life and fueled the start of The Carp Anglers Magazine CAM in 2014.
In 2016 I partnered with Rick Slinker a great angler, two times US Champion, and World Classic Baits representative. We both love to fish Dale Hollow and his dream was to guide on this lake. So we came together in another business venture Dale Hollow Carp Adventures Rx. We provide anglers the best possible chance of catching a new Personal Best (PB) by selecting productive swims, making reservations, pre-baiting swims to ensure the carp keep coming back, renting boats large enough to carry everyone to the remote locations, and helping to load and unload the enormous amount of gear carp anglers need. We also provide knowledge of what baits are working, pickups, how to fish specific swims, sonar of the bottom and boat use to put out any chum anglers bring with them.
We come around everyday for assistance, ice runs, baiting or to just to socialize. We are available 24 hours daily by radio contact if needed on the 6-day 5-night primitive carping adventure. If you live across the country or overseas, we provide packages with everything needed for the experience along with airport pick up and drop off service so all you need to do is step off the plane with your clothes and we will take care of the rest. Or bring all your gear and have the carping vacation of a lifetime. This is the first year when in only two trips completed, we have already made many anglers very happy with 2 carp over 40lbs, 16 over 30lbs, and 107 over 20lbs along with a new personal best, lake record 46 pound common. In addition along with many, many great hours spent socializing with carpers from all over the US. This is a dream come true for both Rick and me. Our motto is let us “Make it Happen,” Get Well On DHL.
What’s been your favorite experience/fish story you’ve seen first-hand as a guide?
This is the first year officially and already so many remarkable stories, but the one at the forefront of my mind is Bruce Massey’s. I was contacted just days before our second boat of the spring season by Ricky Massey wanting to set up a trip for his uncle, best friend, and himself. They arrived the Saturday of their trip after some transportation complications getting to Willow Grove Resort and we promptly loaded the gear, transporting them to the swim they would be fishing and unloaded all the equipment. While there talking with Bruce Massey, Ricky Massey, and Djuan Thomas, Bruce caught a 17lb fully scaled mirror and was over the moon; you see it was a new PB for this group and they were already having the time of their lives. During the week they all shattered their respective Personal Bests, but the best part was that Bruce caught the new lake record a 46 pound common. This guy was beyond excited as you might expect. I even saw him dance a jig! This is what we do this for; the joy we can bring to others at a meager price for six days five nights. You see most people cant get the time off or afford to be able to travel to Dale Hollow repeatedly to bait swims every weekend that produces fish such as these. This is the most crucial part of what we provide; you see we travel 5 hours one way to put chum out on our reserved locations from January up to the spawn to ensure we give the best possible chance of catching a fish of a lifetime and memories you will never forget.
What are the fishing opportunities where you guide? When are the best times for a given species?
Well everyone has seen pictures of the immaculate fish caught out of this lake. The Fully Scaled Mirror Carp is sought after worldwide. It just so happens to be the most commonly caught species in this lake. You see 65 to 75 % of fish you hook into will be fully scaled mirror carp with the majority having never been hooked. While there is nothing special we do to catch these mirror carp, they seem to like the same baits as the common. The only thing is finding the flavor of the month or the color of the pickup, what method/pack works best, what flavor of boilies do they tend to prefer etc. This is another advantage of using our guide service as we have a combined twenty years experience fishing these waters. Not to mention that from early in the year I fish Dale Hollow every single weekend on one location or another as I am already there to place chum in the swims we reserve for the spring. We encourage anyone to go and fish this magnificent lake whether you use our guide service or not as you will never forget the experience!
So it’s one thing to hear a guide or resort tell you how good their fishing is. It’s another however when a fellow angler has been there and done it. And then there’s fishermen like Doug Reed who keep meticulous records and pictures. From the two trips he’s taken to Dale Hollow, below are his results by weight, date, time of catch, and Mirrors noted “Mir”, “M”, or FM for Full Mirror. In addition, here’s some pics. Dale Hollow is the place for a Carp fishing experience of a lifetime, new Personal Bests, or if you’re especially fortunate like Bruce Massey, perhaps a new lake record!
19.7. 4/18. 1140 pm
18. 4/19. 13o am
12.14. 4/19. 2:10 am
20. 4/19. 6:50
13. 4/19. 7:15
22.6 4/19. 5:20 pm
11.8. 4/19. 7:20pm
23.11 4/19 8:20
15.9 4/19 8:45pm
14.12 4/19 9:45 Mir
6. 4/19. 11:20
28.4 4/20 1:40
8.6 4/20 1:55
17.7 4.20 3:10
27.12 4/20 6:30
16.12 4/20 4:20pm
16.2 4/20 7:40mir
15.3 4/20 8:40mir
20.1 4/21 12:45 m
15.14 4/21 5:45
19 4/21. 6:45am
30.9 4/21 4:15
16.6 4/21 4:45
31 4/21. 6:15
29.10 4/21 7:40
16.11 4/21 9:10
19.4 4/22 12:30
10.8 4/22 7:10 pmM
28.1 4/23 5:30cam
15.10 4/23 8:15amM
14.2 4/23 12:10 M
15 4/23 8:05pmFm
20.14 4/25. 1:00pmM
28.15 4/25 6:15M
17.10 4/25 6:30M
19.14 4/25 8:40
22.9 4/26 1:30Fm
18.3 4/26 4am
17.14 4/26 5:45am
20.4 4/26 6:45
24.4 4/26 8:30
25.2 common 4/17
30.6 mirror 4/18
28.12 common 4/19
12.6 fulmir 4/20
29.4 com 4/20
24.10 com 4/20
32.2 fulmir 4/21
15.2 com 4/21
14.1 com 4/22
16.3 com 4/22
20 common 4/23
A reoccurring theme on this blog is that of curiosity. Anglers are explorers first and we seek adventure in not only the species we pursue but where and also in the methods employ to do the catching. We are endlessly curious about the ways to get a hook in a fish’s mouth. There’s lots of ground we’ve covered already with carp: Carp on the fly from multiple angles, conventional carp fishing, carp fishing on Gyeonji, so why not try catching carp on a Tenkara rod?
First of all what is Tenkara? Per Wikipedia: Tenkara fly fishing is a traditional type of fishing practiced in Japan. Primarily used for mountain stream trout fishing, tenkara is one of the most popular methods of angling among fresh-water mountain anglers in Japan. Tenkara rods resemble the long, flexible construction used in fly rods to help cast line rather than lures. You will often find overlap among fly fishing enthusiasts and those who take to Tenkara. What’s missing here however is the reel. Tenkara rods are fixed line, meaning you have no drag to rely to help tire your catch.
If you’ve ever caught a carp, especially of decent size, you may already be skeptical. Carp are some of the strongest fighting freshwater fish, renown for their powerful runs that will snap lines or even pull in your entire rod and reel in your lake or river if you’re not attentive. I’ve brought a few reels to an early demise over the years from all the abuse the drag would endure getting them to shore. Fly anglers love catching carp as one of the fish they can rely on taking them into their backing which doesn’t happen as much chasing trout, panfish, or bass. So what makes someone think that using a fixed line fly rod is an appropriate or even potentially successful way to catch carp? It sounded like a heartbreak in the making but following some of Donavan Clary’s catches of carp on the fly, I noticed he was doing this successfully on Tenkara. Donavan has been a fly fishing guide guide in Oklahoma chasing trout, striper, and gar for over 20 years. Donavan has also done Carp fishing trips and is offering carp on Tenkara trips specifically too. I was fascinated and had to learn more and he was happy share more of his methods behind the madness in the below guest post.
Carp on tenkara. It is possible. It is fun. It is very fun. I started fly fishing at 8 years old in the Ozark mountains for trout. Over the span of 37 years, I’ve chased dozens of fresh water species with a fly rod and several saltwater species.
Lately, Carp are my obsession and what I’ve been learning how to catch over the past 6 years. Carp are unbelievably smart. They fight like crazy and are a challenge like no other I’ve encountered. Early last year I was challenged by a close friend to catch and land a carp over 10# on a new tenkara rod. A challenge I accepted with a smile all the while worrying about on the inside.
I had bought two tenkara rods to play with a few months before and had not even taken them out of their tubes. After accepting the challenge I started researching carp on tenkara and planning my attack on the carp at the local carp hole!
I tied several patterns that I knew would work. I found several common carp and one smaller mirror feeding on a shallow flat.
I approached and made my presentation, the first fish took my fly and in a few short seconds, broke me off and robbed me of my fly. Over the next few weeks I kept attempting to land a trophy carp on a tenkara rod. I’ve learned how to do it and I love it!
I stress the fact I’m completely new at carp on tenkara. I have hooked and lost far more than I have landed but I have caught, and taught others how to do it and I’m going to share it with you.
1. The biggest factor is fish. You have to have fish if you are going to catch one.
2. Setting. Keep in mind you don’t have extra line or a drag system to help you. You are going to have to locate carp in a setting you have the advantage. Away from structure of any kind. In an area you can chase them down and fight them.
3. Gear. You need good high quality tippet and leaders. I’m a fan of fluorocarbon and believe it benefits me. That being said, I have caught a lot of carp with monofilament and wouldn’t pass up using it if that’s what I had available.
4. Your approach is key. Don’t alert the fish. Get your fly to them without spooking them is half the challenge.
5. Hooking up and catching up is crucial. When a big fish makes a run, you have to be able to take chase and tire the fish out. Without losing your fly.
All of your common carp flies will work on tenkara. Standard tenkara rods designed for carp will catch carp. The challenge is getting close enough to present the fly and then staying hooked up.
Everyone who fly fishes needs to chase carp. Everyone who carp fishes needs to try catching one on a tenkara rod.
Carp on the fly is cool! Carp on the fly using a tenkara rod… There’s nothing cooler!
If you’re interested in booking Donavan for a fly fishing trip in Oklahoma, check out his Facebook page. If you’re looking to get a carp on the fly yourself, on Tenkara even, check out his other page for more information.
A favorite show to pass the time on the daily commute is The Orvis Fly Fishing podcast with Tom Rosenbauer. In an episode late last year, Tom was answering an emailed question about how to convince more anglers that fly fishing was better or “the way to go” instead of a conventional rod and reel approach. Tom simply replied that fly fishing was “just another way to get a hook in a fish’s mouth.” I loved this frank response because when you boil it all down, it not only applies to fly fishing but to most any fishing method. A foundational theme found throughout the content of this blog, this venture called River King Fishing, is that we write for the endlessly curious angler. This latest installment looking at fishing for carp with Gyeonji rod is no exception.
By now you can guess we love carp fishing. That love was born from their pure fighting ability. Carp will give you a run for the money. Long runs will leave your drag smoking, taking you into the rough stuff, and when you think you’re ready to net your catch, it starts all over. You need a reel to successfully land these fish (or so I thought). My favorite way to catch carp has been using under-matched, ultralight gear to up the challenge. That has evolved to include fly fishing this year so now it’s the long runs into the backing and their brutal pulling power that makes catching carp so great on the fly. So when I first saw a Gyeonji, I have to say I didn’t think it able to handle a carp.
I wouldn’t have likely come across the Gyeonji had I not become familiar with Gyeonji Neardic and Devin Biggs. If you’re looking for an introduction (and some inspiration) as to what is Gyeonji, this fantastic video outlines some of the basics. Gyeonji rods can be used for a wide variety of species but why not start with carp? I was completely stunned a manually spun reel would successfully manage the above mentioned fighting prowess of the carp. If you’re curious yourself, have a look at his channel to see some battles first-hand.
What follows is my interview with Devin where he lets us in on what Gyeonji in the United States is all about.
Tell us about yourself and your favorite fishing. Do you have favorite species, waters and approaches?
I have always loved fishing. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, “Sportsman’s Paradise”, in an area with dozens of clean, natural lakes as well as the confluence of the Chippewa River and Mississippi River. My favorite angling style has always been river bank fishing. There are so many different species that you might hook in a river with a minnow, cut bait or nightcrawler. I selectively harvest and enjoy eating the fish I catch, but I also appreciate the amazing diversity of fish species that we have in our local waters.
How did you get into Gyeonji fishing? What about your rod design? How does it differ from the Korean Gyeonji rods?
Like many other anglers, I was intrigued by the viral video from Great Big Story that featured Korean angler Jung-Hoon Park fishing a mountain river with the traditional Gyeonji gear. Before I ever tried fishing with a Gyeonji rod, I could imagine this as an effective approach that distills the angling challenge down to its most basic elements. The Gyeonji rod has no gears, mechanical drag or any other moving parts, but relies instead on a practical design along with simple bait presentation and fish-fighting techniques.
Since there are no sellers here in the US with Korean Gyeonji rods, I wondered if I could build my own. My design resembles the Korean Gyeonji rods, but instead of using a pair of vanes as the rod-end spool/winder, my rods (designed as the Gyeonji Nearctic product line) are assembled with three or four vanes. Korean anglers usually fish the traditional Gyeonji rods in the current of a stream or river, with the rod spun in the fingertips to drift downstream and retrieve. The design of the Gyeonji Neartic rods, on the other hand, allows for a cast with weight because the line can easily peel off the spool. With the right combination of line and weight, these rods can cast to 30 yards or more. The Gyeonji Nearctic rods can thus be used for many kinds of waters and fishing situations.
How have you used the Gyeonji rods for Carp fishing? Do they have any special advantages or limitations for Carp?
Gyeonji rods are not well-suited for use with lures. Although they can cast with pretty good distance, it takes some time to set up each cast by carefully winding the tip section of line onto the spool. For this reason I mainly use with bait (live bait, Carp bait or cut bait) by casting or drifting a baited rig. I’ve found they work especially well with species and rigging where the fish is likely to hook itself on a sharp hook.
These are my two favorite approaches:
A. Circle hook rigs for Catfish
B. Bolt rigs for Carp.
When bank fishing, I leash the Gyeonji rod securely with a length of cord and then rest it in a telescoping rod holder. When a strong fish gets hooked and starts its first run, the rod spins in its holder for easy, low-tech bite detection. With such simple gear, Gyeonji fishing is especially thrilling during battle with hard-fighting fish. As long as you pay attention and learn some basic technique, a rod matched with the right line and terminal tackle can handle large, powerful fish. Carp are my favorite quarry to pursue with the Gyeonji rod. Carp fishing provides almost infinite possibilities for settings in all kinds of lakes and river and spectacular battles with tough, fast-running fish.
Gyeonji rods are short, measuring only 24” to 30” in length. Longer conventional gear rods can of course cast considerably farther and they can also provide an advantage for leading hooked fish away from weeds & snags, but I’ve found the Gyeonji rods are otherwise comparable for most situations. Landing a fish can be easier with the Gyeonji rod. Since you can wind the line on the spool right up to the fish’s head, you don’t have to also manage an extra rod-length section of line while netting the fish.
If you’re like us, an endlessly curious angler looking for new ways to get a hook in a fish’s mouth, Gyeonji definitely has appeal. A challenging, closer connection to your quarry can result in not only great fun but provide you an appreciation for what ancient man did to provide their own sustenance. It’s a new experience to try and if you’re looking to get started, check out Gyeonji Neartic!