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Gyeonji Fishing for Carp and more with Devin Biggs

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.

carp fishing

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.

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Patrick Ritter
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Patrick Ritter is the founder of River King Fishing, LLC.  Raised near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the outdoors, especially fishing, has always been a passion.