Year of the Carp: Finding Fish in Dirty Water

By JC Weeks

Here in the Salt Lake Valley we have been experiencing typical spring weather. In most cases this means that winds are high and temps are in flux. This can be a time where carp fishing is either feast or famine. On some days the water can be the color of Yoohoo (chocolate milk). This means that the pursuit of carp (which is difficult enough) is made that much harder by cloudy water conditions. Dirty water doesn’t mean that your day is over; really nice fish can still be brought to hand in stained or churned water. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind when fishing these difficult conditions.

(First and foremost a good set of Polarized Glasses is an absolute necessity)

Watch for Changes in the water: Spotting carp in dirty water is extremely difficult. In order to be successful in situations where the water is dirty you must be prepared to keep your eyes peeled. Keep your eyes open for subtle changes in the water around you. The first thing that you should be mindful of is groups of small bubbles. Carp feed with their faces in the dirt on the bottom. While they are feeding they tend to make quite the ruckus which releases air trapped on the bottom. On the surface this will look like a collection of small bubbles. If these bubbles appear to be moving and are somewhat erratic chances are that is a feeding fish. Pay attention and you may see a small flash of the fish or another indication of the feeding carp. Nervous water or small waves is also a good point of reference when trying to spot fish. This water is usually an indication of fish that are feeding up in the water column near the surface. Both of these subtle changes when noticed correctly can lead to more shots at fish.

Carp LOVE warm water:
When the water looks like chocolate milk try to find fish in the shallow waters. When water becomes opaque the temps tend to drop in deeper water. Carp are the happiest when they are nice and warm. I have seen situations where you will find fish feeding with their backs out of the water in as little as 5 to 6 inches. As long as you can land your fly close without spooking these fish they will most likely see your fly.

Dark Flies: In darker turbid waters I have found that dark bodied flies have the most success. This is due to the fact that the dark fly will create the most contrast in the water. You can choose to fish these dark flies with an indicator if needed. The indicator will help you to detect subtle takes in the cloudiest of waters. If you choose to fish without an indicator pay close attention to your leader. Subtle shifts and changes in direction may indicate a fish on the line.

These tips also apply when conditions are optimal. In order to be a successful carp angler, you have to be able to see these fish first and foremost. Keeping these tactics in mind when chasing these fish will help to make you a better angler in the long run. If you can catch carp consistently in dirty water you will increase your catch rate in good conditions.