Year Of The Carp: Fly Selection 101

By JC Weeks

People often ask me why I like to fish for carp. Honestly, the reasons are quite simple. Species of carp can be found just about anywhere. They are strong, extremely fickle and quite smart. Fooling them with a fly proves to be an exciting task. Fly Fishing for carp is sight fishing at its best. It is not uncommon to see 10 – 15lb fish inhabiting your local waters.

Learn more about the gear for carp by checking out this article HERE.

Selecting flies for carp is not all that difficult. A variety of Wooley buggers and other trout flies will work great when starting to chase carp. For those anglers who have ever chased bonefish, it is time to put those flies to use once again.

Carp flies don’t necessarily need to match a specific bug, crustacean, or vegetation as long as the profile and color is similar to what the carp normally eat, you are in business.

When setting up a carp box try to keep three different types of flies stocked at all times. Carp tend to feed in many different areas of the water column. With that being said, in my personal opinion, weight is the most important factor when choosing carp flies. The three categories I would put any flies that I carry into are : unweighted, bead chain, & lead eyed flies. I like to carry a good selection of each of these flies in sizes 4 through 8

  • Unweighted flies are perfect for fish that are found in the top of the water column. These fish are usually just cruising or hanging out in the sun. Occasionally you will find carp that will eat dry flies or “gulp” food off the surface of the water. These flies are also great for shallow water situations. In shallow water, carp can be extremely wary since these flies have no weight they land quite soft and give you the best chance to catch these fish. Unweighted flies are meant to be fished on the surface or just below.
  • Bead chain flies are great for fish that are found in a little bit deeper water.  This allows for the flies to sink down to the desired depth and get the flies down to the bottom. These flies are meant to be fished in water from 2-4ft deep. These flies generally ride hook up and are great for enticing cruising carp, due to the little puffs of mud/sand that are created when the flies are retrieved. Since these flies ride hook up they tend to remain weed and moss free for the most part.  (This is where bonefish patterns come into play).
    • Recommended Patterns:
      • Ververka’s Mantis Shrimp
      • Barry’s Carp Bitter
      • D’s Hoover Mover
      • Carp Tickler
      • Egan’s Headstand


  • Lead eyed flies are great for deep water presentations with fish holding or swimming in 4+ feet of water. These flies are made to get down quickly due to the large lead eyes that adorn the fly.
    • Recommended Patterns:
      • Ragin Craven’s Lead Eyes
      • Near Nuff Crayfish
      • Sculpzilla

Stay tuned for more about tailoring a fly selection for carp. Over the next couple of weeks we will be presenting a lot of information in regards to carp fishing as Fishwest celebrates #yearofthecarp.