Carp at Night
The night air was still and the stars were shining brightly. Sounds like the beginning of a romance novel doesn’t it. Well if you have a love affair with large Carp then this is the novel for you.
There are times when fly fishermen/women rush to the river bank to start fishing the mayfly hatches and find that none are occurring. So you sit and wait, and wait, and then wait some more. The sun starts setting and you decide to pack up and try again tomorrow. Sounds all too familiar, right? Let me explain how I manage to catch Carp in the middle of some of the best mayfly hatches in the west. The best time to fish these hatches is from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. or later. Fly fishing in the dark? You better believe it. I have taken my largest fish at this time of day and I have the water all to myself, but I digress. Let’s start at the beginning.
There are several species of mayflies that hatch during the dark hours of the night. These will be listed by family and followed by the common names that fly fishermen use.
1) Heptagenia – Quill Gordon
2) Stenocron – Light Cahill
3) Hexigenia – Brown Drake
4) Pentagenia – Brown Drake
5) Ephoron – Brown Drake
With all these mayflies that are available during July and August, how do you tell which ones are hatching during darkness? Do you need to carry all those imitations, and what size of dry fly is required. The answers are quite simple. To see what mayflies are hatching, turn your car headlights on for 3-5 minutes and you will have enough samples to determine the type any size of insect hatching. As for imitations, all you need are two flies in a variety of sizes. Both flies are BLACK. The reason for this, is when a fish looks through his window of vision, he will see the silhouette of the fly easier, because the fly is darker than the background. The F.F.A. #1 Mayfly is tied in the traditional manner, and usually tied in hook sizes # 18-12. The style of hook is a Mustad 94840. For the F.F.A. #2 extended body mayfly, the hook size is #10- 6, and the style is Mustad 7948A. TheF.F.A .# 1 is used to imitate the Quill Gordon, Light Cahill, and the Blue Winged Olives, while the F.F.A.# 2 is used to imitate the Brown Drakes.
The fishing of these flies is somewhat difficult at the beginning, because you are not familiar with fly casting in the dark. The best solution to this problem is practice. Start by casting in your backyard or a park during daylight. While casting pay close attention to the sound of your fly line, there should be a barely audible swishing noise. Learn to recognize this sound because if you don’t hear it while fishing at night, something is wrong with your line. Either you will have a wind knot or a nice bird’s nest in your leader. After you have learned to listen, repeat your casting, this time keeping your eyes closed. This may sound a little silly, but just remember you won’t see your fly line in the dark no matter what color it is. Once you are comfortable with this you may proceed to casting during darkness.
The actual fishing is the most exhilarating type of fly fishing you can do. Your senses are heightened because you don’t know what to expect while traveling to your fishing spot. Remember, there are quite a few nocturnal animals out there that will send your heart racing. Once you start fishing, cast approximately 20-30 feet away and keep in mind the general area where your fly has landed. You will not see the fish come up and take your fly. All you will see are the rings of the rise in the general vicinity. Set the hook immediately. You may catch the elusive sky tout, in which case simply false cast and put your fly back on the water, or you may hook into a Carp of a lifetime but you won’t be able to tell until you land the fish. I prefer using leaders no more than 7 1/2ft. This allows more control in your casting, setting of the hook, and in playing of the fish.
The last topic I would like to discuss is the equipment you require. The most important piece if equipment is a flashlight. I use an ordinary 2 (D cell) battery flashlight for walking. When tying flies to my tippet or when I’m releasing a fish, I prefer the small gooseneck flashlight that slips into a pocket. The rest of my equipment is basically the same as daytime with one exception. I usually make a small log book of locations that I am going to fish. This way I can make notes about drop-offs or holes and not risk doing a hat floater or any thing that is a little more serious. There is nothing worse than having a family member woken up in the middle of the night with bad news. Always be careful.
Keep an eye open for those late hour hatches in July and August and be prepared for some of the best Carp fishing of your life. Have fun.