Get a Monk on

If the trout are hot and both­ered, try for carp on fly. Peter Cock­will tests out his new pat­terns

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

THERE’S noth­ing quite like a chal­lenge in fly-fish­ing, prin­ci­pally be­cause we are try­ing to con­vince a fish to take some­thing en­tirely ar­ti­fi­cial and which, in essence, com­prises a big, curved, piece of metal. Ap­ply this fly-fish­ing to carp and things start to get really in­ter­est­ing, be­cause this is one su­per smart fish, which def­i­nitely ap­pears to learn from its mis­takes. Here in the UK we don’t have much chance of fish­ing for carp in wa­ters which are dead clear and where they mostly only have nat­u­ral food items. Although, if you have that op­por­tu­nity, they’re as much a chal­lenge as any wild-bred trout, if not more so. Wa­ters on the Con­ti­nent, the Ca­naries and through­out the USA are pop­u­lar with carp on fly an­glers, and de­servedly so.

Carp are get­ting wiser

Most of the fish­eries avail­able here in the UK are the stocked and man­aged com­mer­cials but there’s noth­ing wrong with that if there’s noth­ing else within reach. One of the wa­ters I’ve fished for quite some time is Willinghurst in Sur­rey and in­deed it was back in 2002 that we first ran a carp on fly fea­ture from here. As it be­came more pop­u­lar so have the fish be­come that bit harder to catch and, although I don’t get much chance to fish for seem­ingly ever more com­plex rea­sons, I do keep in touch with what’s go­ing on there. A year or so back I had been talk­ing with Rick Gard­ner of Gard­ner Carp Tackle. He fishes there a lot and is a nat­u­rally tal­ented an­gler who thinks deeply about the sport. Like me, he had noted the in­crease in the ra­tio of last-sec­ond re­fusals from the carp to the fly and on a few oc­ca­sions had seen carp lift their head out of the water, right along­side the fly, as though to in­spect it. Rick sur­mised that the con­ven­tional deer hair ‘pel­let fly’ was tied too bulky and the carp were check­ing it out. The in­duce­ment to get the carp on top is the free­bie dog bis­cuits and th­ese sit al­most flat in the sur­face film such that the higher pro­file ‘fly’ isn’t quite right – and the carp know it. Rick then started to trim the fly so that it had a lower pro­file and sat more ‘in’ the sur­face and that did in­deed be­gin to change the bal­ance of takes to hook-ups. That got me think­ing and af­ter a bit of mess­ing around at the vice I came up with a fly made from Glo-Bug ‘egg yarn’ and a piece of foam. I had some brown, olive, black and white egg yarn in stock and picked up from fish­ing stores in Alaska when I was away each sum­mer on my es­corted trips. I felt that this was maybe the ba­sis for the new pat­tern. Egg yarn is soft and fluffy and can be eas­ily trimmed to shape. It quickly ab­sorbs water (more on this in a minute) but can be made water re­pel­lent with any of the gel floatants. Bet­ter still is to treat it with a per­ma­nent wa­ter­proofer be­fore use.

Monk Head fly is born

What I wanted was a fly that sat ab­so­lutely in the sur­face, looked like the real thing (a dog bis­cuit) and which I could also see, so that’s how the trimmed egg yarn, with a piece of ethafoam over the top, came out of the vice. Now all it needed was test­ing so I used it on guided carp days when guests such as Clem Booth were will­ing to try an­other of my mad ideas. Clem is a think­ing an­gler and in­tensely keen and be­tween us we soon proved that the idea worked, espe­cially on some of the heav­ily fly-fished carp wa­ters. The fol­low up was to use the same egg yarn

“It’s also good when there’s a frenzy go­ing on with groups of smaller carp, which tend to knock the floater about but which take the sub­sur­face fly.”

but now to tie it up as an ‘Egg’ with­out the foam and put it un­der an in­di­ca­tor. This would let it hang just un­der the sur­face, so that carp on the cruise for the free­bies would ei­ther think it a slow-sink­ing op­tion or sim­ply some­thing too good to refuse. This is where the egg yarn is handy as, un­less treated, it has the abil­ity to ab­sorb water and slowly sinks. This pre­sen­ta­tion is no dif­fer­ent to a carp an­glers ‘zig rig’ where a piece of foam or sim­i­lar is sus­pended off the bot­tom and it has since proved its worth many times over. In­deed, I was us­ing it way back in that 2002 ar­ti­cle although then it was with more con­ven­tional or­ange/peach Egg flies which, in­ci­den­tally, still work now. What Clem and I have found is that the in­di­ca­tor/Egg works well on cruis­ers – those carp which seem to be hap­haz­ardly wan­der­ing around and don’t set­tle to tak­ing free­bies off the top. It’s also good when there’s a bit of a frenzy go­ing on with groups of smaller carp, which tend to knock the floater about but which take the

sub­sur­face pat­tern more con­fi­dently. It takes a bit of ex­per­i­ment­ing to get the depth right but start off around nine inches and if things are slow go a bit deeper. If the fish are really up on top then shal­low it up. I use indi­ca­tors called Thingam­abob­bers as they are easy to put on and can be ad­justed. They’re eas­ily vis­i­ble with the colour op­tions and real handy too if you are in­tro­duc­ing some­one to carp and their re­ac­tions or eye­sight aren’t quite up to us­ing the sur­face fly. To prove that this worked by get­ting some pic­tures we went back to Willinghurst in the heat­wave pe­riod. Stu­art Bar­rett and I met up with TF pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Gather­cole and thought we were on a win­ner when Stu­art had a 16lb 4oz mir­ror as soon as we started. It was Stu­art who last year started to call the fly a ‘Monk Head’ af­ter the com­mon­ly­de­picted ‘hair­style’ of me­dieval monks. Typ­i­cal of carp th­ese fish then be­came real picky with long pe­ri­ods of in­ac­tiv­ity and our free­bie baits only served to at­tract more and more water fowl. I quite like man­darins, Egyp­tian geese and mal­lards – but not when I am carp­ing – and they are seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble to ‘fill up’. We looked to some of the other lakes on this large com­plex although they were pretty busy ei­ther with matches on the go or con­ven­tional carpers at work. But there were a few fish work­ing the sur­face in one quiet cor­ner just be­hind us and I thought that a few bis­cuits popped in there ev­ery so of­ten might just soften them up for later.

A take un­der your feet

My cun­ning plan for this trip had been to bring an ex­tra out­fit be­cause I know that Peter Gather­cole likes to try the carp too, and he’s an ace an­gler any­way. It was sev­eral hours be­fore the next in­ci­dent and this went to Peter when he said a fish showed right at his feet, con­fi­dently took a cou­ple of free­bies and then his Monk Head fly ab­so­lutely right in front of him. He was lit­er­ally look­ing down its throat! It takes nerves of steel to re­sist strik­ing un­til the fish turns down but there then fol­lowed a real fun bat­tle, which took the ef­forts of all three of us as the fish re­peat­edly went around a tree and un­der over­hang­ing shrub­bery un­til fi­nally we had a su­per, long and lean com­mon carp with a huge tail. That was job al­most done but I just had to try the cor­ner of the next lake where the same few fish were cruis­ing and an­other nice chunky mir­ror fell for the Monk again. Fi­nally we went to one of the smaller lakes

“To prove that this worked, we went back to Willinghurst in the heat­wave pe­riod. Stu­art had a 16lb 4oz mir­ror as soon as we started...”

Pic­tures: Peter Gather­cole Words: Peter Cock­will

Peter holds a very fine com­mon carp that took a Monk Head fly close in. A Monk Head fly in the scis­sors – where we fly an­glers want it to be.

Peter weighs Stu­art’s first fish of the ses­sion – a 16lb-plus mir­ror.

Ex­pect strong fights. You’ll need all your skills to tame carp.

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