Carp on fly, South Oz style

Carp are an often overlooked species because of their noxious status, but as a super-keen South Australian fly fisho, Lyndon Pfeiffer actually really enjoys this style of fishing for the enigmatic European import as he explains here.

The author with a quality fly caught carp. Next step put it back? No way … it is in fact illegal to release carp back into the waterway.

Why, you may ask? Well, they eat flies. They can be sight cast too – which is the pinnacle of targeting any species of fish – and they provide a sensational challenge. Often an incredibly fussy species, carp often refuse an offering which makes you have to think twice about how to get that take. Did I mention they fight incredibly well? But wait there’s more. As an added bonus in targeting South Oz carp you are doing SA waterways a favour by removing this pest species from the system -and at the same time you have a blast doing it. In the height of a South Australian summer there are not many opportunities for the freshwater fly fisher, particularly the ones that fish mainly for trout, but carp offer a great alternative when it’s really hot.

Big numbers of ’em

There are big numbers available when polaroiding carp and having a fully loaded rod is common place while spending a day chasing these fish. 10 – 50 fish days are common and it’s very rare not to land any at all. The best day we’ve had was while fishing from my boat sight casting to fish sitting near the surface of the water. We landed a total of 106 fish between 2 kg and 7 kg which was an incredibly fun day.

What you will need

The great aspect to chasing carp in my opinion is that very little gear is required. I like to use a 6 – 8wt fly rod, with a matching reel and a floating line. All the fishing I do for carp is sight casting so a floating line is all that I need. Be sure to attach a braided loop to the end of the fly line so that changing leaders is quick and easy. 4.5 kg fluorocarbon leader is a good all round breaking strain to use as a tippet/leader. You can go lighter or heavier but I find 4.5 kg to be about right. A selection of flies, I like to use goober flies in a range of colours, also I’ll have some small poppers in the box as well. Waders or crocs if you plan to fish from the shore. A something hard and swingable that you can have ready to quickly and humanly dispatch the fish with.

Leader set-up

Leader arrangements for fly fishing for carp are very simple. A straight 1.5 metre piece of fluorocarbon in the breaking strain mentioned is all that I use. The carp are not that fussy and usually the water is a bit dirty, so a long leader is not needed. Using a short leader also means that you can use the braided loop or the end of the fly line as an indicator. If it moves you know when to strike.

Step 1.


Step 2.

Tying a carp fly

The goober fly which is a local carp pattern was made for waters in South Australia. It is quick and simple to tie. You’ll need the following materials. Size 8 Kamazan B830 hook 0.20 Lead wire 6/0 thread (black or white) Glass bead Any colour estaz chenille (I use white and black a lot) Red wool Your choice of colour marabou

Step 3.


Step 4.

Tying instructions;

After threading on a glass bead, place the hook securely in the vice. Wrap the thread over the hook shank and add the lead wire. The amount of lead you use should match the waters you’re fishing – either shallow or deep. So put more or less depending on how quick you need them to sink. Now tie in a small tail of red wool and neatly trim it. On top of that, add the marabou and tie in the chenille. Now wrap the chenille to the bead of the fly, whip finish and you’re done.  

Where to look

russ carp fight

Southern backwater swamp-like country – perfect for shallow water carp.

Location choices are many when it comes to carp on fly which is one of the attractive things about it. You can fish either from the boat or cast on foot covering water from the bank. In the main channel of the river Murray I like to concentrate my efforts around the main weed beds in the water. Carp love to hang around these places where there is an ample food supply. Along the many clay and rocky banks is another great spot to search out a fish. Slowly move along these areas watching for any signs of colour and movement. The backwaters of the River Murray are literarily teeming with fish at times and these places are the most common locations for finding fish. The large expanses of shallow water provide the perfect habitat for carp.

What to look for


Another solid carp. Note the protruding mouth and lips, carp Hoover their way through creeks, rivers and dams, damaging the bottom and banks of the waterway.

Generally carp are easy to spot once you’ve seen a few and get to know the species. Spotting the fish can sometimes be a matter of looking for dark shapes slowly moving in the water. The easiest way would be when they have their head and mouths out of the water. You can actually pin point their location by hearing them sucking stuff off of the surface. Tailing fish is common place in the back waters and they are not difficult at all to see when they are doing this. Bubbles rising up from the mud can sometimes indicate a feeding fish and are generally worth a cast at. Also anything out of the norm might suggest a fish is around.

Getting the bite

Getting the fish to take can be a little challenging at times. I like to cast right at the nose of the fish, as carp don’t have very pronounced lateral lines and won’t race over and grab the fly because they’ve heard it land. Their eye sight is also not great. Be sure to land the fly softly when you do cast right at them so you don’t spook the fish. A good technique I find myself using a lot is to cast just past the fish and draw the fly back so that it sinks just in front of their nose. Don’t hesitate to recast until you’ve got it right.

Another fish to catch

Although carp are not a common fish on anglers bucket list, they do provide a cool alternative when the going is slow on other more desirable species. Over the course of summer I often fish myself stalking fish in the shallows trying to escape the heat. I hope this article might inspire some of you to give it a go and in the process help remove a waterway of this pest at the same time.  
Lubin Pfeiffer

About Lubin Pfeiffer

Accomplished angler Lubin Pfeiffer lives in South Australia’s glorious Barossa Valley and is fortunate to have started fishing from a very young age. He enjoys all facets of the sport, targeting the vast majority of inshore species that inhabit waters of the southern states. Lubin holds the honour of representing Australia three times at an international level in competition fly fishing.

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