Plop. Greedy eyes swivelled towards the commotion. As they focussed, I swear she licked her fat rubber lips at the fry pattern hovering 1.5m away. She stroked her whiskers, cruised over and slurped it down.
A plan was coming together and this was a welcome change. No hesitation or suspicion. Since moving to the Netherlands in April, I have been on a mission to catch some big Dutch carp. It mostly involved Google earthing, kilometres of walking without finding any fish. And when I did have a shot, they were sceptical.
Enter the carp bol fly. Big, size #8 egg yarn flies that have accounted for thousands of Dutch carp. These jelly tots are tied in white, pink, yellow, brown, purple and other random colours. Sceptically I whipped up several and headed to an area where I had seen some good carp. The first carp I saw was a solid 6-8kg fish. It was swimming fast, maybe 40cm under the surface. A brown carp bol plopped 3m ahead of it. The carp veered to the right and sucked it in. Somewhat stunned I tightened up and off it blasted. The 3x tippet parted when it hit the lilies. While I am sure fisherman do use boilies in this water occasionally, it is not a carp fishery and carp should not be boilie junkies.
A holiday trip to Zeeland had me exploring some new waters. On a sunny afternoon I walked along canal system. Zulus, nymphs, shrimps, squirmies, brown bols, white bols, yellow bols and more were all inspected and rejected. As a joke I tied on a pink bol. A good carp came cruising towards me. The fly settled onto some weeds. The carp dropped deeper, tailed and off we go. Seriously! A pink bol?
Having spent many hours with and without success on carp I would never have thought a fluff ball would work. What are the real Dutch boilies laced with to give this level of addiction?
I prefer to use flies that imitate a natural food source and so began the next mission – big carp not on the bol. Flooded margins provide many shots at big and small carp. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment with flies and techniques. Armed with a box full of squirmies, red tag woolly worms, red tag Zulus, general nymphs and buggy flies I started working my way knee deep through the flooded margins towards an area that had tailing carp and bream.
I creeped up to a small carp chilling in a foot of water. Within rod distance I dipped a #12 red tag woolly worm in front of it. Without hesitation is sucked it in and spat it out instantly. Too slow, but positive. I paused motionless as another small carp came swimming from the right. Finally it moved within dipping range and the woolly worm dropped in front of it.
It flopped about more than fought, but nevertheless it was a carp not on the bol. But where were the rubber lips? What was this odd looking carp? A friend sent back a whatsapp – this was a Prussian carp. Related to the gold fish, these Asian gold fish are seriously invasive. Their eggs are capable of surviving the gut of a bird and if this mechanism of distribution was not enough, they are also able to clone themselves. No mate necessary. A couple more Prussians fell to the woolly worm. I was chuffed with a new species and an unexpected surprise.
Continuing along the margins I missed and landed a couple of smaller common carp on a black CDC zulu with red tag. However, despite several shots at bigger carp they were simply disinterested. I came close to a big carp on a black CDC zulu. After a couple of dips on it nose it snatched at the fly in what I can only describe as frustration. The hook briefly set but pull moments after the lift.
I watched these big carp cruising up and down the channel and along the margins. Unlike their smaller brethren, they were not tailing. Instead they would cruise close to the grassy margins sending small pin fleeing in panic. Often these carp would accelerate and send out bow waves.
Without any streamers, I switched to large shrimp type fly and immediately I had a carp almost grow teeth in excitement. However, I had tied this with small dumbbell eyes with the intention of targeting rooting fish. As soon as the fly had dropped deeper the interest waned. On reflection, the bol is well suited to targeting both shallow rooting and cruising fish. It is large, sinks well, but at a gentle enough rate.
That evening I tied a few simple fry flies about 1 inch long. The first test in the basin had them sinking too fast, so I added a foam core. I wanted the fly to suspend with almost neutral buoyancy, 30-50cm under the surface. I could always trim out the foam on the water if I needed to get deeper.
The next evening after dinner I was back on the edge of a big fish corridor. Sure enough a thick back broke the water. Plop. Greedy eyes swivelled… she slurped it down. After a chaotic tug of war through reeds and lilies she finally came over the net. I was delighted, as a plan had come together. The fry was very deep down its gullet – clearly a confident eat. The big fish disappeared after the tussle, so for the rest of the evening I tried the fry on some smaller fish (2-4kg) class. They ignored it and sometimes spooked. For them, the Zulu or woolly worm worked far better.
The next evening, I was back and perched at the same spot. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Then she appeared. An oil tanker rolling her way up the bank towards me. It was not the bigger 30lb+ mirror carp I had hoped for, but she would do. I waited crouched behind some long grass. A short 5m cast placed the fly a couple meters in front of her.
The take was a carbon copy of the first as she diverted slightly from her path and slurped it in. Zero hesitation, but now I was in a pickle. While I have no issues pulling hard on a 6wt, attached to my 2X (4kg, 0.22) fluorocarbon leader was a 10kg+ carp and I was surrounded by lilies and reeds. If she decided to beast mode it in a straight line it end quickly.
I was lucky. Hoisting as hard as I dared while she was only a few meters from me brought her head up and she breached the surface like a helium filled submarine. Twice more she repeated this before getting her head down and charging left. Into a cul de sac. Surging left and right with nowhere to go she wore herselft down. She spied the net and almost laid chicken eggs in fright. This time she turned right making a beeline for the lilies. But no longer fresh she slowed and turned. It was over, finally, she bounced into the pike net. Again the fly was hooked very deep. The Mclean weigh-net had her a shade under 11kg and its measuring pole a solid 32 inches. A few snaps, an attempt at a video selfie lifting her and off she cruised again.
I did another quick session in poor visibility due to cloud and wind a few days later. Fry fly at the ready I had one shot at a big carp. This time around cruising 20m out. The first cast landed a bit too close and the carp cruised on away from me. I started stripping it back in for another cast when she turned aggressively after the fry. My next cast was a bit too aggressive and splashed down hard and short. The carp swam up to it, the line went tight. This time it was a steam train racing down the channel. The hook pulled for some reason. And while disappointed I know that for big carp a fry is worth a try.
Walking through the mud I noticed many brown crayfish which look like overgrown mud prawns. They would be right at home on a Breede river mud flat. Guess what the next fly experiment will be…