Carp fishing for fly anglers in the Western Cape definitely slows down in the winter months. The fish seem to hang out in deeper water and the very important sight fishing element is lost – accurately placing a fly in front of a feeding carp is an important part of successfully catching these fish on fly tackle.
You’d get the odd shot at fish in shallower water on warmer days, but they are mostly smaller fish. I know of one such shallow honey hole where I used to find feeding carp in the dam shallows on sunny days between cold fronts, but seldom walked away with a fish bigger than 3 kg. It was not exactly fulfilling fishing in my books and after a few trips spending 4 hours on the water working hard for one or two smallish carp, I eventually lost interest.
I had basically given up on winter carping till a farmer recently told me about spotting massive schools of carp, including big fish, in his dam. I had to go and check this out for myself to believe the story of course.
Armed with a Moonshine Epiphany 10’6″ 3 wt and a new Predator fly reel loaded with a Rio Elite Technical Trout floating line (oh but of course I had to test a trout line on carp 1st…) I headed to the dam during a warm winter spell. Standing on the wall I got a good view of the entire dam and decided to head to the shallows on the opposite side. The water was fairly murky, but I rigged the rod regardless and tied a long piece of Trout Hunter 4X fluorocarbon tippet on and selected a small black, weighted cdc pattern that I had tied on a Mouche prototype carp fly hook (keep an eye out for some exciting new Mouche hook ranges).
While walking towards the other end I noticed a few pancakes near the bank – carp feeding in slightly deeper water disturb the surface so that it creates a small circle of ‘flat’ water in the wind ripple. Tip-toeing closer to the water’s edge I could make out the mud boils and dark tails of the feeding fish underneath the pancakes. These were clearly big fish feeding close to the bank. The long 3 wt was perfect to reach these fish and a few minutes later the rod was bending properly under the pressure of a heavy fish heading for deep water.
I played the fish away from the pancake spot and netted a fat winter carp about fifty meters down the bank. Blown away by its size and exceptional condition I admired the healthy animal and took a few recording shots before setting it free.
Heading back to the Pancake Jol I soon started spotting several pancakes along the bank in the same area (about a 20 m stretch of bank) where the 1st fish was caught. These fish hadn’t been disturbed by the hooked fish which I allowed to swim quite far out into the dam without much commotion. It didn’t take long and the supple 3 wt was doubled again. I followed the same route, landing the fish well away from the other feeding fish and then something strange happened.
As I netted the carp, a big tail of another feeding fish broke the surface about 3 m away from me. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I quickly removed the fly from the fish in the net and flicked the fly out to the oblivious feeding fish. It ate the fly aggressively and just like that I was yet into another fish. Luckily I had invested in a large Trutta Angling net that comfortably held both carp while I got my camera ready.
This ritual, fighting a fish away from the Jol to return to fresh feeding fish, went on for the rest of the afternoon. I hooked my last fish in the evening winter chill as the sun dipped behind the Swartland hills. It was a most unusual fishing experience, which ended because I simply couldn’t see into the water anymore.