When we talk about the North American carp fishing scene we don’t automatically think of one style anymore. Some may picture rod pods and Euro styles and others might visualize fly fisherman stalking wary carp in urban streams and skinny water. For many, many more that are part of the longest-standing and most populous branch of the sport, it is impossible to imagine carp fishing without paylakes, packbaits and half a century of family traditions.
That’s why we have returned to our “mix-mag” format this month. Don’t worry, the Fly Special was no one-off and we’ll be alternating between mix-mags and specials along the way. It’s a nice problem to have--a carp scene that is almost too big for one magazine format.
You may also notice that we have not separated the magazine into sections. This is a deliberate choice. There is a lot of crossover and support across the aisles as fly, paylake and wildwater carpers come together to coalesce into a scene.
A year ago I wrote about the spark that was needed to ignite the sport and develop it into something bigger. I suggested that we would start to see the development of a broader carp “scene” in perhaps 12 to 18 months.
I was wrong. It’s been much faster than that.
Back then we anticipated the inaugural Lake Fork Carp and Buffalo tourney with some trepidation. We wondered if the tourney would be a success and whether Lake Fork’s leviathans would come to play. We needn’t have worried.
Lake (and world) records fell, some of them twice, personal bests were logged, huge fish were landed, and the “Texas 44” entered into legend faster than you could say Buffalo Bob! It certainly captured the imagination and the 2013 tourney was a sellout months ago. As this issue hits the virtual shelves, a field of anglers twice as large as last year, coming from Hungary, Italy, England, Canada, and all over the US, will be casting their lines in the hope of landing one of Fork’s legendary carp or buffalo.
But if Fork was a huge success, no one could have imagined the sonic boom as fly fishing for carp took off. A few weeks ago, Tackle Trade World asked CarpPro about the carp scene in America. Joining the conversation was Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis, who spoke about the massive growth in interest in fly fishing for carp. It’s no idle talk either. In the CarpPro Fly Special, Trevor Tanner spoke to the fly industry about carp. And you know what? Orvis gets it. Trouts gets it. Umpqua gets it. RIO gets it. CATCH Fly Fishing gets it. And more than 32,000 readers in 48+ countries around the world get it. Look at our forum. Look at our Facebook pages. Look at how quickly the Carp_Pro Instagram following is growing. Listen to the CarpPro flyfishing podcasts. Now tell me carp aren’t mainstream.
North American carp angling is not just capturing the imagination of wildwater and carp on the fly anglers. The inaugural Carolina Cup drew some of the best paylake anglers to Lake Blalock and the whole event was a massive success. The refurbishment at Pineyside paylake, where CarpPro is very visible, has generated a lot of buzz. We are going to be seeing much, much more from that branch of the sport very soon and the Carolina Cup this year will be bigger and better!
We saw a couple of television episodes devoted to catch and release carp and buffalo fishing last year, most notably the WFN Reel Fishy Jobs episode that Mark Melnyk filmed at Lake Fork with Richard Somerville. We also came agonizingly close to getting a regular carp fishing program on national television. I’ll go out on a limb here and predict we’ll see one within 2 years.
But is carp fishing really becoming a scene? A carp scene we can all buy into?
John Montana won the Moldy Chum slab of the year with a 30lb carp on the fly. Some of the comments were ugly, some of the meltdowns hilarious, but most of the messages were supportive of John’s phenomenal achievement. While it was fun to see a carp crash the purists’ party, we can’t underestimate the importance of bringing carp into the mainstream, no matter which branch of our sport does it, which is why John drew a lot of votes from bait anglers.
And who would have thought that an iconic Euro-carp brand would turn paylaking inside out? (Apart from CarpPro, of course!) Keith Cisney has people pounding on his door for flavors from Rod Hutchinson Baits. They’re the hottest item in the bait shacks followed closely by Euro-style Gaper carp hooks. Gapers, meanwhile, have become the hook of choice for many of the leading fly guys.
This crossover spills back into the Euro-carper world too, as we see anglers using packbaits with hair rigs, ultra-buoyant flies used for zig rigs, and a continued hybridization of a truly American style of wildwater bait fishing. Rumor has it we’ll even see some paylake boys competing in wildwater events with Abu Carp Masters and 12’ Euro-poles!
And then there’s the people that are all kinds of wrong! People like me (and I know I’m not alone) that spent the majority of last summer wading Texas creeks with a 7wt fly rod in his hand, dabbling with packbaits in spring and autumn, and then, when winter comes round, returning to full-on euro-carper mode...but chasing buffs not carp!
Now I’m not one to preach peace and love and harmony through carp fishing, and we’ll continue to see the usual divisions in the carp scene as some groups battle to stay relevant while others redefine the sport, but that’s okay. It’s human nature to resist the inevitable and focus on the things that make us different. What really matters are the things that unite us, that the “carp scene” is well and truly established, and that we continue to come together to promote the carp as the remarkable, accessible, challenging sport fish it truly is.
¡Viva la Carpolución!
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