The Most Underrated Fish in MA

Yes, it’s carp. MA is loaded with them, but nobody fly fishes for them. Why? A lot of reasons.

  • “Carp are trash fish”
  • “They are hard to catch”
  • “They aren’t pretty”
  • “They are hard to find”

I’ve heard all these before, and many more. Truth is, some of the are valid points. Carp can certainly be hard to catch. Often far harder than trout. They also can be hard to find, if you don’t have experience in knowing where they live. Some consider them ugly. I don’t think they come close to a trout, but I have respect for carp by now.

Many spin fishermen have caught on, and chase carp in MA. I don’t only fly fish, and I did a fair bit of spin fishing for carp in MA. I caught lots, and lots of big ones (not saying it’s easy though, even with bait… it’s not!), but this is a fly fishing blog, so I’m going to talk about fly fishing for them.

Truth is, I haven’t caught a Massachusetts carp on the fly in quite a while. But I’ve been fly fishing for them here in CA, and remember some spots in MA where I caught them on the fly. So I’ll give some tips on flies, and spots, but first, here’s why you should fly fish for carp…

  1. They are much better fighters than any other freshwater fish you’ll find
  2. There are probably carp within 25 minutes of your house – not many people have trout that close
  3. They can be far more challenging to catch than trout

Also, chances are you already have the gear. Any fly rod weight 5-8 is good, and for leaders you can use a 2-4x 9 foot one, or just a 9 or 10 foot piece of 10 pound mono. Now with trout, you can land big fish on light rods. I usually go with the heavier combo, but plenty of people catch big trout on 1 weights or 2 weights. I would not, however, recommend going this way with carp.

I have broken two rods (both under four weight) fighting carp, and if I didn’t use this as an excuse to get a new 8 weight, I probably would be breaking more. They just pull. Hard. What happened with me (both times) was I hooked a carp, fought it close, and on one powerful surge it took off too fast for the drag on my three weight to keep up, and snap! It was gone, and my rod in more pieces than before.

For flies, I have been having some luck here in CA on John Montana’s Hybrid Fly, but I don’t think I used many carp specific flies in MA. Most of the carp I caught were on standard trout nymphs or eggs. So chance are you already have flies that will catch carp.

The toughest part of catching carp, is finding them. It’s true that they are everywhere, but to catch one on the fly, you pretty much have to be able to see it. The chances of you dragging your fly in front of a carp are slim to none. So if you want to catch one, you need to find carp that are in shallow water, so you can get a fly literally right in front of their faces.

If I had to recommend a spot, it’d have to be the Charles River. Go to the Esplanade in the spring or summer, and you will find them. They’ll be sitting in the shade of a tree or dock, or mucking around on the bottom. Having polarized sunglasses really helps. Once you see them, be quiet and get as many good casts as you can, putting your fly right in front of them. They can be pickier than Swift River ‘bows!

Finally, don’t toss these fish around if you catch them. They are hardy, but deserve your respect like any trout does. They won’t ever replace trout for me, but if you’re looking to mix it up, carp are a great fish to target.

If you want more spots or techniques for carp, hit me up at te*********@gm***.com. I’m happy to help.


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5 thoughts on “The Most Underrated Fish in MA

  1. Planning on going after carp this year around the Boston area. I picked up a copy of Best Carp Flies by Jay Zimmerman. Lots of good info on what flies to use and how to use them. Being new to carp on the fly I found it a great resource. Also checked out Concord Outfitters for the first time this weekend and and while talking shop with them, they mentioned a bunch of spots I wouldn't have though of.

  2. Sorry, missed this comment. Jay Zimmerman's book is great and I bet you'll like it! That said, often your best carp flies are also our best trout nymphs. Good to see Concord Outfitters getting a little carpin' knowledge as well! Good luck, and send me pic if you catch any!!


  3. Actually, feel free to toss them around all you like. Carp are non-native, invasive species that can take habitat away from native fish. I try to kill or injure every carp I encounter; this way, their dead or injured carcass can provide sustenance for native flora and fauna. Treat these trash consuming giants like you would a mosquito flying around your face, and stamp then out whenever possible!

  4. Two invasive species planted by humans in Eastern North American Waters in the 19th century from Europe: brown trout and common carp. Oh and what about all those “native” rainbows which crossed the continent to fill our rivers and streams. No words for that attitude.

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