Over the past few years, common carp have received quite a bit of attention from the fly flinging public, and much of this is deserved. Carp are abundant, accessible, and able to test a reel's drag in a way that's uncommon in most warm water fisheries (those in North America at any rate). But still, I find myself asking, "Why?". Why so much time, money, and effort spent chasing a fish that was - until just a few years ago - generally considered a trash fish?
I think part of the madness - and it is as much a madness as is chasing any other gamefish - is market driven. Across most of the country - in fact, most of the globe - trout fishing is a very limited endeavor. Trout simply do not exist everywhere a bug chucker might wish. The same could be said of bass, pike, stripers, muskellunge, salmon, bonefish, tarpon, etc. The list of fish available to fly flingers goes on ad infinitum, but none - excepting perhaps panfish - are as accessible and available as are carp. Similarly, few fish are as challenging a quarry as are carp.
As a consequence, the fly fishing industry - an industry that caters to a small niche market and is always on the prowl for new customers - benefits immensely from the carp's popularity. New rods, new reels, new lines, and new flies are everyday being marketed to a new group of customers. It is no coincidence that most major fly fishing publications - periodicals that derive a substantial portion of their income from advertising revenue - have recently printed articles detailing the ins and outs of chasing carp. Brownlining has indeed gone mainstream.
And given the common carp's recent ascendency and celebrity, I thought it might be time we were given some insight from the perspective of those folks who best know this fine gamefish (yes ... I said gamefish). I thought it might be time we went "Behind the Music" or "Under the Water" as the case might be with our friend the common carp. If Stevie Nicks deserves her own special, then so too does Ol' Noodle Lips.
So what I've done here is to transcribe the first few moments of an episode of "Behind the Music" that will otherwise never see the light of day - even though it is certainly deserving of the honor.
Behind the Music: Carp
Dave Whitlock: Like hillbillies noodling for dinner, he has an aura that's more than just slime and bottom feeding.
Narrator: He's a country boy who cast a spell on the world of bug chucking at a time when bug chuckers were looking to be enchanted.
Tom Rosenbauer: Carp. He's entirely about attitude. You can't make him eat. You can't make do much of anything. He'll do whatever the hell he wants to do, and there's nothing you can do about it ... not unlike a Salmon River snagger.
Narrator: For centuries, the common carp was misunderstood and much maligned. He was worm food. He was garden fodder. He was fertilizer.
John Gierach: A.K. once gave me a carp fly tied with quills that were specially dyed in a combination of pureed and blended mango nut butter, lilac milk, and wasabe.
Narrator: He seduces bug chuckers with the challenge of selectivity, nearly imperceptible takes, and insanely powerful runs.
April Vokey: I wasn't married to carp, but I would have been had he asked. We had some good times ... oh yeah, good times.
Narrator: He first rose to prominence on the U.K.'s coarse fishing scene.
Carp: It was one big pellet-fed, pay-to-fish-the-pond party.
Narrator: Then he stole the spotlight as a 226 year old koi, which was sold at auction for 13 million Yen, and died shortly thereafter.
Lee Wulff's Ghost: What is wrong with you people? I chased ocean-run Atlantic salmon with nothing more than my rugged good looks and the sheer force of my will. Think Kurt Gowdy would ever narrate a film about carp? Well ... do ya'?
Narrator: Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its own funeral pyre (or a drunken frat boy slowly asphyxiating on his own vomit), carp is enjoying something of Renaissance - a rediscovery and rekindled appreciation for all things stank.
Gene Simmons: I once had sex with a carp ... twice, I twice had sex with a carp.
Henry Winkler: In the months before filming, "Hollywood: Part 3", I lobbied to have the script changed so that my character jumped the carp, but ultimately the network insisted on a shark. Networks don't fly fish.
Colonel Kilgore: And Charlie don't surf.
Dick Cheney: I haven't the heart for carp fishing.
Bing Crosby's Ghost: Doo Be, Doo Be Doooooooo.
Carp: Why didn't someone tell me I smelled like this?
Narrator: Tonight, Carp, the story behind the scales ...