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Best Carp Flies – Fly Fishing

Fly fishing for carp is extremely challenging. They are spooky and will refuse lots of flies thrown at them. However, when you get good at carp fishing, it can be very rewarding. It is great practice for saltwater fishing on the flats, since carp act a lot like bonefish.

Pretty much every state in the USA has carp. If you have a fly rod and some carp flies, you can probably go chase some carp in your local area. Carp live in lakes, ponds, and rivers.

There are some specific fly patterns for carp, and also some regular patterns that will also work for carp. This article will cover my favorite carp patterns, and it will also showcase some lesser used patterns that still work great.

Egans Headstand, Barrys Carp Fly, Leeches and Woolly Buggers are some of the most productive Carp flies.

Carp are much harder to catch than trout, so don’t be discouraged if you get skunked for awhile. Catching a carp on the fly takes lots of practice and determination. Keep at it because when you catch one, it’s very satisfying.

When fly fishing for carp, a “drag and drop” presentation is usually best. Cast past the carp, drag your fly in front of the carp, then let it drop. When carp see the fly drop, they will usually come over to inspect it. This is when they either eat it, or refuse it. If your “drag and drop” isn’t done right, carp will spook immediately . The video below by Fly-Carpin demonstrates this very well.

Egan’s Headstand Fly

This Lance Egan fly is one of my go-to carp patterns. It has a small profile, and it rides hook point up. This really helps with the hook set! Since this pattern is so tiny, it is really easy to get most carp to eat it. Larger carp patterns can spook fish if it comes in their zone.

I really like this fly for technical situations where the carp are spooky. When my other carp flies aren’t working, a Headstand will often get the job done. I like the original color which is pictured above. The headstand comes in a chartreuse color, but I find that a bit too flashy most of the time.

Make sure to have a couple Headstands in your box on your next carp outing. They can really save the day when the carp are being picky.

Barry’s Carp Fly

This Barry Reynolds fly is a colorado carp staple. Due to its larger profile, it works best in muddy water. When the water is dirty, it is best to use a larger, darker carp fly so they can see it. This fly works well on the Denver South Platte, as well as most lakes.

Similar to the Headstand, it also rides hook point up. When you set the hook, it will sink right into the carps mouth. The dumb bell eyes get this fly down fast, which makes it a good choice for rivers where there is current.

I prefer to use the “drag and drop” method for this fly, but you can also strip it as well.

Simi Seal Leech Fly

The Simi Seal Leech is one of the most effective patterns for carp fishing. Leeches can be found in most bodies of water, and the Simi Seal is a super realistic fly. Despite its simple design, carp go crazy for this fly. One of my biggest common carp was caught on a red Simi Seal.

Traditionally, leeches are stripped like a streamer. However, I often use a “drag and drop” presentation with this fly. It is small enough that carp are always interested, without getting spooked.

It is good to have some Simi Seals in your box. They can fool trout and bass as well. This multi purpose fly is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorites.

Woolly Bugger Fly

Sometimes using a classic fly like the Woolly Bugger works well. In smaller sizes such as #10, carp really respond to it. It does well with a drag and drop presentation, but sometimes carp will eat it on the strip.

If i’m fishing a new piece of water and i’m not sure what to use, the Woolly Bugger is a go-to pattern. When you’re not sure what the carp are eating, this fly imitates a wide variety of food sources.

The Woolly Bugger is a great fly for both rivers and lakes. Try it in black, olive and brown.

Bitters Fly

This is a bonefish fly that works extremely well for carp. It has a small, buggy profile like the Headstand, which works well for spooky and educated carp. This works great in clear water where the carp are very wary of their surroundings.

Many carp anglers will use bonefish flies on a regular basis, and the Bitters is always a good choice. I find that the olive color is less intrusive when carp fishing. They will often refuse bright colored flies, but the olive always seems to fool them.

Near Nuff Cray Fly

This fly works for so many species, it is ridiculous. From bass, trout, to carp – the Near Nuff just works. Where you find carp, there will probably be crayfish around. Crayfish are a large part of a carps diet all over the world. I have found that the Near Nuff is one of the best crayfish imitations there is.

This fly works really well when its stripped along the bottom, but you can also drag and drop it as well. It is a larger imitation, so I usually use it when the water is dirty.

The Near Nuff comes in several colors, but I find that the olive works best most of the time.

Halfback Fly

This is a productive fly due to its bugginess and simplicity. It really looks like so many things, and carp are fooled by it quite easily.

This can be a great fly for dead drifting as well. When carp see it tumbling down the river, they will often eat it just out of instinct. However, it can also be used in lakes and ponds as well.

If you’re a fly tyer, this fly is extremely easy to tie. you can whip out dozens of them in a short period of time.

Make sure to try some Halfbacks on your next carp outing. it is a classic fly that fools carp all over the USA.

Mop Fly

The mop fly is very goofy, and many anglers will diss on this fly. I love it because it can fool so many species of fish. Trout really like this fly, but I have caught even more carp with it.

Once you perform your “drag and drop” presentation, the mop will stick out of the mud a bit. Carp can’t resist this, and they absolutely have to have it. I’m not sure what they think it is, but it just looks like a tasty morsel to them.

I really like the cream and tan colors of this fly, but chartreuse and pink can work as well.


Fly fishing for carp is a great thing to get into, but its best to have the right gear. Having a dedicated fly box for carp can give you an advantage when targeting them. By imitating their food sources, we can fool them easier and have more success.

Once you get hooked on carp fly fishing, it is hard to stop. Many anglers dedicate most of their time to targeting carp, because it is such a blast. Pretty much every major city has a carp pond, so get after it!