Lake Henshaw Carp on the Fly Warm Water Throw Down

What fish would lure a magazine writer, the host of a popular fishing television show, a dentist, a rock musician, an artist and a number of professional fishing guides to a mountain reservoir near San Diego for a hot summer weekend?


You read that correctly. My last notebook adventure (one of the more interesting fishing experiences I’ve had in years) unfolded at the Lake Henshaw Carp on the Fly Warm Water Throw Down, a fledgling fishing tournament that involved pros and amateurs, saltwater and freshwater aficionados. It wasn’t so much about the prizes as it was a shared fascination with the oft-maligned, underappreciated common carp.

What were we thinking? Well, there’s a growing interest within the fly fishing community to catch carp. There are two reasons: 1) Carp can be found just about anywhere in the country, so they offer ample opportunity, and 2) If you take the time to learn how to catch carp with flies, you will become a better angler, period.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Conway Bowman, host of Fly Fishing the World, pioneer of mako shark fishing with flies, and a current IGFA world record holder for redfish on the fly had to say: “I don’t think there’s any fish that challenge the skills of an angler quite the way that carp do,” said Bowman. “My wheels are constantly turning when I fish for carp. I fish for them because they up my game in ways that apply to everything from ocean fish to trout.”

The good news when fly fishing for carp is that these fish are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat just about anything, from popcorn to berries to crayfish to minnows. The bad news when fly fishing for carp is, well, they’re omnivores and they’ll eat just about anything. Dialing into exactly what they are feeding on in any given place and time can be extremely challenging.

On that day at Lake Henshaw, guide John Hendrickson and his teammate, Dustin Sergent, figured out that the dry winds from the south end of the lake were blowing grasshoppers onto the water. The winning bugs were grasshopper flies. (The fish sipped hoppers from the surface of the lake in a way that rivaled anything I’ve ever seen dry fly fishing for trout.)

I know there are some people who will never be convinced that carp are anything but trash fish. But for those of you who wonder, I’d suggest you not knock it until you try it. Fly fishing for carp might just open up a world of opportunity and education probably close to home.


Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recentlythe Little Red Book of Fly Fishing. He also blogs at