Yesterday I did something I haven't done in probably 25 years or more - I made carp bait. Then I took it out and caught a carp.
There's a spot in the river that I like to fish that is full of carp and drum and buffalo and catfish and bass and bluegills. Mostly I fish for bluegills and bass and once every three or four years I'll catch a carp on accident, about every year or two I might catch a buffalo on accident and I catch drum fairly regularly if I use earthworms, and catfish often enough will bite on most of the things I use for bluegill and bass.
Back in the early 70's we used to make a carp dough bait and fish for carp, for sport. We targeted them because they are large and because they are muscular fighters. A 20 pound carp on light tackle is an exciting battle. But I've not done that in a long time. Until yesterday.
I waded out into the hole and stood still for a long time, until I had carp swimming all around me. Then I put a small ball of the carp bait out there on a single hook on a 5wt fly rod with 8 lb leader, and waited patiently. It took a bit over an hour to get the first bite - and it instantly broke my leader.
It took about half an hour to get the next bite, a 15 pound carp that took me 20 minutes to land on the 8 lb leader. It was a hell of a battle. One was enough, I went home as it was getting dark anyway.
As I fished I listened to the big owls talking to each other up and down the river, these owls have really loud bass voices. Four deer came out of the trees on the opposite bank to get a drink as I left. It was a quiet and peaceful evening, just a bit of breeze out of the north now and then, temperature in the mid 80's, clear sky, full moon phase.
The carp bait is made with water, sugar, and cornmeal. It is dirt simple to make, no extra flavors, takes about 10 minutes to make, and works great. Still works great. It stores for a long time in the fridge also.
My oldest brother and I used to fish for the carp at night, next to a camp fire and coleman lantern, a bottle of whisky, folding chairs, and spinning gear. This time I chose to go with a fly rod and during the day, no fire, no whisky, no chairs and no oldest brother, he passed on a couple of years ago. This bait is his recipe, that he developed and tested and tested and tested until he got it just right. So in a way this trip was about him too.
The carp ignored the bait until just before sunset. I could see them, I could see the yellow bait, I could see them swim right by it, often blocking my view of the bait for a moment. But then they always were night feeders. I'll try again in the middle of the day just to see if I can get any of them to bite during the day, I'm not much for night fishing anymore - not without really good company.
For those that have caught carp you already know what great fighters they are. For those of you who haven't - May I recommend giving them a try?
Carp bait: One coffee cup of water, bring to a hard boil. Add 4 tbsps of sugar and continue the boil for 5 minutes exactly and turn down to a simmer - then add one coffee cup of yellow cornmeal and mix until all the cornmeal is wet. Scrape out onto a paper plate and knead into a ball. Work the dough for a few minutes. Be careful at first, it will be super hot and sticky. This will make a softball size ball of dough bait. Let cool, put in a plastic bag and go fishing. Pinch off a piece and form it around your hook, covering all metal.
Carp don't have really big mouths so make the piece on your hook about the size of a cherry tomato, enough to cover the hook but not a lot more. No weight. Toss out and let set on the bottom.
Open your bail or put on free spool or keep the rod in your hands. When a carp takes the bait they can take it like a runaway freight train and you can easily lose a rod. They are competitive feeders, like all fish are, and will run off with the bait to keep it from other fish - and they can run off hard and very fast. Other times they can bite so softly that it's best to keep a sharp eye on your line, you may barely see it move, and sometimes it just gets a bit of slack in it as they move the bait towards you.
And have fun!