Fly fishing for Carp has gained momentum in the recent past. Carp fishing allows anglers to hone their sight fishing skills on fish that often act like a freshwater Bonefish. Carp move into shallow water to feed and can often be seen tailing during feeding sessions on the muddy flats of freshwater bays. Many Carp can be targeted with small streamers like Bonefish, however, they're also known to feed on dry flies which adds to the allure of targeting them with a fly rod. There are few species that can be seen tailing on the flats and eating dry flies in the same day.
If you're new to Carp fishing, you're probably wondering what the best tools are for targeting these fish. If you're looking for fly rod advice, we've covered that here. In that post, we touched on features of a fly reel that are beneficial when Carp fishing, too. This post is going to expand on the brief info about fly reels provided in that article to help you build a more well-rounded rod/reel setup for Carp.
It's worth noting before we get into technical specifics, that reels should always be chosen based on rod choice. It may seem intuitive that a 7wt rod should be partnered with a 7wt reel, but it can get confusing when companies label reels as 6/7/8 or 4/5/6. In this case, if you want a reel that's going to be ultra-lightweight on your 7wt, go with a reel that can be used on a 6wt. If you want something a little heavier, choose a 7/8/9.
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In our post about choosing a fly rod for Carp, we mentioned that drag is important in a Carp reel. Sure, you want to be able to stop a running Carp after the hookup. But how do start-up inertia, max drag, and drag adjustability play into your reel decision? These things are important, too, and we're here to tell you why.
Drag adjustability is important in a lot of angling scenarios. If your drag is set too high and you need to adjust it quickly after hooking a fish, a reel's adjustability could lead to a fish landed or a fish lost. Carp differ in size, too, so you may have just caught a small fish and lessened your drag only to hook into a larger fish the next cast (or vice versa). Choosing a reel with stellar drag adjustability will help you land more Carp with less fuss on the water.
Start-up inertia matters, too, of course in some types of fishing. If a reel has high drag start-up inertia a certain amount of force must be applied to engage the drag. This can be problematic when trout fishing or fishing for species whose takes are delicate and whose mouths are sensitive. This isn't really the case with Carp. Carp are often caught on streamers or swimming nymphs so a reel's start-up inertia isn't really a big concern. Sure, it's nice to have a reel with low start-up inertia, but it's not a necessity when Carp fishing. Finally, a strong drag system helps.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, backing capacity matters, too. But backing capacity often comes at the expense of arbor size so which should you prioritize? It's probably not worth purchasing a mid-arbor reel for Carp fishing. If you choose a reel with a strong drag system and solid drag adjustability, it's unlikely that a Carp will tear off 200+ yards of backing. Carp are often caught in freshwater which means they probably don't have a huge area to run around in. So if you manage line well and quickly turn the fish after it's hooked, you don't need a ton of backing.
That being said, extra backing can help on larger rivers. An efficient Carp reel presents a well-balanced marriage between retrieval rates and backing capacity. Reels like the Orvis Mirage LT have large arbor designs and high retrieval rates but can still fit plenty of backing (up to 200 yards on an 8wt).
Buying a reel that's durable is almost always a worthwhile investment. Durability has less to do with the target species and more to do with the geographical makeup of your angling destination. Because Carp populate freshwater rivers and bays, a reel with a solid build and finish goes a long way. If you're targeting these wary sucker-like fish from a boat, a reel that stands up to dings and scrapes will stand the test of time. If you're chasing them around on foot from a riverbank, dropping a cheap reel can ruin it.
Some of the most durable reels on the market utilize Type II and Type III anodizing. Most solid reels are also machined from 6061 T6 Aluminum that's insanely durable. The Ross Evolution LTX is one such reel, finished in Type II anodizing and forged from the aforementioned aircraft-grade aluminum. Another reel that's durable enough to stand up to time in a boat is the Gen 2 Finatic from Hatch. While it's a little on the heavy side, this reel is a powerhouse in the durability department. Of course, there are many other reels that are strong enough to resist the wear and tear that comes with Carp fishing. If you want to shop fly reels, click here.
I've already mentioned a few of my favorite Carp reels but I'll insert a few more here that are worth including... The Nautilus X-Series is a great choice if you're looking for a super lightweight reel. The Orvis Mirage USA is a stellar option if you need an ultra-durable reel. The Lamson Speedster S is a phenomenal option if you're looking for a reel with high retrieval rates.
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