January 03, 2022
Carp fishing used to be something that people laughed about. Carp were called trash fish and usually thrown up on the bank when they were accidentally caught by us elitist trout anglers. Then, in 1997 Brad Befus, Barry Reynolds, and John Berryman published the book Carp on the Fly. And in 1998, Dave Whitlock wrote “Stalking the Golden Ghost” in Fly Fisherman magazine and revealed that he’d been flats fishing for carp for more than a decade. Slowly but surely, fly fishing for carp began to get the attention it deserved.
It doesn’t take many dedicated fishing days to realize that carp are definitely not pushovers, and can be every bit as crafty and wily in shallow water as a brown trout or bonefish. They spook at the slightest flaw in your presentation and can be downright frustrating,
but when the magic finally happens, you quickly discover that they pull much harder than trout, grow to ridiculous sizes, and can run you into your backing in a flash. I have often said good sight fishing for carp is more like bonefishing than actual bonefishing.
The Denver metro area just happens to be home to a plethora of Front Range lakes that harbor good populations of sizable carp, as well as the lower reaches of the famous South Platte River as it runs through downtown. The availability of these fish creates easy before- and after-work forays, but because the fish themselves can be difficult, catching them consistently often ends up becoming a time-consuming quest. Many other states have good fishable carp populations where they inhabit shallow water and become available to fly fishers. Lake Michigan is home to some real brutes in clear water, and that sounds like a whole lot of fun.
In the 1990s, fly fishers used standard trout flies like Woolly Buggers and San Juan Worms, and those flies often still work today, but over the years guys like Daryl Eakins have created purpose-built carp patterns to tempt these tough fish. As a result, the carp game has changed immensely. Eakins hails from Detroit, Michigan, but now lives just outside Denver and took my beginning fly-tying class in 2017. He immediately stood out as a star pupil, and quickly grasped the idea of design and functionality in a fly, and started his own company, Nervous Water Flies, in 2019. As of this writing, Daryl has four of his patterns picked up for commercial distribution by Umpqua Feather Merchants as well. You could say things are going well for him!
Eakins credits Jay Zimmerman’s Banksia Bug as the inspiration behind his Hipster Dufus, and Zimmerman himself for the design of the intricate internal weighting system, which assures the fly always lands and rides hook point up.
This “lift kit” employs two very specifically measured and tested pieces of lead wire, not only to add weight and create a solid foundation for the beadchain eyes, but also to lift the eyes up and away from the shank, making the pattern top-heavy, and guaranteeing that it always flips over with the hook point up. It’s really an ingenious design, and I’m surprised it’s not used on more patterns.
Zimmerman’s pattern has a reverse-tapered body to imitate a free-living caddis larva, and Eakins used this feature, albeit in a much more robust form, in his Hipster Dufus. Eakins painstakingly builds a very prominent abdomen with a brighter-colored dubbing, usually orange or yellow, then covers the front two thirds with a more earthy shade like olive or brown. He allows a bit of the brighter dubbing to remain at the bend to create a hot spot and doesn’t sweat it if some of the brighter dubbing shows through the top layer, thinking of it as a “faux rib” throughout the body. Eakins then ties in a matched clump of black and white barred wood duck flank feathers widely spread out to the sides to stabilize the fly. He finishes it with a sparse CDC collar applied in a dubbing loop to keep the bulk down, and a thin thread head and thorax to finish off the desired silhouette.
Eakins designed his fly as a multi-use pattern that he could flip, drop, drag, or bomb at his targets and still stand a good chance of hooking up. He credits the relationship between the abdomen and thorax for creating the perfect silhouette, and he likes the CDC collar for the bit of “panache” it adds to a lowly carp fly.
Carp are inherently spooky. Fishing for them requires a pattern that lands softly, sinks quickly, and looks natural along the bottom. This is a tall order in the world of fly design, and the Hipster Dufus uses an economy of wraps and materials to create a heavy, bulky fly that is, as the same time, slim and sparse. It’s named after Cosmo Kramer, the tall skinny “Hipster Dufus” character on the TV series Seinfeld.
Eakins uses a no-slip loop knot so the fly sinks head down, lessening its surface area and increasing its sink rate. He sneaks the fly into an approaching fish’s zone, either by casting beyond its path and dragging the fly into it, or by dropping it right above them when they’re head down and tailing.
Modern fly design has changed the face of fishing of all types, but the innovation in the carp scene really is second to none. If you haven’t yet spent a day chasing these incredible fish, you should. There’s likely a great lake or pond nearby where you’ll understand the agony of defeat several times over before experiencing the thrill of victory. Sounds pretty addicting to me.
Eakin’s Hipster Dufus Recipe (Olive and Orange Version)
Hook: #8 Tiemco 2457.
Thread: Wine 70-denier and 140-denier UTC Ultra Thread.
Lift Kit: Two 4mm sections of .030" lead wire.
Eyes: Black medium bead chain.
Abdomen: Fluorescent orange Senyo’s Laser Dub.
Thorax: Olive Senyo’s Laser Dub.
Wings: Black and white barred wood duck flank feathers.
Collar: White CDC.
1. Begin by cutting two precisely measured 4mm pieces of lead wire. Start the 70-denier thread about an eye length behind the hook eye and attach the lead pieces to the direct top of the hook shank with several firm wraps of thread. Once the wire is anchored, whip-finish and clip the 70-denier thread, and apply head cement to the thread wraps.
2. Start the 140-denier thread at the back of the lead pieces, then move it to the front. Attach the beadchain eyes using a series of x-wraps and by wrapping around the base of the eyes. You want to build a bit of thread around the eyes to clean up the head area. Once the eyes are firmly locked in place, whip-finish the 140-denier thread and clip.
3. Restart the 70-denier thread and dress the shank back to just short of the point on the hook barb. Begin dubbing the body using a sparse strand of orange dubbing and building a ball or egg shape. The dubbing should be very thin on the thread and very tight to complete this shape. It will take a few separate applications to build the body up to about 4mm tall and about 3mm long.
4. Dub the thread again with a thin, sparse strand of the olive dubbing and wrap it tightly over the orange dubbing about halfway up. Should any of the orange dubbing show through as you wrap, leave it. It will create a faux rib or random hotspot along the body. End the olive dubbing at the back of the lift kit.
5. Select two clumps of wood duck fibers of about five strands each. Tie these in along the sides of the abdomen at the front so they tilt up at about 45 degrees. The wing length should be exactly ¾ of an inch.
6. Using the thread, make an x-wrap between the front of the eyes and the back edges of the wing bases to prop them out widely to the sides. Clip the butt ends of the wood duck.
7. Form a short dubbing loop diagonally between the eyes to keep the bulk down. Cinch the loop in place and place your dubbing whirl inside the loop.
8. Select a dense white CDC feather and place the fibers from one side of the stem into a dubbing loop clip. Be sure to leave a bit of the butt ends exposed outside of the clip.
9. Place the butt ends of the CDC fibers between the legs of the dubbing loop, pinch the thread together, and remove the clip. Spin the dubbing whirl to create a sparse CDC brush.
10. Wrap the CDC brush forward from the front of the abdomen to behind the eyes, folding the fibers to the rear as you wrap, and then tie it off. Clip the excess. Cover the stub end of the loop with a few firm thread wraps, then move forward to behind the hook eye and whip-finish. Apply a light coat of head cement to the wraps.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, 2020).