Monday, August 27, 2012

Fly Interview: John Montana from Carp on the Fly

So this is a pretty big deal, THE carp-man himself, John Montana, author of the blog Carp on the Fly was able to give us some of his time to help make Carp Week complete with an interview. We were able to catch up with John last week to talk about Carp, flies, and how fly fishing came into his life. Check and respect the man, the myth, the legend, his Carpiness, John Montana.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where you hail from, what got you into fly fishing, etc.
I bought my first fly rod from a pawn shop in Missoula, MT.  My family was in town to watch a football game and my dad and I spotted the rod in the window. 10 minutes later I landed my first trout on the fly from the Clark Fork river.  I was probably 10 or 12 years old, but that is a distinct memory for me.  I remember the rod, with an old pflueger reel attached, and I swear, my first trout was on a Royal Trude streamer that came with the rod and reel.  I was lucky...I grew up in MT, so fishing and the outdoors were simply there.  It wasn't until I left for college that I realized that when something is there all the time, you often take it for granted.  After college, I dove back into the rivers, and haven't looked back since. 

2. What got you into fly fishing for carp, how long have you been doing it?
I had been reading about carp and it sounded pretty interesting.  I grew up a hunter, and the sight fishing aspect had me intrigued.  Still, it wasn't until right before my daughter was born that I really took the plunge.  My first carp was actually caught in MN.  My best friend Justin and I are lucky enough to fish together each spring, and one year the trout streams were blown due to heavy rains.  Justin put us on a channel between lakes, hoping the two of us would catch our first carp on the fly.  It wasn't easy, but we stuck a few fish.  My first carp was caught with a six weight cane rod, literally feet from a drainage ditch in rural MN.  That was about 8 years ago.  When I got back home I spent the summer hunting for carp.  It was a real challenge, and I ate it up.  By the end of that summer carp were easily my favorite target, and now I spend about 90 percent of my time on the water chasing carp.

3. Do you tie flies, if so, how long?
I started tying flies after college.  Let me be clear though...I am an absolute hack!  I can tie a few basic patterns and I tie most of the flies I fish, but I have zero artistry.  I enjoy tying in the winter, it is a way to fish when I can't fish but during the season tying is mostly a chore!  I would rather be carp fishing than carp tying!

4. Give us some tips, tricks, etc for making us (readers) better fly fisherman for carp.
Carp are tough!  Don't believe for a second that they are going to be easy, but they really do respond well to flies.  First, know their primary forage.  Carp are amazingly adaptable, and they will feed on different things depending on what is out there.  Learn the forage, and use flies that represent their most commonly found prey.  Second, learn their cues.  In my water, carp do not chase flies or move more than a few inches to eat, so detecting the take is key. Learn to react to gill flares, tails speeding up, changes in body posture etc.  When a carp eats your fly, don't expect to feel it...expect to see it.  Third, and my favorite little secret.  Always put the fly slightly to the side of the carps head.  If done correctly, you can force the carp to turn to the side to eat you fly, and that head turn is a fantastic cue to set the hook.

5. Whats your ideal carp water?
I live for the stalk, so I hunt for knee deep water with a firm bottom.  Luckily for me, I have plenty of hard bottomed shallows to walk in the Columbia River.  I prefer a mix of cobble and sand, but when carp are feeding, any knee deep water is likely to have fish around.

6. Whats your ideal carp setup (rod, reel, line, leader)
I fish a 9 ft 6 inch 7 wt.  the extra length is nice for when you can get in close and dap on a fish, and I think it helps with my accuracy as well.  My only rule for a reel is use a large arbor!  Carp are big, strong, and they will take a lot more line than your average trout or steelhead...a lot more line.  The large arbor is key for line recovery.  I use a standard weight forward line, and almost always fish a tapered 1x leader.  Like with any fish, match your gear to the fish and you should be good to go...carp come in a lot of shapes and sizes, so know what you are after.

7. What your favorite carp fly, your go-to, the one that seems to always catch a lip?
Last year I decided to simplify my carp box, and I tied up a bunch of different soft hackles in various colors.  Eventually, I settled on a size 8 green bodied soft hackle.  I have caught about 80% of my carp the last two years on that imitates a wide variety of nymphs, and when presented right the carp in my waters flat out eat that thing.  I don't believe that carp have great eyesight, so a general imitation seems to work better than something specific.

8. Whats the best carp story you have for us, (i.e. biggest carp, best fight, etc)?
Last spring the Columbia was a 100 year event, so I spent the bulk of the spring season catching carp in places where I will probably never see another fish swim.  I hooked one fish in particular that swam through the branches of a shrub with my fly firmly in its mouth.  I pointed the rod at the fish and spent a few minutes weaving a 9 ft 6 inch rod in and out of the branches while the carp peeled backing off of the reel as it ran into a flooded field.  I somehow managed to land the fish, but I won't forget having to follow it literally through a shrub.

9. Tell us a little about your blog "Carp on the Fly".
My buddy Justin convinced me to start the blog about 7 or 8 years ago.  He had just started blogging and we figured it would be easier to keep up with one another via the blogs since we live a few thousand miles apart.  I really thought it would be just my family and friends that would read it, so it blows me away that people actual read my blog and follow my fishing exploits.  I am not a guide, not a pro, not much of a writer nor a fisherman...I just love to be on the water and I love to hunt carp in the shallows.  I have met a ton of great people through the blog, and the sense of community and friendships has been the most rewarding part of writing Carp On the Fly.  

10. Tell us a little about your Carp-Pocalypse experience.
This was a great event held by Orvis.  The company was great, but carp are carp...that means they are tough on a good day, and really obnoxious on a bad day!  We got stoned a bit, and the fish snubbed their noses at us pretty much the entire tournament.  Fortunately, I fished with three fantastic carpers and our team "Got Backing" was able to pull out the win and take home some great prizes.  Aside from meeting some great fellow anglers, the best part was the fact that Orvis was able to pull the tournament off at all.  When I first started chasing carp, such an event would have been unthinkable!  I love seeing my favorite target gaining some respect.  Carp don't belong in every water way out there, but they are a smart, adaptive, and amazing fish.  They are perfectly designed for pursuit with a fly rod.

John claims he "used to be a respectable [he] fly fishes for carp". Thank again John for catching up with us and providing an awesome interview.



  1. Dude, a little overkill on that intro! but thanks for thinking of me...always nice to chat with a fellow carp head!

    1. No problem John, thanks again for a super gnarly interview!

  2. Oops, accidentally deleted the comment by El. Sorry man! We think the 12 wt gloves play a role too! Love those bad boys, cant wait for the review to go live!

  3. John is great person and super fine blogger! His love for family equals his love for fly fishing, that is appreciated. I've learned much from his site which has led me to others as well.


    1. Kind words Gregg, he is indeed a great guy, contributed a lot to Carp Week. His blog was the foundation behind us going through with this!