Carp in Texas: Part 4(ish) - Interview with Gabe Cross

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Considered a nuisance fish by most anglers in America, carp in Texas seem to be as divisive a topic as the Dallas Cowboys, the legalization of marijuana, or Kinky Freidman.  Some love them, many hate them.  Discussions about carp can quickly become as heated of a debate as one about UT vs A&M, putting sauce on Bar-B-Que (notice the spelling), or wind turbines.  As carp fishing (especially fly fishing) becomes increasingly popular in Texas, this divisiveness may get further entrenched.  All sides of the carp debate feel solidly correct, but what is the truth...are they trash fish, do they destroy the environment, are they a prize catch? What are these carp in Texas and what is their impact?  

In this five(ish)-part series, Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing, will attempt to dive deeply into the subject to root out as much CORRECT information as possible.   Be sure to understand the facts before you make a decision.

In the 4th(ish) parts of Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing's series, Carp in Texas, Pat Kellner interviewed (virtually) a few expert carp fly fishermen in the state, to pick their brains and see if they could share some information to help you catch a few Carp in Texas. 
Gabe Cross with a nice Common Carp

Here is Pat's interview with Gabe Cross, of Gabe Cross Fly Fishing:

Pat: What is it about catching Carp that keeps you targeting them?
Gabe: "For one, carp are all over the place, so I don’t have to travel very far to find a tailing carp.  And, of course, the obvious reason is they get really big and fight really hard.  In my opinion, you can’t find a harder fighting fish in freshwater."

Pat: Have you caught any species of Carp other than a common carp (including any of its variations like Koi or Mirror)?
Gabe: "I have caught a Mirror Carp and I have hooked a Koi, but never landed one."
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Gabe Cross with a Mirror Carp
Pat: Is there a time of year that is most productive to target carp?
Gabe: "Late Spring, right after they spawn."

Pat: Describe the type of water of water where you typically find carp?
Gabe: "Anywhere there is deep water and a little vegetation there are probably carp present. I look for deep water with easy access to shallow water where I can visually see and cast to carp."

Pat: What does your typical carp fly fishing set-up consist of?
Gabe: "I fish a 6 weight G Loomis Shore Stalker which has a very soft tip and allows me to cast close range, very accurately, and very delicately.  I fish an Orvis Hydros reel, but in the 9 wt size so I can pick up line faster and hold lots of backing. I use Scientific Anglers Amplitude Bonefish line which in my opinion is the best carp line because it's made to turn over bonefish flies which are very similar in weight to carp flies.  It’s also made for delicate casts to shallow, spookish fish.  I make my own leaders, but if I had to buy one it would be a 9’ 1X fluorocarbon leader."

Pat: What would you consider your top 3 carp flies?
Gabe: "If I could only have 3 for the rest of my life, it would be a Matador, Heavy Wabbit Worm, and a Shaggin’ Dragon.  These 3 flies would cover just about every scenario you would be faced with a carp.  The Matador is a great baby crawfish imitation.  The Wabbit Worm is good in murky water or for deep tailers, basically when you are having trouble seeing the carp.  The Shaggin’ Dragon is great for finicky fish, so fish in real clear water or sunning carp."
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The Scarpion, designed by Chase Smith,
and and the Matador

Pat: Any other details about your presentation, tactics, that you could give someone someone trying to target carp for the first time?
Gabe: "Carp fishing is never pretty.  It’s not a game of beautiful casts, perfect mends and flawless drifts.  It’s a game of slapping the fly in front of them with any means possible.  Carp can’t see worth a crap up close, so you really need to get the fly right next to them.  The best way to do this without spooking them is to very quietly get as close to them as possible, making it easier to make an accurate cast.  Try to reduce your false casts as much as possible, because they can easily see movement.  When you're ready to  make your cast, try to cast a few feet past them and as soon as your fly hits the water, bring your rod tip up and drag your fly on the surface of the water, and then drop your rod tip when the fly is just over their head.  By dropping the rod tip when your fly is hovering over their head, it allows the fly to sink diagonally in the water and the fly will land to the side of their head. Then all you do is wait for their head to turn toward the fly. If carp turn on a fly, 99% of the time they are going to eat it.  After just one good presentation to a carp, if he doesn’t take your fly, you need to change either the color, size or try a whole new pattern.   It’s very important when dragging the fly to not drag it through the water column, but rather on the surface.  If you drag it through the water column, the carp will see the fly approaching them. It’s very unnatural for a prey to move toward a predator, so this will cause the carp to spook."

Pat: What negative things have you heard about carp in Texas?
Gabe: "Carp are labeled as an invasive species and a trash fish in Texas. So many people hate them because of that, but the funny thing is, a lot of people hate carp, but they don’t know why.  However, carp have become so naturalized in many rivers across the US that removing them would disrupt the ecosystem.  I’ve heard people say carp murky up the water, which is true, but no reason to kill them.  I’ve heard people say they eat all the plants in the river, but they actually keep the vegetation from taking over.  I’ve even heard people say that carp eat bass and sunfish which is nearly impossible for carp to do because of the structure of their mouths.  I don’t really understand all the hate that carp get because they have existed in our rivers for so long now that they play a significant role in our ecosystem."

Pat: Have you ever seen any negative impacts of carp on the natural freshwater systems here in Texas? 
Gabe: "I haven’t ever seen a freshwater system without carp, but the only effects I have seen from carp is when they feed they do make the water murky and if you ever see a carp feeding in an area there will be small little rivets in the ground from them sucking up stuff from the bottom."
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Will Cross with a River Carpsucker (see Part 1)

Pat: Thank you so much for your time and willingness to share for this project.

Be sure to check out Gabe Cross Fly Fishing, on Facebook, and on Instagram

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