The Carp and the Mulberry

Carp continue to gain high regard in the fly-fishing community with no signs of slowing. A well deserved reputation for an exciting pursuit. These cunning fish can be found in numbers in even the most urban of ponds and drainage ditches. They are subtle eaters and live in slow water environments, requiring a gentle and accurate fly presentation. And while the most common fly-fishing encounter with carp will test the angler’s prowess, there is always an exception.

Mulberry season. Even before I knew what a mulberry was, I realized these berries were special. Walking along the C&O Canal (sadly without a fly rod), I witnessed a frenzy of carp, ducks, and other birds gobbling up these berries and jostling for position below the overhanging mulberry tree. I figured, “if animals of the water and animals of the air are eating these berries, surely animals of the land can also eat them.” So I ate a few, and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t get sick.  

That afternoon, I got on the computer and learned all about mulberries. I read about their cultural significance, growing season, culinary relevance, distribution, and most importantly fishing implications.

Later that evening I tied a few flies resembling different stages of the berries, ranging from white in coloration to a deep blackish purple.

The following day, hoping to put my newly acquired knowledge on all things mulberry and my freshly tied flies to use, I arrived at the canal to the same spectacle I had witnessed the day before.

I cast my berry fly at the largest carp I could see, careful not to cast near a duck incase it also wanted my offering. The ‘plop’ noise as the fly landed caused every carp in the vicinity to turn and race towards the fly. Luckily, the largest carp was nearest and took the fly. After a short fight, the fish was netted with the help of a German tourist (he held the rod, so I could stretch out with the net). He did well for a guy who informed me with a thick German accent, “...but I have never fished before.”

My German friend went on his way and I repeated the steps, landing one more fish until the pool was spooked.

When the berries drop, it is open season. Who in their right mind fears a berry? Certainly not carp as was clearly evident by their lack of hesitation. The opportunist fisherman I am, I exploited this trust.

I have since been on multiple carp outings and have realized that these fish are not always so willing to entertain the fly-fisherman. More often, they are worthy adversaries to the fly, not eager to eat. They can be as wary as they come and the carp is a fantastic challenge for the fly-fisherman (outside of mulberry season).