Highwater Carping in Arizona

by | Mar 22, 2019 | fly fishing Arizona

fly-fishing-phoenixGranny and I arrived in Phoenix early evening Thursday night.  Rather than hook up with friends, that night we got a hotel.  I had my Fantasy Baseball Draft then we headed to a Sports Bar and watched NCAA Basketball.  We had a great time.


Gentry-Smith-fishingFriday morning we kicked off the fishing.  While my longtime Arizona pal Steve Berry is out of town, Gentry Smith, whom I became friends with while fishing with Steve in January 2018, offered to take over Steve’s usual hosting duties.  Gentry is a well-rounded Arizona angler who knows the trout fishing throughout the state, but like me, is passionate about the urban fishing around Phoenix.  Soon we met Gentry at a canal near Tempe.


bluegillThe urban fishing of Phoenix is overlooked.  I speak at clubs here often and most members only talk trout.  Few take advantage of the great bluegill, carp, bass and crappie fly fishing in the city limits.  It seems strange to me when folks skip out on the fishing in their backyard but it’s common in the fly fishing circle where people only fish for trout.


Jeff-Currier-grass-carpWhile I love all the fish around the city limits, my main target is the white Amur, better known as the grass carp (grassies).  These odd looking carps took me years to figure out how to catch.  Unlike the common carp, grass carp are full on vegetarians.  You won’t get the occasional one on a Clouser and rarely on a nymph.  You catch them on flies that look like vegetation.


grass-carp-fliesMy first few years of chasing grassies I tried and tied all kinds of grass and weed flies.  I’d get a fish on occasion with the concoctions I created but I’ve settled on size 4 and 6 green, olive or lime colored Chernobyl’s and Hoppers.  But in spite that I catch grass carp with regularity these days, I don’t let my guard down.  Grass carp continue to challenge me more than most freshwater fish (for some tips read my blog from 2012).


urban-fly-fishingThis week, the grass carp took us to a whole new level of difficult.  But it wasn’t due to lack of skill.  It was because of big rains on the desert and snow in the mountains this winter.  There’s an unusual amount of water in the rivers, lakes and unfortunately city canals.  All are high, muddy and unseasonably cold.  But there’s no chickening out in the Currier’s book, nor Gentry’s, so we approached fishing as business as usual.


carp-fishingDay 1 was tremendously slow.  Honestly, regardless of the fact that we strung our rods and walked the canal, we weren’t fishing with confidence.  Canal clarity wasn’t bad, it was horrendous.  We didn’t see a fish the first few hours.  But during lunch along the side of the canal, the water warmed up.  Throughout late afternoon, occasionally a grassie would hover on the surface.  I think it was to warm up but then they’d see all the weed and algae floating with the high water and take a few bites.  It was a matter of spotting one then getting the fly there.  Gentry caught the first – an odd looking one because of its broken back.


white-amurGrass carp aren’t native to North America.  They were brought over from Asia and are raised in hatcheries here then stocked to control weeds and unwanted algae in waterways.  The crafty carp species do their job so well that if a canal or pond gets low on water, Game and Fish will save them by shocking them then moving them to a new place.  The theory behind Gentry’s crazy broken back grass carp is that the fish was shocked when small and the electric jolt broke its back.


canal-fishingBy late afternoon Gentry’s catch was seeming lucky and it appeared Granny and I were going to get skunked.  At 6 PM the sun was low and the end of the day was near.  In a scum line full of clumps of weed and algae I spotted a consistent riser far across the canal.  It was literally an 80 foot cast which I was able to make but when my fly landed I could only see it about once every five casts.


grass-carp-on-the-flyI’m persistent though and kept trying.  I’d see the grassie rise and if my fly was in the area I set.  A couple times I spooked the carp but he came back five minutes later.  Evidently he wanted to be caught and finally I hooked up!


White Amur usually put up a good fight but not this one.  I practically reeled him in.  Perhaps because the last fish I hooked was a mammoth Nile perch I simply over fought this guy, but when I looked at him he was not in good condition.  In fact this one is flat out undernourished and ugly!



No complaints on my end however.  No skunk today.  By the time we released the grassie the sun went behind the palm trees.  There was no way to see in the murky water and nearly impossible to detect a subtle grass carp rise.  We packed it up and headed for Gentry’s local bar for a couple then to his house.  Tomorrow we’ll get right back after it in a new place.


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!