KANSAS CITY, Mo. - There aren’t many people who would wake up early on what promises to be another sweltering day to stalk a fish that is at the bottom of the food chain.
But Zach Janssen gladly accepted the challenge last week.
With fly rod in hand and a satchel of his hand-tied flies slung over his shoulder, he waded into the thick brush rimming Indian Creek in Johnson County and peered at a hole in search of a fish that won’t win many popularity contests . . . the common carp.
His face brightened when he saw a cloud of silt and then saw the big fish that was causing that commotion.
“That carp is ’mudding,’ “ Janssen said. “He’s rooting around, looking for something to eat.
“He’ll hit if I can put my fly in front of him.”
With that, Janssen began whipping his fly line through the air until he let go and allowed the fly to float through the air and drop just beyond the feeding carp.
The golden fish immediately approached, grabbed the artificial and took off. Janssen’s 8-weight fly rod bent sharply, and the carp strained to get to deep water.
But eventually the fisherman won and he waded out to land a fish he estimated at 12 to 15 pounds.
The Boy Wonder had struck again.
“That is so much fun when you can see them come up and take your fly,” said Janssen, 15, of Overland Park, Kan. “A lot of people look down on carp, but they don’t realize how much fun they can be to catch on a fly rod.
“I’ve caught a lot of different . . . species fly fishing, but I’d still rank carp at the top of the list.”
Janssen became fascinated with the carp about a year ago when he and some of his friends would ride their bikes to Indian Creek and fish for whatever would hit. When he spotted giant carp lazily swimming through the pools, he became intrigued.
He took a fly-fishing course at K & K Fly Fishers in Overland Park, learned to tie flies and went off to test his new found knowledge. With his friend Ben Muraski, who also was just learning to fly fish for carp, they quickly learned how to tie flies that matched what the carp were feeding on.
“They feed on seeds, mayflies, dragonflies, nymphs, all kinds of things,” Janssen said. “In the fall, the crayfish come out and we’ll tie flies to imitate them.”
When Janssen caught a 40-pound carp in a small stream, he became hooked. Now he is somewhat of an expert on the subject. He ties carp flies weekly at K & K Fly Fishers and regularly passes out advice on how to catch the wily fish.
“Carp are very wary,” Janssen said. “They can be extremely ’spooky.’
“You have to sneak up on them and make good casts. If your leader hits the water before the fly does, a lot of times they’re gone.”
That wasn’t a problem Tuesday. As Janssen used stealth to approach several of his favorite holes on Indian Creek, he was able to make perfect casts and catch big carp. Each time, he would kiss his catch, then release it back into the water.
“There are a lot of advantages to this type of fishing,” he said. “The thing I like about it is, it’s mostly sight fishing. You see a big carp out there cruising, and you cast to it.
“And for me, it’s even more special because I’m catching them on flies that I have tied.”
One other advantage, in Janssen’s mind, is that he is targeting a species that is abundant in suburban creeks and receives very little fishing pressure.
That wouldn’t be the case in other countries, he reminds others. In England, for example, the carp is a prized gamefish held in the same esteem as largemouth bass are here. High-stakes tournaments are held and the champions receive national attention and plenty of media coverage.
Janssen sees a time when the carp’s image receives an upgrade here.
“There are more and more people fishing for them every year,” he said. “People are finding out how much fun they can be to catch on a fly rod.
“The great thing is that they’re everywhere. You don’t have to travel a long way to fish for them. They’re right here in the city and the suburbs in these little rivers and creeks. I’ve caught carp out of Indian, Tomahawk Creek and the Little Blue, just to name a few.
“And there are some monsters out there. That’s what I’m after.
“To catch a giant carp on a fly I tied, that would be the ultimate.”