Fixed Line Carp Fishing

Fixed Line Carp Fishing is a kick! Carp are big, powerful fish. You need a big, powerful rod - a carp rod, not a trout rod.

The video below was released not long ago. It shows a bunch of guys fishing for carp with tenkara rods. Several broken tenkara rods later, two things became obvious:

1) catching a carp on a fixed line rod is an adrenaline rush, and
2) fishing for carp with a tenkara rod is like taking a knife to a gun fight.

Tim Romano, coauthor of Field & Stream's Fly Talk blog, wrote a brief review of the video, stating "I don’t think this is a new fad bound to take off anytime soon." I agree, up to a point. I don't think this is a fad.

I do think it will take off, though, and soon, just not with tenkara rods. Face it, tenkara rods are trout rods, not carp rods. However, and this is a big however, there are carp rods. They look a lot like keiryu rods (which, by the way, have been used quite successfully for catching carp - with no broken rods to my knowledge). Even keiryu rods are trout rods, though. If you want to catch a carp, and if you don't want to risk your rod doing it, it just makes sense to use a rod actually designed for catching carp.

The first carp caught on a fixed line rod in the US that I know of was by  Randy Knapp, back in 2011. The British have been catching carp with poles for years, but most of their poles have elastic bands that absorb much of the fight. It's not the same.

It wasn't until the Tenkara Guides in Salt Lake City released their video of carp fishing, though, that interest in it started to take off (and by the way, they coined the term "tencarpa" years ago).

Their video featured a Daiwa Kiyose 53MF but I think their rod of choice since then has been a Nissin 2-Way 450ZX stiff.

Not long after I arrived in Salt Lake City for the ONI School in June, 2015 ERiK Ostrander took me to their secret carp hole. I had never before hooked a carp, let alone landed one, but he and John Vetterli probably have more experience landing carp on fixed line rods than anyone in the US. I figured I'd have a better chance of success with him than just trying on my own.

I did manage to hook a couple carp using a Suntech Field Master 53 but I wasn't able to land either one. On one the hook pulled out pretty quickly and on the other, my lack of experience led me to make a rookie mistake. Rather than holding the rod sharply to one side, which will turn a carp, I tried to stop it by holding the rod and line directly behind it. As ERiK pointed out, that just pisses a carp off, and the result is a burst of speed and a broken tippet (or as in the case of the guys in the first video, a broken tenkara rod - no, actually three broken tenkara rods). The Field Master didn't break, but the tippet broke almost instantly.

As ERiK then demonstrated, and I later confirmed for myself, even though you can't stop a carp, you can turn it. The risk though, is still that a large carp will be too much for the rod. The rods that people have been using to catch carp are trout rods, and they're rated for 5X tippets.

I know ERiK pushes the envelope a bit and fishes with 4X. Even 4X, though, is probably a bit light for large fish.

Enter the Carp Rods

The Japanese do fish for carp - and with fixed line rods. They just don't use trout rods. They use carp rods. Yes, they do exist. I think it is important to point out that the rods I am talking about are not hera rods, which are designed for catching herabuna (crucian carp) a fish which rarely exceeds 3.5 pounds. The rods I am talking about are designed for catching common carp, which seem to start at 3.5 pounds and go up - way up.

Carp rods are not rated for 5X tippets. Depending on the rod, they're rated for tippets of 3X to as much as 0X, which is equivalent to size 3 tenkara line!

So if you want to fish for carp, do it! But, do it with a carp rod.

I currently carry two carp rods, the Nissin Flying Dragon and Nissin Kyogi. For a while I had carried the Nissin Red Dragon, and may yet again if the Kyogi is out of stock at Nissin.

Of the two, the Flying Dragon is a lot more convenient because it collapses to about 22", the same length as tenkara rods. On the other hand, it is also considerably stiffer and is rated for a weaker tippet than the Kyogi.

The Nissin Red Dragon is heavier than the Flying Dragon or the Kyogi. It falls between the Flying Dragon and the Kyogi with respect to flexibility, maximum tippet strength and collapsed length.

Nissin Kyogi Carp Rod (also comes in Red or Yellow)

The Nissin Kyogi is the nicest carp rod I've found. The Kyogi 18 is lighter than the other 5.4 meter carp rods at just 5.1 ounces. The "18" is 18 shaku, which is a Japanese unit of measure that is just barely shorter than a foot. An 18 shaku rod is about 17'9", just an inch or two longer than the Red Dragon 5.4m rod. The Kyogi is also a bit more flexible, at 57 pennies, compared to 67 or 68 for the Red Dragon 5.4 and Flying Dragon 5.3, respectively. However, it is rated for 0X tippet (which for Varivas is just over 13 pound test). That is substantially stronger than the other two rods.

The collapsed length is longer than for the Red Dragon (47" compared to 41"), and much longer than for the Flying Dragon, but if you can drive to where you fish that shouldn't be a problem.

The Kyogi 21 is three feet longer at 20'8" and noticeably heavier at 7.1 ounces, but it should be more capable, and will definitely give you a longer lever to try to turn a carp on it's first run.

These are all two-handed rods. Carp rods do come in shorter lengths, but for carp of any size I really think you'll want a longer rod. That said, if you do want a shorter version of one of the rods listed here, do not hesitate to ask for it. I will order one for you.

A customer recently took delivery of a Kyogi 12, which turned out to be quite stiff, but he thinks will prove to be an excellent rod for close in fishing for big fish with heavily weighted nymphs.

Salmon, steelhead, stripers?

I get a lot of questions about rods for steelhead, salmon and schoolie stripers. There are no "striper" rods in Japan, but both Daiwa and Shimano have rods specifically designed for salmon. They're long. Daiwa's Salmon Hunter is an 8.3m rod and their Flame Hawk P-10 85 is an 8.5m rod. Shimano's Super Game Special Salmon is an 8.3-8.9m zoom rod. They're also very expensive. The Salmon Hunter is about $700, the Flame Hawk is over $900 and the Shimano is over $1000.

Would a carp rod be sufficient for steelhead or schoolie stripers? I haven't tried for steelhead yet, but I can say that the Red Dragon is sufficient for schoolie stripers!


I have used size 4 flouorcarbon level tenkara line and the Nissin PALS SP Pro 6m lines. The Nissin PALS SP Pro line is heavy enough to turn over well with any of the rods.

Carp Tippets

As long as you have a rod strong enough to catch carp, and strong enough to use heavy tippet, use heavy tippet! Varivas makes excellent tippet and they make it in the sizes that the carp rods are rated to handle.

The Nissin Kyogi is rated for 0X tippets.

The Nissin Red Dragon is rated for 2X tippets.

The Nissin Flying Dragon is rated for 3X tippets.

Diameter - breaking strength

Carp Hooks

Carp are big, powerful fish and you will want big, powerful hooks to hold them. These hooks were intended for boilies, but you can certainly use them for carp bugs or clousers  -- or corn, for that matter.

Owner Carp Hooks - $4.50

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