Fly Fishing for Carp: The Tackle
Bring Heavy Artillery
No question about it, Finger Lakes carp are big. Equip yourself accordingly! A 7 wt. would be a bare minimum, and don't be afraid of an 8, 9, or even 10 weight, I fish a saltwater nine most of the time. A fast action rod with a strong backbone will help control large fish. Use a 5 or 6 wt. only in ponds or waters with fish under ten pounds. A reel with a quality disc drag is not only a good idea, it's necessary.
You want a setup than can stop a thirty pound waterborne bulldog and will hold as much backing as possible. Spool up with 50 lb PowerPro or similar superbraid for backing. It's stronger, thinner, and won't rot like Dacron eventually does. A large arbor reel is helpful- carp make long unstoppable runs and you'll be spending a lot of time reeling!
Don't neglect the fly line to leader connection. This knot or loop will be asked to perform as never before- If you hook into a Finger Lakes carp you are nearly guaranteed to see your backing! Be sure the knot(s) are secure and slip easily through the guides. My nine weight has a Bimini Loop on the backing and the line has a welded factory loop. Stay away from weak knots such as the Albright.
Line and Leaders
A floating line is best. Most fishing is in water less than five feet deep, usually two or three, and the extra depth a sinking line or sink-tip may give you is unnecessary, or even counterproductive- a sinking line may spook the school you just managed to sneak up on. A small splitshot or two 12-18" above the fly is the least obtrusive way to achieve extra depth. Given their legendary wariness, a non-intrusive color of fly line may prove helpful if you have one.
I like to use a 9-12 foot leader attatched with strong line-to-leader knots, I favor a loop to loop system here as well. If the leader don't come with loops, I tie a quick and strong Surgeon's Loop, a little bulky but solid. Natural movement is a key to carp fishing, so use a supple leader and tippet. I tend toward Rio leaders and Frog Hair tippet, usually 2X and 3X.
Use as stout a tippet as you can get away with in the Finger Lakes. You are searching for a balance between small flies and a strong, flexible leader. These are big fish and stopping power is a must, so likewise shy away from cheap, weak and very small hooks. I've broken a #12 pheasant tail on a large carp, it snapped before the 10 lb tippet did. Try to use 8 (3X) and 10 lb (2X) tippet, and 6 lb only on fish smaller than the typical Finger Lakes carp.
Strike indicators can be a good tool if used properly. Use small ones that land softly, if possible, to minimize chances of spooking the fish. Real "strike indicators" that do just that and nothing more are best. Floating "bobber style" strike indicators can make a splash upon landing- okay in some instances but not always. Use small hollow pieces of brightly colored fly line 1/2" long as indicators, just enough for a visual cue without disturbing the water or your cast too much.