Finding features to fish to
How many times have you turned up at a venue, set up your rods and just cast out into the middle of the water without thinking about what lies beneath the surface? If you are lucky, then the swim you have chosen has a visible feature to cast to, such as an island, lily pads or a reed bed. Maybe it has resulted in a fish or two for you. But what if there are no visible features, you are just facing an open expanse of water? Well, if you just cast and hope, then you may be missing out on a fishing hot spot that you didn't even realise was there.
If you want to do well on a venue, you must take the time to understand it and learn its features. Not just the visible ones, but also the gravel bars, shallows, weed beds and clear areas of silt or clay. You need to know the areas where the carp patrol, and where they feed and rest. On arriving at a new water, take time to walk around. If possible talk to other anglers and find out as much as you can. Over a period of time you will be able to fish many of the swims and build up a map of the lake and lake bed. The more you know, the more you will catch. For the first time in a new swim though you need to know what lies under the surface and to do this you need to use a marker float.
How to pick up features
Now cast the rig so that it lands just beyond you chosen target area. Allow the rig to sink; you will feel it come to rest on the bottom. Now you float will be a foot above the weight. By allowing one foot of line off of the reel at a time until the float surfaces, you will be able to determine the depth of water in that spot, remembering of course to add the foot between float and lead. Now wind back down tight and move the rig around, repeating the process and thus building up a picture of the different points in your swim. As you drag the lead around on the bottom, stand with your rod at 90 degrees to the water and retrieve slowly. Notice how the rod tip pulls or bounces around as you retrieve? This is telling you what sort of ground you are travelling over.
If you feel a smooth but steady bouncing, you are probably on clay. If the pull increases and tugs slightly as you retrieve, you are on silt. If you feel a lot of tugging and sudden pulling free then the lead is travelling through weed and what you are feeling is the strands breaking free. And finally if you feel a clonking bouncing of the lead on the bottom, then you have found gravel. Now all you have to do is to cover as much of your swim as possible and note the different areas of each. Look for sudden changes. This will tell you where things such as gravel patches are hidden amongst large areas of silt or clay. These are your features. A clear gravel bar in amongst a weed bed would be a typical feeding area for the carp. A weed bed however would be a resting area and the very edge of it may be a good catching area. Each time you find a new feature, release the float again and record the depth. Different depths will attract carp at different times and temperatures. A shallow bar will often hold a lot of fish in warmer weather, whereas a deep hole may do the same during colder spells.
Spend some time mapping out your swim, and gradually over several sessions you will begin to understand the entire lake. You will start to find things like bars and troughs which can sometimes stretch the entire length of the water. Become a thinking angler and you will start to improve your catch rate
Why use a backleadBackleads can be useful when you want to pin the line between rod and rig to the lake bed, so that carp are not likely to be spooked by either seeing or running into it. Also, on days when you seem to be getting constant line bites, using a backlead can eliminate the problem entirely. Fish may feed more confidently when your line is running along the bed of lake out of the way of any cruising carp. We have all seen carp after carp turn away just when they are about to cross your line, in a situation like this by using a backlead the carp would not see the line and continue cruising undisturbed without being spooked.
Another advantage of a backlead when using more than one rod, is that when you are fighting a carp on one rod there is far less chance of it kiting across and tangling in the line of the other rod, as the line is held down out of the way of the ensuing fight.
After casting and before tightening up slip the back lead onto your line and slide it down into the lake. A spare length of line or braid should be tied to the back lead and the other end attached to your pod or bank side It can then be retrieved if it comes off on the retrieve or in a fight with a carp.
There are basically 2
types of backlead, one is a ring on a weight with a slit to allow
the lead to be slipped on the line after casting, this type of
lead stays on the the line during retrieval and any fight with a
carp. With this type of backlead it is probably better to not
attach it by line to an object on the bank, but just have the lead
on the line sliding freely. The other type has a has a screw
fitting and 2 arms for gripping over the line. This type is
designed so the line jumps out of the backlead on a strike, the
fight then continuing without the backlead attached to the line.
With this sort it is essential to tether the lead to an object on
the bank by line so it can be retrieved.
Using Pop-ups baits
The term pop-ups refers to baits which float, and therefore rise up above the weight as far as the rig allows. The result of this is a bait which, instead of just sitting on the bottom like most would, sits a few inches above it, thus being more easily spotted by the carp.
Why pop-up baitsThis can have tremendous advantages in situations where normally your bait would be hidden in weed or silt or covered in dead leaves. It also has the advantage of catching the carp's attention. Imagine a bed of free offerings which are lying on the lake bed and your bait is in amongst them. There may be only a few freebies or there may be fifty or a hundred, depending on your feeding method. The chances of a lone carp taking your bait in preference to the freebies are fairly small. Now imagine a bed of free offerings with one bait floating just above all of the others. It is going to catch the carp's attention. As the carp moves past, the water movement will make the lone bait sway about. Of course in some instances this may not work in your favour. It may cause suspicion. Why is this bait different to the rest? The carp may not trust it and take others in preference. However, it can be an excellent method when others fail.
Rigs for pop-upsOf course you don't want your bait floating upwards from your weight until it is about a foot off of the bottom. Usually an inch or two is about right. So to anchor the rest of the rig, attach a piece of lead putty to the hook length at that distance from the hook. You will need to experiment a bit to get the correct amount of weight. Try dropping the rig in the shallows in front of you and see what it looks like in the water. You can also try attaching two boilies to the hair, the one nearest the hook a sinker and the other a pop-up. This will cause the baits to sit in the water one above the other, and is known as a snowman rig.
Whatever type of pop-up you prefer, give them a try and experiment a bit. Try different combinations and flavours and different distances from the bottom. It can often turn a blank session into a winner.
How to feature-find or plumb the depth
Anything like a bar or gully will trap food, making it an interesting place for the carp. If your lake is almost flat other than the smallest of lumps try fishing these unusual areas as they will almost certainly be regularly investigated by the carp in search of natural food. Remember you don't have to fish 'the point' or 'the island' just because everyone else does. If you can find areas no one else fishes that seem likely to hold carp, fish them. If you catch, the regulars wont have a clue why, excellent! This happens on even the hardest lakes. A new angler turns up on Darenth or Yateley and catches from a crap swim because he has decided it looks like it will hold carp. The regulars find this most annoying but continue to cast to the same spots because someone's mate caught one there once! Remember if carp are not normally caught in a certain area because no-one fishes it they are likely to be less cautious there are they don't associate that area with danger.
Feeding with particles
One of my favourite methods is using particles. These are very small pieces of foodstuff, which may give off a scent, and take the carp a while to mop up, therefore keeping them in the vicinity of your bait. Of course, accuracy becomes important here, as you need the carp to find your bait right there where the particles are. I have seen anglers cast a hook bait and then spray particles all around the area within about a 40 feet radius of the bait. So how do you achieve this accuracy?
There are several ways to feed particles, and it will depend on the type you are using. If you are margin fishing, then maybe you can simply drop or throw the particles in to your swim. But for fishing farther out or in windy conditions, this is not particle. For dry particles such as trout pellets, one easy way is to use PVA bags. These small plastic bags come in a variety of types, but basically they all do the same thing. They hold a selection of your chosen particle, are attached to your rig, and when they are immersed in water they dissolve, placing your loose feed right there with your bait and rig.
For wet particles such as hemp, PVA is no use, as it will dissolve on contact. Another method must be found. One favourite method is the bait rocket or spod. These devices are basically plastic tubes blocked at one end with cork or polystyrene and attached at the other end to line on a spare rod, The tube is then filled with particles and cast to your chosen fishing spot. The tube will up-end on impact with the water, spilling the particles into the lake. Continually casting the spod will soon produce a good bed of bait, after which the rod is put aside for later use.
Feeding in the margins
When fishing close in to the margins, feeding little and often usually works well, as it is easy to keep replenishing the bed of bait. If you continue to get runs, then feed more, say every 1/2-hour at least. This will keep the fish interested and in your swim. If nothing materialises however, beware of overfeeding. The situation you don't want is for there to be so much feed in your swim, that they don't need to take your bait.
Winter Carp fishing
time can be the hardest time of the year to catch carp. The problem being that
the colder conditions slows down the fishes motabolism (sp).Therefore the fish
doesn't need as much food to survive. Not so many years ago it was thought that
carp were almost uncatchable during the colder months.With the popularity of
long stay (session) carp fishing and advancements in protective clothing and
camping equipment it has been proved that carp are catchable right through the
winter months. I have found through my own and friends experience that carp tend
to feed for only short periods of time . Sometimes these feeding periods are
quite distinct in the same way as dawn and dusk are good in the summer on a lot
of waters. Just like in summer , every water has its own feeding times so its
difficult for me to estimate feeding times. i have found on a lot of waters in
europe , 10-12 am and 1-3pm seem to be good times for action. I do know of one
water in England that fished well in winter one hour after dark so there are no
hard and fast rules on this . A lot of people think that in the winter the fish
are always in the deepest area of water . This just is not the case ! The fish
tend to be around snags or areas they feel safe . Don't ignore the areas you
caught carp from in the summer as there may be a good supply of natural food
nearby which holds the carp like a magnet . Many years ago i caught a 28 pound
carp in winter, at night from a three foot deep area of a lake. This lake has
areas with depths down to 12ft but the three foot area had some excellent
spot carp in these cold conditions takes a great deal of patience and it is
better to spend half the day searching and finding the fish, rather than taking
a chance and casting into a swim which may not hold carp. It is not necessary to
fish long sessions, even a morning, or afternoon can be worthwhile once you find
the fish. Spotting carp may take experience, but if you learn a few skills in
this direction you will certainly catch more carp. Sometimes just the slightest
disturbance on the surface can signal a carp so watch very carefully, for they
will often give away their position
fishing for carp in winter i always tend to fish boilies. Particle baits such as
peanuts , tiger nuts and maples tend to lose their effectiveness possibly due
the viscosity of the attractive oils these nuts contain (as the temperature
decreases they thicken considerably). Also particles seem to work better in
bulk. When i am winter carp fishing i use little or no free offerings. All the
successful winter carp anglers i know use very little bait. I feel the carp dont
feed as hard in winter as in summer. The type of boilies i would use would be a
spice bait with a nice spice flavour. The choice of attractors and flavours are
very critical in winter. The fish feed inducing oils are prime example , in
summer they are a fantastic attractor but as the temperature drops they increase
their viscosity and end up going solid . Most spice flavours are made up of
natural aromatic spice oils and esters which tend to be somewhat resistant to
solidifying to some degree. There polarity makes them mix well with water.
Adding a few powdered spices (few pinches) to the boilie mix can only help its
really cold conditions the carp seem to feed very actively for very short
periods, you may go all afternoon without so much as a nibble. Then for an hour
after dark all hell lets loose and you might land two or three fish before it
shuts down once again. First question is where to look for wintering fish, I say
look in the same places that you found them in the summer. Best places in my
mind tend to be shallow areas that are close to deeper water. The carp will
usually move onto these shallows late in the day to feed. A lot of people say
that the fish move to deep water in cold weather, maybe some do, but from
experience its the shallows (river or lake) that seem to produce best.
Weather will play an important roll, the best conditions being a few days of temps in the 50s or even 60s after a long cold snap. After a couple of days of these kind of temps get yourself down to your favorite fishing hole and give them a try. I have had some tremendous catches in these conditions, even in icy February
baits can include Bread, Sweet corn, Boilies, Chickpeas and Tigernuts.
and Sweet corn are best fished straight on the hook with a sliding sinker set up.
Bites need to be hit to set the hook, because of the long periods between bites
I like to use the Delkim bite alarms set very sensitive. These will alert me to
the slightest touch, then I quickly pick up the rod and feel for the fish,
striking as the line moves off.
Boilies , Chicks and Tigers should all be fished on the hair rig. These baits
can be dipped in neat (read Strong) flavoring for added attraction
Winter carping on the big waters can be difficult, lonely and uncomfortable. There are times when you really don't want to catch a fish, as it means you'll have to take your hands out of your pockets! And times when you are sure you'd be better off with a half herring or mackerel on the end. The rewards are there though, as winter carp are generally in excellent condition, and often heavier than they are in summer
So let's start with carp rods. The first question is one or two. Well, most carp anglers these days use at least two, three if their waters allow it and they have the gear. Why? Simply because they can. If you told a carp angler they could use five rods then they probably would. Carp angling is very much a waiting game. It involves a lot of patience and being able to cover as large an area of water as possible, and if they can increase the area covered and decrease the waiting time and double the chances of a run, then why not? Remember though, if you are going to buy two carp rods to start off with, then you are going to need two carp reels, two lots of line, two sets of rod rests or a rod pod, and maybe twice as much terminal tackle and bait. Also if you are buying a rod holdall then a bigger one will be needed to accommodate them. So, if you can afford all of this then fine. If you can't, then why not start with one carp rod and build up to more when funds allow. You must remember as well that if you use three rods, you will need an extra fishing license, as each one only covers two rods.
What type of carp rod? This depends a lot on the venues you are going to fish. If you are fishing small estate lakes and your quarry are carp of up to 15 lbs say, then a fairly light rod of say 1 ˝ to 2 lb test curve will be ample. For larger venues where distance casting is required, then maybe a heavier test curve will be required, maybe up to 3 lb. As well as the test curve, the action of the carp rod must be considered. Carp rods come in three types, fast taper tip action, medium tip action and all through action. For close in and short range work, an all through action is best, as it will take all of the power a carp has and distribute it throughout the rod, the more the fish pulls, the more the rod bends. For more distance fishing, a medium action rod is better suited as it will still bend at the tip fairly easily, but has more power as the action transfers towards the handle or butt. For really long distance work, where heavy weights need to be cast a long way then a fast tip action rod is best. This will have plenty of play at the tip, but have the power for casting and playing a fish at range.
Carp reels will need to be matched to thecarp rod. Depending on the distance you are going to be casting and the line strength and diameter you will be using, you need a reel that can hold the amount of line required. Choice of actual carp reel is very much a personal thing and you need to be comfortable with whatever you choose. I would recommend trying a carp reel on the rod you will be using it with. A good fitting is essential as is good balance. I would certainly try to buy a carp reel of the baitrunner type. If you are going to be using two rods and maybe waiting for a long time for a run, you can't always watch it the whole time, and a carp needs to be able to pull line free from the reel before you can strike. If it can't then a big carp can pull the whole rod and reel into the lake; believe me, I have seen it happen more than once! OK, so you could open the bail arm, but try this on a windy day and you will wish you hadn't. It can also produce disastrous messes on a strike if you forget you have done it. A baitrunner is simply a mechanism whereby a switch is set that allows line to be pulled from the spool under very slight (adjustable) tension whilst the bail arm is still closed. Resetting the switch or commencing reeling both have the effect of stopping line from being pulled through and the reel is then back to its normal state. Therefore, when a carp moves off with your bait, it takes line from the reel, you hear the bite, lift the rod and start reeling and hopefully the fish is on.
Line for carp fishing
Line. This again depends on the type of fishing and on the chosen carp reel. Multiplying the test curve of your carp rod by five is a good rough guide to breaking strains, so a 2 lb test curve carp rod would warrant a 10 lb line. This is only a guide though. Don't be tempted to go too light, it may produce more runs, but may also cause more lost fish and tackle, a nuisance to you, but maybe discomfort or damage to the fish, a situation that should be avoided at all costs. Different types of line are now becoming available and popular, such as braids.
There has been quite a trend in favour of using braid as mainline in the last few years. The key feature of braid is that it has no stretch. This has proved a real boon for lure anglers, who say they can feel takes from pike, zander and perch that they would never have felt with mono on account of the latter’s stretch.
Hook lengths are next on the agenda, and again there is a huge variety available, too many to discuss in this short piece. Suffice to say that there are many types of braids all with their own merits in different situations, and of course you can use monofilament as a hook length. To start with, maybe try buying one braided type and see if you get on with it and whether it catches you fish. You can build up a collection of different types as your skills and knowledge increase. If your tackle dealer knows the water you will be fishing, ask his advice.
Hooks. Here is where I would recommend investing a bit of money. A cheap hook can mean a lost fish, and that is the last thing you want. Compared to the rest of the gear such as carp rods and carp reels you will be buying, they are inexpensive anyway. Cheap hooks will bend, break or not be sharp enough to hook the fish in the first place. Invest in a selection of sizes say from a number 12 up to a 4 to start with and make sure that you buy barbless if your water insists on them. I don't think I have ever lost a fish due to using barbless hooks, although there are many arguments for and against them, and I don't intend to get involved in them here. Just abide by the fishery rules and you will be OK.
Weights. These come in a huge variety of types, shapes and sizes. For carp fishing, the main two are the in-line and the bomb type. In-line leads have a hole drilled through their length, through which the line is threaded and bombs have either a wire loop of swivel fixed into one end through which the line is passed. They are available in their natural grey colour or can be coated to camouflage with the lake bottom. Different types will be needed for different rigs. Weight wise, a selection should be bought to start you off between say 1 and 3 ozs, of varying types. Remember though that you need to carry round what you buy, so don't go too mad or try to leave some at home.
Carrying it all about
What else? Well, you are going to need something to put your gear in. To start off with, an old rucksack will do but if you want to buy something specially for the job, then there are a whole host of different rucksacks and bags to choose from. Carp carryalls are available which hold a large amount of gear, but you will have to carry that in your hands and there will be plenty else to carry. A rod holdall will protect your new acquisitions and they also come in all shapes and sizes. If you can afford this now, then don't get something too big that you won't be able to lift, but too small, and you won't have room for expansion when you want to buy something else. Make sure it is made of a fairly strong waterproof material that won't rip when walking through tree-lined footpaths. Some holdalls have built in reel pouches that enable you to put your rods away with reels still attached. These are excellent and save a lot of time on arrival at the water, but do tend to be fairly bulky. If you intend to buy an umbrella, then make sure there is room for this as well along with bank sticks landing net handles and pods.
A good tackle box is invaluable. An old sandwich box will do to start you off, but as your collection of bits and pieces grows, you will want a box with partitions to keep everything tidy and separate. Try to pick one that has a lid that touches the top of the partitions so that you don't end up with everything all mixed up when you arrive at the swim. Some DIY shops sell some good ones, which are robust and sometimes a lot cheaper.
Additional tackle items
Most waters these days insist on unhooking mats, and this is an essential piece of kit to help protect the carp. A good landing net is needed and a weigh sling and scales if you want to weigh your fish.
You will want somewhere to place your carp rods whilst fishing. Either a pair of rod rests and tops for each rod, or a pod. Pods are the most convenient, but can be pricey, and can always be added later. If you want to go all the way to start with, then a bite alarm for each rod will make your fishing much easier, but again are a bit pricey, and not essential to begin with. There are some good budget versions around these days, and they are worth the money if you can afford it.
Just a few more bits which will be needed to start you off, a baiting needle, boilies stops, swivels, and I wouldn't go fishing without some floats and shot. This should be ample to get you started, but beware - this hobby is addictive. You will soon want more bits and pieces and there is always something new on the market that is the best thing ever since sliced bread. If you think this is all too expensive, then take a look around at some of the second hand tackle available. This is often of very good quality and can save you a fortune. Often complete carp fishing set-ups are for sale. Most of the fishing weeklies have a good for sale column as does this web site, so take a look around. You may find just what you are looking for at a fraction of the price.
One of my favourite methods of carp fishing is using PVA bags. It can be an absolutely deadly method of catching carp, because it presents a bed of pellets or whatever particle you choose to use, with your hookbait in amongst them, being the only one of its type and size. As it can be cast a long distance when assembles correctly, this presentation is something a carp is not used to in that location, normally only coming across whole single or beds of boilies.
The method can take a bit of practise and effort, but believe me it is worth it. I have seen anglers, especially my son Jon, put in an hours effort into preparing bags, particles and other equipment before they start fishing, so that they are ready to use the method for the day, and then bag up while the rest of the lake sits and blanks. So is it worth the effort? Of course it is, and this is how to do it.
Types of PVA bags
You will need some good quality bags. By this I don't mean expensive. Some of the more expensive stocking bags I have found to be completely useless, ripping and laddering as you cast, if not before, and spraying your hard prepared particles all around the lake. I prefer the plastic bags, as they seem to be more reliable, and if prepared correctly can be very successful. You will also need some PVA tape or string, particles, baiting needle, scissors and of course your rig. Make sure that everything is completely dry before you start, not forgetting your hands and rig. Watch out for water inside your weight and rig tube.
Filling PVA bags
First fill a bag about a third full with particles. I keep a cut down plastic shampoo bottle as a funnel to help with this job. Remember that the particles must be dry, and for this reason, trout pellets are the most popular. Help pellets are also available and a very good choice. I like to add broken boilie pieces in with mine so that the carp find them first and then spot the larger hook bait amongst them.
Place your rig and hookbait in the bag
Next add your rig and hookbait. Make sure that the rig cannot become tangled in the bag. I usually place the weight and bait at opposite ends of the bag to prevent this from happening. I have seen anglers leave the hookbait outside of the bag and hook it to the corner of the bag at the end, but I find this causes unnecessary resistance during casting and often results in tangles. I also prefer slightly stiffer rig materials such as Snakeskin as they are less likely to tangle.
Now add more particles so that they surround the rig and prevent it from tangling on itself. Fill the bag so that there is enough room at the top for tying it down and sealing it. If you have overfilled it you won't ever be able to seal it properly and the result will be your hard work spilling all over the lake when you try to cast it. Pack them down fairly tightly, not too hard or you will split the bag but try to eliminate gaps.
Securing the PVA bag
Now to package it all up. Twist the top of the bag around as tightly as you dare, and tie using PVA string or tape. I prefer tape as I find it less likely to slip. Now stick down any excess by licking it and sticking it back to itself. Careful, too wet and it will melt the bag. You can always cut excess flaps off with scissors if you prefer. Finally, make some holes in the bag with a baiting needle or similar, so that it sinks as soon as it hits the water. For a slower sink onto weed beds, you can omit this step, as the lead will cause it to sink anyway, but it can take a while, especially in cold water as PVA then takes longer to dissolve. If you are using light leads, it may float for a long time in cold weather, I have seen anglers make perfect floating bait dispensers. Maybe an idea for floater fishing filled with some mixer, but not for here.
You should now have an aerodynamic
parcel of particles containing your hookbait, ready to cast. If packaged
correctly, it will cast a long way combined with the right tackle, and you are
ready to place a bed of bait right where the carp don't expect it.