Now I’m not a bitter man (more of a lager lout actually!) and so I thank her because without the sheer hell she put me through I might not have fished to the extent I did.
She couldn’t understand fishing (bless her) and couldn’t comprehend my compulsion for the ‘armoured flanked leviathans’. If you have a wife or girlfriend with a similarly blinkered view, learn from my mistakes, either get rid of or accept each other’s differences; re-education is off the agenda!
My father was a great mate with the bait pioneer of the seventies and eighties, Duncan Kay. My mother warned me off making friends myself, as this man was an obvious deviant; maybe she didn’t understand angling either! Apparently, according to mum, he would drink to excess and use night fishing as a cover for his philandering ways. Now I’m not one to argue with my mother’s clear-cut outlook on ‘all things bad in life’ but this bloke seemed to be putting a lot of carp on the bank during his ‘cover ups’. As much as I resisted, I knew this guy had more answers about carp than I had questions; he was on their wavelength and I was keen to learn even if that entailed sacrificing my innocence. Ha! (Sorry Mum.)
I asked him what his secret was, knowing full well his innovative baits would be the obvious key but his answer surprised me, "Don’t wait ‘til the feeding time," he said.
"They’re there for the taking all the time, you just have to coax them a bit."
Now I enjoy playing guitar, but if I practised twenty-four-seven I could not play like Jimmy Page; the guy has a gift. Similarly, if I fished every lake to my full potential I wouldn’t catch all the carp on offer; genius is a gift that cannot be taught and Duncan Kay has that gift.
Duncan has now given up the ‘rat race’ preferring instead the dubious delights of match fishing. Now call me odd but I cannot for the life of me understand anyone that has caught fifteen plus thirties settling for a keep net full of gudgeon, but as the saying goes ‘there’s nowt as queer as folk!’
Last time I spoke to him he told me of a match he had recently won, he explained how the roach weren’t biting but he’d noticed a carp hanging around the swim which he decided to hook out to boost his weight up. When I enquired after the size he replied, quite nonplussed, "About 26lbs."
To a lot of readers that would be a very big carp, if not a personal best in some cases, but to him it was another fish to boost his overall weight for the morning! The guy is good, believe me.
His original point kept playing on my mind and after a quiet evening in with just the three of us, Duncan, Jack Daniels and myself, I pressed the point on what he meant. To summarise, he told me that carp do two things mainly, feed and lay up in safety, but they do the latter in far greater hours, so if you want to catch loads, fish in the ‘holding’ areas not the feeding areas.
Now my experience leads me to believe ‘holding’ areas are synonymous with snags, weed beds, tree roots, holes in rushes and other unmentionable areas you really don’t want to be casting your expensive end tackle into. However if it’s going to increase your catch rate maybe it could be worth a try, for it’s not a problem if you use the right rigs.
Carp hold up in difficult to reach places for a reason, mainly because they’re difficult to reach, ergo they feel safe. Now this works to the anglers’ advantage inasmuch as, if they feel safe, they’re not so wary, which equals easier to hook, albeit not so easy to land.
I read a book by Ivan Marks many moons ago in which he advised to ‘fish for bites’. This has stayed with me because it made such simple sense. Obviously there comes a cut off point when ‘fishing for bites’ meets with ‘landing the buggers’ and I’m sure some university graduate with an algebra degree is working on the formulae but with a bit of common sense, upping your fish tally can be achieved.
It never fails to amaze me how patient some anglers can be, waiting for the ‘right time’, sitting gnome like for hours on end because "the carp here only come alive at night" etc. Stuff all that. MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!
I was initially a bit apprehensive about writing this piece at first as I hate to think of fish with rusting hooks embedded in their mouths due to overly eager enthusiasts but decided if I could explain how to do it properly this would alleviate rather than create a problem.
Going back to my original point, carp are less wary in a ‘safe’ environment therefore ‘kid gloves’ are not required, bring out that old beach caster and discard the size 8 fine wire hook. A strong bit of string and quick responses are the keys to success here. This is ‘back to basics’ fishing. Try to set aside all preconceived ideals on ‘lonely hunter outwitting his wily adversary’ - they are there for the taking.
The biggest problem derives from the angler himself. It is all to easy to give line as the fish dictates but with this style of fishing YOU dictate, clamp down hard on that spool, you only wind in, if you give any away the game is lost!
Firstly, identify the holding areas; these are usually away from recognized swims and invariably in the most unfished spots on any venue. Secondly disregard any kind of ‘bolt rig’ - if your quarry are next to an impenetrable place, the last thing you want is them ‘bolting’ into it!
Float fishing is often the best method - that’s the fluorescent thing bobbing on the surface ‘Sunday anglers' use. Even though the ‘glossies’ fail to mention them, they are the best form of bite indication I know.
As for bait, anything will do. I’m sure this last statement will leave Tim Paisley clutching his chest but it’s true! A carp will regard anything ‘safe’ in a ‘safe’ area.
I have found sausage meat to be the deadliest bait in such situations, especially in winter times, due to the high fat content but once again, as none of the high profile bait suppliers/manufacturers market this, it may not be as highly recommended as it ought to be.
This all bodes very well for places in ‘gentle lob’ range, which I find most holding areas are, however if the secure places in your lake require a piece of lead to reach, all is not lost.
Braided lines are a must if fishing any kind of distance due to the lack of stretch factor. If you are fishing hard to a snag you need the ability to get a hooked fish away quickly. Your hook must be up to the job, it will be under severe pressure and I would recommend a Drennan star-point continental, a hook that has never let me down in such situations, sizes 2 and 4 being favourable.
Fishing with a shorter hook length (3" to 5") pays dividends with a lead tied away from the mainline with a much weaker breaking strain line, often referred to as ‘rotten bottom’ so that should the lead catch on a snag it will simply break free therefore reducing the chances of tethering the fish.
Another must is NEVER leave your rod unattended and don’t get too comfortable. If you’re doing this method right you need to be sat right by the side of your rod, or even holding it, as anything other than an instant strike will lead to a lost fish.
You may have noticed I said rod in the singular in that last paragraph, with good reason. Just because your lake allows the use of two or three rods, and matching Armalites all in a row make you look like an expert, the concentration levels and quick responses required for this style of angling lead me to believe that fishing with one rod will actually increase your chances of catching better than if three or even four rods were deployed.
I appreciate there is a ‘carp culture’ we all try to adhere to but looking like a ‘noddy’ with one rod and a float out is worth the sniggers when I’m the only one that has caught anything that day. To emphasise the point, I recently had a quick two-hour session at a local lake in an extended lunch break. I fished a little hole that was barely a foot deep, behind the main reed bed, inaccessible from the rest of the lake. I caught two ‘doubles’, the best just under seventeen pounds, and went back to work a happy man. Later that evening I went back to walk my dog and I started chatting with an angler who was oblivious to the fact I had been fishing earlier. I asked him how things were going and he replied that the carp were as hard as ever, that he had been there two days and not a single fish had showed except to some lucky prat that had caught a couple earlier on. "Geezer didn’t even have any bite indicators!" he laughed.
I smiled inwardly; he obviously didn’t know what that fluorescent thing was just above the sausage meat!