There are two options now, either we give the waters a miss and go on our holidays or we stick with it and get some superb fish out. Obviously some lakes are weed free, these waters are usually overstocked so the fishing will be fairly easy all summer long but the waters I am going to write about are the less stocked weedier waters.
In essence, the fishing in the height of summer is just a continuation of the fishing we did in early summer but on many waters the fishes behaviour has become more suspicious and fewer fish are being caught. The carefully prepared areas we baited up and fished in spring and early summer will probably be treated with suspicion by the carp and tench and probably will have become covered with weed in some cases, especially if they were further out in the lake. Some areas of the lake will have become so weedy that they appear to be unfishable, sometimes the whole lake seems that way. Thatís the sort of lake I like! Where are the fish at this time of the year? Yep, in the weed.
If at all possible try to plan ahead for this time of the year when you start fishing the water earlier in the year and bait up some areas when no one is looking but do not fish them. What I try to do is introduce some bait in very inaccessible areas in the edge or in an area further out that would require an awkward cast from adjacent swims. One good ploy for margin spots is to bait areas that are usually covered with floating weed. This can be easily pushed to one side when the time comes to fish there but hides the feeding fish from other anglers and gives the fish themselves confidence as they are feeding under cover, literally, when you are not there. Then when the fishing is very hard during the summer you have these spots to fall back on.
Obviously the carp will show on the top on sunny days and therefore surface fishing is a good bet. There is not much that has not been said about surface fishing before and itís a very exciting form of fishing when time flies and there is a constant air of expectancy. All I would say is not to be in too much of a hurry to cast out or to introduce freebies when carp are seen on top. Take time to observe the fish and see what they are up to. Are they looking purposeful or are they just sunning themselves? How much birdlife is around? Are there any other anglers fishing floaters as well? If there any ducks or swans on the lake then think ahead, it's better to go up the other end of the lake and put out plenty of mixers for them to feed on, half a large packet is not too much. They will swell in their stomachs and they will soon be full up. Then once you have done this return to the carp.
If the carp are looking purposeful, i.e. swimming around, then see if they are taking any particular routes, if so put a few mixers out, only four or five, on their route whilst they are elsewhere. If they take one or two then next time cast a hookbait out. If this does not work then try introducing more mixers and see if you can get more and more fish feeding so that competition sets in. They are more likely to make a mistake if they are fighting off their mates. Keep an eye on any returning birdlife though; itís worth breaking off from your fishing for a few minutes to feed the birds up again. I go through two large bags of mixers a week, on swans especially, during the summer, mixers are cheap though and Iíd rather that than have them ruining my chances of a big carp.
If you are patient and careful any carp is catchable off the top. I have found that the best time to hook one is when they first come up in the morning on a promising hot day, especially if the day before was hot as well. So fire out a few before the sun gets full up and before you even see a carp, have a floater rod ready and waiting and you can perhaps be successful quickly. Later in the day, especially if you or someone else has been trying floaters already, the carp are more wary. The other good time of day is dusk and the first hour of darkness. Obviously visual takes will be hard to see but by holding the line a take will be obvious.
What if the carp are just lying up sunbathing? Well, if they are in open water then I suggest you just leave them to it but keep an eye on them as the sun starts to go down, as it is these fish that will take well at dusk. If however the carp are lying up in weed then they are very catchable. By being careful and stealthy, you can get very close to carp in weed - so much so that often it is possible to lower a bait on their nose, not literally of course but very near to them. They will quickly sense the bait and a take is often very soon in coming. These carp do not want to move far in the heat but will not refuse a free meal inches from their mouths. A good bait to use here is a worm, inject a little bit of air into it to give it some buoyancy if necessary but I have found if you cast it into a bit of weed close to the carp the wriggling will be iristable to the carp and takes are extremely savage.
Remember though, you are still fishing for big powerful fish, so don't get carried away and use hooklengths that enable you to get takes off the top but give you no chance whatsoever of landing the fish. The weed can be very thick and will make short work of anything less of 10lb bs. The only exception to this is in open water where a carp can be played gently without fear of snagging. I have used many hooklengths over the years but have always come back to just mono. The chemo lines that are meant to be invisible are okay but they break easily as they have no stretch and braid tangles too much, plus it tends to sink. Mono though can be made to do all sorts and has stood the test of time. I have found controllers to be a liability on all but the easiest of waters so I prefer to use floating putty as these make less of a disturbance in the water and look more natural to the carp. If I can get away with it though I would prefer to freeline. In windless conditions a double pre-soaked mixer on 10lb line can get me out 30 yards.
It is very rare to find a water these days where carp can not be caught off the top, it is just how much effort and thought we are prepared to put into it. Do not be in too much of a hurry to give up and go back and sit behind motionless indicators again whilst the carp continue to show on the top in front of you. If you are going to have a go then pack everything else away, take a minimum of tackle and go stalking, that way you will be less tempted just to return to static fishing after half an hours effort. It can take all day to get a carp to take off the top but when it is finally in the bottom of the landing net the effort will be worthwhile.
A few years ago I had a good period of getting carp off the top on a weedy estate lake. It was a great period of fishing; I would turn up at the lake around 9am and wander down the path in shorts and T-shirt with the minimum amount of gear. Heavy weed lined the bank and the carp were reliable sunbathers so they were always in evidence moving around in and beyond the weed. These carp were not fished for much off the top but were still quite wary. The first carp I saw on the first day were small commons, which took the mixers readily, but the bigger fish were mainly mirrors that seemed to hang back. For three hours I tried to catch one particular thick-set mirror. Just as I was thinking of giving up and moving to another area of the lake, I finally got it to take a bait cast right up against a small island, 15 yards out. I had to get into the lake as it was soon weeded up a rods-length out but it was worth it as it was a lovely old mirror of 22lb.
As the week went on the same pattern was repeated. I would turn up at 9am, find the carp and feed off the small commons, trying to get a chance for the larger mirrors. On one occasion I found half a dozen commons together with two mirrors in a large weed patch on the side of a bay. The commons took quite well but one of the mirrors kept charging at the baits swirling heavily at the last moment obviously testing each one for line. After a couple of hours I put a hookbait out and three times it actually took the bait. The first time I pulled it out of its mouth, the second time I connected with it briefly as I struck. The third time I thought I would leave it and not strike straight away. Sure enough round it came again, it rose in the water, mouth open, a large swirl and the line tightened. I waited with a large coil of loose line in my left-hand and not until all this had tightened and I felt the rod tip pull and I was in direct contact did I finally sweep the rod back. Incredibly I struck into mid air and the carp bowaved off not to return. Sometimes it is impossible.
I got my own back a couple of days later when the only carp I could find of any size was a large common, one of a few in the lake. This fish was laid up in the weed in the edge, I could get very close to it and crawled on my hands and knees so I was just fifteen feet away. I could see every scale and watched as its eyes swivelled lazily as a water boatman went past its nose. I lowered a mixer three inches from its mouth; it stirred briefly and raised its dorsal fin out of the water showing it to be split after the first ray. After a while it came to life and reversed its way out of the weed and moved five yards up and wedged itself in the weed again. Three more times it repeated this, I was not getting very far at all with this one.
I wound in and sat looking at the carp, hunter and hunted pondering our next respective moves. Another carp then swam along on the edge of the weed behind the common so I flicked half a dozen mixers in its path. Lazily this new fish took one as it swam past without breaking pace, however it then swam off. Out of the corner of my eye though I suddenly saw the common move out of the weed and to my amazement it took two of the freebies I had just thrown in. A foolish move, I now could see a chink in its armour. It soon returned to its position in the weed so I flicked another couple of mixers out behind it. Again after a minute it reversed out and took one. This was repeated once more before I positioned a hookbait without a movement on the water behind it and flicked just one mixer out. Sure enough fins stirred as it turned itself round like a large fat rowing boat and rose up to take my hookbait, this was too easy. No it wasnít, at the last moment it refused and swam back to the weed only this time five yards further on. I tried the ploy again; again it refused at the last moment. However this time it did not return to the weed but swam out into the lake.
I presumed I had lost that battle of wits and sat there with the hookbait still out in the water wondering what part of the lake to explore next. Suddenly, there before my eyes the mixer quite simply disappeared and I was connected to a carp. I did not see anything approach the bait, it was just sucked in from below. The fight was short as the carp soon imbedded itself in the thick marginal weed. The water was about four feet deep so I waded out to the edge of the weed and grabbed hold of the line that was disappearing straight down into the fronds. Pushing the landing net down I managed to manhandle the carp over the cord and lifted quickly. There in the net was a common carp with a split dorsal fin. I laughed out loud. What had gone through that carps mind, had it thought I had given up and gone and could not resist one more freebie? It was hooked a full two inches inside its mouth and on the bank was like a barrel. Its ribs would have indeed looked like those of an old clinker built rowing boat. Apart from its dorsal fin it was immaculate and spun the scales round to 23lb 4oz. I waded back out into the lake with it in my arms and gently lowered it down into the water. Slowly I felt it gain its strength until it kicked itself free and swam out into the lake. One of the most magical captures of my carp fishing time.
So thatís surface fishing, a method that is very rewarding but at the same time very frustrating. However carp are still feeding on the bottom in summer and can be caught. What do we do if they are being a pain on the surface and we cannot get them feeding on any marginal spot? Well, now is the time to fish for them right in the weed and the best time to do this is at night. The heat of the day will have gone and the natural food in the weed will be attractive to the carp. The commonest weed in this country is Canadian Pondweed. This weed can grow in ten to fifteen feet of water or more from top to bottom and seems to be impossible to fish in. Well possibly it is but there are also clear channels or patches in amongst it and this is where we need our hookbaits. These clear areas can be found from either climbing trees and seeing them or from observing them from a boat. If neither of these is possible then cast around to areas of the weedbed that do not reach the surface or look clearer just with a heavy lead. Often you will find that they are indeed clearer, in fact very clear and the lead will be felt hitting the bottom. If still no clear areas are found then fish tight to the edge of the weed.
The baiting needs to be very accurate as does the cast. Baiting up with spods or PVA bags are useful for holes in the weed, if they are a bit of a distance out. For casting, mark the line and clip it up to ensure the right spot is hit every cast. Pop-ups or bottom baits will work just as well but I prefer a bottom bait if at all possible. Takes will be anything from a short lift as the carp moves a few inches back into the thick weed to a screaming take as it bolts back through the weed. I find it best to have the baitrunner on a tight setting so that not too much line is taken on the run before you have a chance to get the carp under control. The fight will be hit and hold but if the rig is working the hookhold should be secure. Keep the pressure on and keep gaining line. If all goes solid, keep the pressure on and walk backwards, nine times out of ten the carp will come free as the weed breaks up and you will get some sort of control again. If nothing moves then as a last resort let the line go slack and as soon as the carp takes line tighten up again. Do this as many times as necessary until the carp breaks free.
Never use less than 15lb bs line for this fishing or you will lose every carp you hook. When the carp is free it will probably be towing weed so as it reaches the edge sink the net completely and do not raise it until the weed is at the spreader block, this should ensure the carp is in the net along with half a ton of weed. It is not easy in the dark but I prefer to net weeded fish myself so I have control of when to lift, then if it all goes wrong I can only blame myself. It is not fishing for the faint hearted but it is very satisfying. A badly weeded carp will have rearranged the weedbed beyond recognition but by using your marker on the line as a guide a clear area can usually be found again in the same vacinity even at night. Then a PVA bag or stringer will quickly put you back in business for another chance before the night is over.
Fishing in the height of summer is great, not easy, but good fun. A plus is the weather, no boots, umbrellas or bivvies; just the minimum of gear and a determination to catch are all that are needed. The best bit is that the most fantastic two months of the year are just round the corner, September and October. If you only fish for two months of the year these are the two to do, Iíll cover those next time.