September will probably be still warm but the weed will begin to lose its grip. Clear areas will be easier to find, so get in on these first, before others do. Once you find one - I find leading about the best bet to locate them - then bait it up and fish it continuously. The more you bait it and fish it, the better it will become as the month progresses. Obviously accurate baiting and casting will be essential so use the techniques I described for summer fishing before.
I start using PVA bags a lot at this time of year, it keeps the baiting accurate, obviously your hookbait will then be spot on as well. Remember, all this applies to other species as well, not just carp. Bream and tench respond well to a PVA bag stuffed full of goodies just as well as carp. Tench and bream anglers have plenty to learn from carp angling techniques, as well as the reverse. Of course until the first frosts arrive, usually in mid October, the fish will still be obligingly feeding in the edge so keep your eyes open and keep baiting.
It's thought, I suppose, that September and October are good months because the fish are feeding up for the winter ahead. I personally think it is just that the natural food is suddenly diminishing and the next best source is anglers baits. I do not think fish really have to feed up for the winter, their metabolism slows down as the water cools down anyway so they need less food. That is my theory anyway. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that this time of year produces very good fishing for all species, river or lake. It is criminal not to be out there. There is no doubt either that most species are also at their highest weights with all that natural food inside them, another good reason to be fishing at this time of year.
I have seen carp, tench, and barbel come to that, feed very heavily during September over baited areas. It is at this time of year that we can get fish in a real feeding frenzy. I remember one year I was determined to catch some good barbel from the river Kennet at Theale. I had fished this particular stretch several times throughout the summer and had seen quite clearly some good sized barbel, perhaps 9 or 10lb, (big to me anyway!).
The river was quite deep on the far bank but shallower with streamer weed on my side. By baiting up with hemp and sweetcorn over the weeks, I had started to concentrate the feeding area to in front of one small swim that was little fished. As I lived over 80 miles from the river I was up against it and chancing a session to luck every now and again was hopeless, so I had to turn the odds in my favour. By mid September I was finding that if barbel were not present in the swim when I arrived, then once I put some bait in they would turn up within the hour. Sometimes just the odd one but sometimes three or four. I had refrained for a couple of sessions from fishing for them, as I really wanted to get their confidence up. However on one session I found not three or four barbel but twelve different fish going mad on the hemp that I had introduced an hour before. I knew it was time to cash in so I fished as evening fell and quickly took one fish of 6lb 11oz and half hour later I took one a few ounces lighter. Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after but the next day I booked three days leave. The following morning I packed the car and set off.
The weather was pleasant enough for the second half of September so I anticipated a good couple of days. The journey was uneventful and before long I was working my way through the tiny lanes and bumpy tracks that eventually lead to the small stretch of river. As was normal no other cars were there, in fact I had only ever seen one other angler fishing all summer, plenty of dog walkers but no anglers, strange as the stretch was freely available on a very cheap club ticket, I believe it belongs to Reading DAS now though. Anyway, I strolled across the edge of the farmers field down to the waters edge. The Canada geese were there as usual on the high bank leaving their mess behind. I was careful not to disturb them, they were better on the bank than swimming up and down the river. After a few yards I arrived at the swim amongst the reeds. The reeds actually extended out a couple of rod lengths into the river so when a fish was hooked it was a matter of wading out to play and net it, making sure one step too far was not made on the edge of the drop off into the main river.
Putting down my gear, I walked the thirty yards downstream to a footbridge and crossed the river. Negotiating the barbed wire and fallen trees I reached the spot opposite the swim. In the clear deep water I could see at least one barbel holding out in the current. Moving a little upstream I introduced a couple of pints of hemp and the contents of a tin of corn so it would all land on the gravel. These fish had got used to finding vast quantities of bait in this spot so I could not overbait, anyway I was there for two days and I did not want to keep trotting back and forth across the river. Most baiting up after this would be just topping up with a catapult from the swim.
Back over on the other side of the river I set up the rod, a simple 11 foot built-in quivertip rod, old Mitchell 300 reel loaded with 6lb Maxima line, a four swan shot link and size 10 Drennan super specialist hook, the hookbait was two pieces of sweetcorn. I made the first cast, in line with a tree stump opposite, to land just a foot from the far bank, this would mean the bait would settle nicely right on the gravel run I had baited. Putting the rod up high on a double extended rod rest I sat on the low chair with wadered feet in the water. The tip settled nicely. Within fifteen minutes I received my first bite, a flick of the tip followed by it pulling over an inch. I was about to strike when the rod whacked round, the first barbel of the session was hooked. A spirited fight ensued as I waded out to the edge of the current. In the clear water I could see a barbel twisting and turning in the current, it caused me few problems however and it was soon in the net, smaller than I thought weighing 5lb 13oz, a fine start though.
The swim took a while to settle. In fact it was nearly lunchtime before the next bite, a rattling of the quivertip resulted in a surging fight from a yet unidentified fish. I waded out to the edge again and tried to see the culprit. It did not feel like a barbel, but it was keeping very deep. As I increased pressure, the fish rose in the water and at the same time came nearer to my side of the river, in the clear water I could see the culprit, a bream. It fought quite well, as river bream often do, but was soon in the net. A surprisingly deep flank rolled over, all black and purples it weighed 6lb 2oz, big indeed for the river. After admiring it I waded out and watched it glide off downstream. The sun was now quite warm and it was approaching midday. A spot of lunch was required so I crossed over the river and had a look in the swim. There were actually three barbel and a chub in there but they were not feeding. I introduced some more bait, just a sprinkling, and crossed back over. I then picked up the gear and walked to the end of the stretch. Climbing through the hedge to the next field I stashed the gear in the undergrowth and walked to the far side where rather conveniently was a pub, ideal.
Back on the bank, fully refreshed, I recast and once more let the bait settle. The sun had now been replaced by high cloud but it was still quite warm. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the afternoon was an anticlimax with just a small chub for my efforts, however as the evening approached I was sure I was in with a chance. Sure enough, as dusk arrived and I changed from visual indication to touch ledgering, I felt and half saw the tip nudge round three inches. The line came alive in my fingers and instinctively I struck. A powerful fish surged off downstream and once more I was on my feet out in the water. Surely a barbel! I had to lean out beyond the reeds to get sidestrain. Reluctantly it came back and surged back upstream right past me. This was a better fish, there was no doubt and after a bit of a stalemate tussle in mid-river I was able to get it over the net. I waded back to the bank and laid the net down on the grass. The hook was well in its rubbery lips and on the scales I held my breath as it hovered near to 9lb, in the end I settled for 8lb 14oz. A personal best, my goal achieved. I did not want to let it go at all but reluctantly I waded back out and held it for a few minutes before it swam away.
I recovered my composure, rebaited and recast, settling back in the chair, holding the line with my left hand and the rod with my right. An hour passed. I catapulted a bit more hemp and corn out and settled again. Midnight was soon approaching and I was considering winding in and crashing out for a few hours when the rod just leapt to life as a barbel surged off downstream. A similar battle to the first one but this time the fish came to stalemate in the deeper water in front of me. I was sure it was not snagged, it was just hanging in the current. Nothing moved so I increased the pressure a little, the fish then moved, but as I thought I was gaining the upper hand, the hook pinged free and I felt the rig fly past my ear. Upon inspection the hook was fine, it had just pulled out. That was enough for me I crashed out for the night, but not before wandering round and baiting up again.
I awoke to find that dawn was well and truly here, a glorious September morning mist rising from the river. Wasting no time, I baited up and recast. Once again I only had to wait a few minutes for a bite but this time it produced a 3lb chub. An hour later the first barbel of the day was on the grass, a long fish weighing an ounce over 7lb. The sun was soon high in the sky and I was sitting in a T shirt. It was now a full two hours since the last barbel so I wound in and crossed the river again. There were no fish present so I baited up again and went for a walk up-river, crossing fences I guess I was not meant to cross, but what the hell. On my return half hour later, there were four barbel feeding away. They were not however feeding avidly just yet. It occurred to me that I was not really getting them feeding really confidently, I put this down to the fact I was casting out when they were still just starting to feed. Therefore I made the decision, as it was an hour before midday, to have an early lunch to give the barbel a chance to really get their heads down.
That was the best decision I made, as when I returned two hours later there were at least ten fish shoulder by shoulder feeding away. This is what I had seen on the session before when I had the two 6lbers. Wasting no more time I returned to the swim and cast out. Surprisingly I had to wait another hour for the first bite but when it came it was very gentle affair, just a tremble on the tip. The strike and fight were hard though and before long a perfect 6lb 7oz barbel was in the net. The rest of the afternoon carried on in the same vain, five more barbel came to the net before 7pm, the smallest 5lb 4oz and the biggest 8lb 10oz.
This was what I had always wanted, I was however getting a little short of bait, I could nearly see the bottom of the big bucket of hemp and I was down to my last two tins of corn. However I kept firing it in, after all, I was going home the next morning. As dusk came I lost my first barbel of the day when the hook pulled at the net, it was a fish of around 7lb. This seemed to slow the action down and it was just short of 10pm when the next savage take ripped the line from my fingers. A really hard fight followed before another big barbel rolled into the net. This one was a bit special, at last, 9lb 6oz, what a touch! Another tear jerking release occurred - I did not want to let it go. One more barbel was landed before midnight, ironically the smallest of the day at 4lb 12oz. I sat it out to 2am but I did not have another touch, finally they had gone, a good thing as I was now down to about 20 pieces of corn only.
The dawn was grey and misty, I cast out hoping but by 9 oíclock I had not had a touch. I went round to have a look but the gravel was devoid of fish. Eight barbel were caught in that afternoon and evening spell. Iím sure that to some that is nothing but this was not on match tackle. This was fishing for hard-fished-for fish with sensible tackle. It shows what can be achieved with an understanding of the fishes behaviour at this time of year. I did return for half a dozen further sessions in the swim before the end of October and caught a few more fish but never as big or in such numbers. I never ever visited the stretch again though after that autumn.
I hope this shows that, in some respects, rivers are no different to lakes and feeding situations can be created and fish can be made to feed with confidence in areas convenient to the angler. Without a doubt September and October are great months to achieve this. Look for the likely areas, put plenty of time in looking for the fish and fish accordingly, try to keep with a plan, do not be put off by initial failure. As I say, the more regularly you put bait in, the better the fishing will become, eventually.
Another example of when it all comes together in autumn, this time for carp, was when I was concentrating on a water and had the carp feeding well throughout the summer in the margins. I took a day off and baited under a tree that carp had been feeding under. It was a hot day again for October and carp were very hard to find anywhere but I did manage to stalk a 15lb common from the other side of the lake. I felt that some fish might move in to the tree as evening approached so I settled in, baited up and positioned a hookbait.
To my surprise two carp came in quite quickly, one was a large leather. I could clearly see it from my hiding place. It came in from the side of the tree, fed for a few seconds then swam back out of another gap in the branches before swimming in a large circle only to return five minutes later. It did this several times before I had a series of bleeps as the line tightened but a carp bow-waved out leaving the line limp. I guessed I had blown my chance but I had a look in there and found a mirror still feeding away quite happily. As it swam off, I quickly repositioned the bait and sat back again. A few minutes later there was a large splash under the tree, looking in there again the water was very coloured so I was unsure what had happened. It was possible that it was a pike as small fish were always attracted to the baits and would feed quite happily alongside the carp.
I left the bait in position and five minutes later at last I had a proper take. The carp rolled on top, right under the branches as I turned it from the pads on the other side of the tree. I clearly saw it was a mirror of around 18lb. The fight was well under control when to my dismay the hook pulled; the carp righted itself and dashed off into the lake. I cursed my luck and wound in.
I thought that the leather may not have been spooked and might come back, so I once more attempted to put a bait into position. As I stepped out to lower a bait in, a large heavily scaled mirror swam out from the tree away from me. I froze, afraid to move, it was one of two fish, both 30lb plus. I wondered whether it had been feeding or just passing. Without a moments delay I positioned the hookbait again. As the sun moved behind the trees it became hard to see into the water clearly but I could make out at least two carp under there. I sat by the rod hoping, watching the limp line and rod tip like a heron. Suddenly the line tightened and a yard of line was taken off the baitrunner. I was on it in a flash and pulled into a fish. The carp did little; no surging runs, just a plodding fight. It came up on the surface, a scaly shoulder on a broad back momentarily glistening in the evening sun before rolling over back into the depths. It still did not twig, and after a little run round in the edge I netted it easily. Peering into the net I could see that here was one of the lakes 30lbers. It was well hooked and was in perfect condition. The scales spun round to 31lb 5oz. I admired it for what seemed an age but what was probably less than a minute before reluctantly placing it back in a deep swim. It hung in the water momentarily before, like a grey submarine, it kicked its tail and swam away.
Four days later I turned up to find someone fishing the swim opposite the tree. I wandered round there for a chat. It had been a sunny day but cloud had built up and rain soon began to fall, heavy at first before settling into light spasmodic drizzle. After checking that nothing else was visible I set up in the overhanging tree swim again. I had plenty of time and with a steady wind blowing into the tree I was confident. I positioned the bait and baited up over the top. After a while the large leather turned up again, doing the same thing as before, swimming in and out of the tree, with another smaller mirror. I sat by the rod again watching intently. Around 6pm the line whipped tight and I was in again. The fight again was not too dramatic, just a heavy plod around. It rolled over to show the black and gold of a common carp. Close in it fought hard. I had to turn it from danger, finally though it rolled into the net. I could see it was a big common, it was hooked so far back in its mouth I needed forceps, confidence or what. It was another thirty, weighing 30lb 12oz. After placing it back I was left alone again. I wondered what to do, I had an hour left but the rain was worse so I packed and left wondering what would happen next.
I only had two days to wait to find out. I had planned to go a little later in the day but finished what I had to do early so I loaded up the car. Just as I did so the skies blackened, heavy rain fell and thunder roared. It was still hammering it down as I pulled up alongside the lake. I sat there wondering if it would stop and briefly considered turning round. I opened a door and looked across the lake. The surface seemed to indicate the rain was easing, the sky at least was brighter. I set off in light rain and straight away I could see a couple of dark shapes hanging out in the centre of the lake. As I reached the end of the lake where a channel between weed and bank was, I froze. There in front was a big carp, a mirror, just six feet out right over a gravel patch. I retreated slowly and considered the situation. Further out I saw more carp milling around. I went back to the car and gathered my gear, on my return the large mirror had moved out into the lake. I took the opportunity to bait up the little spot with a few baits and pellets before lowering a hookbait at the far edge of the patch and getting the leadcore right down in the weed. I baited up another spot on the other side of the swim before retying up the second rod with a new rig. However I never got a chance to cast it out, a buzzer screamed from behind me. Dashing back I struck into a hard fighting carp. It had already got very near some pads and was in danger of weeding me up in deeper water. The carp then decided it would kite round to the bush to my left, I had to clamp down completely, the rod at full compression. With the branches shaking it finally turned and the fight calmed down to a plod under the rod tip. Finally it rolled over and fell into the net. As it rolled over on its flank I could see that here again was a carp near 30lb. Setting up the sling and mat I hoisted it ashore. When it went 30lb 2oz on the scales I was delighted. As I returned it and watched it swim off I realised I had just caught three different 30lb plus carp in successive sessions over just seven days.
I could relate other very successful September and October sessions but Iím sure you have got the message. These two months are not to be missed, no matter what you are fishing for. Let's not forget that pike fishing is also excellent in these two months, not to mention bream and tench, roach and chub, so get out there. Make the most of it though because just around the corner is winter. Can we continue to catch carp, tench and barbel in winter? Of course we can, Iíll cover that next time.