Ask a Stupid Question

I often wonder if carp fishing is becoming more about having all the right tackle and looking the part, than it is about actually going out, catching a few fish and having some fun. I’ve noticed a worrying trend out on the banks where newcomers into the sport feel almost pressured into being the next ‘big thing’ with many seemingly afraid to ask the most simple of questions for fear of looking stupid, such is the importance of maintaining an apparent air of credibility, even if it means they end up catching nothing!

Quite how this has come about I’m not sure, but it’s a great shame. The bottom line is that if you want to succeed in angling, you should never be afraid to ask a question, no matter how stupid you think it may sound. I can guarantee you won’t be the first person that’s asked, and I doubt you’ll be the last to be stuck on whatever the problem may be. Trying to look good on the bank is all good and well, but the latest stainless bank sticks and posh new bivvy will only hide silent buzzers for so long – far better to bite the bullet and ask for some help when you need it.

I remember one evening last summer when I nipped down to a local day ticket water after work to spend an hour or two stalking off the top. As I walked around the lake to see what was occurring, I came across three young lads who, in all honesty, did not have a clue what they were doing. They had all the latest gear, much of it better than mine, but were clearly unable to use it. They were all fishing off the top with set-ups that would have spooked any self-respecting carp within half a mile, and with techniques to match I had a fair idea they were not having much success.

I stopped off to ask them how they were doing and was pretty much given the cold shoulder from the off. I asked if they had caught anything, to which they grunted no, but this, they added, was due to the fact that the fish weren’t ‘having it’. One of the lads continued with words to the effect that there was nothing wrong with their set-up, so it had to be down to the fish, and that they would doubtless catch something soon – I was not so sure, and as for the fact that the fish weren’t feeding, this simply wasn’t the case, for as soon as the mixers were hitting the bottom end of the lake they were quickly getting picked off by a ravenous group of the carp – something they seemed completely oblivious to.

They had a treasure trove of tackle between them strewn around various shiny tackle boxes, most of which contained all the relevant bits and pieces required to lighten down their tackle and get some takes. Now, whilst no one likes to be told that they are doing something wrong (a teenage ego can be a funny thing!) I felt it my duty to try and help these lads catch a few carp. As such, I politely asked if they had tried lightening their gear to try and get a few takes, at which point one of the lads told me that they weren’t numpties and knew exactly how to fish – top rods, apparently.

Angler with common carpFair enough. I left it with them. I carried on down to the corner of the lake where their mixers were getting picked off by the carp and quickly set up. I’m not usually one to gloat, but I have admit that the five fish I took during the next hour (to their none) did seem so much more rewarding than usual, especially as I was in their full view for each one!

About three weeks later, I was walking around the same lake, again for a few hours fishing, when I came across an almost identical situation. Two lads fishing off the top with a set-up that did not look like a born fish-taker. The only difference between these lads and the previous lot, was that these lads had hardly any tackle between them. I asked how they were doing. They said they were struggling and could not buy a take even though the fish were feeding, they just didn’t know what else to try. I asked if they had tried lightening their approach and they said they did not know what I meant. To cut a long story short, I went on to show them how to construct a proper floater fishing set-up, gave them various bits of tackle, and then explained how to try and get the fish feeding before casting over and drawing back the hookbait. They were dead keen and listened intently throughout. Eventually one of them managed to bag a decent double off the top – a new PB. I never even wet a line that evening, but I think I went home the happier angler! I’ve seen them a number of times since on the same water and they take great pleasure in telling me how they are getting on with the tips I’ve given them.

So what made the first three lads act the way they did? Who knows, but it was their loss. I remember when I first started carp fishing that I constantly asked questions to try and better my game. I fished a small club water with a few regulars and after spotting who the better anglers were, I was always round on their pegs to try and learn as much as I could. Often I would just sit and watch what they did, not saying a word – all part of the learning process. It must have paid off as I’ve managed plenty of fish over the years, but the key is to realise that you never stop learning.

It’s not just the younger anglers, either. I meet the same adult know-it-alls on a regular basis; those who’ve been there, seen it, done it – and caught the lake record no less! Nine times out of ten they are talking utter rubbish, so what’s the point? They are not fooling anyone, only themselves! I’m never afraid to speak up or ask a question, or to look stupid if I don’t understand something. In the long run, by questioning what you don’t understand you become a better angler, and I don’t care who I take advice from; you don’t always have to act on it but you’d be surprised what you might learn.

Carp fishing can be a steep learning curve when you first start out, but by asking questions and trying things out you’ll soon get to grips with the basics, but trust me, twenty years down the line and I’m still trying to learn more – it never stops. So there’s little point in pretending you know it all, or in trying to make out you’re the next big thing; far better to get an understanding of what you don’t know and let the fish on the bank do the talking!

Tight Lines…

Julian Grattidge
November 2010