Part 1 of 2
As fundamental principles go, confidence in your approach must rank as one of the most important. If you don’t have any confidence in what you are doing, it’s highly likely that you will intervene when it’s not really necessary and thus reduce your chances of catching when in reality, it might pay to let things develop and run their course before making any rash decisions. Of course, it can be a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation – how do you get the confidence if you can’t catch the fish?
The first thing to realise is that you can’t become an instant success overnight; it takes time, effort and dedication to be able to go out and catch carp on a regular basis, especially big carp, but no matter how good the person in the next swim might appear at first glance, it’s highly unlikely that even they will catch every time out!
So how do you gain confidence in your strategy and approach? First, you need to break things down a little and work on one area at a time – if you try to perfect everything at once, it rarely works – imagine making ten changes before your session begins, how do you know afterwards which ones were responsible for giving either good or bad results? You need some way of being able to analyse your findings in order to refine and perfect the approach.
If I’m struggling on a new water, I always break things down into three main areas; strategy, set-up, and bait. I will then change and adapt my approach in each of these areas until I begin to get results, taking things one step at a time. Strategy is of prime importance, without it you are pretty much chancing your arm every time you go out. I find it really helps to set out a game plan of what I want to achieve when I get to a water.
The first thing I do is look at my time available; if it’s a short session of four hours or less, I usually decide on a strategy and review it every hour or so – sometimes less if an obvious cue signals that intervention of some sort may be beneficial. However, if I’m on an overnighter or a full day session, I’ll often review things every four hours or so, unless, again, something happens along the way. I’m a big believer in letting things develop, and quite often I’ll get the result I’m after on a bait that has been in the water for over twenty-four hours, but that does not mean that I’ll happily cast out a bait and leave it irrespective of its potential to produce the goods, as I’m not the type to flog a dead horse, just the opposite, but the point I’m making is that if you are going to make a change, make sure it is for a good reason – not just for the sake of it.
I remember a fishing trip last summer on a day-ticket water close to home. I spotted a guy swapping swims more or less every hour. He was fishing bottom baits on a static set-up and not having much success – well, absolutely none, to be precise. I was fishing off the top, travelling light with just a few odds and ends. The fish were feeding, but as it was late afternoon and the local school kids had been bombarding them with all sorts during the day, the fish were very spooky, so my strategy was to stay mobile; get them feeding in one swim, bank one (at which point they would all disappear out of the area) then move again and repeat the process elsewhere. It worked well and by nightfall I’d banked over half a dozen off the top. As I packed up and made my way back to the car, I passed the guy who had been playing musical swims and said hello. He asked how I’d gone on and vice versa. The small talk continued and out of the blue he asked why I had kept changing swims. I explained my reasons; that I only changed swim if all the fish spooked away after I’d caught one, and you could almost see the penny drop. I asked why he had moved about so much, and if anything, I had to admire his honesty, as he simply replied that he had only done it because I had, and as it seemed to be working well for me he thought he’d give it a go, too!
The result was that he put a shed load of bait out in four or five different swims, and fished each swim for well under an hour – all because I was having a few off the top – hardly a logical reason to dramatically alter his strategy!
The point I’m making is that once you have laid out the strategy, stick with it unless something absolutely obvious jumps out at you. If you have given yourself four hours before you are going to check the bait, then make sure you leave it for the four hours! I see so many people continually worry about presentation that they end up checking their rods every hour for no good reason – any excuse to change or inspect the bait – you need to ensure it is right first time.
Set-Up: Supreme confidence in tried & tested kit banked me two thirties and five twenties during my third session on a heavily weeded water recently, this one at 33lb 4oz.
I will often make ten or more drop casts to the spot I intend to fish to ensure it’s free of weed or obstructions and in order that I can work out exactly what is going on on the lake bed. This way, when I cast a bait out, I don’t need to worry about how it is sitting – I know exactly how it’s sitting because I’ve just made ten or twenty drop casts into the area! As such, I have complete confidence in my presentation, allowing me to get on with the important business of looking for signs of fish rather than pacing the banks worrying about whether my hook is weeded or if my rig is sitting straight.
Confidence in your approach is also critical when it comes to bait and tackle, and we’ll cover that in the second part.
Until then, tight lines,