My Dad and I are new to carp fishing and are soon to try day fishing a more challenging water, Yateley RMC Sandhurst Lake for the first time this Saturday. So far we have been successfully using; carp rods ( Fox Warrior), standard bolt rig set up and size 8 or 10 hooks, Long Shank Nailer’s or Korda Wide Gape and mostly PVA bags or method mix. We recently fished the syndicate lake at Gold Valley Aldershot near the oxygenator where there were loads of fish rolling jumping and one even swam on the surface near us. We could not even get a bite. It was weird and we blanked for that day, it was cold and sunny.
Do carp stop eating during the day at this time of year? At Sandhurst Lake we have been told it is weedy and silty and we are planning to use mainline strawberry pop-ups for the first time. At this time of year how do the fish behave and how can we find them if they are not jumping around? What sort of groundbaiting tactics should we use; lots of groundbait or little?
Also please could you explain the relationship between the size of the hook and the size of the boilie?
Thanks very much for your help
Jacob Modak age 12
Thanks for the detailed email. There are a few different questions contained within. Firstly, for information on locating carp and baiting during the colder months, have a look HERE as I’ve recently answered a similar question. However, in addition to that I will just add a little bit in relation to your experiences on Gold Valley. It’s often the case that in the colder months the fish tend to stay lower in the water. However, obviously here they had reason to come up further in the water to investigate the upper layers. Now, carp fishing off the top in Winter is generally regarded as a bit loopy, however, recent experiences have proved this is not necessarily the case. Among a few friends we have decided to see if we can catch carp off the surface during each month of the year. We’ve just got underway and without too much difficulty have managed to bank fish in both October and November using dog biscuits, the best fish a mid-twenty pound mirror!
I’m not suggesting that you start fishing off the top throughout Winter • though what I would say is that if you happen to spot fish in the upper layers you’d be mad not to at least chuck a few floaters out just to see what happens! As I’ve seen Gaffer previously state, carp will often feed off the surface as readily as they will feed off the bottom if the right conditions exist • and after my recent experiences taking carp in cold weather conditions, I would say that just because it’s Winter does not mean they won’t have a bait placed on the surface. In addition to dog biscuits, I’ve had cold water surface captures using bright coloured pop-ups fished hair-rigged on the surface, so you don’t even need to have dog biscuits with you!
OK, to move onto the next part of your question • How to match the size of hook to the size of the bait. In simple terms it’s about getting a balance • if you use a Size 2 carp hook to present a single grain of sweetcorn; you don’t need me to tell you that it’s going to look a little suspect on the lake bed - The same thing applies to the hook setting properties of a 30mm boilie presented on a Size 14. In addition you need to equate the hook size and strength to the stamp of fish present within the lake. Many will use bigger hooks where bigger carp are present, and whilst there is a lot of evidence to suggest this is a good theory, I personally would not use large hooks with small baits. For example I know anglers who don’t use anything smaller than a Size 4 hook if there are decent carp present, even if they are only fishing a 10mm bait • this to me is ludicrous! I would much rather match my hook size to the size of the bait, and my results would tend to suggest that this is by far the better method. I’ve lost count of the big fish I’ve caught on small hooks • my belief is that once the hook is set it’s the ability of the angler to play the fish that determines whether the fish goes into the net or not, within reason the size of the hook is irrelevant. You should of course take note of the situation you are faced with • if you are fishing into heavy weed or snags then you may need a stronger or slightly larger hook than if you are fishing a water devoid of obstacles.
What you then need to do is look at the way you intend to present the bait; either on the bottom, popped-up, or even on the surface, and then match a hook that will allow a balance between bait and the presentation. Some anglers advocate the use of loads of hook types and patterns, and I’ve seen anglers with literally hundreds of hook types in there tackle box, all supposedly suited to a particular application. However, experience has taught me that all this tends to do is overcomplicate the matter in hand. I’m a big believer in keeping things simple • as such, I have a small selection of patterns in a few different sizes that suit all my needs. This means that when I need a particular hook to do a particular job I’m looking to select it from no more than five or six different types • an easy decision made in a matter of seconds, whereas tackle man next door needs at least an hour before he’s even gone through all those he has available • result being that once his selection has eventually been made, the moment may well have passed him by!
Within reason, you can do just as well with a small selection of patterns, each suited to a different presentation as mentioned above. Then it’s a case of getting the right size to match the bait and intended fish. That said, I would estimate 95% of my fish come to the same sized hook • I rarely fish anything other than a Size 8. I find a Size 8 is perfect for almost any bait; two or three grains of corn on a hair, a nice juicy worm, a tiger nut, a few maggots, or boilies between 10mm and 18mm. It’s only if I’m using a boilie over 20mm or a few grains of hemp fished on a hair that I would change up or down from a Size 8.
Essentially, hook choice is extremely personal and it may take time for you to find a type and size that you are happy with, but my advice would be to stick with the sizes you are currently using. However, once you have found a hook that gives you supreme confidence you may well find you stick with it for a long time into the future. I went through a phase a few years back of trying to find a hook to suit the majority of my fishing and it was no easy feat. I eventually settled on an old Ashima pattern in a Size 8 that I managed to get my hands on and I’ve been using it ever since for a multitude of presentations. Over the last year I’ve also been using a selection of Nash Fang hooks (as reviewed here) in Size 8 or smaller and I would say these two patterns amongst the odd long shank have been used for virtually every situation I’ve been faced with for the last few years.
Hope this helps.
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