There comes a point in everyone's life that there has to be change to overcome the mundane similarities of day to day living and of course weekend to weekend leisure. The familiar becomes mundane and hackneyed, much like the title of this article, and the only hope to regain that momentum we call enthusiasm is to stop doing whatever is causing the boredom and have a go at something else. At such a time so may a match or general course angler decide to have a go at carp angling. He may decide that he would like to catch something that is larger than the holes in his keepnet, he may fancy something a little more resistant on the retrieve than the force of two maggots clubbing together and wriggling in the opposite direction....... but I'm not here to mock you and your 8oz bottom and size 24 hook that need the attentions of an electron microscope just to be visible to the naked eye, far from it. The carp world is barely sane with its endless rig paraphernalia and more flavours than a Cordon Bleu chef could think of. No, I'm here to help if you do feel like dipping your toes across the divide and into the other waters so to speak. Just follow my simple advice and you will at least feel as if you are nearer comprehension and won't be intimidated by the unknown. It won't be too difficult, most of the time it's just a question of buying the right stuff to look street....sorry....lakeside cred. And hey! If you only fish for 24 hours on a 'hard' water (as in difficult and not as in amounts of calcium and magnesium) no-one will expect you to catch in any case!
First things first though, most importantly we have to look the part and in order to do that we have to look at equipment. This is a very dangerous area, the wrong reels, a bad choice of alarms can send you crashing in the trendy carpman stakes. If you really want to become a carpman you've got to have the gear. Have no misconceptions being hip to the tackle scene is not going to be cheap, but then neither is your mortgage. There is a myriad of choice, most of it good quality, so here we go and hang on to your wallet, your going to need it.
The basics: Rods have to be carbon and at least 12ft, abbreviated grips for the super cool and the more expensive the better, of course. There is a huge range but if in doubt just go for top price or pick a well known carp angler's name out of a hat and choose the rod he endorses. Although your local pond is only about 30 yards wide always buy something capable of casting 150 yards, i.e. at least 2 1/2lb T.C. If you blow out of carp fishing you can always take it down the beach and go after a few mackerel in the summer. Don't buy any less than 3 at a time and anything with cork on it is the kiss of death. Duplon rules OK. Don't try and get away with using your old trotting rod or that very nice little wand of yours otherwise you may well be thrown in the lake. Us carpmen don't like outsiders. Oh, and make sure you've got one of those rod holdalls that can take 3 rods all ready set up and raring to go, you don't tackle up on the bank in this business.
Reels: Mitchell 300's went out with decimalisation, anything with Intrepid on it and you'll be ridiculed to death. ABU 55's have had it, Shimano Baitrunners are the kiddies, expensive, loads of technical wizardry, massive line capacity for your 2 acre pond, totally over the top, but just what you need. Once again buy 3. One word of warning, for God's sake keep all those closed faced reels that hold about 50ft of 2 1/2lb breaking strain well out of sight, better still smuggle the bloody things down to the nearest dustbin, you won't be needing them again.
Alarms: Again a good choice, Optonics are ok but not quite as exotic as Fox or Delkim, no old Herons with their bit of grotty wire incidentally. As long as the alarm can block out Concorde on lift off you know that you are well on the right track decibel wise. Once more you will need 3 of them, each one with a different coloured latching light either red, green or orange. Delkim make an exclusive blue one which is about £7 dearer, don't ask me why. If you're feeling really flush you can buy indicators that don't sound at the alarm but actually transmit the signal to a separate box, transmit... no wires...yes, wherever that may be, you know in the anglers bivvy, car, in bed at his house.... whatever. They're the business and so's that expression but more of that later.
To compliment the alarms a three rod set-up buzz bar system should be carried at all times, even and I must stress this, on two rod waters. The unused middle lane with opti pouch on alarm is a nice piece of power dressing. Any system is OK but titanium is better than stainless, on any water. The monkey climber system has I'm afraid died a death in the fashion stakes lately, swingers are in and if you get the ones that can tension the line so much the better. A word of warning to all ex-matchmen, please keep all those hideous rod rests that look as if they've been made out of old coat hangers and bend double when they're waved in a stiff breeze right out of sight. Also as we are on the subject of bite indication keep all those bloody floats out of sight as well. Particularly that favourite float of yours that you caught 40lb of bream with 20 years ago which is kept next to the photo of the wife and kids in your wallet and called "old matey" when you take it out and start talking to it. Don't even think about silver paper or dough bobbins or old washing-up bottle tops. OK?
Accessories: Landing nets, weigh slings, sacks and unhooking mats are all items that the budding neo-carpman must be familiar with. They all come under the banner of 'the bigger the better'. Matchmen may find it hard to believe that there are fish in our waters that require the aforementioned items in such large sizes, but they do exist. Scales should be able to weigh at least a bag of spuds (1/2 cwt), no Super Samsons I'm afraid. Incidentally, catapults should be strong enough to deliver a house brick fully 100 yards and a ball of groundbait into orbit, not that you'll be using anything so quaint and Victorian as groundbait not unless it's called a Pellet or on 'The Method'. For the moment just buy rigs already made up which will save you having to get to grips with a load of horrendous theories, then stick a 3ozs...yes...3ozs bomb on with at least 10lb main line. If you want to have a go at buying individual bits and bobs for rigs you could be in for a nasty shock what with the likes of heat shrink tubing, hawser, magma, gorilla braid, no spook anti tangle tube in 1mm and 1.5mm, silicon tubing, dental floss, powergum (you might have heard of that), knot beads, leader knot beads, rubber shock beads, no tangle gel, super heavy tungsten putty, in line leads, terrapin leads, pendant leads.... believe me it's a minefield and that only scratches the surface. You can buy a helicopter rig, you can buy an amnesia longshank D rig in 2-8 hook sizes but you wouldn't know how to tie one, you don't even need to have the dimmest comprehension of what it is....so...empty your mind buy six rigs all the same off the shelf, whack the lead on and worry no more. You'll be much better off, I know carp anglers in therapy over rig choice. Two last things, don't forget to trade your tweezers in for a decent set of forceps and chuck the keepnet.
Sleeping arrangements and luggage: It is a fact of life that to carp fish properly you have to sleep on the water, not literally of course although I do know a few carp anglers who think they can walk on it. A bivvy is paramount, if you don't like b
eing alone in the dark there are these new two man bivvies with strange names like Apotheosis....... in fibreglass or aluminium, so there. (I've just looked it up in the Concise Oxford and it means deification or deified ideal or highest development. If you've got a big ego or an even bigger gut and can stand the homophobic gossip, this is the bivvy for you. There's another one called the Two-Man Titan which at least lets you know where you stand without a university degree in English). On an individual scale 50" Nu-brollies only. 45" is only really any good if your under 5ft and therefore have an excuse. Full overwrap and groundsheet are compulsory although a mosquito window is optional. You'll need a huge rucksack to lug all this around in, carrying tackle around in old Leeds Utd bags or even worse on a trolley with Team Diawa splashed down the side will make you stand out like a 5p up a sweep's bottom. The bedchair is an easy choice, the most expensive that you can afford, simple as that. The old Argos sunlounger, floral pattern especially is simply just not on. For overnight a sleeping bag may be needed, no blankets and don't even think of a duvet. The matchman must remember that he is likely to be fishing for quite some time and can do so for as long as he likes. You don't have to stop because someone's blown a whistle now you know and for this reason you may wish to invest in a stove to cook Sunday dinner on.
Well there we are, we've got all the gear, brand spanking new, all four tons of it. You've also got a nasty surprise coming when the Barclaycard bill flops through the letterbox but nevermind. All that remains for the moment is to go and set everything up in the back garden to help familiarise yourself with it and then smother it all in mud, wash it down with some salt water and let it corrode for a day or two. All new gear is just too uneasing and conspicuous. Next time, we'll look at the second part of your transition. In the meantime, read as much as you can about carp fishing to get a bit of a feel for it all. Try sleeping in the bivvy for a few nights, if you've bought the big one try and persuade the wife/girlfriend to kip out with you. Believe me it won't be long before you start to do the business, you've already helped the tackle shop do his.
Mark Cunnington - www.carpbooks.com