This month, I have been targeting carp on a club water near Knutsford in Cheshire. It’s a relatively small water of around three acres with a healthy stock of carp to almost 30lbs; the trouble is, it’s a highly pressured venue and the fish can be very rig shy!
I like to start my day sessions early, often arriving at 0400 hours to give me chance for a quick mooch around the venue to see if I can find any signs of feeding or moving fish, as I believe that this is one of the main periods during the day for carp to show themselves. The pool I’m fishing has only eight pegs to give each angler plenty of room without impinging on any other swims, and it also allows the fish some respite from the constant angling pressure. As a consequence, there are definitely one or two ‘hot’ pegs which give the fish some cover and a chance to hit the snags if you are not careful!
Unfortunately, my favoured pegs are all taken by overnight anglers and a line of dew covered bivvies guards the far bank where I fancy the fish will be. This particular lake is a shallow, silty water which warms up very quickly with the sun on it, and as a result, the carp often move into sunny patches to feel the warmth on their backs. The presence of an island with extensive tree and shrub growth means that you can often end up chasing the fish around it as the sun rises during the day and the shaded area moves into your swim!
As my intended spot is well and truly ‘stitched up’, a slow walk around reveals fish all over the place and a peg in the woods is full of cruising carp. Reaching the far bank, the angler in ‘my’ peg gets out of his camp and tells me that he has caught nothing overnight although his friend has had a mid double and lost one. An angler in an unfancied swim has had three fish and lost another, so, as usual, this place continues to confound me! Chatting a while longer, I’m told that the three bivvies will be packed away around lunch time as the lads have to go to work.
The weather forecast is for bright sunshine and high temperatures, so the fish will either spend the day dawdling through the upper layers, or will retire to the sanctuary of ‘the snags’ at the far end of the venue, depending on the number of leads hitting the water. As I’ve seen a lot of fish in the woods, I decide to get started and return to the van to load the barrow. By the time I’ve got my kit over the stile, (a job I hate as I have to unload, then reload, the barrow), decided on tactics and assembled the rods, it’s getting on for 0600 and the sun is already getting higher on the horizon. This morning I’m going with one rod fished on the bottom and a surface controller float to try and pick off one of the cruising fish. The controller float is once again the Korda ‘Kruiser’ attached to a mono hook link and size 8 hook, with an imitation dog biscuit as bait.
The surface rod gets cast out into open water while I set up the bottom baits; a few free offerings are scattered into a likely margin spot and the rig lowered in over the top. I haven’t put out any freebies around the surface bait, as I want to keep the ducks away if I can to reduce the risk of one sneaking into the swim and me missing it! Before I’ve even had chance to tighten up my indicators, the surface bait shoots under as an unseen carp sucks the bait in and the ‘Kruiser’ does its job of setting the hook. Lifting into the fish, it puts up a spirited battle before slipping into the net. I’m not going to bother weighing it as it looks to be around 12lbs, so it gets lowered back to the lake to fight another day. A good start. Whilst I’m getting ready to cast again, I notice that the angler opposite is starting to collapse his camp ready to depart. It’s only 0630, so I have a wander around the island to check on his mates, and sure enough, they are packing up too; so much for a lunch time finish……
I’ve been in my spot for less than an hour and already the peg I’d fancied before arriving is now free. There are several other anglers already on the water, more cars idling into the car park and more certain to turn up throughout the day. It’s staring me in the face! My peg! The one peg where fish will be! I know it, they know it, and every other angler knows it, so who will make the effort and move into the swim?! I hate moving; I don’t fish light, taking everything with me every trip in case I change my mind enroute or the fishing situation demands I alter my angling. Additionally, I’ll have to negotiate the stile again, and I can never move without making at least two trips. There is also another stile on the far side meaning I’ll have to unload/relaod twice! Not good….
It’s got to be done though, so I quickly reel in, pick up my pod and defiantly deposit it in the hallowed swim. “Had enough already mate?” asks another angler as I traipse through his camp as he wakes up and then goes white as he sees the empty, unguarded peg! He will never get there first, it’s all mine! Half an hour of sweaty kit carrying later and I’m ready to start again. I’ve been on site for almost three hours and spent about twenty minutes actually fishing! The carp have gone deep with the increase in angler activity so I’m now fishing two bottom baits.
The chosen swim is a small bay with an abundance of submerged trees, overhanging cover, reeds and lilies. It can only be reached directly from the area I’m now in, or by a bait flicked around the corner from the opposing grassy bank. Stealth is needed to place a baited hook without spooking the fish, so it’s imperative to be quiet and take the time to do it properly. Just a few feet out of place can be the difference between catching and failing……
Both my rods are rigged using ACE terminal tackle; I’ve been using their products now for about a year and I have become a big fan as I’ve never had a breakage or failure whilst tackling specimen fish. I have faith in the camouflaged leadcore, hook links and associated rig bits to deceive any carp that fancies a crack at my baits. Each bait is to be presented on ACE leadcore. One rig is fished ‘helicopter’ style, and the other on a lead clip, both pre tied from the ‘Hard on’ range. A flying back lead ensures the tackle is pinned ‘hard on’ the bottom and ACE ‘camo core’ coated braid completes the rigs.
The helicopter rig is cast under far bank cover and will look after itself. I know there are no snags in this part of the swim, so I’ve have no worries about losing tackle. The only other consideration is with presentation, so I always put dissolving rig foam around the hair and over the hook bend to stop the hair tangling. The lead clip rig is chosen because I’m fishing ‘locked up’ close to subsurface obstructions and I know if I’m not right on top of the rods I may have a problem. Fish welfare is paramount and I don’t want a tethered carp as a result of sloppy angling so it’s necessary to adapt to the situation. I want my lead to ‘dump’ on every potential pick up so I trim the lead clip right back to leave just enough to get some purchase for the tail rubber; no more than two ribs on the clip and always wet the two with saliva before pushing the clip and the tail rubber together. Both leads are from the ACE stable and both have smooth finishes as I’ve had the odd problem with supple braided hook links recently which have stuck to roughened or coated leads in flight and remained there, ruining presentation!
The second bait is lowered into eighteen inches of water a foot from the bank, bail arm left open and walked back the ten yards to the peg before setting the indicators. I’m using fairly heavy swingers, tight lines and the reel clutch tightened fully as I don’t want a take stripping line off the spool and running into the snags; I can watch the rod tips to decide when I have a fish near! Both traps are set using SAE bait developments ‘crab & oyster’ 14mm boilies which have caught well for me so far this season. Many anglers use a round boilie straight from the bag without considering whether the carp recognise it as a danger signal and avoid it until it has decomposed a bit. On pressured waters, I like to shake things up by shaping my baits, presenting them ‘butterfly’ style or a couple of halves on top of each other. I’ll even go down to half a boilie if I think it will buy a bite.
Within fifteen minutes, the right hand rod tip starts to tremble as carp brush against the line. I’ve only dropped five or six squashed boilies onto the hook bait so I know I’m in with a chance. Seconds later, the tip bashes around as a carp fails to eject the hook and charges towards the snags. It is now that the importance of staying close to the rods and fishing ‘locked up’ becomes evident. If I had let the fish gain ANY line, it would have buried in the snags and been lost, often trailing broken tackle; by applying strong but steady pressure, it is possible to turn the fish (called kiting) into open water purely by using water pressure and the angle of your line, without bullying it or causing mouth damage.
At 19lbs 12ozs, it’s a smashing mirror, fully spawned out and fighting fit as the previous ten arm aching minutes have proved. A couple of speedy self takes and the carp gets returned to the water using the weigh sling to support it until ready to swim off unharmed. During the battle, I’d noticed the carper on the far bank who I’d previously moved past look on enviously as his alarms stayed silent… Rebaiting, I don’t get chance to recast as the left hand rod signals a single steady tone as a fish takes line off the spool and moves off into open water. Another good scrap and a mirror of 15lbs 3ozs is weighed and released. Three fish in ninety minutes; the lad on the opposite side is waving to the angler on the lawn peg, so I know all fish have been seen which worries me a bit as it’s not unusual to expect a lead to come crashing in from elsewhere!
Contributor Clint Walker with a lump!
On a runs water, dumping leads every cast can prove to be expensive so it becomes worth considering other options such as the helicopter rig which works in a different way and has no need to discharge the lead. My fourth fish follows within the next few minutes and is banked at 13lbs 8ozs; again the lead is lost which means that every single time, the lead clip set up has worked exceptionally well which increases my confidence in the rig. Confidence is a vital aspect of my fishing and I’m often guilty of messing about too much when I don’t get the results I want. The pre-tied rigs I’m now using appear to be bombproof and will need no further tampering with!
As the sun comes up even higher, the fish retreat deeper into the safety of ‘the snags’ and it becomes dangerous to try and put baits amongst them. I’m not a ‘fish at all costs’ angler, much prefering to change my tactics or switch area. I’ve already noticed a tiny bay on the far bank between two sets of bushes which has had fish moving through it all morning, so both baits go out tight to the far margin hoping to intercept carp as they move under cover. For the next three hours, the alarms are silent as the carp rise up in the water and waterfowl activity makes a floating bait or shallow zig rig impossible so I just have to watch and wait…..time for a sandwich.
As always, just as I get the tea out and a sandwich in the other hand, the alarm fires up as yet another carp grabs a snack. Chucking my lunch away, the rod soon gets into a comfortable curve before the beaten fish ends up in the net. 15lbs 5ozs of golden mirror carp are quickly captured on megapixels (remember when it used to be film?) and it swims off back to cover with a disgruntled flick of the tail. Carp number six immediately picks up the other bait, again before I’ve had chance to recast, and is landed at 13lbs. I’ve now had almost 90lbs of belting fish which have scrapped all the way to the net in just seven hours. The other anglers on the pool are thinning out as no other fish have been landed during the day. I know the chap on the lawn peg has lost a fish as it shot into cover (demonstrating the importance of being ‘locked up’), but no one else has had a bleep.
Final take of the session happens soon after, but I manage to lose the fish as my rod becomes fully compressed and locks up so I’m unable to stop it shedding the hook. I’ve now managed seven runs, hit all of them and landed six fish. Elsewhere, no fish have been landed, so what did I take from this visit? If I hadn’t taken the opportunity to move swims early, I believe I would have taken the first fish and no more. In my sessions at this particular lake, I’ve been able to identify definite feeding patterns and approximate times, general patrol routes around the water, and how the carp react to angling pressure and the weather; this has taken a lot of time and effort! I often blank on a first visit to a new venue, it’s something that does bother me, but I’m obviously not an instant hit kind of angler. I know I have to be prepared to put the hours in to watch and learn from other anglers, read the water and gain information from the internet or other sources. To me, it’s what angling is all about, and it’s why I enjoy it so much!!