The weather last spring and early summer was unpredictable and very wet at times, but I’m not really complaining too much; the water levels on most lakes finally got back up to normal and I had some good carpy action in the wet, with some lovely St Ives fish to over 30lb. I was also on hand to do photos of the Colin, the Shallow Lagoon biggie at over 46lb, which was good to see. I know a few anglers out there who can get very jealous and resentful of other people catching their targets, but not me. I’m always pleased to see a big fish on the bank and if its one that’s on my target list I can often pick up information that could help me in my quest to catch it. Info on previous captures can be worth its weight in gold and there’s nothing more reliable than being there and witnessing the event yourself.
With many carp at their top weights and in superb condition, now really is a good time to be out on the bank before the annual ritual of spawning gets under way. Once this is over, some of the carp we catch through the summer may well be down in weight and some will be carrying a few scrapes and minor injuries picked up during their enthusiastic spawning activities. Mind you, I probably would if I only got the chance once a year! It’s remarkable how quickly these wounds can heal up, but even so, carp can also be at their most vulnerable, so it’s up to us to treat them with utmost care.
At any time of the year, carp care starts long before we get a fish on the bank. This means being prepared and having everything ready and to hand for when the fish is in the net. I’ve seen people running around like headless chickens trying to get sorted when a carp has been caught, especially when it’s a big 'un. It’s important not to let the excitement of the moment take over when you have a duty of care for the fish.
Once the carp is in the net, I like to secure it in the edge and give the fish a chance to get its breath back. After all, the last thing I’d want after running a 100m sprint is to be held underwater. This gives me a chance to make sure my scales are zeroed, the cradle and sling are wet, I have plenty of water to hand and the camera is set up if I’m doing self takes.
It’s crucial to always make sure the fins are flat to the body of the carp, this simple measure prevents damage during movement, the fish will also be less stressed and easier to handle. When the weighing and photos are done, I then like to treat any wounds or missing scales that may have occurred during spawning. Everything I need for this can be found in the Nash Medicarp first aid kit. There’s a small towel which can be used to gently dab the affected area dry. I then apply a generous amount of Medicarp to one of the applicator buds and then apply to the wound, it’s as easy as that. When the fish is returned to the lake, the Medicarp forms a gel which seals and protects the wound. Although I’ve seen this kit featured in a number of articles recently and other good advice, too, it’s depressing to see the number of anglers on the bank that don’t carry this or a similar kit. There are plenty of options to choose from, so there’s no excuse.
When returning the fish to the water, it’s important to always carry the carp in the sling, never be tempted to just pick the fish up and take it in your arms back to the water. One flip of the tail and the fish could be dropped causing serious harm or even death – don’t do it!
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
It’s important to look after yourself as well as the carp. During the spring, night time temperatures can drop quite low, so it’s still worth carrying some extra warm clothing in the rucksack. The late spring and early summer sun can catch you out, too. In the past, I’ve suffered from sunburn, sunstroke and mozzy attacks, all of which are preventable. Back in my Elstow days, I spent a day stalking in the back bay and was so transfixed on my targets that I didn’t notice the back of my calves and knees turning an angry shade of red. It was so painful that I went home the following morning, a day early, and that night ‘The Mother’ was caught from that swim. I now always carry some factor 30 in my kit along with a strong mozzy repellent and anti histamine tablets.
Windows of opportunity can be narrow at this time of the year, so being awake and alert at these times is an invaluable edge. If you are up and about at dawn, you will probably spot fish activity that may only last for a short while. It’s worth the effort and you can always have a short sleep later. This often missed activity can provide so much useful information.
I’ve also lost count of the times where an early morning swim move, or slight change of tactics, has paid off.
FOCUSING ON THE DETAIL
I’m very aware that focusing on the small things brings big rewards. Just recently, I brought a rig in clean but the Twister hook point didn’t feel quite as sticky sharp as I would have liked, so it was replaced with a fresh one. Instead of putting a Monster Squid Purple or Red back out, I quickly trimmed a 20mm Black Squid down to a roughly chopped cube. A colour change, or alternative shape, can often produce a bonus bite at scratching time. A small pva bag of broken red purple and black boilies accompanied the rig back out to the spot and, once again, I was happy. In little under an hour, I was playing a really angry carp which actually felt a lot bigger than it was. It cleverly used its power to just hang in open water, then kite to my right, coming dangerously close to a snag on the end of an island. I applied as much pressure as I dared, the fish narrowly missed the snag but then dug itself into a weed bed in front of me. It wasn’t stuck fast, but it made netting the fish a bit tricky. The fish was quickly photographed and safely returned and the rod was back on the spot. By 6.30am the sun was up and all fish activity ceased.
Sometimes a change of shape is enough
I must mention the Nash De-Cam mono at this point. The new line provides everything I’d expected; high strength and abrasion resistance, it’s fast sinking, supple and casts extremely well. De-Cam also delivers maximum concealment from the baited spot right back to the rod tip. I’ve landed some hard fighting summer carp on the 12lb version and it's proven more than capable with a good margin to spare. If you have any issues with your choice of line, this is the one to change to.
De-Cam mono has definitely given me an edge
Having watched carp investigating baited spots at close quarters, I’m sure that the longer a fish feeds on a spot with a rig in situ, the less likely I am to catch it. They seem to suss the rig out somehow and either spook off the spot or carry on feeding, giving the hookbait a wide berth
I first witnessed this behaviour on Elstow 2, when I had The Pig and a couple of smaller fish feeding in the edge. I watched them for sometime, but the longer they fed, the less likely it seemed I would actually hook one as they stubbornly refused to pick up the hookbait. Through inexperience, I left everything in place thinking one would slip up eventually.
I did catch one from that spot eventually, but not one of the three that had been happily munching my free bait. It was actually a mid 20 leather called The Sausage, which I watched swim in and hook itself almost immediately. The other fish were obviously aware of the danger, but The Sausage was not and slipped up. Similar observations over the years have taught me an important lesson, and that is if you know you’ve got fish feeding and you’re not getting any action, then change something!
This is when products like the multi coloured Rainbow popups really score; a simple change of hook bait shape, size or colour could be all that’s required.
Rainbows – one flavour – multiple colours - perfect when you’re angling for a bite
I prefer to use as light a lead as possible. Unless I’m fishing at distance, this will usually be 1 or 2 ounces. Recasting at bite time has the potential to spook any carp in the area, so I have to minimise that risk. Secondly, it seems to me that most carpers use leads of 3oz or bigger. For me, this causes far too much disturbance on a quick recast and I’m also sure that on pressured waters carp have long learned to deal with a rig securely anchored by a heavy lead. The textured coating on my Nash leads, which looks rather like multicolored rough sand paper, blends well against any lake bed conditions. This also provides another advantage point or two. I can recommend these, but be aware of inferior imitations.
ANGLE FOR THOSE FISH
Before I got into carping, I spent my time match or pleasure fishing on my local canals and rivers and that experience has proved invaluable.
Top match men are, in my opinion, the most effective anglers out there. If you get the chance to watch them in action, I’m sure you will agree. Compared to the average carper, they are hyperactive and know exactly how to work and get the best from their swim.
We can all learn from this approach, but those skills can only be learned from time spent on the bank and you have to be prepared to make a few mistakes along the way, too. Small changes or adjustments to rigs and baits, or more drastic changes such as moving swims, have all brought big rewards for me and they will do for you.
Mark Watson, May 2013