It’s something a lot of anglers talk about, how to get amongst the bigger fish, or how to catch one fish in particular, but in reality it’s not that easy to do. I get lots of correspondence on the subject from anglers who can’t seem to get past the smaller carp in the lake they are fishing, even though they know there are bigger fish present. So how do you do it? Well, like most things in angling there’s no one single answer that is suddenly going to bank you the lake record, but there are certainly strategic factors for consideration, which when applied at the right time, have certainly helped me to catch the larger fish within a lake.
However, before we look at the ways in which to target the big’uns, you fist need to ask if yourself if you are ready to tackle the job in hand? I guess the whole point of carping is that we want to challenge ourselves and catch bigger fish, but it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves – you need to be sure you are ready to do battle with a big fish, as hooking a big carp and then losing it through inability would be a real shame.
I get lots of emails via www.northwestcarp.co.uk from young anglers who have caught a few single figure carp in their local lakes and now want to know how to catch a thirty pounder as they think they are ready – unfortunately it’s not that simple, as watercraft skills and experience all play a part in the gradual upping of catch weight. Put simply, you need to learn the basics - you need to master the art of playing and catching carp on runs-waters; those that are well stocked with single figure carp where you can have multiple catches in a day. Here you will learn all the basics of baiting and rigs, and find presentation methods that actually work.
There should be no rush to jump up the next rung of the ladder, as don’t forget – it’s supposed to be fun! Once you have mastered the basics, it’s time to step up to the doubles-waters, those where the average size of the fish is over 10lb. Here you will learn to play the carp, as landing a feisty mid-double can be a completely different ball game compared to winding in a small 5lb’er! Also, you will learn to refine approaches and techniques. It’s often the case that more forethought is required to get amongst these larger fish as they have a bit more experience when it comes to avoiding ones hookbaits. The same applies here as before; take time to master the art, enjoy it.
Only when you can catch multiple fish in a session on most sessions, on a good doubles water, is it time to make the jump up to specimen waters!
The two main reasons for doing it in stages are, firstly, to ensure you have the ability to play and land a large carp that wants to do everything bar what you tell it, and secondly, to give you the patience, as catching specimens can take time and dedication. It’s not the same as waiting for a little carp to pick up your bait on an over stocked runs water – it can often be a battle of wits and you need to ensure you are in for the long-haul, as I’ve seen too many anglers who think they are ready to make the step up to difficult specimen waters burn out and lose heart only because they did not have the necessary skills and experience to catch fish at this level.
What you have to remember is that, by and large, fish in a runs water have heavy competition for food, and, as such, they will be happy to take chances as they are hungry, making it easy for the angler. Move up to a top specimen water, and it’s highly likely the fish does not need an angler's bait to sustain itself, and therefore does not need to chance that suspect looking bait in order to survive, and therefore it won’t – so it’s down to you to outwit it. Big carp don’t offer it up to you on a plate – to catch them consistently you really have to work at it.
‘Watch and Learn – Time spent observing your quarry is rarely wasted’
Okay, so let’s assume the basics have been mastered, how do we catch a big one? First job is to make sure they are in there! It sounds daft, I know, but you’d be amazed at the amount of anglers fishing waters week in week out in the firm belief that some often seen but never banked leviathan is lurking in the deep just waiting for the right moment to pick up a hookbait. This is often the case on well stocked day-ticket or commercial waters; the myth spreads that there is a big twenty – or even a thirty (and it’s usually a common!) yet nobody has got photos and the rest of the stock are pasty faced singles and low doubles - It is possible, but highly unlikely.
I was on a day ticket water last year where a young lad was telling me that he was targeting the waters 34lb’er. The water was less than half an acre and filled to the brim with stunted singles – the chances of there being a 34lb mirror in there were extremely remote, to say the least. The lad looked a little downhearted when I explained how a fish of such a size would need to maintain its body weight, and the chances of that happening in a lake that had a density of well over 900lb an acre (and that was just the carp!) would be pretty slim – the competition for food would make it all but impossible. He then told me how the owner was always telling him about how he had recently spotted the big fish, to which I replied that the same owner was telling me the same thing over twenty years ago every time he took my money off me! The biggest fish that’s ever been out in the meantime was just over 17lb, so as I say, first you need to be sure they are in there!
That’s not to say you should only ever fish waters where there are known and proven big fish. I’ve spent time on many waters in the past where the true potential has been unknown, and there’s nothing like being the first one to catch a particular big or special fish from a water, but in these situations it’s important to work out if the water is feasible of holding some big ones; checking out the rest of the stock, and amounts of which species, twinned with the water quality and amount of natural and introduced food will all point towards big fish being present – or not – as the case my be.
So, we’ve done the practice, found the lake and we know there a big fish present, all that’s left is to try and catch one, and we’ll cover that in the next part.
Until then, tight lines…