Short Session Carp Fishing Tips

I was reading an article the other day where the author described his approach on a venue where he was spending quite a bit of time. He intimated that his usual tactic on lunchtime arrival involved putting rods out on a whim for the first night, before assessing the situation ‘properly’ the next morning. To me this seemed ludicrous, as not only was he failing to adopt any kind of strategy on arrival, but he seemed quite happy to waste the best part of twenty hours of fishing before deciding to do anything about it! The irony was that, by his own admission, his results were pretty dire – I should think so!

Twenty hours fishing before forming a plan!? I should be so lucky! With two young children, businesses and websites to run, I’ve only had one 24 hour session in the last three years, yet by adopting some basic short session tactics I’ve been able to get amongst the fish on most occasions, often banking more than anglers who have already been there for hours, or in some instances, days!

Unless I’m fishing purely to relax and unwind, or to catch up with a friend on the bank, I hate to waste valuable time. I prefer to make every minute count, and in doing so, I can often bring about a result quicker than the angler who is happy to sit back and let things take their course. Many people think that to succeed in short session carping you have to be gifted in watercraft, and whilst this is undoubtedly a factor (as it is with all types of fishing) it’s by no means the overriding ingredient to success. So if, like me, you currently have very little time at your disposal, here’s my five point plan to short session success.

1. Plan in Advance
The first weapon in the short session angler’s armoury is planning. Work out how much time you are likely to have to spare and select venues that will suit. I draw the line at anything under two hours fishing time, but on top of that you obviously have to factor in travelling – so if you only have a couple of hours at your disposal, then fishing a water with an hour's return journey is a bit pointless.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I obviously knew in advance that my own time was going to get limited. As such, I dug out Ordnance Survey maps and marked all the waters that were within a fifteen minute drive of home, thus travelling would never equate to more than half an hour. There were loads of waters that in the past I had discounted for one reason or another, but looking at them purely in terms of distance put a new slant on things. I marked everything; club waters, day ticket, stillwaters, rivers and canals – all of which will contain carp.

Next comes the research and reconnaissance – find the waters that best suit your needs. If it’s numbers that are important, pick the ones with the bigger fish, if it’s the challenge you are after then get out on the rivers or canals, or even better, pick a few different venues for your campaign so that you always have a choice. Before the season started that year I did my research and selected two still waters; one a three-acre club water, and the other a small one-acre pool. In addition, I selected two virtually unknown canal stretches, giving myself the challenge of finding and catching some wily old canal carp.

I then started doing reccy’s whenever time allowed; and with the return journey being half an hour or less, I could literally go when I just an hour available and would still have at least thirty minutes to look around and get a feel for swims and tactics. I would even take our newborn, Izaak, with me – not only was I giving him his first taste of angling at just a few weeks old, but I was getting brownie points off mum for taking him of her hands for a few hours – walking around a lake with your son, hardly a chore!  As I say, it’s all about the planning 🙂

2. Be Ready
The second thing to do is ensure you have tackle and equipment pre-sorted and ready to go at a moment.s notice. This way, when the opportunity presents itself for a few hours fishing, you don’t then have to spend half of it getting your gear ready.

I always have my short session tackle pre-sorted and ready to go; a shoulder bag with a few odds and ends of tackle, scales, camera, and rigs. Then I have my unhooking mat rolled up with a weigh sling and landing net within. I then have two bait bags; one containing dog biscuits, and the other empty, ready to have various freezer baits chucked into it before leaving the house – I then just pick the one I need before leaving. Do remember though; as it’s your aim to have baits in the water within twenty minutes of leaving the house, any freezer baits will need a quick blast in the microwave on defrost! Last but not least are my rods. I have various rods already made up, each set up for a different purpose; stalking rod, surface fishing rod, etc. It’s then just a case of selecting which one I need for the moment at hand, securing it to the landing net handle and I’m away. When I decide to go fishing I can be out of the house in less than five minutes – how long does it take you to prepare for a session? 
3. Travel Light
I only tend to fish one rod when short session carping. I find that by putting all my time and effort into one rod I can really maximise its potential, and find that I will often out-fish others who maybe using two or more rods – strange but true. In any case, the time available dictates that a stalking approach is favourable, and you can’t really do this with two rods as you will find you keep getting bogged down having to do everything twice if using two rods. In essence you are actually looking to find a fish then present a bait to it, rather than setting a trap and waiting for the fish to come to you.

4. Seize the Moment
When the opportunity arises – go for it! I speak to friends at the moment who moan they can’t get out fishing but then in their next breath say words to the effect ‘I had a few hours the other night but couldn’t be bothered’. The second I think I have an opportunity, I’m gone!

Also, give thought to the best venue to fish at the time at which you have the opportunity. Often in an evening my Stillwater selections will have a few on, so I might instead prefer to do a few hours on the canal. Likewise, the two still waters are empty very early on midweek mornings, so when targeting those I’ll go any time between 4am and 9am, before coming home and starting work – it’s all a case of maximising your chances – pick the venue that gives you the best chance of banking a fish at the time when you can do a bit.

5. Move It!
Be prepared to move at the slightest sign of fish. A stalking approach with one rod will allow you to cover great distances and you should not be afraid of moving at the slightest sign of something ‘carpy’ somewhere else. Go and have a look, drop a bait in, or on, and give it five. If nothing develops keep moving. It’s often the case that when I spot a fish I’ve caught it within moments of offering a bait, so the more you move, the more you are likely to spot, and hopefully, catch. Remember, you only have a few hours so make the most of it - I have tried the static approach but it’s not half as effective, even when pre-baiting.

Carp fisherman

Keep your options open - One of three to mid twenty taken after packing up on one water and moving to the next.

Also, don’t be afraid to change venues. I know how daft that sounds in the context of the article, but believe me, it can work. The beauty of picking a few waters all close to home is that by their very nature, they won’t be that far apart. As such, if I get to one water and there are a few on, or the conditions aren’t right, or if the fish simply aren’t showing, I’ll quickly make a decision and head of to the next nearest water. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve then gone onto catch from the next water I’ve visited – just a case of thinking outside the box.

In Summary
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to have days and nights at your disposal in order to catch carp. Bivvies, bedchairs and rod pods are all great, and I’ve got them myself – but they are not essential items when in the business of catching carp. Furthermore, by adopting some of the above principles on longer sessions you will more than likely find your catch rate will improve. I’ve been fishing this way for the best part of five years now and my ratio for time fishing versus fish banked has never been better, and I’ve even banked some target fish along the way – so what’s stopping you - why not give it a try!? 

Julian Grattidge
November 2010