Stalking carp in the margins is a great passion of mine, to watch a Carp taking your bait is so thrilling. It amazes me how very few Carp anglers actually stalk for Carp as in my opinion it is a devastating and productive method full of rewards. Usually I will fish a 16 hour over night session with multiple rods, but as and when I can, I will stalk Carp in the margins.
Tools for the job
The tools for the job are simple, you need a rod that has a bit of back bone to it for muscling Carp out of snags, a sturdy reel loaded with a minimum of 10lb line,
Some strong hooks, shot or ‘Heavy Metal’ putty, a light float or two, a landing net, unhooking mat, weigh sling and scales, forceps and Klinik.
I use a J&K 8½ ft -1½lb test curve Stalking rod and Centerpin reel loaded with 10lb Pro Clear line and a size 8 or 6 ESP Raptor. I prefer to use a Centerpin reel rather than a fixed spool reel as I can lower the baited rig onto feeding carp using only one hand minimizing movement in having to flip the bail arm for example.
It’s also a lot more fun!
What to wear
It is important that you can see the Carp and that the Carp cannot see you!
You will need a peaked hat, Polaroid glasses and clothing fitting to your surroundings.
Do not forget to wear insect repellant, it is a jungle out there!
Locating the fish and ascertaining the way they are feeding is vital. Before you have even wet a line, you need to find the general location the fish, using prior knowledge of marginal hotspots or local knowledge by asking a bailiff or another angler can do this. Once you know the general whereabouts of the Carp you then need to locate their exact whereabouts, this can be done by wearing your Polaroid glasses and by getting above them, if you can, by climbing trees, etc.
Be careful when climbing trees!
Once located watch their feeding behavior and plan a method of attack.
When Carp feed in the margins they could be feeding off the bottom, off the top or off of lilies, reeds, etc. When feeding on the bottom I use a bottom bait set up using a lift-rig, when feeding off the top then I would use a ‘free-lined’ set up.
The set up
When the Carp are feeding off the bottom I use the Lift-rig, this incorporates a small float held on only by a rubber float band, a shot (or ‘Heavy Metal’ putty) just heavy enough to cock the float and a size eight or six hook. I use a small one-inch hook-link made from braid tied to the hook using a knot-less knot and incorporating a ‘hair’. The short hook-link is connected to the main-line via a small swivel, I either mould ‘Heavy Metal’ putty around the swivel or attach a shot on the main-line tight to the swivel, which is just heavy enough to cock the float. The float is secured to the main-line using a rubber float band, this has two advantages, firstly and most importantly the main-line will pull free of the float if it gets snagged, secondly, it allows easy movement of the float for varying the depth.
If the Carp are feeding on the top, near the top or near lilies, reeds, rushes, etc, then I will use a free-line set up of just a size six or four hook tied directly onto the main-line.
So once you have located the carp and observed their feeding behavior it is then time to catch them. I only stalk for Carp that I can actually see or know that are definitely there.
Keep all body movements slow, methodical and deliberate, I once stalked a Carp six inches from the bank in a white T-shirt and shorts purely because of the way I moved into position and presented the bait. Do not fish with a shadow over your bait, if the sun is behind you then stay very low and/or literally stand/crouch in a bush and be part of it!
Plan ahead your playing of the fish, look for likely snags, which the Carp will almost certainly head for.
Note: I do not normally wear a white T-shirt and shorts for stalking it was just that I saw a chance and took it whilst not intending to fish at all.
Using the set up
Most of my stalking is done using the Lift-rig, I set the float at about an inch below the surface as when the Carp are feeding they will nudge the line causing line bites. If the float is set normally the line bites will cause the float to ‘bob’ which in turn makes ripples on the surface of the water, this will make the Carp wary and even spook.
In ‘Gin’ clear water you should still be able to see your hook-bait, the only problem is when Carp are feeding clouds of debris make it difficult to see the hook-bait so careful attention is needed on the float.
The float will move in all directions as the Carp nudge the line, but as soon as a Carp sucks your hook-bait from the lakebed, it will lift the shot (‘Heavy Metal’), which in turn will allow the float to lift and break the surface of the water.
As soon as the float lifts, strike, hang on and concentrate.
Most margins are snaggy and unlike a Carp caught in open water it is at full strength when it heads for a snag, you may need to ‘Bully’ the carp away from the snag and even after a very brief fight straight in the net!
When ‘Free-line’ stalking on the surface, just allow the carp to suck in the hook-bait and before striking. Again, play the fish as I have stated above.
Baits and baiting up
For stalking you need to use a bait that is readily eaten by Carp, for instance I have been using Trout/Salmon pellet paste molded around hair rigged Trout/Salmon pellets or lob worms on the hook fished over a light scattering of micro Trout/Salmon pellets.
I have recently used a hair-rigged boilie, which I have great confidence in that produced a number of Carp, this was also fished over a light scattering of Trout/Salmon pellets.
When walking around locating the Carp I take a bucket of Micro Trout/Salmon pellets with me, if I see a Carp feeding in the margin I will put a couple of handfuls on top of them to gain their confidence and keep them there until I return. It might be a while as I make my way from swim to swim before I get there to introduce more Micro pellets and my hook-bait, but at least I have gained their confidence.
I have learnt so much about the way Carp feed from just watching them whilst stalking or preparing to stalk for them. Stalking for me is one big adrenalin rush from the moment I unload the car to the moment I get back in it!
On my last 3 hour stalking session I caught six Carp to 18lb 4oz using a Lift-rig and a hair-rigged 16mm boilie over a light scattering of Trout/Salmon pellets.
Garth ‘Gaffer’ Barnard