Unfortunately, many anglers feel the need to display false bravado on the bank for fear of looking a bit of a numpty in front of those who may be more experienced. The knock on effect is that bad habits not tackled in the early stages can hamper your results in later life if you don’t have the ability to target the fish in a certain manner.
If there is something you are not particularly good at, it’s much better to get it out in the open. There are several basic principles to almost any task or practice in carp angling, and once armed with these, things seem much easier to break down.
Ultimately, you should never be afraid to ask. You will usually see somebody perfecting the art with which you need help, and there is no harm asking for a few pointers. There are a few idiots and show-off’s about, I know, but there are also some really approachable anglers about who would be more than willing to help put you on the right track – so don’t give up!
A good example of this ‘self-help’ mentality would be my own results when surface fishing many years ago. I’d always known how to tackle up for the job and knew when might be a good time to employ the method during the summer months when the fish were in the upper layers. My problem was results. I always seemed to be hampered by tangles and fish always seemed to spook from my set-up. The upshot was that I shied away from surface fishing as an approach because I was not that good at it.
For a good few years I perfected other aspects of my game in order to outwit the fish in other ways, but one summer's afternoon on my local club water, I received a real wake-up call. It was a red hot day and all the fish were up on top. Usually in these conditions, I would stalk in the shallow water to try and bag a few with favourable results, but on the day in question they were having none of it. They were all over the shallows, but I could not get a pick up. A lad I knew was fishing off the top and, to put it mildly, he was bagging up. It seemed every time I looked across to his swim he was into another fish. After an hour or two of this, I’d had enough. Something clicked in my head and I knew I was going to have to face my demons and properly get to grips with fishing off the top!
I decided to stop fishing and just go and sit behind the lad. For the rest of the day I did nothing – I just watched, making keen observations about all aspects of his set-up, his approach, and his tactics. If I was not sure about a particular aspect, I’d simply ask the question at a point where it would not disturb his sport – of course, before doing all this I asked if it was okay by him, and he was more than happy to oblige. By simply watching somebody else experienced in that particular aspect of carping, I gained insight about where I might be going wrong and learned a few neat tricks about set-up in order to avoid tangles and also how to keep the bait presented on the hook perfectly to avoid spooking the fish.
I spent the next few days putting together a set-up similar to that of my friend's and, come the next weekend, was eager to get out and give it a try. It was no ‘Eureka’ moment, and the technique needed perfecting, but I had been put on the right road, and the result was that I bagged a nice double figure mirror off the top that afternoon and I was totally made up with the result. Of course, once I’d bagged one, I wanted another… and another… and another.
As the following months passed by, I perfected the art and made subtle changes to the set-up I had learnt, based on my own results and observations of the fish reacting to my own set up, and my results improved almost session by session. I’ve never looked back really, and surface fishing has now become such a valuable weapon in my armoury that I use it almost every time out.
Over the following years I perfected my surface fishing approach to such an extent that I used it whenever the conditions allowed. After reading an article where an experienced angler had caught fish off the top in each month of the year, I decided to give it a go myself. Between a few friends, I started a surface fishing challenge, where we aimed to do just that, but as things got a bit cold most fell by the wayside. Armed with my new-found skills, I was undeterred and was able to bank fish with each month that passed. I might have achieved my goal on the first attempt, were it not for the fact that I never managed to get out fishing once during that particular January, so it had to wait until the following year before I eventually managed to bank one off the top in January. In wintery conditions and dressed up to the nines in full thermals, I banked a stunning little mirror off the top, which gave me the full set – a surface caught carp in every month of the year – how’s that for tackling your demons!?
As you can see, there’s more to successful angling than reading about the latest rig or the latest bait. There is a mindset that goes with it. It’s about constantly trying to improve ones game, ‘more forward, please’ as the old Honda advert used to say...