QUESTION: Some anglers say that carp follow the wind; others claim that wind direction makes no difference. Even those who write about carp fishing seem unable to reach agreement on this matter. Who is correct? Should I follow the wind, or not?
ANSWER: Between mid-April and mid to late September, the angler who follows the wind will not always be correct, but he will be right more often than he is wrong. So, as a general "rule of thumb' guide, the advice that we follow the wind is sound. But...
Ah yes, there's a "But'... in fact, there are several!
Wild wind at Wingham...! On this particular day, the wind blew a 'hoolie' - I fished in the teeth of it and this was the biggest fish of a four-fish catch.
As already intimated, followng-the-wind is not an all-year phenomenon. As a reliable carp location tactic, it only really applies from spring through to late summer. Even then, though, there are variables that need to be considered. In late spring and early summer, for example, carp may be drawn to their intended spawning areas, and may remain in the vicinity of such spots even when the wind does not favour them. Similarly, carp find some areas: shallows, weeds, snags etc., more attractive than others - so we have to make an assessment as to which is likely to have the most "pull", an attractive area or the wind direction.
The character of the wind matters, too. Generally, carp are more inclined to follow a warm wind than a cold one - but the descriptions "warm' and "cold" are not absolutes, they depend on the water temperature. If, for example, the air temperature is 16 degrees Celsius and the water temperature 14 degrees, the wind qualifies as warm. If, however, the water temperature is 18 degrees, that same 16 degree wind will have a cooling effect.
Still on the character of the wind - up to a point, the stronger the wind, the more likely carp are to follow it. Once the wind gets to "fresh', however, any further increase in wind strength brings no extra benefit and merely increases the anglers difficulties. I once made a big catch of carp upwards of a dozen in an afternoon - in a force ten wind (that's storm force, which is a couple of notches wilder than a gale), but fishing was only possible because my swim was in the lee of a near-bank island which afforded protection to me and my lines.
A nice, mellow onshore wind; I'm a happy man!
An associated problem with very strong winds is that of floating debris - usually weed, but sometimes branches etc. which have been ripped from trees. I recall fishing a Kent pit when drifting Elodea accumulated on the line in such quantities that even a 4oz lead was dragged out of position. I tried back-leads, but the weed was at all depths so sunken lines did little to mitigate matters. I could have moved to the upwind end of the pit, of course, but there seemed little point in doing so seeing as how carp were topping at the downwind end!
On other occasions, when I've had to deal solely with surface flotsam, such as twigs and small branches, back leads have successfully coped with the situation.
I like the wind to retain its integrity. 'Integrity' may seem a strange word to choose, so I shall explain what I mean. I don't like it when wind forecasts are contradictory - when predicted wind-strength and direction varies. When it proves impossible to get a consensus, I have found that the wind is unlikely to be consistent in either strength or direction. In such circumstances, both water choice and swim choice become too hit-and-miss for my taste. When I've gone fishing regardless under such circumstances, I have often found myself "chasing" changes in wind direction as the day has progressed, with the all too frequent outcome that I have ended the trip carpless and exhausted! I like the wind to make up its mind from which direction it will blow - and ideally how strong it will blow - and maintain its character all day.
The matter of integrity becomes particularly important if the water lies within, say, 5km of the coast. Coastal pits are affected by sea and land breezes (depending on the relative temperatures of the land and sea). Generally, in summer, an onshore breeze springs up mid-morning and blows until late afternoon or early evening. At dusk, or shortly after, the breeze is likely to blow in the opposite direction - namely offshore. The term 'breeze' can give a false impression, engendering, as it does, an image of a gentle ripple on the water surface. Not so.
My brother, Rick, demonstrates that wind is not an essential requirement!
The onshore sea breeze can, in high summer, be sufficiently strong to produce whitecaps! This is especially the case if the sea breeze and standard isobar-induced wind blow in the same direction - they join forces to amplify each other. If, however, the sea or land breeze blows in opposition to the isobar wind, they can cancel each other out to leave a virtual flat calm! I have found that only those isobar winds classed as Force 4 (moderate) or stronger will maintain their integrity against sea and land breezes - although even then they may be amplified, minimised or deflected.
WEED, BARS AND ISLANDS
Yet another factor to consider is the character of the water. If the water is a gravel pit with numerous islands and gravel bars, any wind-induced undertow may be significantly reduced. Weed can have a similar effect. The significance of this is that water-flow is what causes carp to follow the wind. Physical obstructions like islands, bars and weed interrupt this flow, and as a consequence reduce its influence. At this juncture, it is only fair to point out that many anglers disagree with my basic premise on this matter - they believe the inducement to follow the wind is due to oxygen enrichment of free-drifting food supplies. I have insufficient space to debate the issue here - but if you are interested in my rationale you will find an extended discussion on the subject in my book, Gravel Pit Carp (Laneman Publishing).
"Sunny, hot and windless," said the weather girl; I c
hose to fish a holding area, and here is the result.
Thus far I have been concerned with carp following the wind, but if the wind is a very cold one (a northerly in high summer, for example) the opposite effect may occur - namely, fish may move to sheltered water in the lee of the upwind bank. This is particularly noticeable on clear, sunny days when the calm water of a south facing bank not only receives shelter from a northerly wind, but benefits from the warming effect of the sun.
You will recall that at the beginning of this article I said that carp movements in response to wind tend to be confined to the spring through to autumn period - so what of late autumn, winter and early spring? In general, I have found that area choice takes precedence over wind through the colder months. There is a tendency to follow a sustained mild wind - one which blows for several days - even in the depths of winter. Likewise, there is a tendency to seek shelter from cold winds. But in neither instance is the movement as immediate or as significant as in summer.
As can be seen, the subject is more complex than is generally realised. But I repeat what I said at the beginning - from April through to September, the angler who follows the wind won't always be correct, but will be correct more often than he is wrong. So, even at its simplest, following the wind is a tactic which stacks the odds in the angler's favour.
A coastal pit, and the sea-breeze is just starting to build up.