Some might call me cynical - and I probably am. However, it seems you can’t pick up a magazine nowadays without reading about the latest method or approach designed to give your fishing the ‘edge’ over those around you. With seemingly so many different edges on offer, all as readily available to everybody else on the lake, you have to ask yourself whether you can seriously be expected to gain the upper hand in any given angling situation simply by following the latest choice morsel offered up to you on a plate in a magazine?

The word itself seems a little mysterious; aloof even, but what are we really talking about when we speak of edges in carp fishing? In simple terms, it’s about having a margin of superiority over those around us, and perhaps also having a degree of sharpness to one's approach. As such, how big an edge are we talking about when we read such articles? Are we talking about a prolonged success or will the new found sharpness soon become dull and blunted?

I think it’s important to make the distinction between using the latest wonder rig the next time you go fishing, and actually going out on a session and doing something different to those around you. Both may have a similar effect at the outset, but after a while the effectiveness of a new rig may well dry up, whereas, if you went down the route of doing something different to those around you on each session, you could well keep one step ahead – all dependant on what that little ‘something’ might be, of course!

Angler with Common CarpSo, do I believe in having an edge? Definitely, but I don’t believe that using the latest rig or gadget is necessarily the best way to go about getting one! It’s about much more than that - and it’s inextricably linked to watercraft. To have a long-term edge is to have the ability to constantly monitor what’s going on around you and effect changes in technique and approach accordingly to remain ahead of the game.

What you don’t want to do is change tactics and set-up on every session. Most experienced specimen anglers have a pretty basic set-up that they use for the majority of their angling and many may only have a few different hook link materials that they use to make up most of their rigs. However, they will make subtle adjustments here and there to get around particular problems they may be faced with. The point I’m making is that it’s not tackle alone that will catch you fish – it takes a great deal of hard work and determination. There are very few short-cuts in specimen fishing. You need to get those grey cells working; anybody can have a lucky fish, irrespective of talent or experience, but to catch specimens consistently is a different prospect altogether.

You need to do two things; first of all you need to gain an understanding of the carp in its environment and secondly, you need to be able to form a strategy in order to bring about success. For me, these two factors form the basis of my everyday fishing and whether I’m trying to catch a particular fish or as many fish as possible, sticking to these principles keeps me on the ball and more often than not, ahead of those around me.

Of course, much depends on how you see your fishing. If your main aim is just to get out of the house for an hour or two for a rest, then you probably won’t want to be worrying about strategies and such like; you’ll just want to get set up, sit back and relax – fair play, I don’t have a problem with that. However, when I go fishing my prime objective is to catch a fish, and ideally, I want to catch a big one! As such, it’s not often you’ll see me sat behind motionless buzzers. I get rather impatient when I have to wait for the fish to come to me and much prefer going after them – I would say that this is by far my biggest edge.

When set up fishing on your favourite lake, how many anglers do you see sat behind buzzers banksticks and bivvies? More to the point, how many do you see walking around with a stalking rod? Not many, I’ll bet!

As clever as carp can be at ejecting baits and wising up to our tactics; one thing they can’t help but do is show themselves! No matter how big the water and at what time of year, with a little practice you will soon be able to detect the tell tale signs of carp activity. The problem with a static set up is that you could well find the fish when you first arrive at a water, but very rarely do you stay on them for the duration of your visit. Many people think that all you have to do is keep piling in the bait and the carp will remain throughout, as if they are somehow tethered to the area on a piece of string! My experience is that even feeding fish will move about quite a bit; on many waters they will often have a little bit of food and move off again – it’s as if they know that the longer they stay feeding in one spot the more likely they are to get hooked.

Thus, a roving approach can often put you in touch with more fish. You don’t have to be stalking either, even if you use multiple rods there’s nothing to stop you reeling them in and going for a walk around the lake when things are quiet – you never know, the next swim you walk into could be the one where all the big fish are hanging out just waiting to be caught!

It may sound quite simple, and there’s a good reason for that –it often is! I’ve lost count of the amount of fish I’ve caught within say five minutes of entering a swim when I’m stalking. The edge in these situations is not some miracle bait or a magical rig – its common sense. If the fish are not in your swim – go and find them. After all, the best rig and bait in the world won’t do you any good if all the fish are at the other end of the lake.

Sometimes however, instead of trying to be different to everybody else it can often pay dividends to copy what others are doing – especially if they are catching! I always try to talk to as many people as possible on the bank, firstly because it never hurts to be polite, but in addition you can pick up some real gems of information – it’s all down to the way in which you go about it. My advice is to speak to everyone, not just those who are catching – you can often learn just as much by speaking to those who are struggling.

I fished a water a few years back where most of the long-term members were pretty ‘clicky’ and didn’t like to fraternise with the new members who joined, yet I was always nipping round for a brew and a chat. One year, two lads joined up and it soon became apparent they were having a few fish. The old-hands put it down to beginners luck and carried on as usual. However, I got to know them as much as possible over the following weeks and before long it was all I could do to stop them talking! Needless to say they told me what they’d been having success on, I made a few subtle adjustments to my own set up to it out and promptly banked one of my target fish that very session! So as I say, it’s good to talk!

The point I’m making is that there is no quick-fix. There is no one product you can go out and buy that is going to catch you a fish every session. I’m regularly asked by newcomers on www.northwestcarp.co.uk why they are not catching when they’ve followed everything they’ve been told to do. All you can say is that it’s never easy; we all blank at times. If you want continued suc
cess then you have to work hard at number of areas, and it’s not something that you ever stop doing. I’m working just as hard at my fishing now as I was when I first started – the only difference being that I now get things right more often than I used to.

Ignore true innovations at your peril; after all, where would we be without the hair rig or the PVA Bag? However, there’s a big difference between innovation and novelty. If it’s truly a long term edge you’re after; I’d worry less about fashion and start working on the time honoured skills of watercraft.

Tight Lines…

Julian Grattidge
January 2011