The following article first appeared in Carp Addict magazine. Anglers' Net are extremely grateful to them for allowing us to publish it here and would urge all of you to visit the following two sites to show your support:
Carp Addict Magazine
Heathrow Bait Services

For your info, C A=Carp Addict and I R=Ian Russell. Sorry to state the obvious, but I know we'll receive emails asking what they mean if I don't add this line!

In this, the prelude to our in-session series with Ian Russell, we’ll kick off by finding out just who we’re dealing with, here. Ian Russell’s carping exploits have been well documented over the years, he’s the founder and owner of Heathrow Bait Services and he’s got plenty to say on his favourite subject. This is a man who cares passionately about his angling and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. So, let’s meet him and see what he’s got to say on subjects as diverse as day ticket waters, rigs…and the curse of the carping cheats.

C A: OK, Ian, let’s set the scene by outlining your carping philosophy. Can you sum up your approach to carp fishing for us?

I R: Well that’s easy enough, mate. If I had to state what my fishing’s all about in a couple of sentences, I’d say that I think I know what I’m doing when it comes to catching carp but the real goal will always be enjoying my angling. The fact is, you can have a demanding job, be a proper family man, and a successful carper who enjoys his time on the bank.

I know this is true, because I’ve been doing just that for quite a while now. There’s no need to sacrifice what really maters in life for the sake of catching carp. Carping’s been my passion for 15 years and my business for ten, so I know all about the serious side of our hobby. But even though it pays the rent, I’ll never let it outrank the responsibilities, pleasures and commitments of the real world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done the full-time, live-to-fish deal and I know what I prefer. Mind you, even when I was a full-timer, I was no ponce. I worked to pay my way rather than sign on the dole. Don’t get me started on dole-scroungers, mate!

C A : We’ll certainly go back to your views on that, later, if we may. For now, let’s hear a bit about how you started.

I R: I started fishing when I was four years old. That’s er….um…let’s see…twenty…thirty…aw gawd, it’s over forty years ago! That could just be a bit depressing, you know but I’m lucky to have kept my boyish good looks, I suppose. And you can stop that sniggering, mush!

I got into match fishing for a while but carping got hold of me around 1990 and it’s pretty much owned me ever since. Things have come full circle in a way because I’ve really been bitten by the carp match bug. I really didn’t think I’d like carp matches, until I did one. Now I can’t get enough of them. There’s something about fishing against other carpers that really gets me going.
I hate the draw, though. So much depends on it and there’s nothing you can do to improve your success at it, is there? If there was, I’d be practising my peg-drawing techniques every day, no bother! I’ve spoken to match anglers and it’s a fact that some of them seem to pull more than their fair share of good draws from the bag, but that can’t be anything more than luck, can it? Can it? I’ll ask my mate, Bob Nudd, when I see him. He doesn’t actually know he’s my mate, but he will be if he can tell me how to draw better in matches, that’s for sure.

C A: You’ve got a busy bait company to run, plus your family commitments and you’ve recently moved house, so time has to be at a premium for you. How often can you get to the bankside for a carping session?

I R: I try to make certain I do at least a full week-end a month, plus as many overnighters as I can sneak in. Then there are the sessions for magazines, but that’s not the same as my normal angling because I’m trying to do stuff for the cameras, answering questions, tying rigs and stuff, rather than concentrating on my angling.

Like most committed carpers, there are times when I really do need to go fishing, but when you set yourself up in business to cater for other carpers, you have to do just that. Once the work’s done and the bait orders are sorted, I can think about my own fishing. These days, I couldn’t enjoy a session if there was work that needed doing, so I don’t have a ‘skive-off’ option, whatever way you look at it! Besides, Sue (Ian’s ‘partner, soulmate and much better half’) would strangle me.

C A: Most people would imagine that you do your carping on exclusive venues and syndicates but I happen to know that’s not the case. So, why does someone with access to some of the finest lakes in the South still fish day-ticket waters?

I R: That’s another easy one, mate. I fish day-ticket waters because I really enjoy catching carp, I love the socials and the craic, and because it keeps me fully in touch with my customers. When you’re fishing the big-name waters it’s easy to imagine that carping’s all about chasing elusive monsters on demanding venues. The fact is, day-ticket waters are absolutely vital features of our carping.

The creation of venues such as Thorpe Lea, for example, has been fantastic for carp fishing. I’ve seen for myself what a great opportunity and educational facility this lake has already become. I’m seriously into the ‘learning the trade’ aspect of carping, especially the fish care, rig safety and looking after the environment side of things, and, with the right management, venues like Thorpe Lea can become ‘acadamies’ of carping.

Farlows is another day-ticket water that’ll always be on my favourites list. It holds some fantastic fish and I’ve had some of my most enjoyable sessions on there. These prolific venues are also brilliant for trying out new baits, rigs and tactics. We need variety in this sport of ours and the more choices we have the better. What a boring bunch of gits we’d be if we all liked the same things, eh?

C A: It’s an obvious question, Ian, but what is it that turns you on about carp fishing?

I R: Oh there are plenty of turn-ons in carping, mate �" the secret is to recognise and appreciate them. First, the vast majority of the people I’ve met in carp fishing have been a pleasure to know. Of course there are a few arses but that goes for every sport, doesn’t it? I can honestly say that my close carping mates are some of the best people I’ve ever known, and they’d be there for me no matter what, as I would be for them. You can’t put a price on that aspect of carping, can you?

Then there’s the rest of it, including the pleasure of being out there doing exactly what I want. You know, I really think that most carpers underestimate what a unique privilege it is to do what we do. Think about it; where else can you create your own world like we do when we’re session fishing? We choose almost every aspect of that world, including who we fish with, when we sleep, when we get up, what we eat, drink, wear and do w
ith our time, and every minute of it carries the chance of heart-pounding excitement if those rods rip off. Make no mistake about it, this sport of ours is very, very special. In fact it’s more than that, it’s a magical pastime and that’s why we’ve got to look after it.

C A: Great answer, Ian, but you can’t be as passionate as you are about your sport without seeing the negative side of it. Now tell us what you don’t like about carping.

I R: OK. I’m not a negative sort of person but I’m no head-in-the-sand merchant, either, and of course there are some things I don’t like about carp fishing. I’ll leave things like dealing with the very real dangers from dodgy imports and other disease threats to those better qualified than I am, and I’ll highlight some personal gripes.

First, I’ll return to the dole-ponces I mentioned earlier. Quite simply, I can’t respect anyone that, instead of earning their own money, chooses not to work and expects you and me to pay for their fishing. If they’re supposed to be supporting a family as well, then that’s even worse in my book. I’m no holier-than-thou and I’ve got every sympathy for those with genuine disabilities, but volunteer ponces wind me right up.

Next, I hate cheats, liars and bullshitters. I’ve seen cheating go on in fishing matches and I just can’t understand for the bloody life of me why these people do it. I can’t go into details or name names �" although I would if I could, don’t worry about that �" but let me just tell those that do it that we know what you do and one day you’ll be exposed for the sad sacks you are.

I don’t like anglers, usually full-timers, stitching up the lake between them. Come on, lads, you’ve got the time, the opportunities, and most of you have got the skill - you can’t expect to have a monopoly on the best swims as well, surely?

Lastly, I really wish that those ignorant sods that treat young and inexperienced anglers with disdain, would remember what it was like when they were starting out and offer the newbies the help they need. The quicker our newcomers learn the essentials the less likely they are to mishandle the fish we all care about. Also, once the skills are learned they can be passed on, and that helps everyone. Right, that’s enough of this negative rubbish, let’s get back to the good stuff, shall we?

C A: Good idea. So, if you had to choose one style of carping to pin your hopes on, what would it be?

I R: That’s more like it, mate, back to the easy questions! I’d choose method fishing, without a doubt. It’s such a versatile technique if it’s done with a bit of thought, rather than just lumping some bait around a method feeder and firing it out. I use the Atomic feeder leads, which have a textured surface, holes and bumps that help the method mix ‘grip’ the lead. Once the mix breaks down, there’s a proper lead lying there, rather than a weighted feeder.

I’ve used boilie paste, scalded pellet, Vitalin dog food and off-the-shelf method mixes as my base, with all sorts of added extras to increase the attraction, but it’s not just what’s in the mix that counts. The consistency has an effect, too. A firm mix will stay intact during casting and impact with the water, creating a tight baiting pattern close to the hookbait, whereas a ‘looser’ mix will detach itself from the method feeder as it hits the water and you’ll have a more widespread area of bait.

Tucking the hookbait inside the method ball shields the hook point and I’ve done well fishing in weedy swims where I wouldn’t have been confident with any other method. As I say, it’s the sheer versatility of the method that makes it so effective, provided you know how to exploit it.

C A: Staying with the terminal tackle for a while, what advice would you give newcomers regarding rigs?

I R: Definitely keep it simple. These are fish we’re trying to fool, after all. Never forget, the most basic mono rig ever tied will outfish any of the latest ‘super-rigs’ if the super-rig is sitting on the lakebed in a tangled mess. We don’t fish on kitchen tables or in rig-testing tanks, and we need our rigs to work where it matters most �" on the lakebed. Yes that seems too obvious to be worth mentioning but that simple fact is ignored more times than most anglers realise.

Basically, if a rig takes me more than two minutes to tie, I won’t be using it. I’ve watched carpers spend 20 minutes and more putting a single rig together but that’s not for me. Just forget the all-singing, all-dancing, techno’ rigs and use what we know is reliable and effective.

C A: We’ll study your ideas on bait, rigs and techniques during future interviews, but for now could you give us a quick run-down of the essential factors of catching carp?

I R: Well, you’ll have heard it many times before but some statements become popular purely because they’re true, and here’s one of them; location, location, location. I’ll back that phrase with another from the carpy sayings hall of fame, ‘it’s better to have a hookbait in the right place for ten minutes than in the wrong one for 10 hours’ �" or near offer, anyway.

Next, sort out your bait. Now, as the owner of a bait-making company, you’d expect me to do my best to convince you that boilies are the be-all and end-all of carp baits, and in many situations they are, but there’s more to it than that. Like most long-standing carpers, I’ve caught most of my fish on boilies but I’ve also had some great ones on maggots, tiger nuts, maize, worms, pellets and artificial baits. It’s all about finding the right bait for the situation and presenting it efficiently.

Sometimes, you’ll need to establish a bait yourself, by feeding the carp something they’ll take with confidence over an extended period. This produces confidence in the carp and the angler, and that angler-confidence should never be underrated. At other times, presenting something new can produce enough curiosity in the carp to prompt a taste �" and that’s when your rig gets the chance to earn its keep.

I’ll get into specifics in future interviews when I describe what worked with various captures, but for now it’s important to understand that there’s more to an effective baiting strategy than bombarding a marker float with boilies or hooking on a PVA bag.

Finally, make sure you’re enjoying what you do, because if it’s a trial then you’re not doing it right. Try to fish with a smile on your face and the ability to appreciate the fishing, not just the catching. That way, you can never blank. Now leave this place, Grasshopper, and I’ll see you next month for our first in-session session.

C A: Yes, thanks ‘Master Ian’. I’m sure you’d make a great sensei…I think. Until next month then.


Ian Russell - Heathrow Bait Services

Ian Russell Pro-File
Age: 45
Years Carping: 15
rsonal Best: 43.9 mirror.

Occupation: Owner/proprietor Heathrow Bait Services
Sponsors: Himself, Tracker and Atomic Tackle.

The article above first appeared in Carp Addict magazine. Anglers' Net are extremely grateful to them for allowing us to publish it here and would urge all of you to visit the following two sites to show your support:
Carp Addict Magazine
Heathrow Bait Services