Saturday, 24 November 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt1

Well it’s that time again, nearly the end of November and we’ve now had a few sharp frosts that have slowed down the carp fishing here in the north west, looking at the carp forums there’s been a big slowdown in catch reports and I think it’s fair to say we are in for some hard times until the spring.
After a break last weekend, Saturday was my first real winter carp fishing session and I headed down to my favourite winter carp venue in darkest Shropshire. Winter is the only time I visit this particular carp water, it’s well stocked and a run is always a possibility even when it’s cold.

I was the only angler on the lake yesterday, I didn’t bother to look for the fish, I simply dropped into a peg I knew very well. There was a nice area in front of my swim about 40 yards out that had proved to be a real hotspot for me in the past so it was just a case of drop my baits onto the spot then sit and wait. Should the carp be resident somewhere else on the lake, I had a very good view and being positioned centrally I could cover any rolling carp with a single hook bait or a small stringer. I usually opt for the small stringer when casting to showing carp, not only does it give a bit more attraction round the hook bait, the stringer also helps prevent tangles which sometimes occur when using braided hooklengths. My preferred method of doing stringers is to use the pva mesh system made popular by companies like korda and fox international, although i prefer to get my mesh off ebay as its cheaper!. A couple of pellets in a small pva mesh bag is ideal, it doesn’t have too much of an effect when it comes to casting and I can cover a lot of water in front of my swim should the carp be holding up somewhere else other than my favourite hotspot.

My approach to fishing this lake isn’t exactly text book winter carp fishing, I took a good selection of bait with me, none of which was going home again. Being my first winter session I wanted to get some bait onto my hotspot to encourage the fish to visit the area regularly, it was a natural hotspot anyway but I wanted a lot of my bait out there for them when they felt like a feed, to this end, I had a bucket of hemp, a small bucket of pellets, peparami and a jar of maize to bait up with. Obviously I didn’t want to put this in at the start of my session, it was cold and I figured the carp wouldn’t really be up for that bigger feed so I held it back until the last hour of my session.

Winter carp bait ready to go in

I positioned my rigs and used my catapult to scatter a few pellets over my hook baits then I sat back to watch the water and have a brew. It was windy with a bit of light rain, not exactly my favourite winter fishing conditions when it comes to comfort but not bad for winter carp feeding. Despite the rain, I left the brolly in my holdall so I could see what was going on around the lake. No fish showed anywhere near my hook baits which was unfortunate!. In fact I spent several hours watching the water and saw nothing, it was only when the wind dropped off during the afternoon that I finally saw where the carp had been hiding, they were way off to my left and stacked up behind the wind and I watched as a couple of different fish rolled gently in the calm water.
I continued to watch the calm area of the lake and the more I looked the more I saw, a few of the fish were certainly within casting range but not with the 2oz leads I had on. I pondered changing my 2oz inline leads for safety clips and a 3oz streamlined bomb, this would put me amongst the carp and in with a shout of a fish. Whilst I was considering my options I noticed the odd fish seemed to be showing closer to me, in fact 15 minutes after considering swapping to a heavier lead I fancied I could reach them with my 2oz inliners.
I decided to hedge my bets, one rod would be left over a light scattering of bait on my favourite hotspot and the other I’d roam around with a pva stringer, I tied up another small pva mesh bag with a couple of pellets in then wound in the rod that was furthest away from the showing fish. I lightly nicked my hook into the pva mesh then whacked the rig as hard as I could towards the area I’d seen the fish show, it landed perfect, right in the heart of the area the carp where rolling. I settled down with a cup of coffee and a biscuit to see what happened, it’s not uncommon for carp to clear off from an area when a lead lands in it and I was happy to have reached the area with 2oz instead of 3 as there was just that little bit less spook factor. I watched carefully and sure enough another carp rolled just a minute after casting out. I sort of switched off for a minute or two, I had a few sips of my coffee and fed the resident robin another small slither of peparami.

Only 5 minutes passed when the delkim sounded a small flurry of bleeps, I looked at the rod tip and it was slowly bending round, I didn’t wait for the full blooded run, I knew the fish was on so I was straight on it, a soft strike saw the rod go over and my first carp of the winter was on. The carp did very little and came straight into the margins from a range of about 80 yards, once in the margins it put up a bit more of a fight, when it surfaced I thought it was quite a long fish, when it surfaced a second time I thought it had quite a wide back too and for a second I did think I had a 20 on. After a short time in the margins I slipped the net under a nice common, lifting it from the water I guessed at upper double rather than 20+ and the scales confirmed this with a weight of 18lb 2oz. Not a bad fish to kick off my winter campaign with!.

First winter carp since the frosts, 18lb 2oz Common

After a couple of photos I slipped the fish back and sorted out my gear, I tied another small pva mesh bag, a fresh hook bait and I was back in business with another decent cast to the same area. Time was moving on and I began to think about putting in the bait I’d brought with me, I positioned my bucket of hemp and added the dynamite maize and peparami to it, the pellets I’d put in separately. With a korda spod set up on my spare rod I was just about to start putting my bait in when the pva stringer rod wrapped round and a full blooded run developed!. I was on it straight away, after all, I was standing next to the rod when it went! Another fight similar to the last one eventually saw my second winter carp slip into the net, it was smaller than the last one but at 15lbs even, it was a decent reward for a days winter carping. I went through the same routine as the last fish, weigh, photograph, return then re-bait the rod and position it to the area the carp had showed.

Second winter carp, a 15lb common

Once the rod was back out I got on with the task of spodding in a bucket full of bait, that took well over an hour and it was well and truly dark when I finally emptied the bucket. With a big bait of bait down there I’m sure the carp will move onto it eventually, I know they did last winter and the hemp in particular kept them in the area all winter. Being such small seeds they can take some clearing and the carp seemed to keep coming back to my area time and time again last year, all I did was keep topping the swim up every week.
No more runs were forthcoming and with my baiting up duties finished I packed up and headed for home, commons of 15 and 18 were reward enough for the day, in fact I’d have been happy with one of them let alone two!.

Tight Lines

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Carp Rigs - Basic Hair Rig

I thought I’d share my thoughts on carp rigs this week but to be honest I've not got that many strings to my bow when it comes to rigs for catching carp. I have a handful of rigs that i know work and work well and I've stuck with these rigs for many years.

Probably the best advice I’ve ever seen when it comes to carp rigs is ‘kiss’, short for keep it simple stupid!. This has been my approach to carp rigs for well over a decade now, in fact I’m using the same rig now in 2007 that I settled on way back in 1995!. I do have the odd phase when I try something new, I’ve had a dabble with a couple of different versions of the stiff rig, I’ve tried the chod rig too but both of these rigs have come up short for me and I’ve always ended up back on my old favourites.

Click to see a video of my Basic Carp Rig

When it comes to hook length materials I’ve used and would recommend the following...

Kryston Silkworm
Kryston Snake Bite
Kryston Snake Skin

I've also used armaled kik-bak and this is worth a look too, it's described as a coated, fast sinking braid and I like the drab dark green colour it comes in. Kik-bak is a hook link material I've found particularly good for short rigs and it provided me with the answer to a problem of some rig shy carp on one of my local waters but I'll talk about that some other time.

Despite various experiments over the years, I always seem to end up back on a basic knotless knot setup tied with one of the materials above with 25lb kryston silkworm being my favourite. I’m not sure what it is about silkworm but it does seem to trick the carp and I have a lot of confidence in this particular hook length material, specially when it’s used as part of my favourite carp rig the knotless knot.

Probably the most important part of any carp rig is the hook and for me, the kamasan b175 trout hook is perfect, it has a long shank and a down turned eye and combined with a thicker braided hook link material like silkworm it makes a very effective setup. The kamasan b175 trout hooks are also cheap, I bought my last box from a trout fishing ebay shop and they cost me £7 delivered for a box of 100 hooks, very favourable compared to the fishing tackle shops who charge upwards of £3 per 10 hooks just because they are aimed at the carp market!.

Basic Knotless Knot Carp Rig I Use Most

Above is the basic carp rig I’m using at the moment. I usually use just a knotless knot for straight bottom bait presentations but the rig in the picture above has a rig ring that’s been incorporated into the hair. This is the one modification I’ve made to the basic knotless knot rig and it’s been done because I do the majority of my carp fishing with buoyant hook baits or pop ups. The basic knotless knot hooking arrangement is the same but my pop up hook bait is tied to the rig ring rather than the conventional way of putting a bait on the hair using a baiting / boilie needle. Set up this way I have more flexibility when it comes to presentation, I can mould my kryston heavy metal putty round my hook link and be fishing a popup or, if I want to fish a bottom bait, I can mould the putty round the rig ring to create a buoyant or balanced bottom bait without changing rigs. I find this useful especially as I’m mainly a short session carp angler who may need to chop and change to find the right presentation that works on the day.

For the record, the hook bait on this particular rig is a ccmoores odyssey xxx popup and its been tied to the rig ring using un-waxed dental floss, I cut a small groove around the popup with a knife, the dental floss sits in the groove so the hook bait won’t come off. This seems to have worked very well for me. The hook is my usual kamasan b175 in size 6, I’ve found a 6 to be just right for this particular hook pattern, the wire is too thin on a size 8 and whenever I’ve used an 8 I’ve had problems with them starting to open up. The size 6’s have been fine for all my open water fishing and I’ve banked so many carp on them that I have complete confidence in using them.
My rigs are generally 8-10 inches long, this seems to be about the optimum length for getting pickups and not loosing fish, a size 10 swivel completes my hook length and I’ll fish this rig on either a swivel lead and safety lead clip setup or an inline lead. Whichever lead setup I choose I always use rig tubing and not leadcore to finish my setup off. I see little advantage in using leadcore when rig tubing sinks anyway. I consider myself to be a reasonably experienced carp angler and despite me having been carp fishing for 18 years now, I’m honestly not sure I could tie a leadcore setup safely so I choose to avoid them and I’d recommend other carp anglers do the same.

Basic Carp Rig For Popups and Bottom Baits

Minus the heavy metal putty, the carp rig in the picture above is my complete setup ready to cast out. I sometimes make my own leads but since using the internet I've been able to source lead weights cheaply and the weight in this picture is a 2oz inline square pear lead from franks leads ebay shop.
You may notice that the hook length is not weighted in any way at all. Kryston make a couple of products called ‘drop em’ and ‘hawser’. These products are sold to carp anglers as must use products to keep your hook link pinned to the lake bed and in my early years of using this rig I religiously used them to keep my hook lengths pinned down. It was a chance session on Capesthorne Hall main lake that made me change my mind about drop em and hawser rig glue. I was using the D-rig at the time and I used to prepare hook lengths in advance so I’d always have a replacement on hand. I had a good day on Capes main lake one day and I run out of prepared rigs. I had no choice but to tie one up on the bank but getting the drop em onto the hook link and treating it with hawser wasn’t really an option on a short day session so I just tied the rig and cast it out. I’m sure you know what happened next! A run from a carp, followed a short time later by another!. Now Capesthorne is a tricky water, 6 fish a year if you’re lucky and I managed two carp in quick succession without having my hook link pinned down.
During the next week I was busy and didn’t have the chance to prepare any more rigs so the next weekend I cast out the same rig without the weighted hook length and I caught again, from that day I never put krystons drop em or hawser on any of my rigs again. I’ve had no problem picking up carp, my run rate on Capes main lake never suffered and considering how much pressure those carp see, in my eyes, it proved these products just weren’t needed.

I guess stiff rigs and chod rigs are all the rage these days but I’ve been around long enough to know what works for me, I land upwards of 95% of my runs on the rig above with very few hook pulls and that’s good enough for me. A carp rig that’s so efficient means I can forget about my hooking arrangement and concentrate on finding the carp which to me is a lot more important.

All the rig materials I use at the moment
Kryston Silkworm
Kryston Snake Bite
Kryston Snake Skin
Kamasan B175 Hooks
Safety Lead Clip
Carp Rig Rings
Carp Rig Tubing
Carp Rig Tail Rubbers
Carp Rig Swivels
Kryston Heavy Metal
Fox Anti Tangle Sleeves
Korda Extenda Stops
Franks Leads Ebay Shop

A Big Linear Fisheries Carp of 23lb 4oz taken on the basic hair rig outlined above.

Next week I'll be starting my winter carp diary, catching north west carp in winter is no easy task but I usually manage a few fish throughout the colder months and through my winter carp diary I'll show you what I catch and how I go about my carp fishing at this time of year.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Carp Fishing - Back To Normal

Following on from my last diary entry, after catching that 21lb 4oz mirror carp from the river dee I left my gear in the hall ready to go fishing again the next morning. My intentions of heading to one of the Cheshire carp lakes I have a ticket for were honourable but when I got up the next morning I just didn’t feel like going fishing. That river dee twenty was a season maker for me, it was such a good result I didn’t feel like sitting beside a carp lake watching for fish and trying to work out exactly where the carp were before it was time to go home so I packed my gear away for the week and went shopping to Birkenhead instead!. I was happy to wander round the shops picking up the odd new shirt and tie for work and that Saturday I didn’t miss being on the bank at all.

Whilst writing this my mind wandered back to my carping in the early 90’s, I was a lot more dedicated back then and there’s no way I’d have missed a days fishing for anything regardless of what kind of result I’d had the evening before, in fact I probably wouldn’t have gone home!. I guess after 18 years of carp fishing I’m just not as dedicated as I used to be. I’ve learned over the years that there’s more to life than fishing and I don’t mind regular breaks from being on the bank these days. Years ago, I never gave anything but carp fishing a thought and looking back now, I realise I’ve been overlooked for promotion in a few jobs due to my desire to be chasing north west carp and I’m so glad I came to my senses and realised that carp fishing is just a hobby and that I don’t need to spend every waking moment fishing or thinking about fishing!.
I think these days my life has a lot more balance to it, work is going well and since changing jobs a few years ago I’ve risen through the ranks quickly and doubled my salary in the process, ok its been at the expense of my fishing but I can live with that, a 30lb north west carp isn’t worth spending my life on the breadline for, I hope I find that north west thirty one day but I’d rather go without it than be poor!.

Having digressed a little bit I’ll once again bring my diary up to date, this week I was at a loss as to what venue to fish. I do have a wide choice of north west carp waters to fish but I usually end up discounting most of them for various reasons, my favourite being carp feeding times. If you know a carp lake tends to produce well between the hours of midnight and 6am, there’s little point in fishing from 10am until dusk as you’d be up against it straight away. My sessions are usually short so I want to tip the odds in my favour and choose a water where I stand a chance in the daytime.

Eventually I settled on a quick visit to a carp water in Cheshire I’ve written about before in my diary, its somewhere I go occasionally when I want to be in with half a chance of a run, it is generally a night time water but if you get your approach right daylight action is possible.
I made a great start to the day by over sleeping and not getting up until 11am!. I had nothing else planned and I did feel like whiling away a few hours on the bank so I went fishing anyway despite being late up. I arrived at the lake around 1.30pm and had a look around, it was windy and I couldn’t see any carp movements at all. I knew from looking at one of the carp fishing forums I’m a member of that it had been fishing hard so I figured I’d try off the back of the wind, I dropped into a swim that gave me the option of casting across to some dying lily pads and I put both rods into this area on the opposite bank, the seagulls were a pain when it came to scattering a few boilies around but eventually I managed to get a few baits out and I settled down to watch the water for signs of any carp.
I’d like to say I spotted some fish but nothing showed during the afternoon, I knew the area I was fishing might give me a chance and I decided to stay on after dark until 9pm to see if anything was going to happen. Sadly for me, this week it didn’t, I blanked without even so much as a sniff of a carp. Coming back down to earth with a blank is nothing new for me, sometimes you catch and sometimes you don’t, just to make my blank a little bit worse the heavens opened 10 minutes before my pack up time, typical, there hadn’t been a drop of rain all day and evening and 10 minutes away from leaving a shower comes in! I waited for it to pass then packed my fishing gear away wet and headed for home.

I already know I won’t be fishing next weekend as I’ve a meeting to attend next Saturday morning, having looked through my diary entries since I started writing I can’t find anything on carp rigs so with this in mind I intend to make next weeks entry about them. I wouldn’t imagine it will be a long entry, my carp rigs are very simple and have pretty much remained unchanged since the early to mid 1990’s but more about my rigs….or rig! Next week. The week after next I will begin my winter carp diary. I've yet to visit any of my chosen winter carp waters yet and I've got my first trip pencilled in for 24th November, once we get into December I'm hopeful I can put a few winter carp on the bank, winter is a good time to be out, the carp are getting fat and the banks don't see as many anglers which all sounds good to me, until then, be lucky.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Carp Fishing - River Carp Result

I was sat in work on Friday afternoon staring out of the office window like carp anglers do!. The weather didn’t look too bad, it had been dry all week and I couldn’t help thinking that the river dee would be in good shape. After a couple of weeks break from the fishing and a couple of particle bait entries on my blog I was ready for a few hours on the bank in search of another carp.
I’d already decided to visit one of my chosen north west winter carp venues on Saturday but I didn’t feel like sitting at home twiddling my thumbs on Friday evening. I thought long and hard about an evening carp fishing session during the slow afternoon in work and decided to have my tea when I got home then grab some gear and head for the river dee. Friday afternoon passed slowly, eventually 5pm arrived and I headed off home to gather my carp gear and have a bite to eat.

I sorted out a few bits and pieces, the carp rods, rod pod, bite alarms, rucksack, fishing chair and my thermal suit so I would be comfy after dark. Unfortunately I had no particles prepared as it was a spur of the moment decision to go fishing so I grabbed the last of my birdfood boilies out of the freezer and put them with the rest of my gear.

My birdfood boilies were mulberry flavoured and were rolled by dave doubleday of bandit baits in Shropshire, dave’s baits have done the business for me and a few of my mates in the past and I’d been feeding in mulberry boilies along with my tiger nuts and chick peas when I’d been prebaiting the river, I’d already had a couple of carp out of the river dee on the mulberry boilies so I had no hesitation in using them.

The river dee is actually the closest water I go carp fishing on so the journey is a bit shorter than getting to my normal Cheshire carp lakes, after packing the car and negotiating the motorway I reckon I was on the bank about 40 minutes after leaving home, that’s a relatively short journey for me these days!.
I arrived at my swim about 6.45pm and began setting up, after fiddling round in the dark tying and baiting a couple of carp rigs I eventually lobbed two mulberry hookbaits with stringers into the centre channel of the river where I’d found plenty of success on previous trips. Once the lines had been sunk I put a couple of backleads on to help pin the line and to stop my lines picking up any debris in the flow then it was out with the catapult and the mulberry boilies. I baited both spots in an oblong baiting pattern so any patrolling carp would come across my baits, the hookbaits were staggered from the bank so the two baiting patterns overlapped and covered the whole of the centre channel of the river, if a carp swam past there was no question it would latch onto the bait and eventually the run would come.

River Dee Baiting Pattern to intercept patrolling carp.

It was mild for the time of year and I was hopeful of a run or two, I intended to fish 7pm until 11pm, maybe midnight if things were happening but I’d be happy with 4 hours as I still intended to visit one of my north west winter carp waters in the morning and I was really just out to get some peace and quiet and chill out. I settled down with a brew from a flask I’d made earlier and just watched the river for a while. It seemed quite lifeless, no fry splashed in the margins and no silver fish topped mid river unlike a few weeks previous when the river looked alive with fish. I was still hoping the carp would be around, on my last trip I’d taken a mate with me and he’d picked up several carp between 7 and 11pm hence me fishing at these particular times!.
It was approaching 10pm when the upstream rod was away in typical dee carp fashion, up until the run I was thinking a blank was on the cards and that the carp had moved on to a holding area elsewhere on the river so I was pleased when it actually screamed off. I hit the run and straight away felt there was something a little different about this particular river dee carp, all my previous fish were exceptionally strong on the initial run and fought extremely well but being high singles and low doubles they didn’t have the weight behind them to trouble me even in a decent flow, this particular carp however did!. The fish was slow and deliberate and it wrenched the rod over and just kept going slowly, after 30 yards of taking line steadily off the clutch I found the fish was going beyond a near bank snag and I was in a bit of trouble, I had no choice but to follow the fish down the bank. The plan was to make my way down to the snag then hope that me pulling the carp towards it would see the carp naturally pull in the opposite direction, if I gave it enough line it might clear the snag on its way back up river…if I ever managed to turn it that was!. I made the fish scrap for every inch of line and eventually I arrived at the snag minus my landing net, by this time the carp was another 40yds further downstream and it was here it eventually came to a stop which was just as well as I’d run out of bank space and couldn’t have followed it further downstream even if I wanted to!.
After another five minutes of stalemate I eventually began to make some line back but it was slow going, the carp felt heavy and I was trying to bring it back upstream against the flow. Fortune must have been in my favour as the carp kept deep in the centre channel as I slowly gained line, after what seemed like an age I had the fish level with the snag and out in the middle of the river, would you believe it, exactly where I’d hoped it would go!. Once clear of the snag, I slowly began making my way back up to where my rods and landing net where. It was when I got back to where my landing net was that I finally felt in control of the situation, the carp still stayed deep and made the odd short run but I felt like it was just a matter of time, only the carps weight was keeping it from my landing net and every time it surfaced it was a little closer in, eventually it rolled on the surface in front of me and I was able to scoop it up into the waiting net. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to lift the landing net around that carp, I had a quick look at my watch and it was nearly 10.30 pm, I’d been playing the fish for just on half an hour!.
I peeled back the mesh to have a look at my prize, I could see it was a mirror carp but my first impression was that it wasn’t a twenty, maybe an upper double but I didn’t think it would make it over that magic 20+ barrier. I secured the fish in the net and sorted out my unhooking mat, scales and camera ready for weighing and photographing. It was when I lifted the net out of the water that I began to change my mind about this one making 20+, it had broad shoulders and quite a belly underneath, on the mat and under the light of my head torch it looked every inch a kipper and I was beginning to think this was my first river dee twenty after all!.
Weighing and photographing carp is all about routine and I’m well versed in getting things done quickly, I had the fish up on the scales first and much to my delight it registered 21lb 4oz, my first river dee twenty, after a quick ‘clenched fist’ shout of ‘yessss’ I rattled off a few self takes with my flip screen canon g6 and remote control then got my prize river dee mirror back into the water, I held the fish a while whilst it recovered and when it was strong enough a kick of the tail saw it return to its watery home.

21lb 4oz River Dee Carp

Me, I was delighted, I kept muttering ‘20lb river dee carp’ to myself along with a few other expletives I won’t mention on this blog!.
I didn’t bother casting out again after catching that fish, I didn’t think it was worth casting out for just another 20 minutes or so and with this in mind I packed my gear and headed for home a happy carper.

It’s been a tough year for me this year but this particular river dee carp really made my season, the river is largely ignored and un-pioneered by north west carp anglers and I’d always hoped there was something a little bigger than the low doubles I’d been catching this season. This fish was also another step towards my target of catching 20lb+ carp from 20 different carp waters in the uk, a little mental target I’ve had for quite a while and I’m getting there slowly, the river dee is now the 16th different water I’ve had 20lb carp from so I’ve only 4 more left to crack before I reach my goal. I may be another few years away from that yet but it is getting closer slowly!.

A walk along the Meadows in Chester City Centre

Tight Lines

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