Sunday, 24 February 2008

Carp Fishing - Frustrating Times

It’s nearing the end of February and I haven’t been fishing since the first week of January. It’s been work, work and more work since the turn of the year. My carp fishing sessions throughout the winter only total 5 hours per week but despite this, I still miss them when I can’t get away for a few hours. At the moment, I know I’ll be fishing again from the middle of March onwards, simply because I’ve got two and a half weeks off work then. I had a lot of holidays left over and being unable to carry them over into the next tax year, I opted to take them all as late as I possibly could. March is a good time to be out, it’s still regarded as being too cold by most fair weather carp anglers yet the carp on most north west lakes will be starting to stir around this time and I thought I’d try and make the most of the fish beginning to switch on after a long winter.

No fishing for an active carp angler like myself is frustrating, one thing I’ve kept going over in my mind these past few months is my plans for the year ahead. Through the carp fishing forums I’ve kept in touch with happenings on the bank and one thing that keeps getting repeated over and over again is the sheer amount of carp anglers one of my north west fishing clubs have let in. Every angler I’ve spoken to has reported large amounts of new members walking round waters asking questions about lake stocks etc. A few of the waters have actually been rammed out with no swims left and this is in February, a time when traditionally, only dedicated anglers are sticking it out.
The constant reports of busy north west carp lakes has been playing on my mind for the last month and at the moment I don’t seem to be able to make any firm plans for the waters I’m going to fish this year. If things are as bad as some of my mates are saying I may well find myself river carping again come June.
At the moment I plan to fish several north west venues this year. I tend not to target one particular carp water and fish it through thick and thin. I prefer to target certain venues at certain times of the year when I know they will fish well and with this in mind, I’ve divided my fishing up and plan to spend the old close season on one water, then move onto another water which still observes the old close season and will open on June 16th. Fishing like this I’ll get the best time on both waters and when we reach late summer and things have got harder, I’ll move again onto the rivers where I know the carp won’t have been subject to any angling pressure.

I’ve a few things I’d like from my fishing this year, strangely enough neither of them relate to the carp that seem to take up all my time. I’d quite like to catch a north west wels catfish and I do have access to one particular water that can help me achieve this aim. I’ll make some time for a couple of wels catfish sessions when we reach high summer and I know the temperatures will be plenty high enough for this species of fish to feed. The other aim I have is to catch a personal best barbel and I intend to save this one until I start my river carping later in the year as I can combine fishing for both carp and barbel when the time comes.
My 2008 fishing plans are flexible, obviously if my fishing clubs waters turn out to be a busy as some angling friends say they may be then I can always move on to somewhere else, at the end of the day, I like a bit of piece and quiet when I go fishing and I need swims to be available if I’m going to be able to locate and move onto fish with a view to catching them. If I find I can’t do this then I’ll change my plans and find a new venue rather than put up with crowds of anglers.

Free Spirit Rucksack, I was lucky enough to win this in the raffle!

I’ll end this weeks diary entry by mentioning the Bromborough carp show that happened on Friday evening (22nd Feb). Danny Fairbrass and the korda developments team were at the show and the talk Danny Fairbrass did was very good. The microphone broke down a couple of times during his slide show and to his credit, he carried on and didn’t let it phase him. There were plenty of hints and tips for people beginning carp fishing, I didn’t agree with everything Danny Fairbrass had to say in his slide show but I enjoyed it none the less. I managed to pick up one of the free korda dvd’s too, it’s called ’carp, tackle tactics and tips’ and although I haven’t had time to watch it yet, I’m sure it will provide me with a few hours viewing during my absence from the bank.
The Bromborough carp night was in aid of macmillan cancer support and being a good cause, I always have a tenners worth of raffle tickets to show my support. Up until this particular carp show I’d never actually won anything but I got lucky this time and came away with a nice free spirit rucksack. My new rucksack is like a box and has extending legs, the top of the rucksack actually converts into a table and I’m sure it will come in handy for overnighters in the summer. If I find myself fishing out of a bivvy again I certainly won’t have to do my cooking on the floor like I usually do. I’d just like to say thank you to Peter and Kirk for organising the event and thanks for the nice prize, I hope I’m as lucky when I finally manage to get out fishing again.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Carp Fishing - Keeping One Step Ahead

The north west carp scene is getting to be a bit of a nightmare these days. Over the years I’ve watched things change and without doubt the biggest influences have been the rise in popularity of both carp fishing and the internet. It’s so easy these days to just log onto a fishing website, post a question, then get an immediate answer. Good north west carp waters are now getting hammered because it’s so easy to get information on where the big carp are in our region and some anglers don’t realise they are actually making their own fishing harder when they give things away so easily.
Finding big north west carp doesn’t require any effort or discipline anymore, information is freely available on fishing forums and unfortunately behaviour standards are dropping as competition for swims on our popular carp waters increases. One thing you have to accept about the modern north west carp scene is that sooner or later, another carp angler is going to see you catch a carp and jump into your swim!. Carp fishing has always been the same, the minority of anglers work hard at finding the carp and prebaiting swims to get results whilst the majority of anglers just go camping. If a camper is lucky enough to see another angler get a good result you can guarantee he’ll be set up in the poor guys swim next week. The camper won’t care if the other angler has spent months of time, effort and a considerable amount of money finding the carp and prebaiting in an attempt to catch them, he’s only interested in catching a fish and he doesn’t care at who’s expense that might be!.
So how do you keep ahead of the hungry carp anglers who are just waiting for an angler to get things right before they swoop on them?. The short answer to that is you can’t, no matter how careful you might be, sooner or later someone will see you catch a fish from a certain area of the lake then start fishing there themselves because they saw you catch. If you ever hear the term ‘sheep‘ used on the carp forums, these are the type of anglers being referred to. All you can do is give a little thought to how you approach your own fishing and try to be as discreet as you can, what follows are a few hints and tips that have helped me avoid the attentions of swooping carp anglers.

Bite Alarms
No self respecting carp angler should be without a remote system these days, I’ve seen it written that noise can be transmitted down the line when a bite alarm sounds. I can’t say I’ve ever had my head underwater when I’ve had a run so I’m not sure, although it does sound plausible!. Not only will a remote help you combat this possible effect, it will also give you something far more important and that’s discretion. The ability to shut off your alarms and just use a quiet remote sounder carried in your pocket means remote systems like delkim txi's are worth their weight in gold. If you can get runs and remain undetected by other anglers on the lake then your already ahead of the game and there’s no way I’d ever consider going fishing without my txi’s and remote sounder box!. Obviously there’s more to this than just having your sounder box on a low setting. Finding the fish is the important part, after that, you should give a little thought to swim choice and ask yourself a few extra questions. How many swims can I reach the fish from? Can I land the fish safely from every swim? Of the swims available, are any of them out of sight from other anglers?. All you need to do is apply a little bit of extra thought to your swim choice and tuck yourself away. If things go your way you’ll be walking off the lake complaining about how rubbish the fishing is with your wet landing net concealed in your holdall!.

Delkim TXi Plus bite alarms, excellent for remaining discreet

If you have to ask another angler on the lake to do some pictures for you you’re screwed!. Not only will he know where your fishing, he’ll also have ample opportunity to get a good look at your baits, your rigs and just about anything else your doing too. It’s also likely every other carp angler on the lake will be up to date on what you’ve had and where you caught it from when he’s finished chatting to them!. Learning to do self takes is an absolute must if you don’t want to get swim swooped by another carp angler!.

Most bailiffs are nice guys and they do a great job but be aware that what you tell them, they will repeat it to every angler on the lake!. With this in mind, be pleasant to any bailiff you meet but tell him nothing about your captures if you value your peace and quiet. I’ve found the best way to deal with them is to moan about how badly the lake is fishing, not only does it conceal your captures but it will help give the impression that the lakes fishing hard to other anglers, which in turn, may well help send some of them to another water or keep mobile phone anglers away.

Carp Baits
Be prepared to throw a few blinds when fishing. Whatever bait your using keep it under wraps, your bound to get visitors to your swim at one time or another, carp fishing can be quite a social hobby after all. I always have a bag of the worst bait I can find in full view for other anglers to observe. It’s a good idea to leave the odd rubbish bait on the floor when you leave too, if another angler finds the dropped bait he’ll get the impression that’s what your using. Its important to look transparent, leaving your bait in full view and telling people what your ‘using’ gives the impression that you don’t hide anything and if your lucky enough to be regarded as an open carp angler you’ll be able to winkle out the odd carp without anyone being any the wiser.

Rod Positioning
The position of your rods is important. When another carp angler walks into your swim one of the first things he will observe is the direction of your lines from the rod tip. It’s human nature to do this and all anglers visiting someone else’s swim do it. It gives the visiting angler an idea of the general area you may be fishing and that’s information that can be concealed by having your rod tips underwater. With no line visible from the rod tip it’s a lot harder to pin down an area someone might be fishing and the further you can get your rod tips submerged the harder it will be for your visitor to work out what direction you’ve cast in.

My rods with the tips underwater, ideal for preventing other carp anglers from working out which direction you've cast in. The other rod is missing as I've just landed a fish from a hotspot I've managed to keep to myself for a few years!

Wet Nets and Unhooking Mats
Wet landing nets and unhooking mats are a dead giveaway that a carp has been caught, I always make a point of putting my mat away as soon as the fish is returned. Most anglers leave theirs out to dry and they might as well hang up a big advert saying ‘carp caught here’ for everyone to see. Drying your unhooking mat and landing net at home is a minor inconvenience and a price well worth paying if it conceals your capture and helps keep your going swim free of other anglers. Once you’ve landed a fish, you can position your net in the water for the rest of the session and put it away wet, if anyone comments you can always say you’re just being cautious and that you like to be ‘prepared’ and have your net ready in case you get a run!.

Casting and Baiting
If possible, casting and baiting should be done either out of sight of other anglers or after dark, particularly if your prebaiting. Casting in the dark can be quite tricky but with the use of a line clip and a line marker its possible to hit the same spot every time, even in the dark. My preference is for a small length of size 4 pole elastic tied on the line in a simple overhand knot. The elastic locks on itself when pulled tight and when you want to remove it, a simple pull on one of the tags and it’s off. You need to be as thoughtful with your casting and baiting as you do deciding swim choice, if you can do it un-noticed by other anglers all the better. If an angler pays you a visit whilst your dealing with a fish, unhook the fish and drop your rig back in the water where the other angler can’t see it and never recast until he’s gone. As a rough guide, if your visitor has any kind of angling etiquette he’ll wish you luck and leave you to your work, if he’s a swooper, he’ll hang around like a bad smell waiting to get a glimpse of your bait and rig and where your going to put it. In these situations I usually chat but give one word answers until they leave and I never sort the rod out whilst someone I don’t know or trust is milling around, even if it means missing out on the chance of banking another fish. It’s better to keep your productive areas concealed for another day rather than hand them on a plate to another carp angler.

Carp fishing is hard enough on our north west carp waters and the above paragraphs aren’t exactly the kind of carp fishing tips you’d expect to read but all are valid when it comes to our harder circuit waters and getting amongst the carp they contain. If other anglers know a lake is fishing well you can expect it to be busy as the mobile phones start ringing so anything you can do to give the impression it’s quiet is a help to you.
There are other little tricks anglers can use to stay ahead but they very much depend on circumstances. One simple trick I used to get myself a bonus fish was the use of the flash on my camera. Sometimes carp can be very predictable and on a few waters I’ve noticed that fish will turn up in a certain area of the lake at a certain time of day. If you know what time the carp pass through an area you can drop in there a few hours in advance, set your traps and fish through the productive time. I’d been doing just that on one water and was unlucky enough to be seen. This resulted in the swim having a bivvy in it every weekend despite it being unproductive most of the time. Although I’d been caught out and the angler who caught me was fishing my swim, I’d hidden my spots well and he hadn’t caught. One time, an hour after dark, I went behind the back of my brolly and took 4 or 5 photographs of nothing. The flash was seen by the angler who was hogging the swim I wanted to get back in and next time I went fishing he was encamped in the swim I’d used the flash in!. Talk about extracting the urine!. Little did he know he’d been thrown a blind and he bought it completely. I managed to secure the swim I really wanted and when it was quiet I snuck my baits into position and managed to winkle out another carp at the productive time.

Being discreet about the carp you catch and the methods you use to catch them really pays dividends. In a world of instant communication via mobile phones and internet, keeping a low profile will keep you ahead of the game and ensure it’s you whose rewarded for your hard work and not somebody else.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Location

Locating Winter Carp

I’ve fished for carp in winter for the last 17 years or so now. Depending on the water I fish, I can sometimes catch more carp in winter than I do in summer. Obviously having access to a well stocked carp lake helps but even on a productive winter carp water, locating the carp is still everything when it comes to catching a fish at this time of year.
Looking back at the time I’ve spent carp fishing in winter, I’d have to say the best advice I can give is to throw away the rule book. Yes it’s true the fishing is harder, the carps metabolism does slow down and generally they become less active but when it comes to the most important part, actually finding them, the bottom line is they will be where they will be. I’ve found carp in so many different places in winter, shallow water, deep water, off the bottom, on the back of the wind, in the teeth of an icy wind, they can be just about anywhere but they absolutley have to be found in order to catch consistently when its cold.
The only way to find the carp is to get out there and get fishing. By far the best pointer to getting a bait on the fish is actually spotting them moving. If you see a fish roll or jump during the winter months then get on it straight away. If you just sit there and do nothing when a carp shows then you deserve to blank. Personally, I’m usually already getting my gear together ready for a move before the ripple of a crashing fish has disappeared. That one fish showing can sometimes be the key to finding an area the carp hold up in so ignore it at your peril!.

The result of observation and casting at a showing carp in winter, 25lb 2oz common from boxing day 2007

With no carp sighted things get a lot harder. This is where water craft and previous experience comes in. Myself, I’ve found that carp will nearly always hold up in an area they feel safe and in most cases that will be around some kind of feature. That’s not really rocket science is it? Any feature is a potential carp holding area in winter and as such should be fished a few times before being discounted. In my own fishing, I tend to arrange features into a certain order in my head then fish them in turn, the order in which I fish any features is purely down to experience, the features I’ve found carp around the most in winter are the ones I fish first.

If the lake I’m fishing has any kind of snags at all, these will be the first areas I’ll look at and fish. Carp love snaggy areas and it’s not uncommon to find the fish stacked up against and round say, a fallen tree for example. One of the best examples of carp stacked up around snags is Cheshire carp water bolesworth castle on the stoke on trent card. During the winter months the carp hold up against the willow tree snags that are opposite the first swim in the field at the end of the woods. The first time I found the carp there I had 4 double takes (both rods off at the same time) in the first hour landing all 8 fish. Finding the carp and being first to cash in on fishing their holding area, the action I had in that swim was frantic to say the least. I fished short day sessions from midday until 4pm in that swim and during the winter I averaged 5 fish per session until I was caught playing a fish by a fellow member, once word got out the swim was never the same although you’ll still catch from it today.

Winter mirror from the willow tree snags on bolesworth

Dead Lily Pads
After snags, dead lily pads would be my next choice for finding winter carp. I’ve seen it written that dead lily beds offer the carp a bit more warmth, a sort of insulation if you like. I’m not entirely sure that’s true, having never taken the water temperature in such areas I wouldn’t like to say if the ‘more warmth’ theory is right or wrong, either way, dead lily pads can be exceptionally good holding areas and are well worth checking out during the winter months. One lake where dead lily pads used to produce carp in winter is former day ticket carp water burton mere. The extensive lily pads at the house end of the mere often held carp during the colder months and it was here that I caught my first ‘winter 20' on the 3rd January 1994, just an hour after the lake had thawed out.

First ever winter 20 at 22lb 4oz, caught from a dead set of lily pads

Burton Mere circa 1994, this whole area is dead lily pads right out as far the the island on the right, a top carp holding area!

Dead Weedbeds
Similar to and of equal importance as dead lily pads, if there are dead weedbeds on your lake these areas are well worth investigating and sooner rather than later when you’re looking at locating winter carp. On one little known north west carp water I used to fish, there was a small weedbed in one area of the lake and it was here I quickly located what turned out to be just about every carp in the lake. This particular dead weedbed never failed to produce and I banked the lakes largest inhabitant along with all his mates, all between late November and early march one winter. The weedbed was like a magnate for the fish and no matter what the conditions the carp where always in or around it.

Big winter mirror of 25lb 6oz caught from a dead weedbed

Dead Reed Beds
Again similar to lily pads and weedbeds, areas of dead reeds can quite often hold carp and if they are present on your lake they should be investigated. There was a small bed of reeds on burton mere water woodland pool, the carp hung around the reeds during the winter and runs would come from reedbed like clockwork, I remember it was a standing joke between me and my mate, whoever had a rod on the reedbed would catch a fish at exactly 13.05pm!. Run time was so predictable I once stopped an angler in mid conversation, tapped my watch and said 'sorry mate, its run time and the left hand rod is about to go!'. With that, the left hand rod duly rattled off and the look on the poor guys face was a picture!. It was just one of those funny moments in fishing and it proved that carp can sometimes be very easy to catch in winter, once you know where to put your baits.

Early 90's winter carp from the reedbed behind me, we always caught at 13.05pm!

Overhanging Trees
You usually associate overhanging trees with margin swims and it applies to both lake and island margins. Trees overhanging the water can provide cover and shelter for carp and after snags, lily pads, weedbeds and reed beds, overhanging trees would be the next feature I’d investigate. One such water where overhanging trees can produce carp is famous north west carp water capesthorne hall. Capesthorne hall main lake might be a very well known carp water but what isn’t so well known are the areas that can produce carp in winter. One of the very best areas for catching a winter carp on capesthorne main lake is a swim known as the plug hole. There are trees overhanging the water opposite the plug hole and baits positioned under these trees can produce carp during the winter months. Runs don’t come along every session as it’s not the easiest of waters. However, if you can get some time in the plughole swim you have a great chance of bagging yourself a real winter whacker.

Capesthorne winter mirror, the water behind me is frozen and this fish came from a 20yd strip of ice free water that stretched under the trees in the plughole

In the absence of any of the above features to investigate I usually start fishing on the back of the wind, not only is it more comfortable during the winter months, it enables you to set up in such a way as to be able to see most of the lake. With none of the above features to go on I’ll get myself comfortable and watch the water for signs of carp. In the winter months this requires a lot of concentration which is why I prefer short intense fishing sessions during the colder months. I don’t enjoy being bivvy bound at this time of year and I think you work harder when you’re on limited time.

There is always the marker rod if you’re prepared to sacrifice a session or two, unseen underwater features are just as likely to be winter carp holding areas as the features I’ve outlined above. Remember, the carp will be where they feel safe and only the carp themselves can decide where that is. Personally, I think a marker rod is vastly over rated. I’ve been in the fortunate position of seeing a couple of north west carp lakes emptied of water and the bottom was nothing like the impression I had from the marker. With this in mind, I no longer bother feature finding with a marker rod, I do have one but I only use it for baiting up open water swims accurately. As a feature finding tool I think marker rods are rubbish and I much prefer to let the carp show me where they are prepared to feed, even in winter.

In order to catch carp in winter you really just have to get out there and do it, on one particular 16 acre sand pit I eventually pinned the carp down to a shallow area barely 2 feet deep. The pit had been a working sand pit and when it was flooded things were left behind. In the area I found the carp I would occasionally get my hook caught on some rotting wood. Bits of this wood came in on the hook now and again and it was the only feature in the area. Despite the water being shallow, there would be carp round this feature constantly and I only found it by being there and watching the water constantly over a few short sessions.

On my current winter water, the margins and shallows are superb in summer but during the winter, the carp prefer deeper water. Although the lake is pretty featureless, all the areas I’ve caught consistently from in winter do have one thing in common. I regularly retrieve bloodworm on the hook. I’m constantly making mental notes of the areas I’m picking up fresh bloodworm from and in the absence of carp sightings I try these areas whilst I’m waiting and watching for a carp to show itself.

Top left corner for a winter carp holding area on Capesthorne Hall

Sometimes locating winter carp can be a long and painful process, particularly if your chosen water has a low stock of fish. You won’t catch anything sat at home though. Keep watching the water and move on a showing fish straight away. If you can’t find them then start investigating the features in the lake one by one whilst keeping your eyes peeled for showing fish, not just rolling and crashing fish but bubblers too, if you see signs of bubbling then keep an eye on the area, if its gas, the bubbles won’t move but if its fish you can expect to see maybe a small amount of movement as the carp grub about on the bottom. If you’re not sure then investigate it with a rod anyway, sometimes you can just stumble across a productive winter hotspot by accident, if you don’t try the area or go with your hunch you’ll never know.

To give a rough idea about my own mindset when it comes to winter carp location, I'm quite happy to accept that when I fish a new water in winter, it might be the winter after before I manage to pin down a holding area and start getting my rewards, sometimes you can get lucky and find carp easily but I always expect it to be a long and drawn out process of elimination as I search different areas and continually look for the fish.

Finally, and for the lazy tossers out there, other anglers can be a help in winter, if you’ve no idea where the carp are and you see someone else catch then it can pay to keep an eye on the area they are fishing and what they are doing. I’m not very comfortable about using this method to get on the carp in winter but the way the north west carp scene is, most anglers would jump in your grave for the chance of catching a fish. I've been stung a few times in the past when other anglers have stumbled accross me playing a fish then jumped on my hard work so I now operate on the ‘do unto others as they do to you’ principle, not very nice I know but all’s fair when it comes down to locating winter carp!.

Tight Lines.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt11

Winter Carp Diary Pt11

Since starting my winter carp diary back in late Novemeber 2007 I’ve always known that the end of the Christmas holidays would also effectively see the end of my winter carp fishing for this particular fishing season. For the last few months my work colleagues have been working late and putting in the hours to get ready for the arrival of a new computer system at work. I study at college in the evenings so the only time I have to help out at work is my weekends and my fishing time.

With work and time pressures piling up it was time to hang up the rods and give the winter carping a miss for a few months. Hanging up the rods is hard at any time but when your on top of things and catching some good fish its even harder!. The festive period had been very good to me, a 25lb+ winter common on boxing day, 5 carp to 18lb on new years eve and a new years day 20 were the highlights. I wish I could have carried on fishing through January and February but there was no competition when it came down to it, I had to put the hours in at work.

My new years day result was published last week and its now early February as I write this short piece, I haven’t been carp fishing since new years day and it’s unlikely I’ll see the bank again before the spring as my weekends are now work only until we get on top of things.

A Few Loose Ends
When you register a blog on you also get several other accounts and through these accounts I can monitor traffic through my site and through the rss feed that it delivers. I can also see what pages are being returned in google searches and one that comes up with monotonous regularity is Capesthorne uncovered pt2. Part two hasn’t actually been written yet. I’m extremely busy trying to balance work and college study so I’ve no time to go fishing at the moment let alone complete the capesthorne piece. If I do find myself with a few spare hours I’ll be out with the lure bag enjoying a short pike fishing session rather than sat in front of a word processor!. I will finish part 2 when my workload eases off a little bit so in the meantime those of you interested in it will just have to be patient, I’m sorry lads but it’s not a high priority at the moment, in fact it’s not a priority at all.

I do have a few other bits and pieces that have been written to ‘fill in’ between blanks when the carp fishing is slow and I’ll try and get the odd offering published now and again but for now, there won’t be any more updates to this blog until the end of march at the earliest.

I wish you all well with your winter carp fishing and I hope you all bag a whacker soon.

Tight Lines.

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