I’ve had a wake up call regards my carp fishing venture of late. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve done a small amount of carp fishing previously, making maybe around ten trips between the mid 1990’s and 2004, and one further trip in 2015. Hardly a concerted effort, though I did get some nice fish including a stalked UK 22lber from a natural pool, and two 30lbers from France including a 36lber.
My decision to target carp more regularly as part of my all-round UK fishing portfolio for 2017 did not initially go quite to plan. The top names of the sport tell you to “first find the fish” and look for carp boshing, vortexing, fizzing, or by sitting up a tree to gain height and visually looking for them. Good, common sense information. Problem was, on both the waters I was going to fish, there was literally no sign of moving or feeding fish for months, and they never seemed to bosh on the surface either. What hindered things even more was that on both waters the water clarity was of a colour close to tea and never really clearing, even in prolonged fine weather with little rain. Given the calm, near rain free 16/17 winter we had here in the west, this was surprising.
The obvious tactic then, was to fish to feature, which is what I did, but the honest answer was that bites proved elusive, though I was fishing through the heart of winter.
I’d been concerned about a choice of bait from the start as the two day-ticket waters I’d chosen to fish I knew from the off were not going to be easy. Initially I chose a fish meal based boilie and a sweet nut based boilie, both top brands and according to the magazines baits that were doing well on waters throughout the UK. Alas they did nothing on the waters I was fishing. This lack of interest I wrongly thought might be my presentation, so I analysed my rigs in detail, made numerous adjustments, but these achieved no improvement in bites or takes.
I looked at my PVA bag mix, and eventually discounted that as a problem, too. I was getting paranoid now and even looked at how I set up my rods in the pod, and even changed the reel line colour.
All the time I had this nagging doubt in my head about boilie flavours. With the water being cold, I discarded the fishmeal in case it was taking too long to break down, even though, elsewhere this particular flavour was catching for others. I kept using the sweet nutty flavour, but had a second rod baited with a “new to me” more all-round flavour that again was doing well elsewhere and accounting for some good late winter and early spring fish. Still nothing! I changed baits again to one of the very top sellers with a massive reputation and in a stand-out yellow for added attraction. Another flop, as was a Scopex flavour that had done ok for me in the previous years. The key to this problem was the lack of bites and I was quickly forming the opinion none of these baits were right for the waters I was fishing.
My thoughts on the previous baits were that they may need to be applied in some quantity over a period of time to get the carp weaned on them, though some top carper’s, but not all, do not necessarily agree with this as they write that a good bait is a good bait, and that’s all it needs to be. Given the time of year and cold water conditions piling in loads of bait was not sensible, nor financially practical. I took a step away from reading about what others did and applied some good old sea fishing logic of my own. I felt it was the water clarity and a certain amount of decaying leaf matter on the lake bed that was the main issue. Thinking it through, I didn’t feel that the boilie flavours I’d so far tried had enough scent for the fish to easily find them in the turbid waters. What’s more one of the lakes is small and very well sheltered completely surrounded by mature trees. There is some surface drift, but not a lot, and I felt that that was also the case on the lake bed with little wind borne circulatory current available to help disperse any scent leakage.
I spent a couple of nights scouring the bait companies and eventually found what I was looking for. A heavily scented citrus flavoured boilie with enough oomph to cut through the cloudy water and any odour emanating from the decaying leaf matter. I went for wafters, not boilies, and had these sat in glug for a couple of weeks to maximise their scent value. My aim was to use small PVA bags of pellet mix to either draw the carp initially in, or pull in silver fish to create disturbance and activity and encourage the carp to muscle their way in for a look see, but have the wafter sat on top of the leaf matter as the primary target bait.
This simple change of bait brought instant success. Positioning baits tight to a weed bed, I hooked up on the first cast with the new high scent bait.
So, what personal conclusions have I come to. The obvious one is that all waters are different. Firstly, you need to learn the water or waters you have chosen. This takes time and I’d suggest you need at least a year looking at the water through all the seasons to really get a true feel for it and how it reacts to various weather patterns. If you’re lucky enough to fish high stock waters where lots of specific information is available to you, then you’ll shorten the learning curve. For many, this will not be the case and you’ll need to work through it yourself from scratch, as I did, but its fun and well worth the effort.
You can read up regards what others lads are catching, and which baits and tactics are in vogue, but that does not necessarily put you on the right track for success. Bait is obviously crucial. Get it right and you’ll catch fish from day one. Chances are, you won’t, and you’ll need to think your way through some options before you find what suits the carp in the waters you fish.
As for weaning carp on to specific boilie flavours, for my small day-ticket waters, I’m not so sure. The cost of putting in kilo after kilo can be prohibitive for many anglers, including me, and on that fact alone is a non-starter. On smaller waters four or five anglers piling bait in of different flavours creates confusion and will see a majority of carp favour only one or two flavours at best. If you’ve got the wrong flavour, then you’re chucking time, money and opportunity away. I also feel, on smaller waters with a low to medium stocking, that its way better to pick out and learn the feature hotspots, fish these, and let the fish come to you presenting a target bait for them to eat.
Looking back my initial approach re rigs and presentation wasn’t far away, but I was naive and wanted instant success, hence me going for a top rated bait without giving it enough thought regards how it suited the water I was actually fishing. I was also stubborn having belief in what others were using and waited too long before changing. Patience I have, and they say it’s a virtue, but in this case it was a hindrance.
The waters I fish do not have a raft of 30lbers in them. Anything over 20lb is a very good fish, and that was my initial target. Though I regret not finding answers quicker, I now feel way more confident in achieving that 20lb goal sooner rather than later.