Sunday, 30 December 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt6

After blanking on Saturday I was in two minds about going fishing on Christmas eve. Although it rained on my previous winter carp trip and the lake had been ice free, it had remained cold. As I’d left last time, the temperatures were plummeting again with a forecast for minus two degrees on Saturday night. By time Christmas eve arrives I’ve usually had a gut full of the festive season being rammed down my throat and this year was no different. I sort of knew I was going to be in for a hard time but I went fishing anyway, a bad days carp fishing is better then the endless drivel they put on TV at Christmas!.
On the journey to the lake it rained on and off, the temperature had certainly risen and I was confident the lake would be free of ice. Just in case, I’d packed my wychwood rover lure bag as my plan b was to give the canal a go for pike for a few hours if I couldn’t fish for carp. I needn’t have worried, as I drove down the track to the lake I noticed a decent ripple on the water, there was a nice south westerly blowing across my usual swim and if it wasn’t for the fact it had been so cold recently I’d have been confident of catching.
I started with a rod on the bait at 40 yards, no extra freebies as I’d introduced bait only 36hours earlier, just a pva mesh bag containing a couple of baits and my hook bait. The second rod I placed at range towards the out of bounds area, the out of bounds was still the last area I’d actually seen a carp show so it made sense to start there as nothing had showed during Saturdays session or since I’d arrived at the lake.
It wasn’t long after settling in that the rain started, it was light and intermittent at first but by 1pm it had become heavy and persistent. Despite the rain I kept watching the water for signs of fish, every now and again I’d stand out in it to check the whole of the lake but the rest of the time I spent viewing one half of the lake from the comfort of my brolly. Nothing showed, 1pm became 2pm and still nothing moved, the cold weather of the last few weeks really had taken its toll, on top of nothing showing, the wind had died off when the rain had become more persistent so I was once again left looking at a flat calm lake. I really wanted the wind to keep blowing as the carp in this lake respond well when there’s a decent blow on. Unfortunately, once the wind died it never came back.
The afternoon wore on and it was just after 4pm when a single carp poked its nose out of the water, the carp was a long way out, certainly beyond my casting range but at least I was on the right track as the fish were obviously still over in the out of bounds area of the lake. That single carp showing was the only thing that happened all day and I had to make do with being pleased to actually see a fish show. If nothing else, it at least showed that they were stirring again after our recent cold weather and my plan was to get back down to the lake two days later and try for a boxing day carp.
I packed up at 4.30pm, it hadn’t stopped raining all afternoon and by time my fishing gear was back in the car I was soaked. It wasn’t exactly the Christmas eve session I was hoping for but at least I had an idea the carp where still over in the out of bounds area. I opted to leave the spodding this time round, I was coming back to the lake within 48 hours so I just put a few pellets and some peparami in via the catapult then hurried back to the car as quickly as I could in the pouring rain.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt5

The weather had been ice cold all week and most waters were frozen over. I had a feeling my winter carp fishing wasn’t going to happen this week so I sat down in front of the PC on Friday evening and made my backup plan.
I always have a backup plan when the weather is icy. If my carp lake happens to be frozen over there are always other species of fish to target in other waters. Rivers don’t freeze so species such as chub, grayling, perch and pike are all viable options even in the coldest of conditions. Even the canal can be free of ice when my chosen winter carp lake is frozen over so there is always plenty of choice no matter how cold it gets.
My usual 'alternative' target is winter pike and in years gone by I’d visit either the river severn or the river dee if I couldn’t get my rods out for winter carp. I know a few stretches on both rivers that respond very well to wobbled deadbaits, even in the very coldest of conditions. However, you can’t keep fishing the same places all the time. Sure, you put yourself in with a great chance of catching if you fish known holding areas you’ve caught well from in the past but if you stick to the same venues and swims year in year out I think you stagnate as an angler and I prefer to keep moving, trying new venues and finding new productive areas. With new venues in mind, I sat at the PC on Friday evening with google earth open on the computer and my sat nav positioned next to the monitor. I was looking at the Shropshire union canal in particular and I used google earth to locate as many access points to the canal as possible, once I found a road that either crossed the canal or passed close by, I used the ‘navigate to point on map’ function on my sat nav to store it for future reference. The plan was to head down to the lake and break up as much ice as I possibly could in order to give the wind a chance at clearing the lake. I was doing this because I was due on again on Christmas eve and if I couldn’t fish on Saturday due to the ice I definitely wanted my lines in the water on Monday!.
Once I’d done as much as I could at the lake I was going to drop into daves of middlewich then visit the canal to see if I could find any pike or perch with a small plug or spinner. This year I was dropping my favoured method of wobbling a dead smelt, it had been a particularly productive method for catching pike in the past but at the cost of smelling everything out. My clothes, the car, my fishing gear, everything stinks of dead fish after a days pike fishing so this year I’d invested in a wychwood rover lure bag into which I’d placed a few of my favourite lures. If the lake wasn’t fishable I could wander up and down the canal searching any potential holding areas with my small selection of lures.
With my plans for the Shropshire union canal in place I was going to be fishing no matter what happened, on Saturday morning I packed my carp gear as usual only this time I packed my lure bag as well. The journey to the lake was uneventful, there didn’t appear to be much frost around and I got quite a surprise when I made my way down the track to the lake. It was flat calm and at first I assumed it was frozen. Out of the corner of my eye I clocked a duck paddling its way across the lake. That didn’t look right?. I looked again and sure enough the water was ice free. I parked the car and went for a closer look, I couldn’t even find any sign of cat ice in the margins, the lake was completely ice free.
Straight away I forgot about the pike, the lure fishing could stay as a backup plan until next time it’s icy. I unloaded my gear from the car and made my way to my usual swim. I left the gear and went for a walk round to see if I could spot any carp, nothing showed so I headed back to my swim and picked up where I left off in winter carp diary pt4. I’d scraped a double to save a blank last week and I decided to start in the same place. The fish had been stacked up in an out of bounds area last time so I opted for one rod as far towards this area as I could and the other rod I placed ‘on the bait’ at a range of about 40 yards (area a if you look at my previous entries), both rods were baited with pellet and fished with a pva mesh bag of the same.
Once the rods were out and the rest of my gear was neatly arranged I settled down to watch the water, if anything showed I wanted to get a bait on it straight away. The day passed by without anything happening. The cold weather had obviously had an effect on the carp, I can’t ever remember a whole day passing without seeing a carp on this particular water, in the past I’ve even watched the fish rolling in a small hole in the ice out in the middle of the lake but today they were well and truly hidden away. I did move the rods around late afternoon in order to try different spots that had been productive in the past but I run out of both luck and time and the shortest day of the year became my first blank of the winter.
Usually, I don’t cut back on the bait I put in at the end of each session but as I was going to be back at the lake within 48hrs, I opted to put in just a quarter of the bait I’d usually use. A quarter of the bait took a quarter of the time and I finished my spodding quickly and packed up.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt4

After several days of low temperatures and a particularly hard frost on Thursday night I was in two minds about my carp fishing this week. As well as the possibility of the lake being frozen over there was talk of fuel protests as well and I imagined a ‘go slow’ on all the main roads and wondered if it would effect my fishing trip.
After a cloudy night and no apparent frost on Saturday morning I decided to make the trip. The first thing into the car was the sat nav, if I had to turn off a main road because of a go slow, the sat nav would plot me a new course to the lake and I figured I could avoid any potential trouble.
As it turned out, the roads were clear and as I headed south through ellesmere port on the motorway, a quick glimpse at the Shropshire union canal in the backford area revealed it to be ice free. As I pulled into the car park at the lake, I was relieved to see no ice to be found on the lake either. I was half expecting it to be frozen or maybe part frozen but fortunately neither was the case.

I unloaded my carp gear in the car park whilst watching the water for signs of fish. The first thing I noticed was that I’d left my skeetex thermal boots at home. This was a disaster for me in more ways than one. My peg was partially flooded and I needed my boots on in order to get to the front of my swim, without them, the bushes either side of my swim were restricting my casting. Moving was the obvious option but I decided to stay put as the swim gave easy access to my prebaited winter hotspot. Apart from restricting me round my half flooded out swim, I was in for a cold day and I knew my feet would be like ice blocks before the day was out. I decided to sit it out though, I’d driven a long way and I wasn’t going home just because my feet were going to get cold!.

I got myself set up and comfortable, once everything was sorted, I tied a few pva mesh bags of pellets and hair rigged a pellet on each rod. One went straight onto the prebaited winter hotspot and the other I put into area b on the swim diagram.

Winter carp swim diagram


Despite it being flat calm it was obvious the prolonged cold weather had made a big impact on the carp compared to the previous week. I watched patiently waiting for a fish to crash or roll but nothing did and my usual good start of banking a fish in the first hour or so was gone. I continued to scan the lake looking for signs of fish and at just before 1pm a carp rolled over the far side. The far bank is an out of bounds area, its out of casting range and out of reach from every peg on the lake so even a move wouldn’t have put me on that rolling carp. Having seen one fish over there I focussed on that area and sure enough, I witnessed another 3 carp shows in the next hour.
The best I could do to get near the fish was to change my 2oz inline leads for a 3oz distance lead fished on a safety clip. I kept the two bait pva bag to help avoid tangles, I would have to sacrifice a few yards but I needed to know my rig was sitting right and the pva mesh bag helped achieve this. I’d never cast these new tfg rods any great distance before, they’d only been used up to 90yds maximum and I really needed the yards to give me any chance of catching today. I couldn’t help wishing I’d had my infinity x rods with me but having opted to leave them at home the new tfg’s would have to do. I’m pleased to say the tfg’s did ok, there was always a piece of me holding back because they were new rods but I comfortably made over 100yds with a 3oz lead and a two bait pva mesh bag. This was still short of where the carp had all rolled in the previous hour but at least it put me a lot nearer to them and there was always a chance the fish could move towards me in the few hours I had left.
Happy I’d done just about all I could to get near the carp I sat and waited for a bite. I spotted a couple more carp roll in the next hour, each time in the same place and it looked like they just weren’t going to move this time. With nothing to show for my efforts by 3.15pm I’d resigned myself to a blank, I looked around my swim for bits of my fishing gear I could start packing away before I got the spod out at 4pm. I’d already begun to tidy away my gear when out of the blue the left hand delkim bleeped a couple of times then went into a slow but steady run, I watched the monkey climber pull to the top of the needle as I was going for the rod and as I bent down to pick it up, the baitrunner started clicking away slowly. I swept the rod back and it arched over nicely. The carp was quite a way out and there was very little fight from the fish on the way in. Once into the margins the fish put up a bit more of a fight but I was always in control of the situation and after a few minutes plodding round under the rod tip I slipped the net under a nice looking common. It was a small, fat fish but it was very clean and in excellent condition. The scales gave me a weight of 13lb 10oz, not a massive fish by any means but it saved a blank on a freezing cold December day.

Blank saver, this 13lb 10oz north west winter carp was the only action this week.


With a spare pva mesh bag already tied and waiting, I put the rod back out to the same area in the hope I might repeat my good fortune then continued to tidy away the rest of my fishing gear. At 4pm I got the spod out and began spodding in my mixture of hemp, maize and peparami. I left the rods out whilst I got on with the job of spodding After all, I was fishing at least 100+yds out and the area I was spodding to was only 30-40 yds so it made sense to keep them out there just in case. Alas no more action came my way and when I’d finished with the hemp, maize and peparami, I put some pellets out with the catapult then pulled the rods in and headed for home before my feet got any colder!.

For the previous few weeks the carp fishing on my winter water had been good, the carp have still been very active but these past few days of cold weather really seem to have taken their toll. I felt like I’d got out of jail catching that common and from now on, I think the fishing might get a bit harder. A slowdown in the action is always expected at this time of year and I now feel my winter carp fishing is well and truly under way.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt3

I was up earlier than usual on Saturday morning as I was selling off my 3 greys prodigy carp rods, the sat nav made my early morning meeting very easy and once the deal was done I plotted a course for the lake and headed south down the M6. The journey was uneventful and if anything a little slow due to the weather. I knew it was going to be quite bad and on the way to the lake I questioned my sanity for going carp fishing in such foul conditions. The rain was heavy and persistent and it was accompanied by a cold wind, despite last weeks success, I wasn’t too confident of catching a carp this week but you have to be in it to win it as they say.
I pulled into the car park and looked at the lake. Once again I was the only angler there. With the rain being so heavy, I got myself into my igloo 3 and my skeetex boots in double quick time and headed off to my swim. Short session winter carping usually means the rods are first out but on this occasion I opted to get the brolly out and store my gear first, there wasn’t any point in me or my gear getting soaked and sorting out a couple of pva mesh bags for each rod required being dry!. Despite the foul conditions I was able to make myself really comfortable. For once, the wind was blowing over my head so I was able to set up the brolly with a great view of the lake.

Winter Swim Diagram.


The picture above is a diagram of my swim, there are no features, it's just silt silt and more silt with an even depth of 6ft virtually all over. My prebaited spot is 30-40yds out in front of me (A), I’ve picked up carp from the nice clear area (B) by just fishing stringers or small pva mesh bags, this spot is around 80yds out. From the start of my winter carp fishing this year I’ve noticed fish showing off to my left (C), this spot is also around 70-80yds out. Usually, I start with a pva stringer on areas A and B but with a really cold wind blowing down the lake from left to right I opted to start with a rod on my prebaited spot and a rod off to the left on area C as this was off the back of the cold wind. I dropped my first rod onto the prebaited spot, a gentle lob saw the rig land perfectly. This week I started with peparami instead of my usual pellet hook bait, I’ve been mixing peparami in with my hemp and maize when spodding so I figured I’d give it a go today. I was just about to cast the second rod off to the left when I heard a carp crash. I couldn’t have been any further away from the fish!. The carp crashed off to my right, way off to the right of area B and about 90+yds out. I guess it was just instinct but with the rod in hand and a pva mesh bag already on and ready to cast, I quickly re-adjusted my feet, lined myself up then whacked the baited rig straight at the crashing carp. My luck was in, I’m not used to these new tfg x series carp rods yet but the timing of the cast was good and the rig flew out to the area and landed perfectly. If anything it may have been a few yards short but it was certainly very close to where the carp crashed out and I was happy to leave it there.
With the rods out I headed for the cover of the brolly, a quick check of the watch and it was 11.15am, I’d made good time and hadn’t lost any fishing time despite my prodigy carp rod deal earlier in the morning. I grabbed a brew from the flask and sat back to watch the water. It was bleak but with the wind over my head and some trees for cover I was actually more comfortable than usual as I generally sit with a westerly wind blowing straight in my face. Once I was settled in the rain actually eased off and after 10 minutes or so it pretty much stopped. I’d just finished eating a chocolate biscuit when the right hand monkey climber rose steadily to the top of the needle, the rod tip whipped round and the delkim warbled it's distinctive tune, I was on it straight away, a soft strike saw my new rod hoop over again and I was into my first carp of the day. The bait had been out for 25 minutes and after a short 5 minute fight I slipped the net under a small common that I weighed in at 11lb 4oz. It wasn’t a massive fish but on such a foul day it made my journey worthwhile. Besides, a carp before midday usually means a multiple catch, it was 11.45am and I still had another 4 hours to fish before I started my weekly spodding.

Another north west winter Carp 11lb 4oz


I covered the same area again when I recast but the next carp I saw show was even further off to the right, it was obvious the carp were on the wind despite it being cold so I pulled the other rod off my prebaited spot and cast that one into the same area the carp rolled. Despite covering showing fish nothing much happened for the rest of the afternoon, the rain kept coming and going and I kept watching the water but nothing much gave itself away. I was getting increasingly restless and with nothing showing I was wondering if the carp had moved. I was still pondering my winter carp location when a fish came clean out of the water right on top of my prebaited area!. That was it, I had both rods in and re-baited with a fresh pva mesh bags in double quick time, one rod went right on the bait and one just off to the side of it. The rod off to the side of a baited area often produces fish for me and quite often the bigger specimens. It’s a good tactic to employ and despite it being the 8th December, I was still happy to use the tactic to try and get myself a bigger fish. I retired to the cover of my brolly once again and waited. It had gone quiet again so I grabbed another brew and opened a bag of crisps only to drop them when the rod on the prebaited area rattled off. I was in again and hooking the fish closer to the bank certainly gave me a bit more control than usual. The carp kited left and eventually came into the margins under steady pressure, it felt bigger than the low double earlier in the day and this proved to be the case when I eventually slipped the net under another common that turned the scales to 16lb 6oz.

First winter carp off my prebaited area at 16lb 6oz.


I sorted a couple of photos and got the rig back out as soon as possible. If the carp were on the bait, there was a chance of another fish in the half hour I had left before I needed to start spodding at 4pm. I was right about the other chance, just 5 minutes after the recast the same rod was away again, another decent scrap in the margins saw another common roll into the net, another double that weighed 13lb 8oz.

A 13lb 8 oz common carp off my prebaited winter hotspot.


3 double figure carp was enough for me, on a foul day when most north west carp anglers would rather go Christmas shopping, I’d had another good result. I fished on until 4pm with no further action. I left the rods out whilst I got to work with the spod. It was just about dark when I’d finished my weekly winter prebaiting, the usual mixture of hemp, maize, pellets and peparami all went in and when I’d finished, I packed the rest of my gear and headed off home a happy carp angler again. The 3 carp all fell to the green peparami fished with a couple of pieces in a pva mesh bag. I was pleased to catch a couple of late fish off the area I’ve been prebaiting, it’s just the encouragement I need to keep with my winter baiting plan and I’ll be back next weekend for another go.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Diary Pt2

On Friday night I made sure all my fishing gear was in order and ready to go. I checked my pva mesh and my foam nuggets to make sure I had enough then I sorted out my bait, I had another bucket full of hemp and maize ready to go in the lake, I replenished my pellet bucket and grabbed another ‘bunch of fives’ bulk pack of peparami out of the fridge to go with the rest of the bait.
With my gear sorted out I was ready to leave for the lake by 9.30am on Saturday morning, I set the sat nav and departed on a journey that took a little over an hour. I pulled up at the lake a little after 10.30am and quickly unloaded my carp gear from the car and headed for the same swim I was in last week. Once again the lake was empty of anglers, there was just me and the resident robin who was straight on the case begging for bait as soon as I got there, he even had the cheek to perch himself on my chair whilst I was busy setting up my new carp rods. Earlier in the week I’d taken delivery of three new carp rods. After trying a mates, I’d decided to buy 3 tfg x-series rods. The model I went for was the tfg x3 model in 12ft 3.5lb test curve, word on the grapevine was that these rods were built on the same blank as the free spirit ‘s’ series rods that cost nearly £200 each. The tfg label obviously isn’t fashionable with carp anglers because I picked up my 3 new rods for less than the cost of one free spirit rod!.

Winter Robin sat on my new rods waiting to be fed.


I quickly went about setting up, the forecast was for squally showers and I wanted to be set up and sorted out before any rain came my way. I dropped my first rig over the area I’d baited heavily with the spod the previous week, my usual two bait pva mesh bag was attached to the rig before casting and luckily for me the rig dropped in the right place first time. I was happy with the feel of my new rods and having cast the first one out I set about doing the second rod. Another pva mesh bag was attached, same as the first rod. This particular rig was destined for a hotspot much further out, a nice clean area about 80 yards out that had been productive for me in previous years, the new rod coped easily and despite casting into a strong side wind the rig and pva mesh bag landed in exactly the area I wanted.
With the rods out and the monkey climbers set I glanced up at the lake, a carp crashed about 20 yards behind my baited area. I looked at it but decided not to recast, I figured if the carp where that close to the bait they would come onto it sometime in the next few hours so I left it. I was just about to turn round and get my remote receiver out of my rucksack and turn my delkims on when I heard one of the spools on my reels ticking away, it threw me for a second as I thought it was the rod on the baited spot, I turned round to find the roving rod fished 80 yards out was going into meltdown!. I grabbed the new rod and swept it back slowly, sure enough the rod took on a nice curve and the first carp on my new carp rods was on. It wasn’t much of a battle, the carp kited to my right but steady pressure brought it ever closer and after a short fight in the margins I netted a nice common weighing 15lb 14oz. I looked at my watch and it was 11.15am, I’ve always christened new fishing gear quickly, 60 seconds from casting in to getting a run might not be the fastest run I’ve ever had but it was my new record for christening a fishing rod!.

Gone in 60 seconds, a 15lb 14oz December Common to christen my new rods!


My first carp of the day had caught me on the hop, I was literally about to turn on the delkims before tidying my gear and making sure I was comfortable for the day. Once the weighing, photographing and returning of the carp was done I recast the rod back to the same area and this time I managed to get the rods set and the delkims and receiver switched on. I tidied my peg and sat down to watch the water. If you’ve ever done any winter carp fishing before, you’ll know how hot it can get wearing a thermal suit, my igloo3 is great when your sitting down but when you have to move about in it for any length of time you end up roasting hot and that’s exactly what I was like when I finally managed to sit down.

After half an hour of sitting down in that brisk wind I was just starting to feel cool again, I reached into the pocket of my igloo3 to get my thermal hat but before I could pull it out of the pocket the same rod was away again only this time it was accompanied by the unmistakeable warble of a delkim that was coming from the receiver in my pocket!. I forgot about the hat and hit the rod, again the rod went over and again I had another uneventful fight on the way in, once in the margins this carp did fight a little harder than the last one but the carp was always fighting a loosing battle and after a few minutes I slipped the net under my second fish of the day, this one turned out to be a mirror and it weighed in at 15lb 4oz, another mid double and it wasn’t even midday!.

15lb 4oz Winter Mirror made it two carp within an hour.


The wind was pretty strong at this point, I recast the rod with another pva mesh bag on then went about setting up the brolly. It looked like the forecast showers were fast approaching and I didn’t want to get wet!. Once I was settled down I couldn’t see much of the water, I spent the next hour or two dodging the rain when it came and standing by the rods watching the water when it had stopped. Funnily enough, every time I sat out of the rain it seemed the sun was shining too, don’t you just love the british weather!.
Nothing else occurred for a hour or two, I grabbed a bite to eat and a cup of coffee and continued to watch the water. It was nearly 2pm when I noticed a carp show off to the left, this was in the area I’d picked up two fish last week. I continued looking for a minute or two longer and sure enough the fish showed again. That was it, I pulled the rod off the baited area and dropped the rig on the rolling fish. The first cast landed right on the money and with the indicator set I stood next to the rods expecting a run straight away. That run didn’t come for a few minutes, I was just beginning to think I must have spooked the fish when the monkey climber dropped an inch and the remote let out a couple of bleeps. I looked at the rod wondering if a carp had got away with it when it twitched slightly, just a gentle pull of maybe an inch which was again accompanied by a couple of bleeps from the remote. That was enough for me and I picked up the rod and hit it, sure enough there was a carp on at the other end and after another short fight I slipped the net under my smallest carp of the winter so far, a common which weighed in at 11lb 12oz.

Smallest Carp of the Winter so far 11lb 12oz.


I recast the rig to the same area hoping there would still be one or two more fish around, the next hour and a half passed by uneventfully, it was just more water watching for me as I tried to locate the fish and pin down some new productive spots. During the afternoon I trickled pellets onto my baited spot. I wasn’t actually fishing the area as both rods had ended up as rovers with the small pva mesh bags cast to rolling carp. Despite this, I still wanted the carp to come to one spot when they were hungry and to this end I continued to bait the area despite not having a rod there. I was actually just thinking of moving the left hand rod back onto the bait when the rod tip pulled round again. By this time I was liking my new rods, they had real backbone for casting and playing fish on them was no trouble at all, although having a 3.5lb test curve they were quite forgiving close in and I had no problems leading in my fourth double of the day, another common that turned the scales to 14lb 10oz.

My 4th double of the day, a 14lb 10oz Common.


Time was moving on, it was 3.30pm when I returned the fourth fish and I had just half an hour left before I needed to start spodding in this weeks helping of bait. No other runs came my way in that half hour and despite leaving the rods out whilst I spodded in my mixture of hemp, maize, peparami and pellets, I didn’t manage another run. The spodding took a while and it was just about dark when I finished the last of the bucket. I know carp have been onto the bait I’ve spodded in, I saw a fish show right over the area during the afternoon and I’m sure they must have had it all off during the week.
This weeks session turned out to be a good one for me, four doubles in December is what I consider a right result for any north west carp angler, I christened both of my new x3 carp rods along the way and I packed up my fishing gear and headed for home a happy winter carp angler.

Tight Lines
Mark.

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
Mark.

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
Mark.

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
Mark.

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
Mark.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Carp Baits - Groats

Mention ‘mass’ particle baits and the first thing any carp angler will say is ‘hemp seed’. Hemp is probably the most effective mass particle baits of all time but there’s another one that’s right up there and that’s ‘naked oats’, more commonly known as groats.
Groats are an incredibly successful mass particle bait for carp yet you rarely see carp anglers using them nowadays. What I like about groats is their ease of use. For a short session carp angler like myself this bait is perfect because it doesn’t require any boiling to prepare. All I need to do is tip my groats into a bait bucket and soak them in cold water for 24hrs before use. That is so convenient, not only do I not need to waste any time cooking bait, I also avoid stinking the house out and getting moaned at every week!, on top of this, they are ideally prepared on the bank so if you’re a long session carp angler, again, you simply add water and leave them to soak in a bucket outside the bivvy for 24hrs.

Groats, convenient and very successful mass bait for carp!


If I travel to a water like the carp society's horseshoe lake or linear fisheries then this is the particle bait I take with me, I usually take a 20k sack and I can prepare as much or as little as I think I will need whilst I’m on the bank and I find that extremely useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don’t need to prepare all my bait at home, secondly, I’m not tempted to go piling bait into a swim as soon as I get there because I’ll only soak a small amount prior to travelling and thirdly, I can prepare as much or as little as I want depending on how the fishing is at the time so all in all I’m happier taking groats to a water than I am taking hemp seed which requires boiling.

Groats are a nice visual seeds, being a creamy off white colour I’ve always found them ideal for fishing in clear waters. I find visual baits attract carp, they are curious creatures and they will usually come and investigate anything that stands out and a nice bright bed of small seeds definitely stands out!. On top of the visual aspect of groats, carp do find them attractive, they go nice and milky when soaked and the carp certainly go for them in a big way. Like hemp, I’ve witnessed carp literally ripping the bottom to bits to clear every last seed and you can certainly achieve the same level of pre-occupation with groats that you can with hemp.

Nice bright bait and attractive to carp.


Groats also take flavours very well, I have to say I’ve never been a big fan of flavouring particles myself, anything else you add to them just helps increase the expense of using them and as these baits are attractive in their own right I tend to fish with them as they are. I do however take advantage of groats’ ability to accept flavours, not by adding anything to them but by soaking them in the water I boil my tiger nuts in and by keeping my tiger nuts in the same bucket, as the tiger nuts ferment and the water they are in goes sticky, so the groats soak this up and I’ve found the combination of tiger nuts fished over a small patch of groats to be outstanding. This is the combination of baits I used to turn over stoke water capesthorne hall in Cheshire.

Like every particle bait, groats can’t be introduced at any kind of range, I’m pretty much against spodding so where possible I’ll introduce them to margin swims or I’ll use a pair of thigh or chest waders to put my bait in, if I need to spod then I’ll change baits to something more suitably sized rather than risk spooking carp with a spod. The bridge area of capesthorne hall lent itself perfectly to fishing my groats and tiger nuts combination, I was able to introduce small beds of bait very accurately and this paid big dividends for me during my time on the water, half of my carp from the water came to tiger nuts fished over a bed of groats whilst the other half came to single hookbaits.

23lb 8oz Capesthorne hall carp caught on a tiger nut fished over a tight bed of groats near the bridge.


I did well on the river weaver with groats too, when I found myself running low on hemp I found I could use a combination of one third hemp and two thirds groats, again due to groats ability to soak up liquid attractors, I’d boil my hemp then add groats so they would soak up the water my hemp had boilied in, this proved to be a very cost effective method of fishing big beds of particle baits as groats were and still are cheaper than hemp!.

If you’re a particle angler then groats are well worth a look, I’ve been using them on and off for close on 15 years now and they come in very handy when I find myself in a position to be able to fish the margins of a lake or river. I know I can rely on them to pull carp in when I’m fishing margin swims and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to other north west carp anglers.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Carp Baits - Tiger Nuts

I first started using tiger nuts around 1995. At the time I had no idea they were such an outstanding carp bait, in fact, it took me quite a while to pluck up the courage to actually use them. It was a chance happening on a local north west carp water that convinced me to give them a go. I just happened to be sitting talking to a carp angler when his rod screamed off and after a good fight he netted a half decent carp, it was then I noticed the tiger nut hanging from the carps mouth. After chatting to him and enquiring about the tiger nuts, he convinced me they were worth a go. I look back now and laugh, even when I cast out my first ever tiger nut rig I still wasn’t convinced they were any good for catching carp!. I reckon I waited about an hour for my first ever run on a tiger nut, I couldn’t quite believe it when the rod actually screamed off, for me, that first session success began a long association with this superb carp bait, a bait I'm still catching carp on today!.

If I could choose just one carp bait to fish with for the rest of my life it would be tiger nuts. I'm not sure why they are such a good bait, maybe it's their sweetness, or that carp like to 'crunch' on them, probably a bit of both, one things for sure, I'd put tiger nuts up against any boilie you can think of, and they will perform very favorably.

If you’re planning to use tiger nuts, you should make sure that you prepare them correctly, as they are very hard. When you buy them, you will notice that they are dehydrated, they need to be soaked for at least 24hrs. During this time, they will take on water and swell to their normal size. Once soaked, they should be boiled for at least 30 minutes, this is to soften them a bit. I don't think they will soften any more than this so there's not much point in boiling them any longer. Once boiling is completed, they can be left in the same water to cool. It's just a case of take them to the lake and use them once they are prepared!. Some people prefer to leave their tigers at this stage, as, after a while, they will begin to ferment. They do smell a bit when they reach this stage, some people swear by their effectiveness when left to ferment, personally, I like mine fresh and will use them within 3 days of preparation.

Dry Tiger Nuts, Soak them for 24 hours then boil for 30 minutes.



For presentation, I like to fish tiger nuts on a hair rig using a knotless knot set up. I cut a piece of cork to the shape of a tiger nut and use that as the top half of a snowman hook bait, that is, the cork sits on top of the tiger nut to pop it up. It's then just a case of balancing the rig with a bit of putty, so that it sinks very slowly. This has been a superb presentation for me over the years and I've taken many carp using it. You should not worry about the cork being on top of the tiger nut, the fish can't tell one way or the other. I usually put a few pieces of cork in with my prepared tiger nuts, that way, they soak in some of the juices from the nuts.

Tiger nut carp rig, fish as a pop up or trim the cork to size so the bait just sinks with the weight of the hook.


22lb 6oz Capesthorne Hall Carp caught on the snowman tiger nut presentation, this carp is an upper 20 these days.


The last word on tigers goes to bait application, this bait should be used sparingly. Usually just a pouch full or two along with your hook bait is more than enough whilst fishing. I tend to put more tiger nuts in when I’m actually leaving the lake, not many though, on most waters I won’t introduce more than a pound or two of tiger nuts in any one go. On rivers like the dee and the weaver I use a lot more as river carp can be very nomadic and I know there is no chance of over using tiger nuts in an open river system. Over-use of tiger nuts can be a bad thing and can cause what's known as 'tiger nut syndrome'. These baits contain very little in the way of nutrition for carp yet the carp can become totally pre-occupied with them to the point were they will just eat tiger nuts and nothing else, neglecting both natural food and anglers boilies. This can result in weight loss and in extreme cases death for the carp so please use them sparingly. I believe this is why they are banned on some carp waters, because some people don't have the common sense to use them properly!. Thankfully bans are not necessary on most waters and if you use them correctly, they will work for years with no ill effects for the carp.

Still catching on tigers, last weeks river dee carp fell to one!


Should you wish, you can always buy tiger nuts that are already prepared, bait companies like dynamite sell tinned tiger nuts and these are ideal if you are a first time user of this excellent carp bait.

Tight Lines
Mark.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Carp Fishing - River Dee Return

Last Monday a mate of mine suggested a session on the River Dee, I wasn’t going to fish there again this year but my guest had never caught a river carp before and I thought it was high time he found out just how easy targeting river carp actually is. In order to increase our chances I decided to prebait our river swims a couple of times in advance of our Saturday night trip. I put two and a half kilos of bait on soak on Monday night and on Tuesday I cooked them up, my usual combination of 75% tiger nuts and 25% chick peas. Once cooked, I took my particle combination straight to the river and introduced them hot. I burnt my fingers once or twice getting the bait in but apart from that everything went smoothly. I had a few more days before another prebaiting session on Thursday night. With more time I prepared double the amount of bait for Thursday night, in fact I went to town introducing 5 kilos of particles, it took me over an hour to get them all in and I broke my catapult elastic twice during this prebaiting session!. I reckon I’d done enough to get some carp interested so it was just a case of meeting up Saturday evening and heading to the river.
Saturday almost went smoothly, England were 3-0 up at half time in the football so I didn’t bother watching the second half, I had to be at the meeting point for 4.30pm anyway and with my bait preparations completed I made a flask, packed some food in my rucksack, grabbed the rest of my fishing gear and headed off to meet my mate. We were at our swims and setting up by 5.30pm when it suddenly dawned on me I’d left the house with no rod pod!. Not a disaster for some people but for me a nightmare as I leave my pod permanently set up so my indicators and my delkim bite alarms were also missing!.
I had no choice so I left my mate to sort himself out and shot off home to find my rod pod and bite alarms. It took me quite a while to make it back to our river swims again and I was lucky the motorway was quite clear otherwise I wouldn’t have made it back before dark, as it was I made it in time and set up in half light conditions.
Having a few prebaiting sessions always seems to help when targeting river carp and these river dee carp liked to take advantage of anything that’s put in front of them. Setting up was easy, I baited both rods with a single tiger nut, attached a 2 bait stringer to each rod and dropped them the short cast onto my baited spot. I put my mate on what I regard as ‘the’ hotspot, an area that has been incredibly consistent for both me and my fishing partner when we first targeted these river dee carp a few months ago. I had a feeling he’d catch and once all the rods were sorted we settled down to await some action.
The first thing that came out was the brew kit, no chance of going thirsty on this session and I seem to remember having a brew in my hand constantly until well gone midnight!. I think my guest waited maybe an hour for his first run, as usual it was the right hand rod that went and he dealt with his fish in the manner you’d expect from a long term north west carp angler, he racked up 8 carp during the night, most of them were low doubles, the biggest was just over 12lb. whilst all the action was going on in his river swim, mine remained spookily quiet. I did have a half hearted pick up around midnight and on winding in I found my hair rig wrapped back up round the hooklink which certainly cost me a carp.
Most of the night was spent holding a landing net and playing camera man for my mate but I did get my chance around 4.30am, my left hand rod ripped off out of the blue and after the usual solid fight you get from these river dee carp I slipped the net under my only fish of the night, a common that weighed 10lb 8oz, I took a quick picture for this diary piece then gently released her back to the river.

Another river dee carp at 10lb 8oz


After my one and only success, my mate had a couple more fish before it got light, I expected to see one or two more carp on the bank whilst it was light but no more runs were forthcoming. It turned out to be a good night in the end, my mate went away with his first ever river carp and he got an idea of just how easy river carping can be, we were a bit disappointed that out of 9 carp we landed the biggest was just over 12lb although the average size was around 10lb and nearly all the fish were low doubles. I’m sure these river dee carp will grow on in years to come, I may have just one more session on the river in the next few weeks but I’m ready to leave these river carp alone until next summer. I’ll keep the river dee in my plans and I’ll drop on there now and again next year just to see how those hungry river carp are progressing.
In the meantime, there can’t be many weekends left before the frosts hit us properly, a month or so from now it’ll be winter carping through until next march. The last few winters have been very productive for me and this year I plan to divide my time between 3 different waters. One hard north west big carp water, one intermediate water that could prove challenging and one quite easy water that will give me consistent action whenever I visit. The easy water I’ll use for those hard times when I need a bend in the rod but most of my time will be spent on the other two so I might be writing about a lot of blank sessions over the coming months although theres always a slim chance i'll catch a nice big fat carp in full winter colour, I just hope I’m due some luck and that my winter carping provides me with a nice fish or two this year. I might have the odd pike fishing trip too but that will be as and when the mood takes me.

A walk along the Meadows in Chester City Centre



Tight Lines
Mark.

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