Sunday, 24 August 2008

Carp Rigs - Leadcore Leaders

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a blog entry about leadcore and carp fishing for some time now, literally since this blog started in fact. To be honest, I’ve ducked out of doing it far too often so it‘s time I had my say.
Why have I ducked writing about leadcore and leaders?. Quite simply because I can’t stand them!. I don’t think there are many things in carp fishing that present such a danger to our carp but leadcore leaders are right up there at the top of my ‘most dangerous’ list. I don’t believe leadcore is being used safely and I’m not sure it actually can be!, although some ways are safer than others.

Click to see a video of my leadcore free carp rig

I’m an old school angler and when I learnt to carp fish I learned to follow some simple rules, always find the carp being one, keep quiet and keep your movements to a minimum being another. Simple common sense things that all anglers should strive to do. Another simple rule I learnt fairly quickly was the simple rule of thumb for shock leaders and that is….if you don’t need one, don’t use one!.

The thinking behind the old school leader rule was safety, even back in the late 80’s intelligent carp anglers knew that shock leaders could cause problems in the event of the anglers main line breaking. So where did we go wrong?. Knowing that shock leaders had the potential to cause trouble, how did carp fishing end up down the leadcore leaders route and why do anglers think they are actually safe to use?.

I’ve seen many arguments about leadcore on the fishing forums and not once has a leadcore user actually put up a reasonable argument for using them. The only advantage in using leadcore is that it’s weight keeps the last 2-4ft of your line/rig on the bottom, that’s it, it serves no other purpose than to try and conceal your rig.

So we know the one advantage of leadcore but why is it so dangerous?. In order to understand what makes leadcore so deadly, you have to think ahead in your rig tying and question what you are doing, why you are doing it and what effect your rig might have in the event of your main line breaking?. After all, its when your mainline breaks that the dangers start.

Below is a picture of the instructions inside a gravel / khaki leadcore leader packet. As you can see, the leader is spliced into a loop and the angler is supposed to pass the leadcore through the hooklink swivel then pass the end of the hooklink back through the larger loop. This is then fished with a safety clip or inline lead but both ways of setting up the rig mean that the carp will still be left towing the leadcore round in the event of the main line breaking?. In my view, this is simply not acceptable and the red 'x' marks are the instructions I firmly disagree with!.

Leadcore instructions, not as safe as they appear to be!

Given that leadcore is heavy and usually around 35-45lb in breaking strain, ask yourself if a carp can break free from this setup should it ever get snagged?. What will a carp do when it’s hooked and lost? The simple answer is that it will head for a ‘safe’ area of the lake which will usually be the snaggiest area it can find!. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a fish in a snaggy area towing round a 3ft length of 35/45lb leadcore is potentially at risk, even if the lead weight is lost from the set up, that 3ft or so of leadcore is still there and if a carp does get tethered the chances are it will die of starvation. As an angler, do you really want to put the carp you fish for at risk like this?.

No angler should ever use leadcore that’s attached direct to the swivel of a rig as per the instructions above!. When your mainline breaks, the carp should be left with nothing more than the hooklink and as responsible anglers, it’s our duty to fish our rigs as safely as we can. With leadcore, the only way this can be achieved to any degree is with the use of a helicopter rig, specifically the old CV safety rigs that were designed for safe shock leader use in the early 1990’s. At least with a CV safety rig the carp has half a chance of getting rid of the lead and the leadcore but if I’m honest, even this rig has the potential to cause problems if its used on a choddy bottom or in weed.

CV Safety rig, not ideal but the safest way there is to use leadcore, just substitute the black tubing for leadcore.

How the cv saftey rig works, the whole rig gets dropped leaving the carp with no leadcore to get tethered on.

As you can see from the pictures above the CV Safety rig can leave your carp with just the hooklink in the event of your main line breaking, providing your lake bottom is firm and clean.

I’ve read the comments of pro leadcore users saying leadcore is safe if it’s tied up correctly, others have said their rigs are ok because they use a low breaking strain of hooklink or a barbless hook and that education is better than an outright leadcore ban. Come on guys get real!, barbless hooks have their own mouth damage problems and low breaking strain hooklengths are only really usable in open water fishing situations. Even then, they may still be strong enough to stop a carp from breaking free if it gets tethered.

Leadcore causing carp deaths really came to light in the early to mid 1990’s when the very high profile ‘arnie’ the 40lb common from orchid lake in Oxfordshire was found dead tethered to some reeds, it’s now 2008 and just recently the high profile Chilham Mill in Kent has just joined a growing list of fisheries that have banned leadcore after two of their precious carp were found dead tethered to snags. Clearly education doesn’t work and why would it when the instructions in the packet say its ok to leave your carp trailing a leader when your main line breaks?!. People come and go from carp fishing and education is always ongoing, in the meantime, carp like arnie the orchid common and the Chilham fish will continue to be lost!. Education is really just a lousy excuse for anglers to keep using leadcore in the mistaken belief that what they’re doing safe. Well it’s not and if you’re pro leadcore please think long and hard about using it because it’s simply not necessary in the modern carp world.

So if leadcore isn’t safe to use what do you do?. Well the daft thing is leadcore itself has been redundant in carp fishing for some time now, rig tubing has advanced to the stage where it’s now several times heavier than leadcore so it sinks like a brick and keeps your line on the bottom better than leadcore itself. Sure you have to go to the trouble of threading rig tubing onto your main line but isn‘t that better than risking another Chilham or an Orchid lake scenario?. Rig tubing also comes in a variety of colours too, black, clear and a whole host of different shades of green make it easy to conceal your rig from shy feeding carp.

ESP anchor rig tube, just one of the new types of rig tubing that leaves leadcore redundant in modern carp fishing.

Please ask yourself the old school question next time you go fishing, do you really need to use a leadcore leader?. I think any intelligent reader already knows the answer to that question. You don’t need a leadcore leader, so please don’t use one.
Thanks for reading.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Carp Fishing - Red Letter Days Pt5

I’ve had a week or two away from carp fishing recently, not because of any particular reason, I just haven’t felt like getting out recently so I’ve simply taken a break. As I like to add at least one entry to my carp blog every week I’ve decided to continue my ‘red letter days’ series and look back at another of those special days in carp fishing when things fall right.

This particular ‘red letter day’ goes back to the mid 1990’s, Saturday 4th March 1995 to be exact!. At this time I was fishing a little known carp water in North Wales. I’d done the winter on this under fished welsh carp water and I’d been catching steadily through the colder months. I’d got my winter winter carp location spot on, the carp had been stacked up in and around a weedbed and I’d done well fishing in and around the dead weed.

Urban carping in North Wales during the mid 1990's

After a long winter, runs from the weedbed I was fishing had dried up a little and the previous week I’d caught a carp in the teeth of a big south westerly wind. This time the wind was gale force north westerly so again I opted to fish in the teeth of it rather than go back to the weedbed, I figured the fish had woken up a bit and although they weren’t rolling I had a hunch they’d be on the wind.
I got myself set up as comfortably as I could with a gale force wind blowing in my face, my mate barney thought I was mad and he couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to fish to the weed but I had a feeling the carp would move with such a big wind blowing. He’d opted to fish off the back of the wind so he could watch the water comfortably. I was fishing in a corner of the lake and I placed my hookbaits at the bottom of the marginal shelf just along each bank with the third in open water, the water at the bottom of the shelf was about 8ft deep so it was a fair depth and I hoped a patrolling carp would pick up one of my margin baits sometime during the hours of darkness.

I didn’t sleep much during the night, I’d like to say my location was spot on and the carp kept me up all night but it was the wind continually hammering my old fox supabivvy that kept me awake. I had a quiet night and by early morning I was still runless. I wound the rods in and went to have a chat with barney, he’d blanked too but during the night he’d heard carp crashing out somewhere along the bank to his left. I was on his right and the position he was hinting at put the carp on the back of the wind. I asked barney if he was going to move swims and he said no, he was comfortable where he was so having offered him the choice I told him I would pack my gear and move along the bank to his left to see if I could locate the fish and maybe get a chance before we went home later that day.

I knew the new area I was moving into, it was the weedbed area I’d done well from all winter so I opted for one bait in the middle of the dead weedbed with the other two rods just off the right and left hand edge of it. I didn’t bother setting up a shelter, I just hid behind the bedchair to avoid the biting wind that was now going straight over my head. I figured if the carp had been crashing in this area then they should be around the weedbed again. By 12.30pm I was starting to doubt if the move would pay off, I’d caught literally every session throughout the winter but I felt I was staring a blank in the face this time.

I wasn’t feeling confident at all when out of the blue at 1.05pm the right hand rod on the edge of the weed suddenly burst into life!. After the initial shock of my old super compact bite alarm sounding I ran to the rod and hit it. Sure enough the rod slammed over and I found myself doing battle with another hard fighting winter carp. This fish was a bit strange, after running 30 yards against the clutch it suddenly turned upwards and almost tail walked like a pike. I could clearly see it was a big fish with a very dark coloured black back. I had a feeling it was the lake biggie, he was known to tail walk on the first run and I’d never had any of my other welsh carp behave like this. After breaking surface in spectacular fashion the carp kept deep in the water for the rest of the fight. The fish fought particularly well in the margins and it took me quite a while to wear him down and get him ready for the net. Amazingly, as the fight was coming to an end I saw a second fish swimming with the big one, I even recognised the fish as a twenty I’d caught back in November 1994, the other fish continually flanked the biggun as it ploughed up and down the margins and it was only when he rolled into the landing net that the smaller 20 actually pulled away and disappeared out of sight!.

I had a lump of a carp in the landing net, the fish was known to be 25lb+ which meant a new personal best for me. I called barney and he came to help with the weighing and photographing of my new PB. The scales gave me 25lb 6oz, it was a magic moment holding up the biggest fish in the lake for pictures and I’ll never forget that fish!. Barney did a great job with the pictures and I returned the biggie to the water. We still had a few hours left so I put a fresh ultraspice popup on and recast to the edge of the weedbed.

25lb 6oz Winter mirror from a little fished North Wales carp lake

The recast ultraspice boilie had only been out for 5 minutes when it was away again!. This carp also gave a good account of itself and after a spirited fight I landed a lovely looking 12lb 12oz mirror. The day had turned out to be a good one and I was glad barney had told me about hearing the carp crashing out in the night. With a new PB and a nice double already under my belt I thought I’d cast the rod out again.

12lb 12oz Welsh carp came 5 minutes later

I wasn’t expecting anything else to happen after picking up 2 fish but amazingly the rod in the middle of the weedbed was away just 20 minutes later. This carp kept deep the whole fight and it was just as difficult to bring to the surface as the big one had been. I caught sight of the fish in the deep water and amazingly I found myself staring down at the low twenty that had been flanking the big mirror towards the end of the fight just half an hour earlier!.
I kept the pressure steady as I watched the fish twist and turn in the clear water, eventually this carp came closer and closer to the surface and once the fish had a gulp of air it soon gave up and went into the net. I was bouncing, even though it was a repeat capture I’d just caught my first ever brace of twenties and from a water that only had 2 twenty pound fish in it!. First time round in November this fish went 21lb 2oz, at the end of the winter he’d lost a little and I weighed the fish in at 20lb 4oz. I called barney again to do the pictures and he did the honours with the camera as usual. He congratulated me on my first ever brace of twenties too, it was a massive result catching the two biggest fish in the lake half an hour apart and the session became the highlight of a very successful winter carp campaign.

20lb 4oz Mirror that had been flanking the biggun just half an hour earlier!

I did put the middle rod back out again but I didn’t receive any further action. I couldn’t complain, the quick move for just a few hours turned out to be brilliant decision and things went better than I could ever have dreamed. I’ve had many red letter days since March 1995, my PB is much bigger these days and I’ve had a few sessions equally as good as this one but that first ever twenties brace still ranks as one of my most special angling moments.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Carp Fishing - Back in Cheshire Again

It’s been a good few weeks since I last updated my blog with a live session report. There are two reasons for this, first is because I have quite a few entries written about other general carp fishing stuff that I wanted to publish and secondly because I was invited to join a publicity shy north west carp syndicate. I dithered over taking the syndicate ticket as my own lifetime isn’t long enough to fish the current waters I already have available. The syndicate was quite close to home though and it would certainly reduce my fuel bill if I started fishing there. With this in mind I took the ticket and I’ve spent the last month doing short evening sessions and the odd Saturday daytime on this new water.

I’ve had a few carp from the new syndicate but I’ve been less than impressed with their size, the lakes biggies had spawned successfully and as a result, the water was overrun with commons in the 2-6lb range. After 4 weeks of these small fish I decided to give the syndicate a miss for a while, it does contain some decent fish and I will visit again at some point in the future but for now I decided to head back to one of my Cheshire carp waters for my first overnighter since I tweaked an old back injury back in June.

I arrived at the lake to find only 2 anglers fishing and one of them was packing up, he’d done the night and lost a couple of fish and with other duties at home and the Edgbaston Test Match to watch he was pulling off. This was good for me, he was occupying the right hand main point swim which just happened to be one of the most productive swims on the lake.

Back in February 2007 I’d bought myself a brand new aqua m3 bivvy and having looked at the weather forecast for the weekend I thought it would be best to take my m3 rather than fish under my usual stealth brolly. Rain was forecast and the extra protection from the m3 would be a big help in staying comfortable and dry. I set up slowly during the afternoon and got myself well organised. When it came to the rods I brought along a couple of my daiwa infinities as the fishing was mostly long range, my preferred tfg x series rods were nice playing rods and they cast a long way but my infinities just had that little extra bit of power and I needed as much help as I could get to reach the 'out of bounds' far bank.

Aqua M3 Bivvy, I had some extra protection if the rain came.

My two infinities I fished ‘on the chuck’, single odyssey xxx pop ups fished as single hook baits on a helicopter rig as far over to the far bank as I could cast, one rod was tight, the other about 20 yards short. The far bank was out of bounds and the fish tended to hold up here to avoid angling pressure.
The third rod I fished at about 60 yards over bait. My odyssey xxx baits are rolled in 20mm size so 60-80 yards with a catapult was a relatively easy target to hit.

With the baits all out I sat back to listen to the afternoons cricket, England seemed to be in a good position to win the test match but as the afternoon wore on they lost what little advantage they had as the South Africans dug in. I was still listening to the test match early evening when a delkim holding one of the ‘chuck’ rods let out a few bleeps, the monkey climber rose a few inches, then fell again. I watched and wondered what was going on when the monkey slowly started climbing again, that was enough for me, I tightened the clutch, wound down and hit it. Normally I’d expect the rod to hoop over but on this occasion it didn’t. I hit fresh air with no fish on the end. I scratched my head and wondered what had happened. A tench perhaps? Or had I been done by a carp? There was also a possibility I’d picked up a trailer, quite a few carp had been trailing line and rigs this year with quite a few anglers cracking off whilst trying to reach the fish on the out of bounds bank. I’d never know exactly what happened so after thinking about it for a while I simply checked my hook point to make sure there was no problems then put my rig out again and settled down to listen to England loose the Edgbaston test match!.

This particular Cheshire carp water is known to produce in the early hours of the morning so I had high hopes of a run as it went dark, 2.30am until about 9.00am was regarded as the hot time for takes and a few fish showing at dusk gave me some confidence for the night ahead. Just after dark a carp crashed out twice at close range, the fish was just 30 yards out and far closer in than I was fishing!. Because it had crashed and not rolled I chose to ignore it. In my experience crashing fish are not feeding fish and I’ve not done well casting at carp that show this way, if the short range fish had rolled I’d have put a bait on it straight away but not this time.

My decision not to cover the crashing carp may have been a costly one. I slept through take time without a sniff of a fish and when I woke up at 9.00am I was a little disappointed not to have had some action. I had a drink and a bite to eat, packed my gear and headed for home at around 10-ish. I let a few of my mates know I’d blanked and after talking to one of them who fishes the lake a lot, he was of the opinion I’d dropped a howler by not covering the crashing fish!. As only an occasional visitor to the water I accepted his opinion and next time I see a carp crash out on this venue I’ll make sure I cover it, although I still maintain that casting to carp that crash is generally unproductive.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Carp Fishing - Red Letter Days Pt4

For those of you who know your history the 6th September 1997 might just ring a bell?. It was the day Princess Diana was laid to rest. At the time, the TV and Radio was a nightmare, it seemed that the media were doing their level best to depress anyone and everyone!. I’m not a big fan of the royals and although what happened was a tragedy, it had little or no bearing on my life and I’d had enough of the continuous misery being churned out by our media on a daily basis. There was only one thing to do on the day of Princess Di’s funeral and that was get up early and go carp fishing, at least on the bank I was free from having this event rammed down my throat!.

I was up a couple of hours before first light making a flask and some sandwiches for the day ahead, I was fishing Capesthorne Hall at the time, I knew it was an hours drive to the lake and I wanted to be there before dawn. The drive to the lake was a little shorter than usual, the roads at that time of the morning are always quiet and with no Sunday drivers to get stuck behind I knocked a good 10 minutes off my usual journey time.
My plan was to fish the first part of the day on what is now one of the most talked about carp waters in the north west, capesthorne top pool, back in 1997 there was no night fishing allowed and the water was a shadow of the venue it is today. The top pool did have a tendency to produce fish from first light onwards until mid morning back then and the second part of my plan was to move onto capesthorne main lake during the afternoon as the main lake was a known late afternoon/evening carp water.

Capesthorne Top Pool Circa 1996

I’ve always been a short session carp angler and being days only the capesthorne waters were ideal for me, my fishing gear was stripped out to the minimum and this made the walk across the field to the top pool quite bearable, I walked through the small gate and dropped my gear in the boathouse peg so I could have a look around, it was starting to crack light and with nobody around I had the lake to myself, all I needed was a fish to roll and give me a clue and I could drop onto the area and be in with a chance of catching.

I was using tiger nuts at the time and these were fished on the D-rig that I finally published last week. The D-rig has been a nice little string to my bow for many years and during the mid to late 90's it was the darling of capesthorne, those spooky capes carp didn't seem to have an answer to the D-rig and it constantly tripped the carp up time and time again.

Right on cue a carp head and shouldered beyond the main pads to the right of the boat house so I grabbed my gear and moved down a couple of pegs and into the bay (peg 12). I cast a couple of single tiger nut D-rigs to were the carp had rolled and sat back to see what happened. I didn’t have to wait long, just 5 minutes after casting in the right hand rod pulled down and signalled a run. I was on it straight away, the fish took a bit of line but once it got bogged down in the weed the fight changed and the fish became quite subdued. I slowly pumped the carp and the accompanying weed back towards the net, apart from a nervous moment close in when the fish tried to make the branches of a fallen tree, I had no problems and I slipped the net under my prize after a fight that lasted about 5 minutes.

I peeled back the landing net mesh to find a nice common and on closer inspection I realised it was ‘the’ common, crinkle tail, a fish that is now quite famous and a target of every capesthorne top pool angler these days. Old crinkle tail looked in good shape and I thought I was looking down at my first ever 20lb common!. I weighed the old boy and the scales gave me 19lb 12oz, not quite my first 20lb common but still a pb common none the less. I did a few self takes and returned crinkle tail to the water, back in 1997 self takes were allowed and its only recently they’ve been banned on sotas waters.

Capesthorne Top Pool Crinkle Tail at 19lb 12oz on 06/09/1997

I’d had a quick result, it was 7.30am when I’d caught crinkle tail and I fished on through dawn and through the morning with no further action. I had hoped to bank another fish having got crinkle at the start of my session but it wasn’t to be and early in the afternoon I gathered my gear together and moved onto the main lake for the rest of the day.

Capesthorne main lake was fishing quite hard and being Saturday afternoon I was up against it, I stood on the bridge looking for carp and wondering what to do, this was a position I’ve been in many times before and after spending an hour looking round I decided to drop onto the famous ornamental eagle peg in the garden pool. I knew from hours of watching capesthorne carp that they would move up from the shallows late afternoon and that I might stand a chance in the eagle. I knew the swim and I knew the margins in front of it were a prime area for carp moving through in the evenings. I fished a few benches to the left of the eagle so as not to disturb the area, I dropped both D rigs in the margins and sat back to watch the water, if I saw fish move elsewhere I could always move on them if necessary, otherwise I was sitting and waiting for the carp to come to me.

I was enjoying the day and with no radio on I was still free from the historical event that was unfolding in the real world. It was 6.50pm when my attention was caught by a single bleep from one of my delkims. I looked at the rods just as the left hand rod flew off. A carp had picked up one of my margin fished baits in front of the eagle and bolted for open water!. The fight was a cracker with no weed to get stuck in and the carp made several determined runs in a fruitless attempt to evade my landing net. The runs became shorter until eventually I slipped the net under a nice mirror, it wasn’t one of the bigger main lake fish and the scales revealed a weight of 15lb 8oz. Although it wasn’t a biggie, it was the first fish that had been out for a few days and its capture put the icing on the cake of a good days fishing for me.

15lb 8oz Mirror from Capesthorne Main Lake 06/09/1997

A new pb common from the top pool and a nice mirror from the main lake later on was a great result and I was rightfully pleased with the day I’d just had, in fact I may have been the only person who was grinning from ear to ear on that famous day!.

Tight Lines

Looking for Lures?