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

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

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

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Carp Venues North West - River Weaver Pt2

Following on from River Weaver Pt1, I’d had a taster of the river weaver carp but with no night fishing allowed in the winsford area I decided to move my weaver carp campaign downstream and targeted the sections of river belonging to Northwich Angling Association.
Legal night fishing on the river weaver was allowed on Northwich AA stretches so I got myself a night ticket sorted and following the end of my fishing on well known cheshire carp water capesthorne hall, I did a full summer on the river weaver.

The stretch of the weaver I targeted for carp was known as the ‘oak tree’, there was a small stretch of bank that was never pegged for fishing matches and being a bit of a walk from the car park nobody bothered fishing it either. The spot I chose was ideal, upstream lay a few known holding areas, the old river, vale royal locks and the railway arches at the upstream end of the ‘dredger length’. Downstream lay marshals arm, the boatyard and further down lay the crescent and another lock the name of which escapes me. With these holding areas both up and downstream, I was in the perfect place to intercept any carp that travelled the river during the night either looking for food or simply travelling between holding areas.
I adopted the same tactics I used during my first weaver carp sessions at winsford, a big bed of hemp, groats and boilies fished on the marginal shelf. The weaver is a deep river, the centre channel was around 15-16 feet deep and the marginal ledges were an even 4 ft in the area I fished and they extended from the bank outwards for just over a rod length. By baiting the whole width of the shelf heavily with 5kg of particles and several hundred boilies before starting I had a good spread of bait to hold the carp as they passed through my swim. I also had a lot of attraction slowly being carried downstream and it wasn’t uncommon to see carp rolling 30 yards downstream as they latched onto the food signal from my bed of bait.

River Weaver baiting tactics for carp.

The diagram shows my swim and my baiting tactics. One rod was always fished on the bait, the second was always placed 10 yards upstream on an area where the marginal shelf narrowed considerably, this spot I just baited with 20-30 freebies, a sort of light scattering just off the main bed of bait, a tactic that proved to be extremely effective at picking up the bigger fish, in fact the small patch of boilies just off the main bed of bait accounted for a staggering 80% of my biggest carp!.

The fishing was quite often hectic, I started fishing in mid-june when the river season opened and I fished every Friday night right through until the end of october and not once did I blank!. I did have a couple of sessions when I only caught one fish, the rest of the time it was multiple carp captures with runs coming at all times of the night. Apart from a couple of other carp anglers who fished the first week or two of the season, I never saw another carper all summer!.
The fishing seemed to get better as the season wore on, the more I baited with hemp, groats and boilies the more the carp came, they literally must have got used to finding bait in my swim. October in particular proved to be an amazing month and I caught 20lb+ carp 3 Fridays out of 4 during that period, culminating in a superb common of 23lb 14oz at the very end of the month. That common was just mint, it turned out to be my biggest carp from the river weaver and it gave me a stunning fight in heavy flow following a lot of rain. I remember looking at my watch when the run came and looking again when the carp hit the landing net, an arm aching scrap that lasted 35 minutes, I’m sure the fish had never been hooked before, there wasn’t a mark on it, a truly stunning carp.

My biggest river weaver carp, a stunner of 23lb 14oz

Following an extremely successful summers carp fishing on the river weaver, I wanted to carry on fishing throughout the winter. I wasn’t keen on doing nights and fishing a large bed of bait between holding areas for travelling carp. I decided to just fish days and go looking for them in the spots they spent most of their time instead. One of the most famous lengths on the weaver for catching winter river carp was northwich boat yard, the carp used the boats as cover and it was known as a winter holding area. One swim in particular caught my attention, a peg known as ‘the dock hole’, this was at the end of the boats and was a small arm off the river with no flow. Inside this area was a moored boat which meant more cover and a rest for the fish. The dock hole turned out to be a very good spot indeed and fishing just early morning sessions from around 7am until midday I rarely blanked during the winter months, in fact the dock hole threw up carp in some amazing conditions!.
During the winter months river weaver carp fishing pretty much got turned on its head, during the summer, cloud and rain meant runs but during the winter it meant chocolate brown coloured cold water and a blank. The best winter conditions came during prolonged periods of high pressure when the water began to run slower and clearer, this often coincided with lakes being frozen and I caught quite a few winter river carp when there was a sharp frost on the ground. My best capture came during an extreme cold period when I caught a 15lb mirror from the dock hole swim with 4 inches of snow on the ground!, every lake in Cheshire was frozen over that weekend, even the mighty redesmere was under several inches of ice yet against the odds I caught a lovely mirror which to this day still ranks as one of my very best captures, I remember the daytime high that day was -7 degrees and my gas stove froze solid, an amazing winter carp capture that I can’t see myself ever bettering.

River weaver winter carp complete with snow!

The boatyard wasn’t the only stretch that held winter carp on the river weaver, the old river was a mass of snags and the carp spent lots of time held up there. Rather than fish static I preferred to rove on the old river, there were a couple of spots that proved to be very productive and it was just a case of fishing them for an hour each until the fish were found, if you hadn’t had a run within an hour the carp simply weren’t there and you just moved on to the next area, once located they were easy to tempt and you could usually manage a couple of carp in a few hours during the afternoon.

I really enjoyed my time fishing the river weaver for carp, it always felt like pioneering stuff. There were so few anglers on the bank, most wanted to try but very few actually had the balls to invest the time in fishing there because they thought location would be a nightmare. As it turned out, it was one of the easiest north west carp waters I’ve ever fished. I stuck to one swim, baited heavy and just intercepted the carp as they moved along the marginal shelf, it literally was that easy and I think you could repeat my results from literally any peg on the river!.

Tight Lines

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