Sunday, 27 April 2008

Carp Fishing - Is It Really Spring?

After getting myself back on track and banking a couple of small carp last week I was keen to head back to the new Shropshire mere I’ve been looking at recently. I headed off mid morning on Saturday and after an hours drive I pulled up at the lake to find it very busy. I wasn’t happy, with limited time and no room to move and go looking for the carp due to bivvy anglers I was stuck. I had no choice but to turn the car around and go to another lake.

Luckily for me I have a decent list of other waters to choose from and it’s just a case of selecting a carp water from the list of favourites on my sat nav and I’m off. When you're short session carping you sometimes have to make snap decisions and mine was to head back to the same lake I caught from last week. I didn’t feel like making a lot of effort this week and I knew the peg I caught from last week would have a few carp present.

Unfortunately, the peg was occupied with a bivvy this time so there was no chance of the angler going home early and leaving me with a chance to catch something. I stood for half an hour surveying the water but nothing showed. Half an hour was enough for me, it was really cold due to a biting easterly wind that was blowing and I couldn’t help but think that today was going to be a struggle.
Eventually I dropped into a peg off the back of the wind. I was in amongst a lot of other anglers but being in an end peg at least I had a bit of water to myself.

I decided to place both of my rigs at range in an area I’d done well from on previous visits. Again I stuck with the kevin nash boilie pellets I’d caught on last week. In fact my tactics were exactly the same as last week, single pva mesh bags of mixed trout pellets with a pop up boilie pellet over the top.

My mixed pellets and a couple of pva mesh bags made up ready

Once the rods were out I sat back to watch the water for signs of carp. Despite having the wind behind me I was still cold, so much so that I was uncomfortable and I ended up spending most of the session walking up and down to keep myself warm, not exactly the right weather for late April!.
I kept an eye out for moving carp but I didn’t actually see anything. This particular carp water holds a very good head of carp and to see nothing at all is very unusual. Not only did nothing show but nobody caught either, except the angler who happened to have his bivvy in the peg I’d wanted, he managed a fish late afternoon. Once again I knew where I needed to fish and I was again foiled by an angler rather than the carp themselves. This is a frequent occurrence on our busy north west club waters and I’ve sort of learned to accept it, if you don’t or can’t get the right swim then you have to sit and watch someone else catch!.

My rig with a pva mesh bag/pop up boilie pellet ready to cast

With time moving on I tried moving my baits around different areas of the swim in the hope of dropping on some fish but it was all in vain. I packed up biteless at 8pm and headed home. Since I started my spring carp fishing I’ve been constantly foiled by other anglers and I’m having difficulty getting onto fish as our lakes seem to be under very heavy angling pressure at the moment. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about the crappy weather, it would help me considerably if the carp where more mobile and cruising round in the sunshine and I hope the temperatures start rising soon. I also considered June 16th and the start of the river season, it would be nice to get away from the angling circus that seems to dominate our north west carp waters and I think I will be resuming my river carping diary in a few months time!.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Carp Fishing - More Spring Carping

After last weeks disaster I was hoping for a bit more luck this week. I wanted to get back to my new Shropshire carp water I’d tried to make a start on last week but the controlling fishing club had work parties planned for Sunday and one of the clubs rules was only members doing the work party could fish the night before. This meant there would be a lot of anglers fishing the Saturday then packing up to do the work on Sunday morning so I opted to have a wander round a few Cheshire carp lakes instead. The plan was to visit a list of Cheshire carp lakes, have a walk round to see if I could locate any carp then drop on them with a couple of single hookbaits or pva bags if I could.

The first lake I went to looked grim, there had been a few work parties since I last fished there and although the place looked nice it didn’t appeal to me. I had a walk up to the shallows to see if I could find some carp but I couldn’t see any. A chat with one of the anglers fishing revealed the snags end of the lake had done a few fish in the night but it was stitched up so I moved onto another water.

The second lake had space but again I had difficulty pinning down any carp, it was cold and the fish just didn’t show at all. Having completed two laps of the second lake I figured I best head to a runs water as time was moving on and I hadn’t found anywhere to fish yet.

I arrived at my clubs runs water and spent some time looking round, it was busy and nobody had caught any carp, it was cold too so I checked off the back of the wind first. The carp weren’t there so I carried on round the lake until I came to the shallows, there was a light northerly wind blowing up the shallows but despite this it was obvious there was a good number of carp in the area, I saw a couple of fish crash and when the wind dropped a little I could see carp cruising and bubbling close to an island.

I couldn’t reach the carp as the swims in the area where all taken so I had to do a very long walk round the far side of the lake, I figured the carp wouldn’t stay on the shallows and that I might get a chance to ambush a fish or two as they left the area. I’d just done the longest walk on the lake when 3 anglers opposite packed up. The swims they were occupying where fliers and full of carp, unfortunately for them they couldn’t reach the fish that were obviously present in their swim. I had no choice so I packed my gear away in record time and headed round to the swim they’d vacated. It was a long slog with all my gear but I knew I was in with a chance of a run or two now I’d got myself on the fish.

I quickly unpacked my gear again and went about getting a couple of baits in the water. The good thing about my carp rigs is that I can put just about any bait on them because I tie my baits on, once the hair is tied, any bait I put on, the gap between the bait and the bend of the hook is the same. Being a runs water I opted to fish kevin nash monster pursuit pellet hookbaits with a small pva mesh bags of mixed pellets from gp pellets of middlewich. I made a few pva mesh bags of pellets, one for each rod and a couple of spares just in case.

My usual carp rig with a kevin nash monster pursuit boilie pellet attached

I gave the first rod some stick on the cast and my pellet hookbait and pva mesh bag flew out to the island and landed perfectly. Once I’d pinned the line with a backlead I set about doing the second rod. I got as far as putting the hook through the pva mesh bag on the second rod when the spool started ticking away on the rod I’d just cast out!.

I dropped everything and hit the rod, sure enough it whooped over and I began battle with my first carp of the day. The fish was on a long line and it came in slowly but surely, I had no problems under the rod tip and eventually I slipped the net under a nice mirror carp. Being a runs water the fish aren’t particularly big and having unhooked this one I weighed it just in case it made double figures as it looked close. The carp did indeed make the 10lb mark but only just and I settled on a weight of 10lb 2oz. I took a quick picture on the unhooking mat then returned the fish. Being a small one I didn’t see much point in getting the tripod out so I went for the quick option and returned the fish straight away.

10lb 2oz on a kevin nash monster pursuit boilie pellet

With a double under my belt I was happy, I recast the rod and got the second rod into position then sat back in the sunshine. The carp were still showing and I thought I might be in with a shout of catching another one. I’d been sat down for around 20 minutes when I had a short lift on the left hand rod. This was the recast that had already done me a fish. I watched the monkey climber but nothing happened so I decided to give it 10 minutes then recast in case the carp had done me over. Being a hard fished water, rod top knocks and short lifts like these are quite common and I’ll usually give it a short time then recast just in case the fish have sussed the rig. 5 minutes later I had a single bleep on the delkim, I looked at the monkey climber again and just another couple of seconds later the rod tip flew round and the delkim went into full warble mode!. I was on the rod straight away and another slow fight unfolded as the fish grudgingly came in from around the 80 yard mark. Again I had no problems close in and I slipped the net under another mirror carp that turned out to be a few pound smaller than the last one at 8lbs.

Two fish in half an hour seemed to kill my swim and I noticed the fish start to move away from the area, I stayed another couple of hours in the hope of picking up a straggler that might still be around but no more runs were forthcoming. I wound the rods in and went for a walk to see if there was another area of the lake worth targeting for the short time I had left. As I walked through the trees to look at the rest of the lake I noticed the storm clouds building in the distance. With only an hour or two of daylight left by this time I decided to call it a day before I got a soaking. This turned out to be a very good move as it rained heavily all the way home. On the whole I was happy, I’d had to work hard for my two small carp but I guess that’s part and parcel of being a north west carp angler these days.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Carp Fishing - Gazumped By Poor Planning

When you pick up a carp magazine and read it, you only ever get to see the success story, you seldom get to read about the disasters a carp angler might have to suffer along the way. Writing a weekly blog about carp fishing you have to give a sort of fly on the wall view of things. It’s nice to be consistent and catch carp every week but the truth of the matter is it’s nearly impossible to find that level of consistency, specially if you’re a short session carper like myself, and you are trying to target big north west carp rather than small to medium sized fish. I have my fair share of blanks and disasters just like every other angler. I strive to catch carp every week if I can but sometimes, despite my best efforts, it just doesn’t happen. I believe we can learn something from every carp session we fish, its just a case of either being observant and watching what’s going on around you or sitting down afterwards and going through the events of what’s just happened. This weeks carp session was a sit and reflect affair, things couldn’t really have gone more wrong, in fact the session was a disaster!.

With a long weekend off work and life getting in the way on Saturday, I’d decided to do just a day session on a new water this week. I’d looked at this Shropshire carp lake a few weeks previously and I was keen to give it a go. The first thing that went wrong on this particular session was me over sleeping, I just thought I’d rest my eyes for 5 minutes when the alarm went off at 7.15am and when I finally came round it was 9am and I’d lost nearly 2 hours. Breakfast, sandwiches and a flask took another hour and there was another hour on top of that to get to my chosen Shropshire carp lake.

Despite my late arrival at the lake I still had most of the day left and I could spend some of it sat behind the rods and some of it wandering round the swims looking for carp and getting a general feel for the place. I opted to have a walk around first which prompted the lake owners skanky mutt to start barking. This dog seems to be well known for barking all the time and it was a good 15 minutes before it finally got bored and left me alone, so much for quietly creeping round the banks looking for potential carp hotspots and trying to spot fish!. It was a cold day anyway so I wasn’t expecting to see very much which was just as well given the dogs behaviour.

Eventually, I set up in a peg up the far end of the lake, there where some vicious snags up this end of the lake and it just screamed carp so I figured I’d set up here then sit and watch for a fish to show itself. I got the first rod sorted out with a pva mesh bag and an 18mm boilie bottom bait cast into open water.
When it came to the second rod I hit a bit of a stumbling block. I’d taken the rigs off the other two rods to use the tubing the previous week, I’d been short of rig tubing on my last session and taking it off these rods was my only option. I’d bought new rig tubing from franks leads in the week so all I had to do was tie a couple of new rigs and I’d be in business. If only life was so easy!. I rooted through my tackle box looking for my swivels but they weren’t there. Of all the things to ruin a session it had to be a humble swivel!. I had no spare rigs tied and no swivels to tie any.

That was enough for me, I packed everything away including the brolly I’d not long put up. I’m not easily beaten so I made a new plan on the spot and that was to drop into daves of middlewich to pick up some swivels then maybe go to one of the local carp waters in that area of Cheshire. Daves of middlewich was roughly 20 miles away so I set off with the sat nav for guidance only to run straight into standing traffic as I tried to head north to daves. After 10 minutes of being stuck in this jam I’d had enough, I turned the car around and plotted a new course for home. When things go wrong, sometimes its just best to cut your losses and call it a day!.

Looking back at this session, I was completely unprepared, I’d just left all my carp gear from the previous weeks 3 night session and hadn’t payed any attention to it, something you can’t afford to do when your short session carping. I actually re-learn this lesson a few times each year although this year my poor planning lesson has come a little early!. I’ve actually lost my little box of swivels, I’ve since been through every fishing bag I have but I just can’t find them so next weeks session will start with a trip to the tackle shop and I‘ll still have to make the rods up on the bank. The good thing is, next weeks fishing trip won’t be any worse!.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Carp Fishing - Fishery Homework and Lake Mapping

Carp Fishing - Doing Your Venue Homework

Very few carp anglers seem to do their own homework these days. Just recently there have been a few debates about some north west carp anglers wanting everything handed to them on a plate. I’ve commented before on how easy it is to just log onto a carp fishing forum and ask what water, what bait and where do I cast?. How any carp angler can pat himself on the back and be pleased at catching a fish when he owes most of it to somebody else’s hard work is beyond me. It does seem that carp fishing is full of the kind of people who’s attitude is ‘I want it, I want it now and I don’t care how I get it’. Carp forums in particular seem to attract these type of anglers in numbers.
Working things out for yourself and catching carp on your own terms is so much more rewarding than stooping to begging for information on a carp forum. Imagine the scenario, you’ve just joined a carp water, you know its got some big carp in and catching them is your personal goal, something you are striving to achieve. So why take away some of the merit of capturing those fish by asking other anglers where the best hot spots are?. Learning a new water is the best part of carp fishing, it keeps you thinking and learning.
When you watch the carp, learn about them and start getting amongst them on your own, you get more of a sense of achievement than if its handed to you on a plate. But how do you actually go about doing your homework on a venue and getting amongst the carp your chosen water contains?. What follows are some of the things I do, I won’t insult the readers intelligence by explaining how to use a marker float, there are plenty of carp magazines around that cater for that, what follows is how I go about doing things myself.

Personally, I like modern technology and I find the internet extremely helpful when it comes to gaining information about a carp venue. The very first thing I need to know is how to get to my chosen water. That might sound a bit obvious but I’m based in Wirral and I fish all over Cheshire and Shropshire. I quite often find myself getting lost when looking for a new lake so the first thing I do is plot a course to the lake with my tom tom sat nav. This is easily done by logging onto a mapping site like multimap and locating the chosen lake. I then use the ‘navigate to point on map’ function that all sat nav’s contain and follow the larger mutlimap image until I find my chosen carp lake. At the same time I’ll also look to see if there is a website for the water, for example, if it’s a club water I’ll visit the clubs website and look at their maps too as they may give me designated parking areas for anglers. If this basic information can’t be found online then I’ll either get it from the card/map book I’d have from joining or I’d navigate to within seeing distance of the lake and work the rest out on my first proper recce trip.

With directions to the lake sorted out the next step is to find out a bit of basic information about a chosen water, obviously the forum search facility may reveal some old threads but the information in them may or may not be useful. If I’ve chosen to fish a venue, I’ve done so either because I’ve already heard on the bank that it contains the size of carp I’m interested in, or it’s a bit of an unknown that might be work a look. The basic information I’m after is the size of the lake, which way is North?, how many swims are there?, is there any weed, lily pads or other visible features? and at what kind of range are they from the bank?.

The most useful program for gaining the answers to my initial questions is google earth. This is a very powerful mapping program and it can provide the answers to most questions I have. Once downloaded and installed on your pc, you simply start google earth and use the navigation controls in the top right hand corner. You can zoom in and navigate to any lake you want and once you have a picture of the lake on screen your in business.

Ready to find a carp lake, google earth ready to go.

I’ve included a screen print of a section of google earth whilst looking at Cheshire carp water capesthorne hall garden pool to use as my example. Obviously the real map is much bigger and the picture accompanying this piece has been both cropped and reduced to fit this blog page. I’ve marked two particular buttons on the navigation bar, the first is the ‘pin’ and the second is the ruler. You can use the pin to name any particular swims on the lake. If you click it, a pin appears on screen and a box opens. Simply drag and drop the pin to where you want to put it on the map then use the box to give it a name, then click ok. The result will look like the two swims I’ve labelled ‘arches’ and ‘the moose’ on the map.
The ruler is incredibly useful, when you click it, a box appears and I’ve left the box on the map on purpose so you can see it. With the ruler engaged you can measure distances on the map. Simply click where you want to measure from once, then move the target to where you want to measure too then click again. As an example, I’ve measured from the bridge to the side of the pads on the dam wall on capesthorne hall garden pool and the ruler box has given me 150 yards. By using the drop down menu on the ruler box you can have your distance measurements in inches, feet, yards or metres plus a few others!

The google earth map also shows you which way is north, and you can see the compass in the top right hand corner of the top image in this entry. From knowing which way is north, straight away you can tell which bank a south westerly wind will hit and this kind of information is useful to know when your thinking ahead to actually visiting the lake and locating the carp. The google earth program also allows you to see any visible features like lily pads and you can see areas of pads around the bridge. You can use the ruler to measure the distance from swims to any visible features. As an example, you might use it to measure the distance to an island or to a far bank margin for instance. It’s also accurate, which is more than can be said of local ‘carp folklore’ when it comes to casting distances!.

A partial shot of north west carp water capesthorne hall using google earth, an hour or two with this program can provide loads of information to help build up a picture of your chosen carp lake!.

I usually print my map out once I’ve put pins in for all the swims. With a full A4 size printout of the lake in front of me with swim names pinned on it, I usually then begin adding any distance details by hand, I’ll measure a distance on google earth, then add them to my printout and I do all this from the comfort of my chair and pc. The only thing I ever ask another angler on the lake is the names of the swims. If swims don’t have names or numbers I simply give them my own names, after all, its my work and I’m the one that understands the individual picture I’m trying to build up.

With a nice map and all the distance details I could ever need all documented it’s time for the nitty gritty details that can only be added by spending time at the lake. What details an angler adds to a map are personal. If you like to do lots of marker float work you may wish to add water depths, areas of sand, gravel or silt which can be found by leading about. The sky is the limit really and any information you can add builds up the picture of your chosen venue.
Myself, I’ll add depths and bottom make up as and when I fish different swims. I like to add areas that I see carp and I’m quite happy to forsake sitting behind the rods in order to find the carp and observe them. The maps I make for the waters I fish are all marked with the areas I see carp showing regularly. These areas are also broken down, for example, areas I see fish crashing regularly, areas I see fish bubbling or rolling regularly, areas I see carp milling round on the surface, any patrol routes I may observe etc. I’ll also make notes on the conditions in which I see these different kinds of activity. When it comes down to it, a carp anglers own eyes are his very best weapon and time spent looking and watching is never wasted. Information about areas the carp frequent regularly or naturally is worth ten times more than knowing how deep a random spot might be.

In the google earth shot of the garden pool I’ve used a basic windows program called ’paint’ to add red lines to indicate carp patrol routes. Any capesthorne carp angler who stands on the bridge will notice that the carp use the far two arches to pass from one side of the lake to another. The carp like to keep very close to the rodey bushes and the yew tree before passing through the pads and into the garden pool where they will either go under the rodey bush in the crusoe swim and into the moose, or go straight on into open water. By watching and observing the carp, details like this can be added to a map and the information can be used to good effect when it comes to placing baits.

Capesthorne Garden Pool, 150 Yards to the dam wall, gone are the days of 'fishing folklore' when it comes to casting distances!.

When it comes to actually fishing, I’ll mark areas I get runs from and I’ll make notes on the conditions and times I catch my fish. All the time I’m fishing a water I’ll add information from each trip and I’ll analyse it and look for emerging patterns in the carps behaviour. One pattern that quite often comes up is carp visiting a certain area of the lake at a certain time of day. When you stumble across areas like this you’re onto a winner and I’ll usually start timing my fishing sessions to drop into these areas a few hours in advance so I can get a quick result.

Given that I like to mark areas that I see fish regularly, I usually start piecing together information on a lake around the late winter time, a few hours digging round looking for the basic water information outlined above is time well spent when its cold and dark outside. Noting specific areas that carp like to frequent is best done in the spring and summer when the carp are more active, lets face it, you’ll see much more in the summer than you will in winter so it pays to approach a new venue at the right time of year. Its groundwork in winter then get out there and find them when its warmer.

The above just about sums up how I approach a new carp water, obviously I’m not going to publish a finished map of a local water, that kind of information is appreciated more when an angler works for it!. I hope you get an idea of how I go about my fishing though. I start and keep a diary. I make a decent map and put as much information on it as I can about the things that are most important to me and that’s the carps location and their typical behaviour in certain areas of the lake. Other anglers may mark depths and bottom make up and I do this myself, but only as and when I fish a swim. The carp themselves will show you the natural areas they prefer. If your prepared to put the time and effort into watching and observing the carp and keep notes of everything you see, eventually you’ll piece things together and crack your chosen venue. I doubt you’ll want to share that hard won information with a forum full of lazy carp anglers looking for shortcuts though!.

Tight Lines

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