A Few Tips and Tricks on How to Catch Carp
I believe it was around 1978, probably when I was around nine years old when I got my first fishing rod. I got it for my birthday, it was a 10 foot Shakespeare three-piece coarse rod. I'm not even sure to this day why I decided I wanted to start going fishing. It may have had something to do with my grandfather who would take both me and my two cousins sea fishing whilst we were on holiday in Paignton, but I really couldn't say for sure. I have very fond memories of getting up early on a Sunday morning in anticipation of my father taking me to Wrest Park for a few hours fishing. Off I would trot down to Anglers Den, a tackle shop about 15 min walk away to get myself a pint of maggots. To this day, I can still remember the smell of the shop as I walked in. I would look at the wicker baskets and Mitchell reels in awe. I would then take my bait box full of maggots back home and wait in excitement for us to drive to our destination. My dad wasn't into fishing himself, whenever I mention him taking me fishing as a kid now, he always maintains it was his fatherly duties, I'm afraid my old man has become a bit of a miserable old bugger in his old age :-)
At nine years old, I was more than happy catching small roach and perch which never got any bigger than about three or 4 ounces, I was easily pleased in those days. I think I was about 10 years old when I was finally allowed to go fishing without my father being with me. Both myself and Kevin Sheridan, a friend who lived in the same road went to the Grand Union Canal one summers day. This is where I encountered my first carp. Fishing a single grain of sweetcorn and a small stick float, I hooked into what seemed like an absolute monster. It turned out to be a small carp not much bigger than a pound. By today's standards it was tiny, but to a nine-year-old boy, this was Moby Dick, an absolute monster in my eyes, I'd never seen a fish so big. I was so proud of it, I put it in my keep net and just kept going back to look at it, it was absolutely magnificent. I doubt whether any of us will ever forget our first ever carp, I certainly haven't
I fish day ticket waters, or venues that are part of the Newton Abbot Fishing Association. None of the waters I fish are much bigger than one acre in size, in fact some of them are half an acre, even less. Therefore my articles on catching carp are aimed at small to mid-size commercial water carp. The carp I catch range from less than 1lb up to 18lb, but we're probably talking an average of around 6lb. When fishing for small commercial carp you'll probably get more fun from fishing fairly light tackle. I can never understand when I see guys using 2.5 TC rods, massive landing nets and 20 mm boilies, it is just not necessary, it's overkill actually. They kind of look a little bit silly landing a 3lb carp using gear made for fish 10 times the size.
There are numerous techniques for catching carp. My favourite methods are float, surface, pole and feeder fishing. I particularly favour the lift method, in my opinion this is one of the best ways of catching carp. On this page I will give you an insight into how I go about fishing for carp. They are tried and tested methods so give them a go yourself. For your convenience, I have installed a quick jump to menu which will take you to the article straightaway, rather than having to scroll down the page.
Float fishing for carp is one of my favourite methods, I've probably caught more carp on float tactics than any other method. The majority of venues I fish are shallow and small, heavy lead this are just impractical and not necessarily, you're much better off using light tackle tactics, you'll find it a lot more enjoyable.
The only time I fish at a distance is when I'm fishing up in the water. If I'm fishing a small crystal waggler then I'm not going to be fishing any more than 10 or 20 feet from the bank, mostly I'm fishing either in the margins or just a few feet from the bank. I love the Drennan range of crystal waggler floats, especially the loaded range. These floats come in two varieties, loaded and non-loaded. Basically, the loaded float has a built in weight to cock it, all you need to do is use a couple of locking shot, or in my case I prefer float stops to lock the float on the line. There is a little bit of scope to add some smaller shot down the line as well. These are important if you are fishing in slightly deeper water as you sometimes want the bait to drop a little bit quicker. Having said this, I've never been one for detailed shotting patterns, I just don't see the need for them if you are fishing in 12-18 inches of water. However I always like to put a small shot around 8 inches from the hook as this can often help reduce line bites, especially if you've got several carp rummaging around in your swim.
If you are fishing a commercial water that contains mainly small F1 carp, let's say up to around 5LB then keep your tackle down to a minimum. There isn't really any point in using heavy line and big hooks, it will just take some of the enjoyment out of fighting the small fish. I wouldn't use any more than 6lb line and no bigger than a size 10 hooks. I do step my hook size up to an eight if I am using bread, I find that small hooks don't work very well with bread crust. I have a couple of rods that I use for float fishing, I've got an 11 foot avon rod, plus one of TF Gears 10 foot compact float rods. Both of these fishing rods are fantastic fun with small carp go to sleep in the, but on the other hand are more than capable of dealing with big double-figure carp, so I have got the best of both worlds.
Carp like their food, they eat a lot and they eat it very quickly so in order to attract them and keep them in your swim you will need to put in quite a lot of ground bait, and continue to feed your swim throughout the day. I like to use a mixture of both ground bait, plus small pellets, maybe some hemp, bits of sweetcorn, anything that Carp really like. I don't normally fish at a distance when using the float, it's normally right next to the bank at the top of the slope, or at the bottom of the slope. Carp really like to feed in these locations so plumbing the depth correctly is quite important. Carp will also patrol the bottom of slopes throughout the day as this is where a lot of bait tends to collect. If you are float fishing then it's not too important to introduce your ground bait into a very tight area as your flow is bound to drift slightly. I normally put in three or four balls of ground bait before I start fishing and then every 20 min or so introduce one or two more, along with a few free offerings that represent what I'm using as hook bait. Remember that at the very end of the day the margins are often the very best place to fish as Carp are fully aware that anglers discard unused bait. One bit of advice which I picked up somewhere is if you are fishing very close in, make your ground bait balls quite big so that when you introduce them into the water they make a nice big splash. This will often ring the dinner bell and attract Carp into your area a little earlier than they would normally come to the margins.
I often get my ground bait from eBay, you can often find excellent deals.
I've recently started using ready tied hook links that are designed to take different types of bait such as soft and hard pellets, paste and meat. The pellet hooks have a small hair with a little bayonet attached that pushes into the pellets. The paste and meat hooks have a little spiral that either screws into the meat, or lets you mould the paste around the spiral. I find that it's much easier to present the bait well by using the specially designed hook links with the attachments for the bait.
Know the Depth of the Water
If you are float fishing then you will want to know how deep the water is before you start actually fishing. I like to float fish the margins slightly over depth as I believe it reduces the chances of foul hooking fish so before I start I need to take a few minutes to test the depth of the water so I know my bait will be where the fish are. When you initially start testing how deep the water is, we call this "plumbing" the depth. We carry out this task using a "plummet". This consists of a small weight that attaches to the hook that is heavy enough to pull the float under if the length of line between the bottom of the float and the hook is shorter than the depth of water. Fishing over depth means that the length of line between the float and the hook is longer than the depth of water, in this case your plummet will not pull your float under the water. If you want to be critical and have your bait just touching the bottom then it may take a few attempts of sliding the float up and down a few times before you get it exactly right. Also remember that the river/lake/pond bed may not be completely level so make sure you know exactly how deep the water is in the area you are fishing.
There are loads of different types of plummets on the market. The majority of them are designed so that you push your hook and line through a little hole and then pushed the hook into a piece of sponge or cork underneath, this makes sure that the plummet is securely attached and won't fall off. Because I often use hooks that have meat spirals, bayonets etc attached to the hook by her hair, these will not fit through the hole on most plummets. Therefore I like to use what I refer to as a hippopotamus plummet. Basically they look like the mouth of a hippopotamus that utilise a spring that opens the plummet up and you put the hook inside. They are good for hooks up to around size 10, although a size 8 hook will fit in with a little bit sticking out, but it's still secure. Alternatively you can pinch a shot onto the line and clip this plummet around the shot.
You don't have to use a plummet at all. If you are using locking shot around the bottom of your float then make sure your float six exactly as you want it. Then simply slide one of the locking shot down the line and use it in the same way as described above. It is slightly different, rather than pulling the float under, if you are over depth than the float will sit a little bit higher in the water, if you are under depth and the float will sit right, this way you know how deep the water is.
The lift method is still float fishing. It is probably most widely used for tench and carp fishing because of the way the fish feed. The reason it is called the lift method is because when a bite occurs, the float lifts out of the water, rather than going under. In my opinion, this method is much more efficient at detecting bites from carp in shallow water.
When fishing the lift method use a straight float that isn't too long. Peacock quills are excellent for fishing the lift because they are extremely light. You can normally get three or four good floats out of one long peacock quill. I normally paint the top will red. Just use a float rubber to attach it to the line, you can then easily slide it up and down. However, it is not always that easy to get hold of a peacock quill, unless you happen to live near a zoo. I actually now use a small crystal float that is around 4 inches long. They normally have a thin fluorescent top that is very easy to see. I use small rubber float stops that you slide onto the line to lock the float. I find that this method performs a lot better than the old peacock quill. The rubber float stops normally keep the float very secure, unlike the bands on the old peacock quills, they would often slide when you strike. setting up the lift method is simplicity in itself. You don't have to bother about complicated shot patterns, all you do is place a single shot anywhere between three and 6 inches from the hook. It really depends on how big the float is to how big the shot should be. You need to choose a shot that will pull the float under. So, you may need to use a 2SSG to achieve your goal. If you don't use a shot that will pull float under, you will not know if the shot is actually on the bottom. You then alter the float so that when the weight is resting on the pond floor, the float tip is just visible above the surface. Some people actually submerge the float completely so that when the float appears above the surface, they know they have a bite. Personally I like to see the float. The reason being is because you often get traditional bites where the float does go under so I prefer to keep about half an inch of float sticking out of the water. If you do choose to fish the float just under the surface, watch for the line moving away, this sometimes happens rather than the float lifting out of the water.
This is how the lift method works, when carp and tench feed, they often feed at an angle, rather like the illustration to the left. When they lift their heads up with your hook in their mouth, they dislodge the shot, thus making the float, lift out of the water, rather than go under. You may see the float lift quite high out of the water, or it might suddenly lie flat on the surface. As soon as this happens, strike. The lift method is a superb way of catching carp very close in. They often stay in one place when feeding so will not pull the float under. Using the lift method is an ingenious way of detecting baits from feeding carp. If you are fishing over slightly uneven ground, you may have to move the float around occasionally so that it sits exactly right. If you are fishing at a slight distance using the lift method you may have problems finding the correct depth. If you find that you are slightly over depth, i.e. the float is laying flat, reel in very slowly until the float cocks. The line will be going down at a slight angle from the bottom of the float to the weight rather than straight down but it will still work. This method is also a good way of catching wary carp. Because the line is at an angle, there is less chance the carp will bump into it and become spooked. You may have to put the rod on the bank or on some rests because the slightest movement will move the float.
Peacock quills are not always easy to get hold of it so I tend to use a short crystal waggler nowadays. However, instead of passing the line through the hole at the bottom, I use a float rubber and attach it to the bottom so that the float runs freely up and down the line. I also prefer to use a 2SGG as it gives me more control and stops the float moving around, especially if the bottom is slightly uneven.
Many anglers overlook the margins in favour of fishing further out. Unfortunately they are often missing out on some real action right under their feet. Just because it may be only a few inches deep right next to the bank, don't let that fool you into thinking that fish don't visit these areas. One of the best times to fish the margin areas of any lake or pond is in the evening. Carp are not stupid fish, they have been accustomed to anglers packing up and discarding any left over bait into the margin areas. Therefore they know that at the end of the day there is going to be food there waiting for them that doesn't have a hook in it. Having said this, don't think that the evenings are the only time you'll catch carp in the margin, I have caught them in the margin at all times of the day, the margin areas of the lake are also a retreat for fish, they will sometimes retreat to these areas as they find it safe, they can hide in weed, under low hanging branches and bushes without being disturbed.
I have a compact 10 foot float rod that is great for fishing the margins. However just occasionally it's really great fun to use a pole. There's nothing more exhilarating and nerve wracking than watching the elastic stretching out to what seems like a mile, you're just waiting for it to snap, really gets the heart pumping. Being disabled means I cannot use one of these larger poles that are made for the margins. Many of these poles are simply too long to handle when you have no hand movement at all. Therefore I favour the small whips that you can buy for as little as £10. Make sure you choose one that is elasticated, there's no point in getting one that has the little ring attached on the end. These are made so you attach the monofilament on the end, they are basically made for catching tiddlers, certainly not bigger fish that fightback. If your disability is similar to mine then you will probably feel comfortable up to around four or 5 m. Although these whips are like, they can get a little bit top-heavy, couple this with a fish and you will have quite a struggle bringing the fish in. I always have my whip attached to my right arm and control it with my left hand.
The majority of the waters I fish are very shallow in the margins. Therefore I don't use a big long float, I favour the small dibber type floats. These are very very small, probably no more than a couple of inches long and are only really suitable for fishing extremely close in where you can see them. They are really good for fishing in extremely shallow water, no more than 12 inches deep. They only need one small shot to cock them, I normally place this around six or 7 inches from the hook. The diagram I have included shows the float setup being fished at the exact depth of the water. I prefer to fish slightly over depth, around 6 inches, I find that you can reduce line bites and foul hook ups. If I am fishing in deeper water, four or 5 feet then I will use a larger float with a bulk shot placed around halfway between the hook in the float, and a smaller shops about 6 inches from the hook, this shot will be laying on the bottom and will not be there to cock the float, it will be there to keep the bait steady.
Carp will visit the margins for one reason, food, so be prepared to give them plenty to eat. I've recently started using ground bait rather than pellets or free offerings. My philosophy is that if you use a good Carp ground bait and fish only your hook bait over the top, once the carp are confidently feeding on the ground bait, they will pick up your hook bait without even thinking about it. If you give them too many of what you already have on the hook, sometimes it can take ages for a bite to come. I've tried this several times now and it worked really well, therefore I don't waste my time piling in lots of pellets and free offerings, I just makes up the ground bait when I get to the water. I have recently gone back to using luncheon meat and spam, the plain old stuff from Sainsbury's. To be perfectly honest Carp absolutely love these processed meats straight out of the tin, however I do like to add a little bit of flavour to it, whether it actually makes a difference I really couldn't say. I've started using F1 liquid additives which smells very much like vanilla. All I do is cut the meat up into small squares, chuck it in a plastic tub, squirt a little bit of additive in and give it a good shake and is ready to go. If I've got some left over at the end of the day, I certainly don't throw it away, I freeze it which by all accounts draws more of the additive into the meat. Why anyone buys that expensive luncheon meat manufactured by the way companies is really beyond me, £3.99 for one little tin, you're having a laugh aren't you? Definitely when you can get the stuff from Sainsbury's for £1.30.
I am a great lover of presenting my hook bait on a hair, I feel much more confident that I can present a bait well and get a hook up straightaway when a fish takes the bait. I recently found a product called "quick stops" these are basically small stops that are already attached to a hair on the hook. Using a special baiting needle, you just push them through the bait and you have a nicely presented bait, hair, no more messing around with piddly little stops that keep falling out all the time. Of course you don't have to use a hair, a plain old hook is what the majority of people use. I would be inclined to use a strong hook when fishing in the margins, I have lost fish before when they have literally opened up the hook when bolting away from the margin.
When you are fishing in the margins, especially in the shallow water you must use a strong elastic. My preference would be between 16 and 20, if you use a light elastic then the chances it will snap on hooking a big Carp as it bolts away from the margins. As for mainline, I don't normally use anything less than 8lb. I always use a slightly lighter hook link as I would rather lose a fish than either my elastic or float. Also, if you are fishing in snaggy areas, you want your hook link to break before the mainline if you get caught up.
And that's about it really, catching carp from the margins using a short pole is an awful lot of fun. As long as you step off the gear I little, you shouldn't have any problems landing even big Carp.
Because the carp I fish for are fairly small I don't really like using heavy-handed tactics, it's much more fun if you fish fairly light, small hooks, light line and small feeders with feeder rods that have very sensitive tips. In recent years a few other companies have brought out some really brilliant in-line method feeders that enable you to present the fish with the absolutely perfect ball of ground bait. I don't need to cast very far so I don't normally use anything bigger than about 30 g. I always use a very short hook link of around 4 inches with hook sizes no bigger than about 12. I think it's quite important to use fairly strong hook links, in old money around 8lb. I have also started using hooks that already have a small hair already tired. Although there's nothing wrong with putting the hook directly onto your hook, if you are using baits like hard pellets then you have to use either a band, or a hair.
The new feeders on the market now come with a special mould that makes it easier and quicker to produce the perfect aerodynamic mix on your feeder. It is important however to make sure you have prepared your method mix properly, whether that be a proper method mix, or just pellets. Most of the time I use small pellets, around 2 mm or 3 mm. I find that the carp really love these small pellets and can't get enough of them. If you then present a slightly larger pellets on your hook then it doesn't look out of place, especially if you are using the same colour hook bait. Preparing the pellets is very easy indeed and you can be fishing within a few minutes. If you look on the Internet you will see people going in all different ways. What I do is fill my bait box about half full, that will give me more than enough mix for two or three hours. I then take some pond water and put just enough to cover the pellets. I then leave them for three or 4 min and then turn the box upside down to drain the water. If you put too much water in the new will find the pellets are very wet and may not stay on the feeder properly. If you do make this mistake then worry not, just take a few more pellets and mix them with the wet pellets, this will soak up some of the water and should give you what you need.
The mould that accompanies these feeders makes it extremely easy to load the feeder with your pellets. It is important that your pellets are soaked properly because they may just fall off when the feeder hits the water if you haven't prepared them properly. I find that the best way to load the feeder is to completely fill the feeder with pellets, then put the feeder in the correct way around and then press firmly with your thumb. For added assurance you can squeeze the feeder as well which will compact the pellets even more. I also like to make sure that my hook bait is contained within the ball of pellets. Simply put your hook bait in the mould before you add the pellets and you will find it conveniently sitting on the outside ready for the carp.
This method works best if you try and fish in the same spot every cast. You can cast to different places if you wish, but the whole point of using this method is to build up a bed of free offerings each cast, whether you catch a fish or not. You'll find that fishing the same spot each cast will inevitably put more fish in the net. A lot of people like to clip their line so that the feeder drops into the same spot each time. One important thing I've found is that this method really only works properly if you are fishing in fairly shallow water. It doesn't matter how hard you squeeze the mould when preparing the feeder, some of it is going to fall off as soon as it hits the water. If the feeder has got to drop 6 or 7 feet then you may find most of it comes off. So if you are fishing in deeper water I would use one of those pellet feeders where you push the pellets into one end, they work really well on deeper water because you know that the pellets will stay in there on the drop.
One of the most exciting things about fishing the feeder is when you get the bite. It's normally explosive and instantaneous, there is absolutely no mistake that you have a fish taking your bait. Feeder rods are equipped with a very sensitive top section which enable you to detect even the smallest bites. Unless I'm fishing in the margins under my feet, I fish with a tight line that is causing the tip of the rod to bend slightly. Keeping a tight line will give you an indication of a drop back bite. This is when the fish takes your bait but swims towards you. If it's windy then you may find submerging the tip of the rod just under the surface and eliminates any movement on the tip. Try not to strike if you see the tip of the rod just quivering or moving back and forth slightly, this is just the carp eating the mix on your feeder. However, if you find that the tip of your rod continues to shake or move then you may find you have a small silverfish on the hook.
TFGear Fishing Rods
I've recently started using one of TF Gears compact feeder roads. These rods are only 8 foot long and are absolutely perfect for small commercial waters where you are casting short distances. As a disabled angler with limited strength in my arms I also find that the shorter the rod the easier it is to control a carp when it's pulling hard. Because the rod is short, you haven't got the leverage which can tire you out quite quickly if you have a sizeable fish in the end.
Surface fishing is the most visual and arguable the most exiting way of catching carp. In the summer months when the water is warm, carp will happily take food from the surface.
As the name suggests, the bait is presented on the surface as either floating or suspended bait. The most well known floating bait is of course bread. However there are various other floating makes you can use, marshmallows will catch carp, if you haven't eaten them already. Floating trout pellets are also extremely good for surface fishing. Nowadays, dog biscuits are widely used by a large percentage of carp anglers.
Now comes the problem of getting these light baits out to feeding fish. Quite often fish feed very close to the bank, and under overhanging trees and bushes where they probably feel safe. In these circumstances you don't need a float, just a hook with the bait will suffice. If the fish are feeding further than you can cast without a float then you will need more weight on your line. There are floats made especially for surface fishing, these are called controller floats. These are special floats that are designed for surface fishing. They come in various shapes and sizes but at the end of the day, are designed to do the same job.
There are various controller floats that aid in casting long distances, the Korda Interceptor Distance controller is an example of a controller float that is designed for casting your floating baits a long way. However, the venues I fish are very small so in most cases I am only casting 20 or 30 yards. By far my favourite controller floats is the Fox bubble float. The float is clear plastic which means the carp cannot see it, or even if they can, they probably think it is just a harmless object floating in the water and of no threat. The line passes through the centre of the float, using a swivel which is then pulled into a rubber sleeve, the float them performance as a safety bolt rig. Now the beauty of using this type of float is Fox controller floatsunlike many other controller floats that really require quite a long trace, you can use a very short race with this Fox bubble float. You'll find that the carp often investigate the float itself which obviously means they are not scared of it. Using a trace of anywhere between six and 12 inches means that when the carp takes the bait, it feels the resistance of the float straightaway and bolts which results in a hook up. Finally, because you are able to use such a short hook link, casting into tight snaggy spots is so much easier because you haven't got long hook link flying around that will easily get caught up.
It's always exciting when you arrive at your venue on a nice still summers day anticipating seeing the carp cruising around the surface looking for something to eat. What I normally do is introduce a few free offerings just do see what happens. It may be the case that the carp are really on the feed and within a few minutes you have several carp taking free offerings readily, this is obviously a good time to introduce your hook bait. Even though we recommend getting the fish feeding confidently on biscuits before you introduce your bait, sometimes there may be only one or two fish taking biscuits. This is often the case at Charlcombe pond over in Torquay. You'll often find a couple of fish cruising the margins on the opposite side of the pond in the shade on a hot day, this is often the best place to get a hook up during the day. You don't normally see more than two or three carp taking biscuits from the surface, therefore I try and get these carp feeding fairly confidently and then I introduce my hook bait.
There are various ways to hook a dog biscuit. Some people like to soak the biscuits until they are soft enough to hook. You can prepare your biscuits before you go fishing by simply pouring a small amount of hot water over a box full of biscuits, they will then expand and become soft. If you want, you can add some colouring and flavouring at the same time. Soaked dog biscuits probably won't stay buoyant for quite as long as dry dog biscuits, so beware of this. If you use dry biscuits then there are various bait bands available that you simply attach to the hook and then stretch them around the dog biscuit. If I'm going to cast a long way I first dip the biscuit in the water and wait a minute or so, this gives the biscuit a chance to swell up slightly and therefore there is less chance of it flying off when you cast. Some people like to glue the biscuit onto the back of the hook. Personally I think this is an awful lot of work to go to, however if you want to do this, get a small hacksaw and cut a small groove into the biscuit that will take the hook, a small but the superglue will hold a hook in place. .
For extremely shy carp that seem to have a second sense and eat every last free offering and leave your hook bait floating there like "piffy on a rock bun" you could try using a hair rigged dog biscuit. Try using extremely light line to tie the hair, fluorocarbon that can't be seen would be a good option. Make the hair about 1 inch long so that it floats naturally. I'm willing to bet you that this method will increase the chances of you looking that very shy carp that has seen it all before.
Some people like to add a flavour and colour to their biscuits. This is done by adding the flavour and colour to your biscuits and then soaking them overnight.
It's probably more cost-effective to buy a bag of pedigree chum mixer. The biscuits are perfect in size and I wouldn't be surprised if the bait bands have been designed with these particular biscuits in mind.
These are a new range of floating baits Manufactured by Sonubaits that have just recently come onto the market. I've got to tell you that these hookable floater pellets are the dogs b******s. You don't need to use a band to mount them on the hook. I found that these pellets mount perfectly on the new mixa hooks. The advantage that these pellets have over dog biscuits is that they do not sink, no matter how long you have them on the hook. They come in various flavours such as fishmeal and sweetcorn, they are extremely visible so you can see them from quite a long way off, very important when you are watching for a take. .
Expander pellets can be used straight from the bag as they float and are particularly good as a feed attractor, rather than being used on the hook.
There are some fake dog biscuits available that look remarkable realistic. I've had some degree of success on them, but I still think the carp can tell the difference.
When you are surface fishing using a controller float, the float is not really there as a visual aid to detecting a bite, it's really only to get your light bait out to the feeding fish. For this reason I would advise you to try and keep an eye on your floating bait rather than the float. In most cases carp will grab hold of your bait and just bolt with it, all hell breaks loose, it's fantastic. However, just occasionally the carp will momentarily mouth the bait but not take it confidently. Whereas I would normally wait for a carp to take the bait properly, you can sometimes hook a carp if you are quick on the strike, but you've got to be watching them take your hook bait. Only do this if you are having great problems getting the carp to take confidently. If dog biscuits aren't working, try bread, our next article discusses using bread as a floating bait.
Surface fishing with the suspender rig
Amongst the many different types of controller floats available for carp surface fishing are "suspender rig floats". These work by holding the line above the water so only the bait is touching the water surface, a little bit like a crane with a wrecking ball hanging off the end, that's the easiest way to describe it. The traditional suspender float work by using an anchor weight which sits on the lake bottom, you then tighten the line to position the bait on the surface of the water. The advantage of this method is the rig stays in the same place all the time, rather than drifting on the wind. Even though it's not everyone's favourite way of fishing, sometimes it can be absolutely deadly, especially where carp are extremely wary when it comes to surface baits.
Bread is one of those baits that nearly all fish like. Carp absolutely love bread and on a lovely warm summers day there is often no better bait to use. One of the advantages with bread is it is cheap, for £1, you've got nearly as days bait, I wish all fishing bait was like that. The biggest disadvantage with bread is it doesn't last for a long on the hook, at most you've got two casts in a piece of bread. Just about every little fish likes bread as well, so it's a bit of a race as to who gets to the bread first. Quite often the little fish will demolish the bread before you know where you are, is just one of those annoyances when you use bait that everybody likes.
The first thing I will say is don't even bother using brown sliced bread, the crust just doesn't work then you'll find it a difficult to keep it on the hook. If you are fishing for smaller carp then you can use the crust from sliced bread. Don't bother with the inside, use this as free offerings. You can often get a better presentation and also hook hold if you cut the crust up with a pair of scissors. Personally I like to use a nice crusty loaf as the hook bait. If you're going to cast the bread quite a long way then you need to use something that is going to stay on the hook. A basic tin loaf from Sainsbury's will do the job just fine. If you chop all six sides off and then using a pair of scissors, cut them all into nice square bite-size pieces, this will make an excellent hook bait. You can pass the hook through from the fluffy side, and then hook it into the crusty side. If you aren't, squeeze some of the fluffy bread around the hook shank to give you extra hold
There is absolutely no need to strike when using bread. When the carp are in a feeding mood, they will come up and mouth at the bread, often avoiding the hook. However, you must resist the temptation to strike as I can almost guarantee you will not hook the fish. When the car is ready and confident, it will come up and take the remainder of the bread and hook itself.
Over the years I have noticed that carp are not really that scared of the controller float itself. Often they will actually attack and mouth at it. I recently stumbled across the "the floating candle" controller float. They come in various sizes and look exactly like a piece of bread. So forget using four or 5 foot long traces when you are surface fishing with bread, make your trace anywhere between six and 12 inches long and you'll find that you will have more control over the fish when it takes your bait.
I've always used white bread as hook bait, there are lots of different types of bloomer and French sticks available in the supermarkets. The two I would recommend are the tiger/giraffe bread sold in Sainsbury's and Morrisons, and also your traditional crusty French bread stick. You will have more than enough bait for a short session if you buy one of the larger loaves. If the carp don't like your bread then take a little bit of butter with you because Tiger bread is absolutely delicious, especially when it's warm.
Surface fishing with your pole
If you are a pole fisherman then you could use your pole for surface fishing. The advantage with using a pole is you can literally drop the bait on top of the fishes nose, plus there will be no line on top of the water that could spook fish.
When the water warms up during the summer months, carp will often feed in the upper layers of the water where its warmest. When this happens you can often catch carp from not only the surface, but just below the surface as well. When we fish just below the surface we call this "up in the water" fishing. When you fish using this method you want to present the bait between 12 & 18 inches below the float. Personally, I wouldn't fish any deeper as when there carp become confident, they will take your free offerings almost as soon as it's the water.
You can get purpose made floats for fishing up in the water, they are normally fairly chunky large floats that make a splash when they hit the water. There are loads of designs you can choose from, they come in all shapes and sizes, in fact don't let the Mrs see some of them or she might mistake them one of her special toys.
There are also purpose made hook links that are made for fishing up in the water. To be perfectly honest, you can probably use them for other types of fishing, but they are marketed for fishing up in the water. However, they normally have a bands which have been hair rigged onto the hook. Traditionally, most people tend to use pellets when fishing partner in the water, so the pellet bands come in very handy for hooking hard pellets. You can use pellets between 3 mm and 12 mm, although I prefer the slightly smaller pellets. I have actually started using small match boilies as the carp really seem to love them. Pellet bands are really not any good for mounting these round baits so I use like to use a bait bayonet which is also hair rigged to the hook. You could use a traditional hair rig if you are using slightly larger boilies, however the ones I use are 8 mm and 10 mm and is there is a tendency for the baiting needle to split them.
If you are a "sit back in the chair and relax fishermen" then up in the water fishing is probably not really for you. The reason I say this is because when you fish up in the water, you have got to constantly introduce free offerings around the float to bring the fish to the area. Carp are attracted to any type of noise caused by floats or free offering, splashing is like ringing the dinner bell for carp. Some people like to offer up fairly large free offerings, anything up to 12 mm. I actually prefer the scatter smaller pellets as I think this is a more attractive noise. Also, a bag of 3 mm pellets will last you a lot longer than a bag of 11 m pellets.
I normally cast my float out, start introducing free offerings and then slowly tweak the float back in towards me whilst continuing to introduce free offerings. When you tweak the float, you lift the hook bait so that it falls naturally like the free offerings, you can often initiate a take by doing this.
Bites are normally fairly positive, when the carp are really feeding confidently they will just grab your bait and when they feel your float will bolt so you often don't even need to strike. If they are very skittish and are just mouthing the bait then you may have to be a little bit more on the ball and strike as soon as the float dips.
I thought I would mention the rod and reel that I use for fishing up in the water. I use one of Drennen's 13 foot power wagglers rods as they have bags of power and you can chuck one of Middys heavy pellet floats quite far. As for a real, I use a Shimano GTE 3000, a real than I've had for years and would never part with. I have 6LB line loaded onto this as this is more than enough.
The Zyg Rig
The Zyg rig is an excellent method for catching carp when they are feeding at the surface or maybe midwater.
The principal is the same as a semifixed rig, the difference with a Zyg rig is in the length of the hook length.
You must make sure that the hook length is clear, using a hook length that stands out in the water will spook the carp, fluorocarbon is well-known for being invisible underwater. The hook length must also be shallower than the depth of the water, if it's too long then it won't perform properly as you will just have a lot of slack line.
If you know the depth of the water then you can experiment with different lengths of hook length to find out where the fish are feeding. If you don't know the depth of the water then use a marker float.
If the fish are taking baits from the surface then set your rig up so that the bait is either just under the surface, or just at the surface. If the fish are not taking from the surface then experiment from anywhere from 6 inches upwards, some people find the fish feed midwater so you might need to make a hook length of 3 feet or more.
If you find that your hook link is tangling when you're casting then you can use soluble foam nuggets that you simply hook, when you cast they prevent tangling, they dissolve within a minute or two so there is no need to worry about your hook being covered in gunk.
You can use any floating bait, pellets, boilies, bread, anything that is buoyant will work with the Zyg rig. A lot of people nowadays use artificial buoyant baits that quite frankly don't resemble anything, but they seem to work. You can also simply just use a piece of cork that resembles a pellet. I think it's possible that in many cases the water is not particularly clear and the carp will just grab at anything they see falling through the water.
It's probably worth mentioning that the Zyg rig is not a lazy man's way of fishing, to make this work requires constant trickle of loose offerings that will entice carp into the area and get them on the feed.
Korda Hook Hair Quick Stops
I use hair rigs as much as I can and I just feel confident that I will hook the fish without having the bait masking the hook. I recently came across the Korda quick stops which are absolutely marvellous design. You can see by the picture how they work, there is a little plastic stop attached onto the hair, you simply push this through the bait and security on the other side, it takes a couple of seconds when you get used to it. I would advise you to purchase the special baiting needle that accompanies these quick stops as it's sometimes difficult pushing the stop through a large bait. These come into a couple of varieties, the hooks on their own with the stops attached, and also complete ready tied hook links in various sizes.
Sweetcorn is a traditional carp bait that catches just as many carp nowadays than it ever has done. However, the problem with sweetcorn is not only carp like it, just about any other fish that you can catch will eat sweetcorn. So if you're fishing for carp in a water that is heavily stocked with small silver fish, more than often your sweetcorn is gobbled up very quickly by the smaller fish before the carp has a chance to find your bait. Over the last few years, a lot fishing companies have realized that money is to be made from food that is normally served up on your dinner plate. Sweetcorn is now available in many different flavors. The kernels tend to be a lot bigger than the ones found in the commercial foods. A lot of tackle shops also sell flavored maize. I find these tend to come in slightly big tins so if you are having a good day, you've got plenty of bait available without the hassle of having to carry around loads of tins. Just to clear up some confusion, there is no difference between maize and sweetcorn. We in the UK call it a sweetcorn, and Americans call it maize.
Because I use hair rigs a lot of the time whether I'm using float tackle, or ledger, I like to hair rig two or three pieces of maize, depending on the length of the hair. I think it's easier to present it on the hair, rather than just hooking it. You obviously also have the advantage of having your hook totally clear of any obstruction from bait.
Don't underestimate sweetcorn, it really is a great bait and can often save the day when nothing else is working. Just remember that sweetcorn is not the sort of bait that will normally last for hours on the hook, unlike boilies.
There is also artificial sweetcorn and maize available that believe it or not, will catch carp on its own without any of the real stuff present. If I am float fishing then I tend to use real sweetcorn on the hook, however if I'm using the method then I never use a real piece of sweetcorn, I use one piece of fake sweetcorn attached to a hair on the hook. Because artificial sweetcorn is slightly buoyant, I put a small split shot about 1 inch from the bait so that when it releases itself from the method mix, it sits enticingly right in front of the fish, they really can't resist it and I nearly always catch when using this method, it is absolutely deadly on commercial carp waters where there are lots of the smaller fish.
Dynamite Frenzied Hemp
Carp absolutely love hemp seed, I would imagine that it resembles small snails, lovely and crunchy and full of juice. I've never bothered cooking my own hemp, I don't really see the point when there is plenty of precooked hemp available on the market. I've been using Dynamite Frenzied Hempseed for a few years ago, it's really good value for money and one tin really does go a long way. I tend to use it mainly in the margins, unless you use something like a spod it's quite difficult to throw loose hempseed any further than a few feet from the bank. If I'm fishing on one of the small commercial waters here in Torbay where there are a lot of carp, I will definitely put in a good three or four handfuls at a time and just keep feeding intermittently. Dynamite sell hemp small tins as well as larger plastic containers so you shouldn't ever have a problem with running out when you go fishing. I just make sure I've always got two or three tins with me because this stuff really is excellent and if you want fish in your swim quickly, then give some of this Dynamite Hemp a go.
Hemp 'N' Hookbaits
Pellets have been my favoured loose feed for many years now, they come in different sizes and flavours and Carp absolutely love them. However, in recent years the waters around Torbay have come under a lot of pressure from the increased amount of people who have taken up Carp fishing. I put this down to the amount of fishing programmes dedicated to Carp fishing that are on nearly every single day of the week, it's no wonder so many more people are going crazy for Carp, the small waters that we fish just cannot take this amount of pressure and I strongly believe that the Carp have now wised and are not as easy to catch. Thankfully, small commercial waters such as Town Parks that hold large stocks of smaller Carp can still give you a really good days fishing. I decided this year that I'm going to use a completely different type of loose feed that I have in recent years, I keep a very close eye on what other anglers do and I believe that my approach will benefit my Carp fishing. Sonubaits sell a particle mix that is based around hempseed, but with lots of other goodies mixed in as well. I am certainly going to be getting myself a few tins of this as it will take away the hassle of having to buy all the various ingredients and then manually mix them all together. The beauty of Hemp 'N' Hookbooks is you can use the particles as hook bait, so everything come with a nice tidy package, no need to have an extra tin of sweetcorn open. I can say for sure that I will have a few tins at my disposal this year.
Attach Your Pellets Easily
If you like using bait bands but find them extremely fiddly to use, especially when they are the very small ones then I might be able to help you. I recently came across a special gadget that enables you to quickly and easily mount any sized pellets or dog biscuits on any size band. The gadget is called a "pellets bander" and is available at many tackle suppliers for a few quid.
Some Fishing Tips
Here is a diagram that shows you how to tie a knotless knot, or hair rig as it is also known as. The hair rig is a integral part of many carp fishermen's tactics and is one of the most common knots people use when fishing. A hair rig enables you to present your bait whilst leaving the hook totally clear and away from obstructions. The most common bait used on a hair rig is the boilie, although just about any other bait can be used. Even though many people prefer to tie their own hair rigs, many of the fishing companies now produce "ready tied" hair rigs. The single ready tied rigs are quite expensive however, the match hair rigs which often come in packets of up to 10 are quite cheap and in my opinion it's a lot easier to buy these off-the-shelf, rather than spending ages making something that costs less than three quid.
My local angling supplies stocks most of what I want, however there are times when I need to get on the Internet to obtain an item of tackle. Poingdestres have quite a nice variety of hooks to nylon, many of them incorporating a hair for various baits
Every angler should know how to tie a loop, I use loops nearly every time I go fishing. A surgeon loop is a very convenient way of attaching various different types of tackle. For instance, the Drennan in-line flat method feeder is designed to be attached using a couple of surgeons loops, one on the mainline, the other on the hook link, it's so easy, no need for any knot tying if you leave the loop on your mainline. Tying very small loops is difficult at the best of times, however I recently came across a clever little device that makes tying small surgeons loops childsplay, check out the Sensas loop tyer.
Commercial Carp Fisheries
People often ask what tactics and bait you should use on small commercial carp waters. My advice would be to keep it simple and don't try and replicate these guys who fish the big waters for huge carp. Using large pits reels and 2 3/4 TC rods when fishing for carp that sometimes don't even reach double figures is a bit of an overkill. I have various different rods that I use for different fishing methods. I like using Avon type 1 1/4 rods for light float fishing like the lift and also surface fishing. I have a Drennan power carp waggler if I want to fish exceptionally light using a waggler float. I also have a couple of method feeder rods that have very fine sensitive tips, perfect for fishing small method or pellet feeders. Using light tackle adds so much more fun to the sport and in my opinion will make you a better angle in the long run.
As for bait on small commercial waters, again, keep it simple and small. Quite often one grain of sweetcorn, a small pellet or cube of meat will catch you more fish than if you whack out a huge lump of meat or large boilie. One of the most surprisingly effective bait to use on commercial waters is one single grain of fake pellet or sweetcorn. If you use this in conjunction with a method or pellet feeder then you could well completely bag up when everyone else who is using float is not really catching much.
In the spring time when the weather starts getting a little warmer the carp start thinking about other things rather than food, in other words they have got sex on the mind. A female carp can hold hundreds of thousands of eggs, when the time comes to release them the male carp get very excited and jostle with each other so they can be the one to fertilise the eggs when the female releases them. You'll know when the carp start spawning because firstly, you probably won't catch anything, but more noticeably you will hear a lot of splashing around, especially in the margins around the foliage. When fish spawn they are really not interested in feeding, so don't be surprised if you don't catch anything during this period. Once the carp have finished spawning, they are often extremely hungry so it's often very good fishing just after they have spawned. Don't be surprised if after spawning time, some of the carp you catch have got injuries, this is inevitable as they are extremely rough during the spawning period. If you want to help the carp, always have some antiseptic in your box, Klinic is one manufacturer that comes to mind.
Hot days aren't always best
Anglers often think that baking hot days are the time to catch carp. Warm days yes, baking hot days, unfortunately not always the case. The problem with long spells of hot weather is on the small commercial waters, the oxygen is sapped out of the water. When this happens, you often find that fish are just not interested in eating. It's very easy to tell when this is happening, you will see all the carp sitting just under the surface of the water. We've all done it, you cast a floating bait at them and they just ignore it. If this is happening to you, try fishing near an inlet if there is one at the fishery. Many commercial fisheries are spring fed so you will have constant water entering the pond. When the water enters the pond, it creates plenty of oxygen and I suppose revitalises the fish which is why you will often find the one guy catching all the fish on a hot day is the one who is right next to the inlet.
If the weather is going to be very hot, I often prefer to go down to the pond and fish a few hours in the evening when the weather cools down. I'd much rather do that than sit on the bank all day roasting my chestnuts off catching absolutely nothing.
Fish into a southwesterly wind
None of us like to be uncomfortable when we go fishing, there's nothing nicer than sitting there with your rod with the sun blazing down warming your cockles. As soon as that wind starts blowing, most people try and find shelter. However, winds that come from a southwesterly direction can actually improve the fishing. Southwesterly winds are always warm, they often bring the fish on to feed.. Fish will follow a southwesterly wind. So if you're going fishing on a day when there is a southwesterly blowing, don't sit on the side of the lake where it is nice and sheltered, fish into the wind, especially if you are fishing in a corner, the chances are, you'll bag up because that is where all the fish will be. But remember, this is only with any southwesterly, don't waste your time fishing into a freezing northerly wind, the only thing you're catch is hypothermia.
Silence Is Golden (or is it?)
We are always told not to make too much noise when fishing. Don't shout, speak very quietly or you will frighten the fish away. Have you ever seen a fishes ears? Fish have not got ears, well not in the traditional sense anyway. You can shout as loud as you like and the fish will not hear you. Now, if you start jumping up and down on the bank, throwing your equipment around, they will hear you. Fish actually have the ability to hear, but not in the way we do. Every fish has an organ called the lateral line. The lateral line runs the full length of the fishes body. This organ has the abilty to detect vibrations in the water which are then passed to hearing parts in the head.
If you still don't believe me, find someone who keeps fish. This will give you a very good indication of how fish reacts. When they're not looking, shout at the top of your voice, I guarantee you'll get no reaction. However, jump up and down on the floor and they won't like it. What I can guarantee is fish have got very good eyesight. If you are fishing the shallow margins then you certainly don't want to be standing right next to the bank waving your arms around because that is a sure way of frightening all the fish out of your swim. Also beware of casting a shadow over the water, fish hate this and will also vacate the area if this happens.
One of my absolute pet hates is people who use keep nets for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I just don't understand why they think it's necessary to keep every carp they catch cooped up for several hours, only then to release them at the end of the day without weighing or even taking a photo. What is the point, why put the fish through all that stress when you're not even going to weigh or take a photo? A lot of fisheries will not allow the use of keep nets during hot weather. Oxygen levels drop dramatically during hot spells of weather, that is why you often see the fish hanging just under the surface. I'm afraid that the only thing collusion I have come up with the why people keep lots of carp in a keep net is because it looks good at the end of the day releasing the fish in front of everyone.
Online Tackle Shops
There are a few online tackle shops that I use on a fairly regular basis. The Tackle Box in Kent supplies just about anything you will need for carp fishing and is well worth a visit. Poingdestres Angling Centre have over a nice website and use them on numerous occasions this year to purchase most of my hooks to nylon. Angling Direct another company that I have used, this time I bought my rod quivers from them for a very reasonable price. If I come across any other shops as I think are worth mentioning then I will do just that.