16 October, 2018 |21 Comments
Specimen fishing ace Tony Gibson looks back on a successful summer campaign of carp fishing.
Tony head’s to his local ‘Nene Valley’ syndicate and catches some stunning ‘target’ fish while explaining his way of targeting the carp including the best tactics and bait.
Perhaps not surprisingly, after plenty of carp had either ‘gatecrashed’ my Spring tench sessions or had formed part of the catch on my joint tench/carp trips, I was still in ‘carp mode’ once we progressed into the proper summer months.
My new syndicate water in the Nene Valley had provided my best fish from the interrupted Spring tench/bream campaign and also contained some very nice carp that were the target of every other member of the syndicate, with one big fish in particular a very desirable 40lb+ ‘stunner’… and one that I rather fancied featuring in my own photo album.
An overnight trip to the pit to target the carp was therefore planned to coincide with the pit reopening after being closed to members for a while as another bout of carp spawning activity took place. I hoped that this would help to catch the carp off-guard since they’d been no pressure, or lines in the water for a short period.
The first session..
I’d arrived early to try and spot a few fish before choosing my swim, but after plenty of looking without seeing anything that resembled a carp I chose my swim based on the conditions, wind direction and some interesting features. Plenty of weed about made careful leading around to find suitable clear areas to present a bait a necessity and it was late morning before I’d got three separate spots sorted and baits in position.
Two areas were close in and baited with particles; one fished with a snail based hookbait, while the other spot had a small, just-sinking, boilie based hookbait, constructed from a 12mm CompleX-T bottom bait and a little matching pop-up carefully trimmed and fished together on the same hair, swung out to it.
The middle rod was over to a clear(ish) area, between weed beds, at about 60 yards. This was just within comfortable catapult range with 15mm boilies, so I went with a boilie only approach on this rod. I chose to go with a chod style presentation here, as ensuring a perfect drop would have potentially taken too many casts for my liking.
Off to a good start..
A 15mm CompleX-T food bait pop-up was tied to my short chod hooklength and a generous helping of 15mm boilies, straight out of the bag, spread around the area. With all the disturbance required to get all three rods fishing nicely, I wasn’t realistically expecting any potential action until early the following morning, so was very pleasantly surprised when, within the hour, I was ‘away’ on the boilie rod.
Fortunately, despite all the weed about, I was able to guide the carp into the landing net without any great drama and I was soon admiring a characterful mid-twenty common.
Things got even better the following day, as my first early-morning brew was interrupted by the left-hand margin rod steaming off as a carp discovered that its breakfast snail had a hook attached to it. A lively, close-range scrap ensued, but before too long another nice common was hassled into the landing net; this one weighing in at 22.10.
Once the sun was up and the temperatures started to ramp up once again I decided to make a start on the packing up duties. However, I was soon called back into action as the alarm on the middle rod signaled some fish-shaped interest, but with a mediocre struggle from the other end of the line, the suspected, spawned out tench was soon landed.
Carp fishing on Bluebell Lakes..
While the carp seemed intent on taking advantage of the ongoing warm weather to complete the most productive spawning period that we’ve for years in almost every water that I could think of, for some reason the carp in Swan lake on the Bluebell complex never really got any further than some half-hearted chasey type activity and didn’t seem to spawn at all.
This meant that my main target fish, the mighty “Z”, despite being a female that would normally spawn down from 50lb+ to low 40’s in the early summer, would be likely to remain at an upper weight right the way through the warmer months. It seemed churlish not to use the opportunity to try and catch “Z” while she was still really big; so rather than swap priorities to fish for catfish and eels as I had originally intended over the high summer period, I focused mainly on trying to put “Z” on the bank.
I think it always helps to know something about the fish itself if you have a particular target in mind, as some fish, especially carp, can have certain habits and areas of the lake that they prefer to use. Over the last couple of years, I’d worked out through my own sightings and also talking to other experienced anglers on the venue that “Z” was a tricky, cautious fish and was something of a loner.
While she could turn up almost anywhere on the pit, she did like to get right in the edge at times and so with lots of careful observation she could occasionally be spied in the margins. A couple of years back, when the breeze was blowing in the right direction, I remember watching “Z” on several occasions turn up early in the morning in a certain little bay that received the sunlight quite early in the day.
All on her own, she’d use the far margin to slowly make her way into the bay and seemed quite happy to drift around all on her herself. However, once the rays of the sun gradually made their way further into the bay and a few more carp started to drift into the area, “Z” always seemed to get agitated by the extra company and would make her way back out of the bay whenever it got busier.
Fishing the margins..
With all this in mind, my main focus areas while targeting the carp in Swan this summer was predominately close-in. I’d make a habit of picking a couple of hours during the day, outside of main bite time, to do a circuit or two of the pit to try and find “Z”, or one of the other really big fish somewhere in the edge. Therefore, for the majority of my mainly 2-night sessions I’d have a two-pronged approach.
The main swim where I’d be bivvied up would have a couple of rods fished on close-in spots and maybe one further out overnight and during what I considered the main bite time, while at certain times of the day I’d be reeled in and off round the pit to do some looking around, or some actual stalking if some decent carp were spotted anywhere.
Snail them carp..
I’d usually vary the baits on the rods fished close in to give the fish a choice and to try something different from what most other anglers would be using. Using worms, when the tench were part of the target, had brought a few bonus bites from the carp during the Spring period, but during the summer I chose to go over to snails instead, as these are more convenient.
You can just simply open up a tin of Dynamite’s “Frenzied Hemp & Snails” and have perfect, ready-to-go hookbaits and quality hemp to use as part of the loosefeed without the hassle of trying to keep your worms in good condition during all the hot weather. Another bonus with the snails, especially during the really close-in stalking sessions, is that they are difficult for the nuisance bird-life to spot.
Sweetcorn is another great bait to use in these situations, but with it being so visual, the bird-life spy it too easily and can quickly ruin a carefully approached stalking opportunity. On the occasions when I did think the addition of something visual might be useful to help the carp home in on the hookbait, I’d tip a 12mm CompleX-T boilie with a piece of plastic sweetcorn.
What to feed..
White plastic corn soaked in ‘green-lipped mussel’ flavour became a firm favorite. I’d often use the hemp from the tin mixed with CompleX-T boilie crumb as the background feed when using the snails as hookbait and usually a mix of broken and whole 12mm boilies, for when a boilie based hookbait was being used.
Sometimes I fancied adding extra attraction right by the hookbait, so I’d use a PVA mesh bag of ’bits’ nicked onto the hook for the cast. The contents of the bag were based on Grubby Groundbait Carpet Feed, with some 4mm CompleX-T pellets and some of the bits I was using for loosefeed.
Whenever I felt like a little extra attraction might work I also added a couple of squirts of either the Evolution Hemp Oil, or the Evolution Smoked Salmon Oil into the bag. Rigs were reasonably straightforward, with simple blowback type presentations being deployed most often.
This approach kept things interesting and led to my share of carp from the venue finding their way into my landing net, with a fair number of 20lb+ fish and a few fish over the 30lb mark making the effort all worthwhile.
Spotting the big boys..
The really big carp, including “Z”, managed to keep out of my way and undetected until one day when I’d actually packed up and all of the kit was in the car ready to go, when I had the sudden urge to don the polaroids and have one final circuit of the lake to see if I could manage a “last gasp” fish before heading for home.
Fortunately, I came across three fish just mooching about in a quiet corner; two of which looked like low 20’s, while the third looked like it might go 30’s… so worth a quick stalk. I was soon back with a rod, landing net, a couple of rests and a little bag of bait and tackle and within minutes I was ready to gently swing out a snail hookbait once the carp had moved off enough to get the rig into position without spooking them.
With the rig deployed just a couple of feet out on the marginal shelf, just past some sparse reeds, the fish were back over the area within moments. With the sun blazing down through a cloudless afternoon sky, it was boiling hot and I tried my best to wiggle my way into a tiny bit of shade afforded by a willow tree right by the spot, but at the same time keeping a clear line of sight to the area where the hookbait was situated.
More carp enter the fray
Unfortunately, although the fish were back in the area, they looked very listless and hung in the water above the rig with their heads tilted upwards, just sunbathing. After about half an hour of this I was just about to call it quits as it looked like they had no interest in feeding at all, when all of a sudden two massive carp came drifting into the swim along the left-hand margin.
One of the fish was a huge mirror, but didn’t have the high, humpy shoulders that would have identified it as “Dave”, the big male mirror that was the largest fish in the pit, so I concluded that it could only be “Z”, as there wasn’t another mirror that could possibly be that size.
The other carp with it was a huge common, not quite as long as “Z”, but if anything looking slightly bulkier, and I’m pretty sure that this was a fish known as the “Box Common”, looking every bit as big as when I’d caught it the year before at 50lb 2oz.
To make things even more exciting “Z” sank below the three fish that were stationed right above my end tackle and looked as though she was having a bit of a poke about along the shelf… right where my hookbait was! Unfortunately, she soon lost interest in the bottom and simply joined the “Box” and the other three carp in the upper layers and started sunbathing right above my rig.
With “Z” right in front of me, just a couple of feet from my bait, there was no way I was going home any time soon, so I continued to lay there, with my back burning in the strong sun as I continued to watch the carp for any signs of feeding activity.
Over the next couple of hours things in the margins hardly changed, and while a couple of carp occasionally drifted off and a couple of others would occasionally come along and join in the sunbathing, the two low 20’s, “Z” and the “Box” never really left the area. However, the carp continued to hang about near the surface and looked totally disinterested in feeding.
I daren’t risk trying to introduce anything else to try and encourage them to have a snack, for fear of spooking them off. Then without warning something changed. It was like flicking a switch, as the five carp went from pointing upwards and looking totally lethargic to suddenly all five of them dropping low in the water, with their heads down and grubbing about on the shelf, having a feed.
I just knew that I was about to get a bite… but which fish would pick up my snail hookbait? Suddenly the reel was screaming, as the inevitable bite occurred and a big bow wave disturbed the surface as the hooked fish realized it’s mistake and took off! However, even before I picked up the rod my heart was sinking.
Over the last couple of hours I’d become very familiar with the scale patterns along the back of the carp that had been hanging about in the swim and I could plainly see that the scale pattern on the back of the hooked carp racing away from me across the top was definitely not “Z”, but belonged to one of the fish I’d estimated at low 20’s. I felt robbed as I played the fish back to the waiting net; how close must I have been to having ”Z” pick up my hookbait!
Much worse was to follow about a month or so later, when “Z” was found dead. It’s such a shame when one of the special carp dies, and I felt especially bad about this one, as my chance of catching her was now lost forever.
While the little stalking sessions didn’t always work out as planned, they could also sometimes turn up an impressively quick result. On one occasion, I’d decided to have a quick look around another one of the pits on the complex and was having a careful look in the edge of Sandmartin Lake when I came across a couple of groups of carp investigating the margins.
Stalking the carp..
They looked catchable, so I was soon back in the area with my stalking gear at the ready. This time I used a 12mm CompleX-T boilie straight out of the bag, tipped with a piece of artificial corn as the hookbait, with another 4 or 5 boilies threaded onto a short length of PVA tape tied to the lead for extra attraction.
I tried to get just ahead of one group of carp slowly making their way along the margins, with only a very gentle swing required to position the rig just a few feet out on the gravel shelf. I’d just done this and was just about to sit down on the grass to await events when the line pulled up tight and the reel started screaming… I was ‘away’ within seconds! The resulting fish was no monster, but a lovely dark grey 20lb+ mirror certainly put a smile on my face.
With the carp fishing providing so much interesting fishing my summer eel and catfish campaigns never really got off the ground. I managed to squeeze in just the one single overnight eel session all summer and therefore only had a small eel weighing 2lb 2oz to my credit by the end of August.
I’d very occasionally sneaked out a catfish rod for a night during the odd summer carp session, but my timing appeared to be wrong and I didn’t manage to land a single ‘cat’ for my mediocre efforts. Perhaps if we had a relatively warm autumn I’d have an opportunity to try for the catfish again before the water temperatures got too cold and it wasn’t worth the effort? I’ll let you know if that opportunity came about and detail some of my autumn sessions in my next piece…
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