As the new year rolls in my hunt continues.
Although i didn't catch one of my target 40lb carp over the last 12 months I've had a magic year meeting some new good friends and catching 4 personal best carp on the way - 3 cracking commons of 34lb 4oz - 35lb 10oz - 36lb 8oz and a stunning 37lb 7oz mirror.
I also had my first ever fishing trip to Spain were i caught some nice catfish up to 66lb
Ive learnt alot over the past 12 months like watercraft being able to read a water, being more precise, and being able to read the fish within a water. I found it’s no good having all the right tackle and bait if you then set up in a swim completely devoid of fish. Successful carp angling is about getting lots of little things right and watercraft is no different. It’s about taking lots of little bits of information from every session you have fished, and then pulling them back out and threading them together to form a strategy when you’re next out on the bank. The difficult part is in knowing where to find the information and then deciding how best to use it. Again, there’s no one single thing that can improve your watercraft skills, rather a mix of information gleaned from many sources.
I think it was George Sharman’s ‘Carp and the Carp Angler’ where he said that it was better to have a bad plan than to have no plan at all. Possibly meaning that if you had a plan, even a bad one, then at least you were forming an opinion, and if that plan failed, then technically all you needed to do was identify where the failure occurred, refine it, and try again. In essence, that’s what watercraft is all about. It’s about taking all the things you have learnt about carp, the water you are fishing, climatic conditions and any other affecting factors, then trying to bring it all together into one salient mass for the session that lies ahead.
|Watercraft; what’s it all about… and how can I get some!?|
It’s no easy process and it’s not a skill which will come overnight but if you start applying the logic now, you will quickly feel the benefit and the long road ahead won’t seem quite so daunting. Watercraft is something you never stop learning - you add more to it with each session you fish, and the longer you have been fishing the more experiences you are able to draw upon.
There are many different aspects to watercraft. First you need knowledge of the lake itself; its habits, characteristics and life-cycle. You also need to learn how everyday changes in climatic conditions and angler pressure can affect carp behaviour. Once you understand the lake, you then need to understand it in relation to its habitat. This is perhaps the single most important aspect of watercraft - knowing where to find the fish is what it’s all about!
So where do we start? Well, first we need to understand a little more about the carp itself. It sounds daft, but if you want to catch big carp and catch them consistently, then you need to think like the fish you are trying to catch! Many people perceive a carp to be a swimming dustbin that only has to see a pile of bait and it’s straight on it. Whereas, in reality, we have to remember that in fish terms, the carp is quite an intelligent creature with quite a well developed brain; anybody who has watched a wary carp feeding at close range will know just what I’m talking about!
Carp are capable of a number of thought patterns. In the main, these patterns appear to be governed by a sort of short and long term memory. The fish relies predominately on the long term memory part of the brain for going about its day to day business. Basically, the way I’ve come to see this is that a carp takes in lots of short term memories, which, after conditioning (the same thing happening time and time again) become long term memories. The question is; how can we use this to our advantage? Well, have you ever wondered why pre-baiting works? It’s exactly the same thing - by supplying a constant source of free food with no danger aspect (i.e. no hook bait) the carp will pass short term memories back to the brain on each sitting saying that all is ok within the area, until eventually it becomes conditioned and they then begin to see it as a constant source of risk free food.
My own view however, is that carp will always be able to attach a degree of risk to feeding in any area, but by conditioning we are able to lower its guard. Long term conditioning on a regularly fished water will tell the carp that within the lake itself, there is always a risk that it is being angled for, but by providing this constant source of free food it thinks this particular area, for now, is safe. Once you begin to fish the area the carp will begin to wise up and after a time the spot may well dry up as the short term memory feeds into the long term memory telling the carp that, after being caught there or being around other spooky fish that have been caught there, that this area is now not safe to feed in, and so the cycle goes.
A carps primary feeding habits are controlled by the daily cycle of life; the onset of day & night, and the surrounding climate. In terms of watercraft you need to understand that the primary need of the carp is food in order that it can maintain itself. This does not mean it will eat whatever is placed in front of it (unless competition for that food dictates it) as one of its other inherent characteristics is for its own security. What I’m getting at here is that it’s down to the carp when and where it wants to feed - not you. You can do all you like to add attractors and such like to your bait, but if the fish does not want to eat, it won’t. That said, I’ve found carp to be very inquisitive by nature; any seasoned stalking angler will tell you exactly the same thing. I would say over 90% of my catches when stalking are due to the carps inquisitive demeanour when it comes across the bait rather than the fact that it’s hungry and is looking for something to eat. Apply a shed load of bait and often the guard will go straight up. However, a single wiggling lob worm dropped right in front of its nose is an entirely different matter; carp seem unable to resist further investigation.
Many people also assume that all carp are exactly the same and think alike. As far as inherent characteristics go I don’t doubt it. However, my own experiences and those of others around me suggest that each fish can be very different. On the Folly Lakes where I have watched the same group of carp for many, many years, you begin to see that each fish has its own character, just like you or I - some are really bold and are always first on the scene to see what’s going on, others are more reserved and always tend to hold back. You also notice that the bigger fish often have a little sidekick whom they tend to let feed first before they decide whether to partake. Information like this is invaluable in relation to planning your attack on a chosen water or a particular big fish.
The key here is observation - and lots of it. Spend time getting to know how the carp live in the water you are fishing and you are half way to catching them. There are a couple of different scenarios you will be faced with when it comes to getting to know the fish, mainly with regard to the type of session you are planning - Is it a one off trip to a new water, or is it a new water which you intend to be spending a lot of time on?
My fishing trip over new year
My catch rate hasnt been as good as i would of liked these last few months and losing 4 fish just made me feel more gutted. I spent my new year fishing as i wanted to start the year with a bang but it wasnt to be.
I bumpped into a nash consultant nick burrage wile i was fishing and got talking about a few new rigs that he had come up with. real nice bloke and knows his stuff about carp fishing. we was the only two fishing the lake at the time and it looked real good for a bite. I ended up losing one again after the rod only being out 20mins on one of nick's new rigs ( which you will be able to see in Feb's edition of crafty carper )
Nick ended up bagging 4 carp on his trip - Stunning mid 20 mirror
And 3 commons up to 32lb 12oz all on the monster squid