Ever caught a specimen carp? You may feel the need to mark the achievement – but how?
A new carp rod? A framed photo of you and your catch? Or a traditional carp tattoo!
Before you choose a lasting momento of your amazing carp catch, take a look at the myths, meanings and mysteries of traditional Koi carp art.
Meaning of Koi
In Japanese, the meaning of the word ‘koi’ is simply ‘carp’, and in the past would have referred to all wild and cultivated specimens.
Over the years though, the meaning has changed. Now the Japanese use the word Koi to describe the ornamental fish found in ponds, and Nishikigoi – brocaded carp – for the most brightly coloured varieties.
The Koi or Carp is famous in Japan and China for its ability to swim upstream. Tattoos of Carp therefore represent perseverance, determination and battles against adversity. The positioning of the tattoo is also important. A fish swimming down the body indicates that the individual is going through hard times. A Koi swimming upwards denotes a person who has already broken through barriers and overcome difficulties.
Ancient Chinese legend tells of Carp swimming up the Yellow River, and that any Koi who succeeds in jumping up the falls at Dragon Gate is transformed into a water dragon.
In this respect, Koi have become synonymous with worldly advancement, riches and prosperity – another reason for the popularity of the design in tattooing.
Carp are said to be so brave that when caught by fishermen, unlike lesser fish that flap and try to escape, the carp lies still on the chopping board, awaiting the knife without so much as a quiver. In this way, Koi Carp are connected to the ideals of courage long associated with Samurai warriors.
With all these positive associations, perhaps it should come as no surprise that in Japan, the Koi Carp is the emblem of the Boys’ Day Festival.
Celebrated on May 5th, this ancient feast is marked by pennants representing Carp, one for each of the boys in the family; the biggest for the eldest son and so on to the youngest.
Carp are a central part of the festival – their strength, bravery and determination an inspiration for Japan’s youth, and integral to promoting qualities of manliness.
So there you have it – beautiful tattoos, expensive goldfish, a symbol of masculinity; when all is said and done, a reason to get outdoors and enjoy some fishing!
Once upon a time, local knowledge was a closely guarded secret.
But now fishing wisdom accumulated through the ages is available via the super computer in your pocket. Thereby turning anyone with a rod, fishing reel and smartphone into an expert.
Here is our guide to some of the best fishing apps out there, helping you to harness technology and keep reeling ‘em in.
This clever iPhone app tells you where to fish, which species to target and even suggests what tackle setup to use.
It combines several key factors impacting on fish feeding and set up patterns, to produce what they think will be a winning strategy. As well as that, the weather forecast and phases of the moon are integrated with expertise provided by angling experts, meaning you need never think for yourself again!
Every day you’ll get three different fishing options that best match the conditions, together with advice about rigs, baits and tactics.
Priced at £2.99, we feel sorry for the fish.
A comprehensive resource for sea anglers, What Fish boasts a 164 fish strong identification index. Whilst the app will help you to correctly identify your catch, it is much more than just a fish identification tool. You’ll also be able to access useful information such as minimum catch size, specimen shore and boat weights. Detailed maps show where target fish are likely to be swimming.
Add to that suggestions about baits and rigs that work best from different locations such as shore, boat and kayak. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are even recipes so that you can cook your catch to perfection when you get home.
An impressive amount of info for £1.99 and available for both iPhone and Android.
A wealth of information for anglers, you can use this app to save time locating the perfect fishery. Using your phone’s GPS, no matter where you are, you’ll be able to see where the fishing spots are in your area. Better yet, they’re rated so you won’t waste valuable angling time trying to find a decent spot.
The data on offer is comprehensive – with over 2,800 coarse and game venues listed. You can also access the five day weather forecast and lunar calendar and interact with other coarse and game fishing enthusiasts. This encyclopedic app also includes over 1,000 fishing tackle shops.
A serious amount of knowledge to keep in your pocket with member deals and discounts to boot. £1.99 from iTunes.
Carp Lake Maps
Ideal for those crossing the channel to France in search of specimen carp, this app offers clear maps that detail features of lake beds, to help you maximise your strike rate. Whilst it doesn’t have a vast number of lakes as of yet, there is plenty of scope for future inclusions.
Bought individually, the maps would total £54 but the phone app costs just £2.99 and is available to iPhone and Android platforms. Bargain! So if you’re likely to fish any of the locations featured it surely makes sense to download the app. If you’re a keen angler and want to see some new features, Carplakes are looking for new suggestions to add.
A favourite with us, wreckfinder has been developed by Cornish company, App Future, to help anglers and divers locate wrecks at sea. Data from the UK Hydrographic Office is integrated with Google maps to give the location of 12,000 wrecks in UK and Irish coastal waters. And you don’t even need to have a phone signal to use it either, as all the locations are downloaded with the app.
Where possible additional information about the wreck is included and all co-ordinates can be input into other electronic navigational aids. Your phone’s GPS also gives your location in relation to the wreck sites in your sea area.
A great concept and one we’re sure will be a hit with sea anglers everywhere.
£3.99 and available for iPhone and Android.
Found a fishing app that you think is a star performer? Why not let us know so we can review it?
The sound of a bite alarm is a call to action, the prelude to excitement and success.
However, the surprising specimens below will encourage caution, next time the bite alarm sounds.
When Raphael Biagini wet his line in a lake in the south of France, he probably hoped he’d land a specimen – but a goldfish?
It took him ten minutes to land this giant orange koi carp. At thirty pounds, it is the biggest ever caught and after posing with the monster fish, the thirty year old angler from Montpellier put it back.
With the lack of corroborating evidence, there have been many claims that the photo is nothing more than a clever hoax.
It looks real enough to us. What do you think?
There have been many accounts of trawlers netting wartime bombs in UK coastal waters, but rarely have there been discoveries on the scale of this one. Fisherman, Pete Tutt was out digging bait last New Year’s eve when he discovered no less than 32 Second World War shells.
German bombers dropped thousands of bombs in the River Thames during WW2, and it’s thought strong currents have caused them to accumulate on the Essex coast.
High tides and bad weather were responsible for stripping away the sand that had hidden the bombs for so long. The explosive find on the coast near Southend was detonated in a controlled explosion the next day.
Now that’s how to start the New Year with a blast.
When a sea angler from Devon felt a massive bite, he thought he’d snagged a big fish.
But after a fight to reel in the ‘monster’ he was astonished to discover that he’d managed to hook not a fish at all, but a scuba diver.
Worse was to come when he discovered that his hook was lodged in what we might term, ‘an uncomfortable area’. Luckily, the hapless diver’s girlfriend then surfaced and removed the hook, handing it back to the fisherman with an apology.
On a more serious note – the reason the diver was caught, was that he wasn’t using a dive buoy to mark his position.
A cautionary tale to be sure.
An 80 year old alligator snapping turtle was catch of the day at a reservoir near Birmingham. The angler who caught the 25kg reptile called in the authorities and the turtle was safely transferred to the West Midlands Safari Park.
The catch cleared up the mystery of a strange creature that had been biting through lines and mauling the local duck population. It is believed that the creature – a native of North America – was an unwanted pet, dumped in the reservoir when it became too big for its owner to look after.
Possibly one of the strangest catches ever made – this story was reported in 1950 in the Australian Newspaper, the Hobart Mercury.
A fishing party set out in a small boat, returning several hours later with their catch…a kangaroo. It seems that the hapless animal was chased off a cliff by a dog, and after struggling in the water was rescued by the anglers.
The reporter finishes his article by saying, ‘I don’t ask you to believe it, but I am assured it happened.’
Perhaps the rum the fishermen imbibed out on the water had more ‘kick’ than they expected.
Any angler knows that fishing can cause wear and tear on the body.
Periods of relative inactivity interspersed with flurries of intense effort can result in injury, as can the repetitive motions of casting and retrieving. Physical fitness can really help you up your game and keep you healthy too.
So kick off your fishing boots, clear some space in your bivvy, and try some of the stretches below while you’re waiting for a bite.
It’s all about posture
How we stand when we fish has a major effect on the muscular balance of our bodies.
When standing, most anglers tend to rest more of their weight on one leg, with their pelvis rotated forward. Holding a fishing rod is a shoulder-rounding stance and gazing down at the water places a strain on neck muscles.
In short, fishing puts your body out of balance.
To counteract the stresses that fishing puts on our bodies, we need to stretch in such away that unlocks tensions in muscles and joints – particularly our backs. One exercise that’s very useful for anglers is the ‘superman.’
Not only does it release tension in your lower back, it strengthens core muscles too. Lie on your front with your arms stretched out in front.
Keeping your head in a neutral position, lift your arms and legs clear of the floor. Hold and slowly release.
Added release for shoulders and neck can be incorporated into this exercise by bringing your arms back so that you resemble an aeroplane. Not sure? It’s easy – babies do it all the time.
Pain in the neck
Fishing puts a strain on your neck, so make sure that you stretch before and after fishing.
The lateral neck bend is a simple exercise. Look up – look down, look right – look left. Bend your head towards one shoulder, straighten, then bend toward the other. Keep your shoulders relaxed and in a neutral position throughout.
You can do the exercises at any time so make sure you take them fishing with you. Take your time to perform the movements slowly and smoothly.
Lower back problems affect vast numbers of people. The human body wasn’t designed to sit down for hours every day.
Enforced immobility is a major problem in Western society – but to ensure you remain fit enough to fish – there are steps you can take.
Simply take a step forward, lower your back knee and at the same time push the front of your hip forward. Only bend as far as you find comfortable and always stop if you feel pain.
With this exercise, it is important not to bend your front leg beyond a right angle. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds before slowly straightening. Then swap legs and do it again.
A simple exercise for improving core strength is the plank.
Pay great attention to getting the pose right and you’ll reap the reward of this very effective exercise. Keep your knees locked and your legs straight.
Your hips should be level at all times. As you tire it’s tempting to let your back sag. Don’t.
It’s far better to let your knees drop to the floor and do a modified stance. Your head should be in a neutral position and your upper arms at right angles to the floor.
Hold the position for as long as you can – it’s great for your core, back upper body and legs.
Forearms and elbows.
Winding the handle of your reel and casting are highly repetitive motions that can lead you to develop tennis elbow. This is a very painful condition that can take all the fun out of fishing. Keep your muscles and tendons supple by performing this easy stretch.
With your arm out in front of you, gently bend your hand back. Hold and release. Now take the same hand and bend it in the opposite direction. Repeat several times on each side.
Never stretch further than is comfortable. It’s much better to repeat the exercise two or three times a day than try to make big gains right away.
Practise little and often and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more reeling your elbows and wrists can take.
Trench foot is a particularly nasty affliction of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions.
But if you think trench foot isn’t a risk for anglers, think again. It can take as little as 13 hours to develop what amounts to a serious medical problem.
Read on to discover how good quality fishing boots could literally save your life.
It’s only mud
As every angler knows getting wet and muddy goes with the territory, but you do need to pay attention to your feet. In temperatures below 16 celsius, if your feet get wet, you’re at risk of developing trench foot.
The boots themselves are partly to blame, because all footwear restricts circulation. But how you look after your feet is key.
This is particularly true if an angling trip is scheduled to last more than a single day. Make sure you know the warning signs that your feet are feeling the strain.
The first sign of a foot in trouble is likely to be tingling, or perhaps an itching sensation with pain, swelling and cold, blotchy skin. You may notice areas of redness or blueness indicating blood circulation has been compromised. Alternatively, you may experience numbness or a heavy feeling in a waterlogged foot.
Later on, once you’ve warmed your foot, is the skin suddenly very dry? And are your feet uncharacteristically red, swollen or painful? You may have chilblains but if you’re unlucky – it could be trench foot.
Untreated, trench foot can worsen beyond the point that swelling and blisters develop. Infection can set in and interruption to blood circulation can cause skin to die. At this point there is a significant risk of gangrene.
While you’re unlikely to let a case of cold, wet feet deteriorate to such a degree, it is worth being ‘foot aware’ to prevent very painful and perfectly preventable after effects. If you are worried you might have developed trench foot – seek medical advice.
The best way to stop trench foot in its tracks is to keep your feet warm and dry, also avoid footwear that’s too tight or too loose. Good fishing boots are a must.
But if your feet are likely to get wet, make sure that you pack plenty of dry socks and change them frequently. At night, when you’re tucked up in your bivvy, always check your feet over and treat any blisters.
Leave wet boots and socks off at night, this will give your feet a chance to fully recover, in time for the following days fishing.
Trench foot gets its name from the appalling plight of soldiers during World War One. Men fought for days and weeks in thick mud and standing water. At its peak 20,000 soldiers had diseased feet, and over the course of the war the condition affected a staggering 74,000 allied troops. Some of the soldiers suffered gangrene, amputation and even death.
Combattants in wars as recent as the Falklands have been dogged by trench foot. In the civilian population, festival goers, anglers and hikers have all been affected. But by being prepared and knowing the signs and symptoms – you can stay one step ahead.
Most modern fishing tackle boxes host many methods of catching fish. But when it comes to fishing equipment, you’d be hard pressed to beat the resourceful Hawaiians.
These ocean going Polynesians knew a thing or two about fishing long, before we in the West had it sussed. With no plastic or shiny metal in their armoury – good old mother nature provided everything.
Here’s your chance to check out some fancy fishing equipment, Hawaiian style.
Hawaiians’ lives revolved around the sea. They had an intimate knowledge of the tides and were able to predict with pinpoint accuracy the comings and goings of sea creatures.
But fishing wasn’t just a means of putting food on the palm leaf – it was also a way of pleasing the Gods, and the ruling classes – a great excuse to go fishing.
And when the fishing was done, out came the surfboards. Hawaiians knew how to fish and have fun.
To ensure year round access to fresh fish the Hawaiians used natural foreshore features to create fishing lakes.
Known as a loko kuapa these unique fish larders were fitted with a sluice gate – a makaha – through which the tide could run.
On an incoming tide, fishermen would position themselves at the opening with their nets, ready to catch fish attracted by the influx of food rich new water.
Modern hooks are a throw away item designed to rust fast. In old Hawaii, however, a fish hook was a prized possession to be used with care.
Not surprising considering that each hook was hand made from human or bird bone, shell, wood or whale ivory. Elegantly carved, the maker would embellish his hook with numerous barbs to ensure he snagged his prey securely.
With access to myriad sparkling, brightly colored or super realistic rubber creations, today’s angler has a lure for every occasion.
Our ancient grass skirt wearing friends may not have had modern materials but don’t think that stopped them.
They were limited only by their craftsmanship and imagination. Cowry shells, paua and mother of pearl were used to attract the fish as well as bait bags and wood and bone squid jigs.
What would we do without tough monofilament nylon fishing line?
The Hawaiians used a braided fishing line made from the natural plant fibre Olona. This amazing product is high strength and doesn’t stretch or kink. When Western mariners discovered it, they thought it was the bees knees.
Rope made from the stuff was half the diameter and twice the strength of hemp lines. Olona is also quite pliant and soft making it suitable for clothing manufacture – it’s one of the most useful forgotten gifts of nature.
Fishing for the future
Just two traditional Hawaiian fishing islands remain. But now residents of Oahu are fighting back. They have begun the process of restoring the island of Mokauea to its former glory.
They hope to reinstate it as a fully functioning subsistence fishing island, complete with a well stocked fish pond, helping to create a sustainable knowledge base of skills for future generations of Hawaiians.
Most anglers entering the water do so in a pair of waterproof or neoprene waders – but not always.
One of the more unusual fishing methods means getting your feet well and truly wet.
Flounder start off swimming upright and have their eyes positioned on either side of their heads. But as they grow, they not only flip over onto their sides and head for the seabed, but one of their eyes actually migrates, so that both end up on the same side. Catching them is a popular winter sport for sea anglers – although flounder have been found as much as 30 miles up river.
One way of catching them is with rod and line, but another method involves taking off your waders and sloshing about in the shallows.
Feet are one of the most sensitive parts of the human body, and are home to thousands of nerve endings. Use these to locate your prey. You’ll feel your flounder wriggle under your foot.
The challenge is to avoid the temptation to scream and jump a mile in the air. Instead – keep absolutely still. Slowly reach down and take a firm grip of the dinner plate sized fish under your toes, and hey presto – that’s dinner for one.
Competitive Flounder Tramping
Until recently, treading on flounders was a competition sport. For over 40 years, the Grande Internationale World Flounder Tramping Championships was held in the chilly River Urr in Galloway.
Waders from across the country and beyond would congregate to see who could trap the most fish with their bare feet. The winner received £150 and three bottles of whiskey.
The contest was cancelled back in 2010 due to health and safety concerns and the difficulty in obtaining affordable public liability insurance.
It’s unfortunate that Britain’s only venomous fish shares some of the same muddy habitat as the flounder. The weaver fish has spines protruding from its dorsal fin which inject a protein based toxin into the foot of anyone unfortunate enough to stand on one.
The pain is extreme but easily cured. Simply plunge the afflicted foot into water as hot as you can bear – and wait for the pain to die down.
Needless to say – beware of wading in areas where the tide runs faster than you can retreat, or where you’re likely to be cut off.
Forget karate, when it comes to Japanese martial arts, fly fishing is where it’s at.
Take one basic fly pattern, a lightweight line and a telescopic rod and you’re in business. ‘Wot no reel?’ we hear you say. Well that’s right, this ultra minimalist form of fly fishing is fly reel free.
The ancient Japanese art of Tenkara has been practised by fishermen since at least the 1600s when it was first observed by Westerners. In reality, it’s probably much older – and like a lot of Japanese customs, it’s all about perfection.
Tenkara fly fishing gear
Western fly fishing has evolved into a sport that relies heavily on fishing gear. That’s not to say that technique isn’t vitally important, just that fly lines, rods and reels, not to mention the flies themselves are constantly evolving. Fashions change. That’s not really the case with Tenkara.
Tenkara fishermen use just the one basic fly in three or four sizes and a couple of colours. The emphasis is on learning to adapt that fly to all conditions by perfecting the art of presentation.
The rods are traditionally made from bamboo, but these days, a three or four ounce, 10 – 15 foot telescopic carbon fiber rod is standard. Ideal for hiking to fast flowing mountain streams, the lightweight line is attached to a tippet and fished out of the water.
Reel free future
With such light gear, hooking a fish of any size requires very careful handling – be prepared to follow the fish.
The sport has a growing following in the US and is starting to catch on here in the UK too. If you want to see what it looks like – here’s a video from Tenkara USA:
You could say that Tenkara is to fly fishing, what sushi is to seafood. Not to everyone’s taste but certainly worth a try.
Fish pedicures might be a great way to remove dead skin from your feet, but some fish would bite your foot clean off.
Check out the teeth on these scary critters – they’ll certainly get your bite alarms bleeping.
This set of molars and incisors is almost human in appearance, but the fish that owns them is known in Papua New Guinea as the ‘ball cutter’.
Imfamous for biting off the testes of unwary fisherman, the Pacu recently turned up in a lake in Illinois causing consternation among the locals who like to swim there. Related to the piranha, the Pacu’s main diet consists of leaves, aquatic vegetation and, err, nuts.
The Payara is known by locals as the vampire fish. The razor sharp prongs at the front of its lower jaw can grow up to six inches long. But this is no nocturnal blood sucker.
The Payara feasts on piranha, using its monster teeth to impale them before swallowing. A clever strategy considering the piranha’s reputation for eating everything in sight.
Ever felt a little shiver of fear when you’re having a swim in the sea? Ever wondered what might be swimming beneath you? This little beauty has teeth so long, if they didn’t overlap its top jaw, it would never be able to close its mouth.
But if you’re worried about being bitten – don’t be. It inhabits the deep dark ocean floor. At depths of between 250 and 5000 feet, it uses a glowing lure on its dorsal fin to attract prey.
This fine looking specimen is a deep sea shark. Like a reconnaissance craft, the massive snout contains an array of complicated electronics for locating prey.
Once a suitable meal has been located in the gloomy depths, the large, fleshy tongue sucks it to within reach of the retractable jaw and the needle like teeth do their job. Unlike most sharks, this critter has thin, pink skin that’s easily bruised. Ahhh.
To say this isn’t a pretty fish is an understatement, but it has some impressive credentials. It has the largest teeth proportionate to its size, of any fish in the sea.
The fact that it’s not very big (six or seven inches) notwithstanding, that’s some claim to fame. The incisors are housed in special sockets on either side of its brain – a wise idea – under the circumstances.
The African Tiger fish inhabits the Congo river basin and is known among local people as the only fish that doesn’t fear the crocodile. No wonder – 32 inch long razor sharp prongs would give any fish a sense of safety.
It prefers turbulent water and has been known to attack humans – the largest ever specimen to be caught – 154 lbs. That’s one apex predator.