Know Your Carp Baits

Pellets, plastics, popups? Do you find it hard to know which carp baits are the best to use, and how they work?

Man holding mirror carp

Catch a swimming carp
Image source: Wikipedia

Here’s our guide to knowing how and why each of them attract a bite, along with hints and tips from some of our favourite bloggers too.

What a carp needs

Knowing the nutritional needs of carp is one of the keys to finding the right bait. As the lads at Carp Fishing Tactics put it:

“A carp is an intelligent fish and it also has a memory. It knows what’s good and what’s not edible”.

They’re able to “test” the bait as they swim nearer to it and will reject any smell or taste that they recognise as previously having carp tackle attached to it.

They go on to say that carp are particularly attracted to “amino acids emitted by bloodworms, crayfish, and aquatic plants”. Extracts from green-lipped mussels, kelp, liver and molasses all contain this acid, and carp recognise this aroma as having nutritional value.

Types of carp bait

There are five broad categories of carp bait, and each has their own appeal for the carp – and therefore, benefit for the carper; Boilies, Particle, Liquid Additives, Pellets and Plastics.

1. Boilies

The boilie is the number one carp bait and, according to Angling Times, by a considerable margin. There seems to be a bewildering array of different sizes, shapes and flavours on the market, but only two main types – pop-ups and bottom bait. Both have their advantages.

Bottom bait

This is a loose bait you let into the water that will quickly sink to the river or lake bed – a carp’s natural habitat. Bottom bait is easy for the carp to grab with it’s mouth as they are used to foraging for natural grub in this part of the waterway. These types of baits are best suited to clearer waters in which you know nothing will obstruct your hook.

Pop-up bait

Pop-ups are buoyant, and are sometimes brightly coloured and flavoured, which will stop your rig from getting caught in any floating detritus in the water. However, from time to time, carp can get suspicious of something they see floating on the surface of the water and might not always take them.

Pop-up baits are more durable than a bottom bait, as they have to be able to stay buoyant above the lake bed. These tend to be more robust than a ground bait. You can usually keep a supply of these in your fishing kit for years without worrying that they’ll go off, or lose their efficiency over time.

Top of the boilies

There’s a huge choice of boilie for the carper to try. By all means experiment and find what works best for you – but here are a couple of our favourite types:



There’s plenty scope for scopex
Image source: Fishtec

Scopex is a type of flavouring for bottom bait that crops up time and again in discussion among carpers. It’s very distinctive. It’s made with a base of ground tiger nuts, and has an unusual ‘burnt butter’ flavour. forum moderator, Nick, explains that Scopex gets its characteristic aroma from the main base ingredient, N-butyric acid. This is a compound found naturally in rancid butter, as well as in other animal fats and plant oils. Carp are attracted to fatty foods, and as Hammercarp points out at the Carp Angler’s Group forum, one of the benefits of Scopex boilies are that the burnt butter scent will linger in the water for days.

Pineapple pop ups

Jar of fish bait

Top of the pop ups
Image source: Fishtec

One of the most popular pop-ups is the Pineapple juice dumb-bell. It’s fluorescent yellow, and has the flavour of tropical fruit. They’re particularly suited to winter carping. Their intense aroma and flavour will attract carp, even when the fish are a bit slow in the cold water. But they can be used any time of the year.

Dave Lane raves about these in one of his YouTube videos, saying that these are fantastic single baits, especially if you just want one brightly coloured attractor bait in the water.. However, he does add that you don’t need to restrict yourself to using pop-ups that way. Dave’s also had great success using them over a bed of natural food bait.

DIY pop-ups

Do you fancy having a go at making your own pop-up baits? It’s easy! Look no further than Mark Pitcher’s guide at Carpology. Mark writes:

“The process is so simple you can even do it on the bank (if you don’t want to annoy the other half with a messy kitchen)”

He adds that you could try making your own personal mixes like brown fruit baits, yellow or pink fish baits, and unusual flavour combinations.

Mark uses Mainline liquids and pop-up mixes with raw egg. His other great tip is to double up on the amount of bait dye you use. This makes them really bright so they’ll stand out in the water.

2. Particle baits


It’s Alive…
Image source: Fishing Magic

A Particle bait is a catch-all term for any sort of natural or food-based bait, including insects. Some examples include: chickpeas, dog biscuits, groats, hemp seed, maize, maple peas, sweetcorn and tiger nuts. The latter being used as the base of Scopex bottom bait. Kev Hewitt at Carpology says:

“I find that once carp get on the particles they feed more aggressively, instigating other carp to feed which in turn creates competitive feeding”.

When carp feed on particles, they start to hoover up everything on the bottom, and filter the silt through their gills. This clouds the water and encourages other carp to feed, and also makes it more difficult for them to suss where your rigs are.

Penn at Tetraplegic Living has some good ideas for particle baits you can rustle up yourself, including simple kitchen standbys like plain white bread. He says:

“Take a piece of bread about the size of a 50p piece, fold it around the hook and then squeeze very tightly around the knot”

Penn tells us it’s best not to squeeze all of the bread too tightly, and to make sure you leave some nice flaky bits that will come off in the water.

Northern Carp Angler recommends mixing different particle baits:

“I like the analogy of the buffet, if there’s only pork pies there and you happen not to like pork pies you’re going to go hungry. If there’s also pizza, sandwich, crisps and buns you’re much more likely to like something and have a munch”

It’s the same for fish. Offer them variety, and they’ll feed. Penn takes this idea and suggests using either maggots or worms and ‘cocktailing’ them with sweetcorn clusters.

3. Liquid additives

Bottles of goo

Goo for your life
Image source: Fishtec

Liquid baits come into their own as we roll into Autumn and Winter and fish become less active in the cooler water. This is when carpers need the most help to get a bite.

Liquids fall into two categories, artificial and natural:

Artificial: These are chemical liquids that have been developed to mimic the taste and aroma of real foodstuffs. They’re often brightly coloured to make them even more attractive to carp as they lace the water.

Natural: Anything taken from real life foodstuffs that either fish or humans would recognise, so for instance, liver extract, molasses or bloodworm. If it has amino acids or natural sugar in it, carp will be drawn to it.

Artificial liquids like Korda Goo form an aroma cloud in the water, which provides some extra added attraction for the carp to bite at. They also make a great addition to bind stick mixes, added into ground bait for soaking pellets, and for glugging hook-baits. They come in a vast array of flavours ranging from tropical fruits like pineapple through to sweeter, stickier tastes like caramel and coconut.

By far one of the most popular natural liquid attractants for carp is molasses, according to Matt Sparkes at Angler’s Mail. It’s high in amino acids, sucrose and has no chemical additives. Best of all, it’s relatively cheap at just under £10 for a gallon and can be bought from most pet food retailers.

Matt offers a great tip for a homemade mix, using liquid molasses:

“I like to add [molasses] to a dry mix of dog cereal, adding warm water the next day. This results in a fantastic mix that’ll cling to any feeder with ease and it won’t break away on even the meatiest of casts”.

He adds that you don’t need to be too specific with measurements. Fish will be attracted to the sugary taste and aroma, and aren’t bothered about weights and measures.

4. Pellets

Close up of fish pellets

Pellet them with these little delicacies
Image source: Fishtec

Pellet baits are compressed ground bait or fish meal that break down fairly quickly in the water. High in nutrients and essential proteins, they are great carp attractors. For Carpology, Gary Bayes says that you can use pellets for pre-baiting very successfully and it’s a “wicked way of getting the fish into an area without the hassle from diving birds”. The pellet turns to mush, and the birds don’t get anything and lose interest. But the fish will keep coming back for days.

He suggests that if you’re going to pre-bait, match your pellet to your boilie in terms of its flavour and aroma, for maximum effect.

5. Plastics

Plastic fishing bait

Plastic fantastic fishing
Image source: Fishing Magic

Are artificial baits worth using? Carp Tackle Review suggest that every angler should carry fake bait in their kit. They can be used alone or with other liquids and flavourings, such as Korda Goo. The notion of an artificial bait is to persuade the carp to take anything that looks like it might be a real bait, without them inspecting it too closely.

According to Total Fishing the most popular form of artificial bait is corn, particularly for carp. It works well during the daytime, as it’s a highly visible shade of yellow, which looks very attractive to fish in the water. Add artificial corn to a bed of pellets with some real corn in the mix, and you’ll find that the different textures and tastes will attract carp. You can also use artificial baits on their own, without any other feeds.

It’s important to mention that not all angling venues will permit the use of artificial baits, so always check their rules and regulations before you go ahead.

What different types of bait do you use to catch your carp? We’d love to hear your hints, tips and opinions, so head on over to our Facebook page.

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A Carping Christmas Wish List


Tis the season to be merry… and carpy

Christmas is just round the corner, and that means the carp lover in your life will probably be hoping for a little special something to fill their stockings.

Not sure where to start? We’re here to help! We’ve searched high and low for the pick of this years carp fishing gear to tick off that Christmas wish list.

From high-tech to low-cost, we’ve dug out ten top treats to keep the angler in your life happy on Christmas morning.

1. FishSpy underwater camera

FishSpy view of riverbed

Image source: FishSpy
See the lake bed like you’ve never seen it before

Top of any angler’s Christmas list has to be the FishSpy. This neat little camera, hidden inside a specially designed marker float, means you can catch all the action above and below water in real time.

Designed to help you map out your swim, you’ll also be able to watch your own ‘Catch of the Day’, streamed in all its live glory to your comfy perch on the bank.

More than just a great techy tool, the camera records to a built in SD card, meaning you’ll be able to thrill the whole family come Boxing Day with your very own highlights reel.

2. FishSpy screen stick

Image source: FishSpy The best way to catch every moment

Image source: FishSpy
The best way to catch every moment

The camera’s running, but with only two hands, your favourite fisherman really needs some way to watch it while he’s fishing.

The great thing about this relatively low-tech accessory is that it’s a simple, well executed idea. It holds a phone or tablet securely, easily relaying FishSpy footage to the busy angler.

It holds lots of different-sized devices, and can be used for far more than just the underwater camera feed.

Will they want to catch the match while out on the bank, or maybe even FaceTime the family?

Your festive fisherman could also stick it in front of your bivvy for a mini-cinema experience, so they won’t miss out on their favourite Christmas movies.

3. Bait boat

Bait boat

Image source: Anglinglines
Simply messing about with boats

If you’re really looking to splash out on your beloved carper this Christmas, a bait boat could be the way to go,

There is some debate over the need for such a pricey gadget, when there are other methods for presenting bait.

Paul Cooper, who runs a fishing syndicate on a small lake, pondered the pros and cons on Angling Lines:

“If you approach a water that has constant pressure from baitboats, then surely wouldn’t it be a better method to spread your bait, instead of small dumps of goodies with a hook bait sitting in the middle. On the other hand, baitboats can reach places where you haven’t got a chance of casting to.”

As the price decreases, these little gadgets will become ever more popular, and for an angler looking to build their confidence in baiting this could be the perfect gift.

4. Bite Alarm

Delkim bite alarm on river bank

Image source: Delkim
Time to treat someone to a new bite alarm

An anglers’ staple, yet always progressing, could it be time for a new set of bite alarms?

With new alarms coming up with features such as silent or vibrator systems, and anti-theft alarms, there are plenty to choose from.

Over at Catfish and Carp, they have come up with their ‘ultimate bite alarm’ review, but there are still some things you should be looking for, no matter what the alarm.

Key things to check are battery or charging systems, and receiver compatibility – important if they want to be leaving their rods for a little while.

5. Sandwich Toaster

Ridgemonkey toastie maker

Image source: Fishtec
Not just for toasties

Everyone needs a snack by the riverbank, and a toastie maker can help warm the parts that a cold sandwich just wouldn’t reach.

But it’s not just for sandwiches. Plenty of anglers have experimented with cuisine from breakfast to dinner, and with recipes from Mexican quesadillas to Chinese stir fry’s.

Eager to show off their kit, the guys at Ridgemonkey have come up with a quick tutorial for a full English.

Now who’ll be the first to rustle up a tasty Christmas treat?

6. Carp barrow

Carp barrow and dog

Image source: Fishtec Facebook
Space for all your carping needs

Essential for anyone heading that little bit further into the wild. A fishing barrow is also a great idea for getting all your new Christmas kit out to your favourite swim.

Things to look out for include good wide wheels – or a three-wheeler to avoid lifting, and mud feet for the legs.

Worried your favourite angler’s got too much to cram on there? Richard Ballard of Nash TV has perfected the art of loading a barrow – it’s all about keeping the weight balanced around the wheel.

7. Carryall

Carryall bag

Image source: Fishtec
For those who want to travel light

If your Christmas carper carries a bit less kit, a carryall provides a smaller alternative to a hefty carp barrow.

There is a great range of light, multipurpose carryalls, allowing you to pack a tackle box and other bits of gear. Some versions even includes a freezer pocket, perfect for frozen bait or storing a few snacks.

8. Bivvy Light

Image source: Fishtec
Light up your life, and your bivvy

As the winter nights draw in towards Christmas, every angler will need something to help him tidy his tackle box.

If you’re looking for that special light, gear reviewer Paul at Pike Pikers TV is full of enthusiasm for the Ridgemonkey Bivvy-LIte Duo. He’s especially enthusiastic about the fact it can provide ten hours of light from just a four hour charge.

Another top feature of the Ridgemonkey design is its four lighting modes, including full and half beam red lights to be less intrusive and help preserve battery.

9. TF Gear Carp fishing onesie

The angler in your life doesn’t have to feel left out when everyone else is dressed in Christmas onesies. The TF Gear Carp fishing onesie offers them a warm snug Christmas, whether it’s on the bank in the bivvy or on the sofa with a mince pie.

10. Powerpack

Ridgemonkey powerpack

Image source: Fishtec
Keep things powered up while on the bank

Carp anglers need to know when it’s time to come home for the Christmas dinner- this product from Ridgemonkey sets a new standard and ensures that there is no excuse for an uncharged phone.  This charger will provide 20+ charges for a smart phone and power other gadgets too.

Gift Vouchers

Image source: Fishtec If in doubt there's always gift vouchers!

Image source: Fishtec
If in doubt there’s always gift vouchers!

While there should be something here for every taste, it’s important to remember tech can be very specific. It’s always good to dig out as much information from a gift’s intended recipient as possible.

If in doubt, you can always play it safe and get them some gift vouchers. That way, they can pick up exactly what they want.

And whatever you decide to get, make sure you share your top gift ideas on our Facebook page.

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What fish? Sea fish quiz

Have you got what it takes to become ‘King of the Sea’? Take our sea angler’s fish identification quiz and see if you know your mullet from your mackerel…

Not your speciality? Try our fish quizzes for carp, fly or coarse fishing instead.

Feeling more knowledgable than Neptune? Master them all and be crowned King Of All Fish (quizzes)!

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What Fish? Fly fish quiz

Do you have what it takes to become ‘Lord of the flies’, or will you be swept downstream? Test your knowledge of fly fishing quarry in our What Fish? quiz.

Not your speciality? Try our fish quizzes for carp, sea or coarse fishing instead.

Feeling confident? Master them all and be crowned King Of All Fish (quizzes)!

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Bosnia – The Grayling Dreamscape

Having served in Bosnia in 1999, I never thought that I’d swap a rifle for a fly rod and actually return to fish some of its rivers. I love my small stillwater fishing, so this trip would be something new – a group fishing expedition in search of wild trout and grayling from Bosnia’s world famous Ribnik and Pliva rivers.

So what can you expect in terms of the fishing, hospitality and fun?  Read on to find out!

Fly fishing in Bosnia

Fly fishing in Bosnia.

You just know you’ve made a great decision, when Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod, asks if you’re interested in joining a hosted fishing trip to Bosnia? How can you not say yes? The first thing I asked was if my fishing buddy Michael Valler could come too?

Once we arranged the trip, Amy Pople of Aardvark McLeod sent us our code and link to a travel app called Vamoos. This app is just great, as it details maps, weather, travel docs and much needed advice on gear we needed for the trip. Then as you get closer to your departure date, e-flight tickets and confirmation info come through, which is all very exciting stuff.

On the day of trip, we traveled from Heathrow Terminal 5 and flew British Airways to Zagreb. Meeting our fellow party members Alex Jardine, Lewis Hendrie and Tim Wood in the departure lounge, we were also to liaise with Florian Bauman from Germany and Christopher Rownes of Guideline Fly Fishing. Plus already in Ribnik with a two day head start were Toby Merigan of Funky Fly Tying, Glen Wiesner and Chris Hartley.

Flying out on BA was great, with some cracking views of the mountains en-route in. We were met at Zagreb by Milan Bukara from Zepter Passport Travel Company. It is this company that provides guides to fish the Ribnik and Pliva rivers. For our trip we were also lucky to have Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar as our guides. Both have fished at International level for Bosnia and know the rivers like the backs of their hands.

After a drive through the stunning Bosnain country side, we eventually rocked up at the Ribnik HQ. Here we were taken down to the lodges and shown our rooms which accommodated two anglers. These lodges sit right on the Ribnik river edge and I mean right on it. Set on stilts and concrete stanchions, these Scandinavian type lodges are filled with all the amenities you need to make your stay comfortable. All rooms have TV, WiFi, bags of hot water and comfortable beds. Each hut has steps down to ground level, so you can go fishing, whenever you want – with the river on one side and a small brook on the other you can pitch a fly to the Trout and Grayling at any time.

The accommodation on the Ribnik

The accommodation on the Ribnik.

You can see the allure of this place right off the bat, as you trundle your baggage on the boardwalk over to the accommodation. When I say you’ll love the food, you’ll just have to take my word for it. The meals are all just delicious and with homemade bread at every sitting, which you can get seriously addicted to it. Milan was telling us, that you could put on between 4 and 15 lbs with the food here. So now you have an idea on how we got here and what sort of things to expect. So what about the rivers we fished?

 Ribnik River – first three days

The River Ribnik is a Karst (spring fed limestone) river, 5.6 km long, with an average width of 20-30 m and depth of 1 m. Riverside is covered with willows and other trees. Plentiful types of insects swarm on Ribnik including many types of Baetida throughout the year, numerous types of Trichoptera and of course May fly (Ephemera). This abundant insect world allows fishermen to fish with a dry fly during the entire season long.

Michael fishing the Ribnik

Michael fishing the Ribnik.

On the first morning Michael and I have a brief cast or two on the river, outside the accommodation, then meet outside the restaurant and fishing office at 8am to load up our fishing tackle and other gear for the short journey to the river. Our guides Mita and Renato are waiting in the mini buses and after a short five minute drive, we arrive at the café, where we’ll have lunch. It’s here that there is a very nice chap, who ties some really neat small flies that we need. He ties 18’s and 20’s in small beaded nymphs and CDC dries, which look just brilliant. They’re a lot smaller than we’d brought with us, so we buy more, in readiness to wet a line.

Extra small CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

Size 18 & 20 CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

This stretch of the Ribnik river looks just wonderful, with crystal clear water. There’s a lot of weed here with pockets of clear pebbly patches, which we spot fish in. Once you get accustomed to viewing the bottom, you begin to see fish in the pockets and on the weed, with the odd fish in the weed overhangs.

On the first morning there are lots of Grayling and Trout moving, but we are struggling to make contact with some fish. At the moment there is nothing hatching off, but Renato says there will be some surface activity soon. Renato goes on to explains about the fish feeding on different types of olives, stonefly and mayfly. Then says that you can fish dry fly most of the time, but normally first thing is a micro Nymph as the fly of choice then as the sun warms the water, a switch to dries is a good approach.

We try a few casts and Renato demo’s a quick cast on fishing tiny nymphs. Renato shows us the size of the shrimp patterns he fishes here and they are only about 12 to 14mm long. My imitations look massive by comparison. So with my new found knowledge, I make a cast that covers a small pebble patch. The line stops with Renato saying “fish” and I miss my first take, so re-cast to the same spot. A quick mend on the line and I watch the line tip, slink toward me. Spotting the slightest twitch on the line tip, I lift the rod and feel the rod tip bounce!  This is what we traveled for and I am well chuffed. A small grayling of about 5oz, but very welcome on a new method.

Whilst watching Michael fishing away I notice a grayling behind me about 2 ft away in the turbulent water that I’m creating by standing in the current. Amazingly, they’re feeding on the debris that’s being dislodged by my wading boots, in between the small pebbles.

The fish eventually start responding to a hatch, so delving into one of his fly boxes Renato plucks out a small size 18 dry for me – it is brown bodied with a small CDC wing. He peels off about 2ft of fluorocarbon and knots this to my leader. I make a short cast slightly upstream and see a small rise to the right of my fly, so I let the fly drift down and out of the main current seam. A quick splashy rise sparkles the water surface and I lift onto a fish!

I am well chuffed and look toward Michael who is also in. A double up and both of us, on different methods too. This river is quite something else!

a small grayling in silver armour

A small grayling in silver armour.

In the Ribnik’s crystal clear water you can watch as Grayling sidle up right at your side. I found this activity just mesmerizing and it’s great to watch, as you get to see how the bigger residents move about. Once they occupy a point in a clear patch, another grayling of similar size will move in too. If a bigger fish comes over, the small ones move sideways, but not out of the feeding zone – a bit like a family group, but these groups can get big!  Before I know it, there are 20 or 30 fish of varying size, fining away at pace with the current and their food.

We found that first day just fabulous, where we were missing takes and cursing our slow reactions, then laughing as a rod tip starts dancing away. Funny as hell and also quite relaxing too, as you’re trying to concentrate on fishing, then glance up to a mountainside view, that looks just stunning.

One day melts into the other

With the alarm on my phone buzzing away at 6am, we’re getting sorted for the second days fishing. On the short trip to the Ribnik, we make a quick visit to the fly shack and also pick up some thinner tippet for the dries later. Hopefully this will change our fortunes for the better.

On this morning’s foray, we make for the run below the Aquarium Pool again. Roving the fast water, I spot a small rise just off the main current between two current seams that is pushing water toward some logs and branches.  I make a short cast into the upstream eddie with a micro nymph and watch my line tip stop – and lift into a fish. Piling the pressure on, I’ve just seen this beast and what I initially thought it was small, is much bigger. At about 2lb, this is a nice looking fish. These larger Ribnik grayling have red flourishes near their vent, adding a little more colour to these already beautiful fish.

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling.

During the fight, Lewis Hendrie shouted over from the other side of the river, that he has just caught a 3lb Grayling! Mita is on hand with him, to take a picture before he releases it.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

After a cracking days fishing, that evening we discover a few of our party have caught some serious specimen fish. As dinner is served and the beer starts flowing, everyone is chatting about the fishing, the flies and the rainbows being caught by ‘’Rainbow Man’’ aka Glenn Wiesner. To quote Glenn ‘’I’ve traveled 2000 miles from America to catch rainbows!’’ We all burst out laughing. Funny as hell.

The next morning sees us walking down in the woods below the café, then after lunch we spend our day, back at our favorite run. Here, there are fish all over the place –  I take around eight fish which were stacked up on a long weed fringe. Picking them off the tail of the pod as they hit a small #18 olive goldhead nymph.

A Ribnik grayling - taken on a size 18 olive nymph

A Ribnik grayling – taken on a size 18 olive nymph.

Nearby Michael latches into a neat a neat looking brownie, which gives him the run around on the goldhead nymph. Soon after, he then connects with something solid, which he has on for while, and then pops the hook. Very unlucky indeed.

Michael with a Ribnik brownie

Michael with a Ribnik brownie.

There are lots of rises surrounding us, so we switch onto fishing the dries for the afternoon, until we realise that time has caught us up and it’s time to leave the Ribnik. I am a little gutted as this, as the Ribnik river has really kept me entertained.

The Pliva – a bigger water

The 33km spring fed river Pilva is famous for it’s clean water, which comes from cold Karst springs in the fertile limestone rocks, making this Bosnian river unique and full of trout and grayling.

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside.

An hour and a half drive saw us travel from the Ribnik fishing centre to Pedja’s bar at Radoja on the Pilva river.  As we arrive Mita crosses the road bridge and pulls in for us to take a look – we see several of our party casting at rising fish, as darkness descends.

The Radoja set up is brilliant. Split into two houses and a bar/restaurant on site, we arrive to find ex policeman Pedja and his wife have a hog roast going, with Šljivovica (plum brandy) and shot glasses at the ready. When Pedja walks over to meet us, he is passing round shots for an initial toast. Now that we all have a drink the laughs begin and this night is a long one! Thank you Pedja.

The following morning with groggy heads after numerous shots of Šljivovica we head for the restaurant. With coffee and caffeine hitting the right spot, we can begin the day. Then Pedja comes around with shot glasses which I just can’t face today….

We make a short drive past the Pliva river, which now looks massive in daylight. It is at least twice as wide as the Ribnik, but also a whole lot deeper and tougher to wade. We take a first look from a bridge and spot some massive browns in the clear pebbly patches, but these are well out of my casting range with a four weight rod.

River Pilva - massive browns fin below

River Pilva – massive browns fin below.

Renato takes us to the river to get ready and we all split up. Starting with a small #18 CDC dry and around 12ft of 7x tippet I make a short cast, watching the drift in the current. There are fish everywhere, not just in the patches but on the weed too and in the big holes.

It is not long and I lift into my first Pliva grayling. Small, but still nice to feel the rod tip bounce.  A quick glance to admire it then he’s away. Renato comes over and suggests a change to nymphs. Michael is already rigged with one and has caught  too. So we’re off the mark and very happy fishing here.

Pillva river grayling

Pillva river grayling.

Later on, I make a few casts on a deep pool, with some fast water running at pace through it. Using a Czech nymph which Renato has given me, I try bugging with my fly line clear of the water, just watching the leader.  Because of the sheer weight of the fly, this isn’t a cast but more of an upstream lob. Watching the leader which isn’t being affected by drag on the fly line, I just catch the leader stop and tighten my line hand and feel the rod tip bounce. I have never tried this method, but what a reaction on a take!!  A little brownie pops up with the nymph in his top lip. After a quick tussle in the current, I slip the fly out and watch the fish bolt for the cover of the fast current and safety.

With lunch looming we make our way back downstream to the first hut we saw.  We are spoiled rotten with some monster burgers and cold beer and coke to wash it down. After last night’s activities the drinks are very much appreciated very welcome on what is a hot afternoon.

Post lunch Mikey and I head upstream and agree with everyone to meet at the top bridge for pick up tonight. We both tie on new leader in 7X about 12 ft long.  Michael has opted for the goldhead size #18 and I’m using a small CDC dry. I hook up a small brownie and after a little tussle move to Michael, as we start a cast and move leapfrog upstream. Working through fast runs, we take plenty of small grayling in the tail water, that are sipping duns.

A Pilva brownie

A Pilva brownie.

As the light starts to fade, so the others roll in and we all end up near the bridge and café, where there’s always a beer to be had. So with the day finally over we head back to Pedja’s and get ready for dinner.

Back to the Ribnik

We agree that in the morning that we’d like to go back to the Ribnik for the last days, so Mita does the arranging and we have a beer.

Next day after breakfast, we mount the mini bus for the journey back to Gornji Ribnik. We park up downstream of the pub and the Aquarium Pool. We split and head off to the river, with Michael and me opting for a close session where we have parked. We begin short casting with small pods of fish all over this long glide. Then a group of Italians drop into the river below us, forcing out of the pool in search of another tasty spot.  We move down and end up at our favourite spot, with fish showing everywhere. Spotting a few fish near the trailing weed in the centre run, I make a short cast and hook up on a feisty little brown. Then another and another.  In total about a dozen or more come to hand in a fast and furious session zapping the fly as it hits the current seam.

Casting upstream directly ahead of me and a splashy rise hits my fly, I connect for a brief second and feel the hook hold, and then we part company. Cursing my luck, I recast to the same spot. I see a tiny rise form and my fly is gone!  A tough, dogged fight ensures – my rod is hooped over and I have very little control, so I opt to wade downstream and get the fish above me, so I can eventually scoop it into the net. Now we can take a look at this beaut of a fish, with just amazing colour and the Ribnik signature blush.

My biggest grayling

My biggest grayling.

Lunch is calling so we head up to the mini bus for a catch up and our last lunch at the Ribnik café. Beers ordered and lunch on the way, I begin to think back to that last fish.  What a beast and I’m rightly chuffed too to land it!  After lunch Michael and I walk the path back upstream to the pool above the café. There are lots of brownies here, some small and some larger grayling too. We’re trying CDC dries and we both hook up in the riffle water, which is great.  I take four or five more small fish and ping another good one. The afternoon is spent engaging with the smaller residents, but nothing large. Absorbed in the action before we know it we heading back down to meet the other lads and transport back to Pedja’s.

With our last day looming, we head to the bar and dinner. Pedja has the shot glasses ready so we all take a hit, then get a beer or two. Reminiscing over the last week, we’ve caught some good fish and for Michael and me, the Ribnik has been our out and out favourite water. We talk over flies and share pics on our latest catches, which is very cool.

The following morning Michael, Florian, Tim and I opt to walk over to the other side and start fishing a shallow run above a bar. There are loads of fish here and they’re spooky as hell. Renato tells us the fish are taking the nymph which he can see by their reactions in the water. He spots for me as I make a slightly longer 20ft cast. The line settles on the water surface and I make an upstream mend. Watching the line Renato says, “Fish” and I push my tip downstream to make a quicker connection. With a pulse at the rod tip, I am very happy with the hit, albeit a small grayling. Renato moves to Michael to change flies and offer his advice on fishing this run.

Renato comes back over to me and offers a Czech nymph. Working down toward Michael, I hear a holler and Renato has caught a fab looking brownie.  Butter yellow belly with ash black spots looking gorgeous in this sun.  He squeezes off some pics, then releases it for someone else.

Renato's brown trout

Renato’s brown trout.

After more productive morning fishing, lunch arrives and we all clink bottles on our last bankside feed before flying tomorrow. This all seems surreal now, with the week having flown by. As we settle back, we watch a local chap in action, who looks like someone who has done this before. He exits the water after hooking up on several fish. Later he comes over to us with a bottle of Šljivovica and shows us the flies he uses. Tiny CDC’s in #20 and #22’s then he gives me four of them. Absolutely mint ties and super small. Then, as quickly as our days starts, after some great afternoon fishing it comes to a nice conclusion with Lewis chatting with the local angler, comparing fish catches. Ace.

We wake the following morning at 6am to get to Zagreb Airport. We pack the minibus and say our farewells to Pedja and his family. What a feeling of mixed emotions. Sadness at leaving this wonderful country, with the knowing that tonight, we’ll be sleeping in our own beds and no driving to the fishing in the morning.


After a wonderful trip, I must say a massive thanks to Alex Jardine and Aardvark McLeod, for putting this adventure together. Also Zepter Passport with Milan Bukara for setting us up with fabulous fishing and lending us their top guides in Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar. Both very capable chaps who have a wealth of knowledge and make great company for us. Personally I’d like to thank Renato, for showing us a level of patience that a saint would he proud of. Plus putting us in front of some great fish. Last but by no means least to everyone who made us feel truly welcome.

For more information about fishing in Bosnia please contact Aardvark McLeod here.

Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod

Trip host Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod.


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A Beginner’s Guide To Commercial Fisheries


Perch are plentiful in many commercial fisheries

Commercial fisheries provide accessible sport for a whole range of popular species, while offering consistent fishing for everyone.

Read this great advice and top tips on fishing day ticket lakes from author and angling coach, Dom Garnett, to get you started.

Commercial fisheries are some of the easiest and most accessible locations of all. This is especially true for those who are newer to the sport, or returning to angling after an absence.

But even experienced anglers will visit them for a bite-filled day out. When rivers are flooded or the going is tough on so called “natural” waters, day ticket lakes provide welcome and consistent sport.

Accessible, bite-filled fishing


Roach are present on most commercials and offer sport all year round.

There are many kinds of day ticket fishing lakes across the UK. Many “commercial fisheries” have certain characteristics in common. They’re generally man made, relatively small in size and with high stocks of fish, from small roach and perch to larger carp. They often have better access than natural waters, with well-marked spots or platforms to fish from.

‘Traditional’ anglers may scoff, but these safe and relatively easy fishing lakes have several advantages. For one thing, you tend to pay by the day. There’s no special membership is, and discounts are often available for juniors and pensioners. Anyone can fish these waters.

They have plenty of smaller fish to keep kids happy, while those less mobile won’t have to carry gear for half a mile to get a decent spot.

Many anglers (and their families) also appreciate the fact that a lot of them have toilets, shelter and even somewhere to buy tackle and a cup of coffee on site.

However, in our discussion of “commercial” lakes, we should also add that there are a great variety of other venues that also share similar characteristics. The same tactics and advice discussed here will also ring true for many other locations, including park lakes, village ponds and small stillwaters run by fishing clubs.

How to fish a typical commercial style fishery

Angler with fish in net

You should have no problem finding fish in a commercial lake

Perhaps the best thing of all about day ticket lakes is the sheer number and variety of fish present. Unlike on a river or a big reservoir, you should have few problems finding the fish and getting bites. But just because there are plenty of fish to catch, it doesn’t mean that you can simply turn up and cast anywhere.

The first step to tackling a commercial lake is to do a little homework and have a good look round. Chat to the owner and other anglers; these fisheries tend to be friendly places where regulars will share advice. Sources such as websites and forums are also handy. They can tell you a lot about the best areas to fish and which baits and tactics to use.

Hot Spots and Features

Angler near bank

You needn’t fish far out on a commercial. Sometimes the bank itself is a good feature.

Not all “swims” (the term anglers use for individual spots on the lake) are equal on any lake, so it’s always a good idea to have a walk round and a think before you set up.

It’s true that some lakes can look rather bare or uniform, but many have tempting features such as islands, overhanging trees or lily beds. All of these will hold fish. You may also see obvious signs on a quick walk round, such as fish cruising or clouding the bottom as they feed.

Other features are invisible at first glance. For example, the depth can vary greatly- and areas that offer something different or a sudden change can help you find the fish. The shallows or “margins” can be a great place for summer fishing, for example, when fish such as carp and tench will come very close in to feed. But when it’s colder, the fish might be holding a little further out where there’s deeper, warmer water.

Ready, steady, fish

Angler on bank

There’s no need to cast miles out from the bank on a commercial lake

So you’ve found a spot you like the look of. You might already have seen signs of fish. But how should you start fishing? Another nice thing about commercials is that various different techniques will work. Nine times out of ten, however, my advice would be to try float fishing first, whether you try rod and line tactics or bring a pole.

The float is a great way to get plenty of bites. It’s also an ideal method to test the water’s depth. This is the most important task of all. See our Beginners guide to float fishing to learn how to do this correctly, along with other useful float fishing skills.

The fish will seldom be far from the bank on most day ticket lakes, so don’t feel you need to cast miles out. Often, you will be fishing within two or three rod-lengths of the bank.

Many lakes have shallow water at the edge and then a shelf or slope where things get deeper, dropping from say two feet to four feet of water. This is an excellent place to start, because the fish love this “drop off” where food tends to collect.

Which Tackle is Best for Commercial Fisheries?

Angler with fish in net

With balanced tackle, you’ll still land that bonus net filler.

A common mistake I see on commercial lakes is anglers using thick line and large hooks. These can make the fish suspicious. By far your best bet is to tackle up with balanced tackle with the finesse to get plenty of bites, but enough power to do battle with bigger fish.

For most pleasure fishing I would recommend a float or match rod, 4-5lb strength main line, and a finer hook length of 3-4lbs strength. For pole anglers, a size eight, or light to medium hollow elastic would be sensible to deal small carp as well as bread and butter species like roach and perch.

Hook sizes will depend on bait, but typically you won’t want to go much smaller than an 18 or bigger than a 12. Most commercials insist on barbless hooks – and that you have a soft unhooking mat to lay larger specimens on without damaging them.

What are the Best Baits for Commercial Fisheries?

Pink and white maggots

Maggots will bring plenty of bites

Another great thing about day ticket lakes is that many baits will work, including many that are cheap or even free. The first I would try is the humble maggot, simply because no other bait will get you more bites from all species. A few worms from the compost heap are also a great shout, because fish of many kinds, including the bigger ones, love them.

Other baits high on the list would be sweet corn and bread. Pellets are convenient, and ideal to use both thrown in to attract the fish and to catch on. Hard pellets don’t go on the hook though, so you’ll want some soft pellets for the hook or a packet of “pellet bands” to hold the harder baits in place.

It’s always a good idea to bring more than one type of bait, because you might find one works better than the rest. It’s also sensible to take a few bigger baits, like larger pellets or chunks of luncheon meat, in case you are getting lots of tiddlers and want to try something that only a bigger mouth can manage.

Whichever choices you make, be sure to throw in some bait too, besides just using it on the hook. Anglers call this “loose feeding” and it can make the difference between getting the odd bite and catching fish all day. The reason is that bait thrown into the water will attract more fish than just casting out with a single offering.

You don’t need to go crazy, but it is worth throwing in small amounts of bait every few minutes. If you do this often, the fish will start to compete for the bait and you’ll get lots of them in your swim.

Do try and be accurate and keep casting and adding bait to the exact same spot, because this will draw the fish to one area, rather than scattering them everywhere.

8 top tips for fishing commercial lakes

Angler on lake bank

Late afternoon when everyone else has gone home can be a great time to fish

  1. Float fishing is a great method, but one common mistake is to have too much float showing. You should apply shot until just the coloured tip is showing. If too much float is sticking out of the water, the fish will struggle to pull it under and will often reject the bait before you have a chance to strike.
  2. Many anglers will find a comfy spot and sit in it all day. This is fine if you’re getting bites, but never be afraid to move if you’re not catching. It might take you a little trial and error, and several sessions, to work out the best spots on any lake.
  3. Always test the drag on your reel BEFORE fishing. The drag is the mechanism adjusted on the back or front of your reel that controls how easily line will be let out when a fish pulls hard. Avoid making it very loose, but it should start to click and give out line well before you risk getting broken off. The worst time to adjust it is when you’ve just hooked a big fish!
  4. In case you get that surprise monster, never leave your rod unattended on the bank. If you’re several yards away, or not paying attention, your rod could be pulled into the lake. I have seen this happen more than once!
  5. A lot of anglers will pack up in the late afternoon and go home for tea, but the best time to fish on many commercial lakes is the last hour. As the light drops, the fish tend to feel safer and more confident. They also get used to anglers throwing their leftover bait as they leave! In fact, I’ve seen locals turn up just as the regulars are leaving, and go from swim to swim catching lots of fish where others have just finished.
  6. If there are two of you fishing, try different baits and methods side by side. It’s a sociable way to fish, and great for working out the best tactic on the day.
  7. Be gentle with your catch. On commercial lakes, fish could be caught several times in their lives. They deserve our respect. Always handle them with wet hands and never hold them while standing up or walking around. The safest way to return a lively fish is often to simply lower it back in the landing net, so there is no risk of dropping it.
  8. Whether you read paper magazines or online articles, there is plenty of handy information out there. However, little beats a session with a coach if you’re starting out or returning to the sport. In the space of a few hours you can learn good habits and techniques that might take you several seasons to figure out on your own!

Further tips and top angling reads

We hope the advice in this blog comes in handy on your next session. However, the subject of tackling commercial fisheries is a broad one, so here are some useful links to give you further food for thought. Enjoy your fishing, and remember to share your commercial fishery catches on the Fishtec Coarse Fishing Facebook Page.

Angling Times: How to Catch Roach From Commercial Fisheries

Fish on Friday: Top Tips for Carp on Commercial Fisheries

Anglers Mail: Picking the Right Swim on Commercial Fisheries

More from our guest blogger:

The author of many articles and acclaimed fishing books, including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his latest collection of angling tales Crooked Lines, Dom Garnett is a qualified angling coach based in Devon. Find more words, photography and his regular blog at

All images copyright Dom Garnett

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Checking a baited spot with a FishSpy camera

In this new video, our in-house expert carp angler Dave Lane uses a FishSpy camera to check if a baited spot has been visited after a fruitless session.

Watch it here:

The implications of bait checking with a FishSpy camera are simply huge.

  • Save yourself a packet in the cost of bait over a year.
  • Save time by avoiding areas where fish are clearly not feeding.
  • Maximise your chances of a carp taking your hook bait with just the right amount of bait being present in the swim.
  • Check how successful your pre-baiting is, by seeing if those spots have been visited.
  • By using boiles of differing colours, shape and flavours it is now possible to determine a selection preference by checking baited spots.

FishSpy camera’s are now just £129.95 – what’s your carp fishing worth to you?

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In Praise of Baetis By Rene’ Harrop

There are plenty of reasons to choose a month other than October to visit the Henry’s Fork.

At high elevation, the weather can resemble winter rather than autumn and human comfort can be a missing ingredient on any given day of fishing at this time of year.

Beneath the Tetons

Beneath the Tetons.

Brutal currents created by low, clear water flowing over dense aquatic vegetation can bring instant corruption to the drift of the most carefully executed presentation, and the trout are at the finely honed peak of angler resistance.

Baetis gathering

Baetis gathering.

Adding even more difficulty to the possibility for success is the need to fish flies that drop as small as size 24 and average only one or two sizes larger.

Things get even more interesting when a 6X tippet becomes too large for the conditions and the objective is a trout that may exceed twenty inches in length.

With so much to contend with, one could question the logic if not the sanity of anyone who might travel thousands of miles specifically for the purpose of subjecting themselves to a most daunting undertaking.

Sunset on a Baetis day

Sunset on a Baetis day.

Remarkably, however, this is the time that attracts more who travels great distance to the Fork than at any other point in the season, and they are some of the finest fly fishermen I have ever met.

It is the time when Baetis rule this great river, and I am indebted to these tiny mayflies.

It is because of Baetis and what they represent as an experience that I have been given the opportunity to share time on the water with friends I might otherwise have never met. Some are from distant states within the continental U.S., but others travel much farther.

An international mix

An international mix.

Japan, Wales, Sweden, Norway, France, and South Africa are on a list of foreign countries that have been represented on the banks of the Henry’s Fork during Baetis time, and some will return every year.

Thank you Baetis.

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