Winter – Carping Thoughts by Dave Lane

Out with the old and in with the new, Auld Lang syne, New Year’s resolutions or hangovers.

However you choose to greet the new year it is generally accepted that it is a time of reflection and a time of planning, of looking ahead and considering how you might make the coming year better than the one you are leaving behind covered in streamers and half-drunk glasses of punch.

In carp angling it is probably less of a turning point than it is in normal life, that accolade is reserved for April the first, or June the sixteenth in some cases but still; it doesn’t hurt to be prepared now does it.

A winter pearler

A winter pearler

So, assuming you have your new rods, or sleeping bag, bivvy, FishSpy, toasted sandwich maker or whatever it was that Santa shoved down your chimney, you will definitely be gagging to get out there and give it go but where to, that is the question.

If it’s a quick bend of the new rods in winter you need, and you haven’t been for a little while, then staying realistic is the best option.

There is nothing quite as soul destroying in the cold weather as a blank trip on a lake where you soon realise you have no chance whatsoever; much better to lower your sights and have a quick day on a productive day-ticket lake.

Even if it’s just a small double or two in the bottom of the net at least you are back out there fishing and shaking off the winter blues and the excess mince pies.

If, like me, you are a winter stalwart and keep on angling regardless of the time of year then you probably have your venue already chosen and underway, hopefully you have chosen well and taken into account it’s previous winter form, stock levels, size and age of the fish and the realistic chance of actually catching some of them before April.

I have wasted so many months of my life, a scary amount, chasing smoke and mirrors around venues that were never, ever, going to do a winter bite. Lakes that had zero winter form, had never even seen a fish jump during the colder months let alone produced a bite. The reason for this madness was always the same, the fish were huge and the rewards if I did catch one would be beyond belief.

Nowadays I tend to be a little more rooted in my daydreams and I add a touch of reality to the mix, choosing venues that have some fantastic fish but also those that hold enough back up carp to make a bite a distinct possibility and not just a pipe-dream.

The last couple of winters I joined the Quarry syndicate in Essex. This is sort of a halfway house if you like, it’s not easy by any standards but there are enough fish to make it viable, which is good enough for me.

The first year I landed my biggest ever January carp in the form of ‘shoulders’ a huge mirror of forty-four pounds and I had a couple of other good hits with a few blanks in-between but the good times made up for the bad.

This year I am a bit more undecided on a particular venue, so I have chosen to dot about a bit instead, mainly social sessions with mates on various waters across the country.

Next week, for example, I have two nights booked on Yateley Pads Lake with Mr F, I am really looking forward to that one and hopefully a big old January carp in the net.

A winter social and fish on the bank

A winter social and fish on the bank

In years gone by I have targeted lakes such as Lynch Hill, Hunts Corner, Linear’s Manor Farm and Monks Pit, all venues that I probably wouldn’t dream of fishing in the summer or autumn but all holding enough carp to make them decent winter waters, once the bulk of the anglers drop off.

I personally think that January and March are the hardest months of the entire fishing calendar, with December coming a close runner-up. Any carp caught during these months has got to be worth it’s body weight in gold and even a little gold is better than none at all.

A perfect winter fish

Any carp caught during these months has got to be worth it’s body weight in gold

A bonus like Shoulders is great, it’s a winter fish of a lifetime but it’s the others that made the entire winter enjoyable, and every other successful one before that as well.

Mates can make all the difference to a bit of winter fishing and make the whole episode far more bearable and, sometimes, that is just what you need to get you through.

In the Spring and Summer, I would rather not see another angler; nothing personal but I love fishing on my own but during the winter that all changes.

It’s also a good time to plan ahead a little further, to look into more detail what is available for the spring and summer because it will be here before you know it and lakes are not as easily accessible as they once were.

Hanging up the rods in the garage for winter, and falling out of touch with all things carpy, will make you rusty and slower to get going once the better weather does arrive and, of course, you are never going to land a winter carp if you aren’t actually on the bank trying to.

Like I said above, it doesn’t even need to be a full session, not even an over-nighter really, if you pick the right venues you can travel light, pack a flask and some sandwiches and just do a few hours to keep your hand in.

Don’t be afraid of January by Dave Lane

Well its mid-January and the weather is as expected, cold, damp and generally miserable but that is no reason to be the same yourself.

Most of the lakes are deserted, as they usually are at this time of year and even the hardiest of anglers are looking for excuses not to venture out, but the fish are still there and on the right venues so are the chances for a bite or two.

A winter social and fish on the bank

A winter social and fish on the bank

I think the main reason people stop fishing around now is the cold; nobody likes to get cold and I am no exception but there is really no need to if you look at the portable comforts available to us nowadays, especially when compared to yesteryear.

Yes, you may have to trudge the barrow through a bit of mud and the odd puddle or two to reach the swim but, once there, you can be almost as comfortable as you can at home, but with a much better chance of catching of course.

Bivvies have come on in leaps and bounds with thermally insulated twin skins or overwraps and even an inflatable version like the TF Gear Airflo that I have been testing out; a complete house that goes up in under a minute with built a in groundsheet and a rigidity that will withstand anything even the harshest conditions can throw our way. They now do an overwrap for this one, providing even more winter protection.

Bedchairs are so comfortable now that I honestly think my Flat Out is better than the bed I have at home, with a sumptuous thick memory foam mattress and topped with a fleece lined winter sleeping bag that keeps me warm regardless of the temperature outside.

Obviously though, outside is where we want to be a lot of the time, particularly if it involves netting a carp or two but, even then, a decent set of thermals under a proper waterproof outer layer and boots and there is no excuse for getting frozen to the bone.

I understand that the fishing is harder at this time of the year but, most of the time, you only have the carp to compete with and not the usual hoard of other anglers and anything you are lucky enough to catch will be in tip-top condition worth its weight in gold.

Darkness is another factor in the winter as there just seems to be so much of it, but I am a firm believer in having a decent bivvy light and maybe even an I-Pad or Kindle or something to offer a few home comforts during those long winter nights. Laying tucked up in a comfy bag and watching a film on the pad is not exactly a hardship now is it, as long as you are prepared to leap into action should the alarm belt out your favourite tune.

I had a couple of nights on the bank earlier this week with my old mate Marc Coulson and although we didn’t actually catch anything we still had a great time and ate like kings. I created a whole Tandoori chicken on my new Cobb cooker the first night and followed it up on the second night with sirloin steaks and a vegetable stir-fry, hardly what you would call slumming it.

A winter feast of Tandoori Chicken

A winter feast of Tandoori Chicken

I quite often take the barbeque along with me in the winter as well, not only is it something to keep you occupied for longer than just a pot-noodle but fire of any sort is always a natural draw and warms you up nicely in the evening.

As long as you pick a decent venue that has a very realistic chance of a winter bite and banks that aren’t submerged in the mire then there is no reason to shy away from winter angling. You won’t need a ton of bait either, in fact I usually catch more on single bright pop-up’s than anything else with the odd fish on a zig during the day if I am lucky.

I’ll be out there myself again in a few days’ time and probably the week after that as well, it sure beats sitting at home every day staring at Facebook, the telly or dreaming my life away waiting for spring.

Dave Lane On Particles

Although boilies are my main bait of choice I still like to supplement them, at the right time of year, with particles.

Hemp and Tigers are, have always been, and will remain to be, a fantastic combination that carp will readily eat in almost all situations. On waters where I may be fishing for what I class as ‘wild’ fish, fish that have seen little in the way of either, pressure, or bait, then hemp and tigers will play quite heavily in my approach. I find that a tiger nut is instantly acceptable to fish that are more used to feeding on natural food items.

Particles by the bucket load at the right time of year

Particles by the bucket load at the right time of year

I am not quite sure why Tigers are such a good bait as, to us at least, they seem to have very little smell or obvious attraction. I do know that they contain a lot of natural sugar that leeches out in the water and, maybe, this is what the carp find so attractive.

Contrary to popular belief, I also find that other species like Tigers as well, which goes against the thought of process of using them to deter ‘nuisance’ fish. Strangely though, bream seem to like them far more than tench do, on some lakes I have fished I have been plagued by bream on tigers. At Sonning for example, it was impossible to fish with them and even a single tiger hurled out into the wide expanse of the main lake would get snaffled in no time at all by a big old slab.

Roach and chub also seem very partial to the odd ‘Growler’ and my biggest ever roach of 3lb 10oz fell to a single tiger fished on a bolt rig with a four ounce lead, not exactly purist tactics I know, and I don’t actually count it as a personal best because I certainly wasn’t targeting roach on that occasion.

More recently, I have started using hemp throughout the winter, albeit mixed in with a decent amount of boilies. In fact, my best ever winter was the one just past and I used large quantities of hemp, 18mm 15mm and 10mm boilies all mixed into a spod mix, right throughout the coldest months of the year. This was a new tactic for me and a result of constant badgering from my mate, Paul Forward, who has long sung the praises of hemp in the winter. I ended up banking around seventy fish between October and March, including two forties and a whole string of good thirties and, most of these, were caught on Hybrid boilies fished over the hemp and boilie spod mix, so who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks?

As for clearing spots, yes particles such as hemp or pigeon conditioner can encourage the carp to scour back the bottom, uprooting weed and creating clear areas but, to be honest, so can a decent supply of boilies. Carp will keep revisiting a spot long after the bait has all gone and they are more than happy to scour around for whatever else may be there, particularly if it is an area where they regularly get fed. I do find however, a spot that is ‘too’ clear becomes harder to fish. The carp will still visit a glowing yellow patch of ground but presentation becomes more of an issue and the fish seem to ‘get away with it’ a lot more regularly. I suppose this sort of leads into the last part of the question, how long do I leave a pre-baited area before fishing it.

Obviously, from what I have already said, I do think there is such a thing as ‘too long’ I do not want it to be stripped back to bedrock before I reap the rewards of my hard work. In reality, it’s just never going to get that far though, as I am terribly impatient and I tend to change my mind so often about what areas and which approach is best that I regularly ditch plans as fast as I hatch them.

My most recent fifty plus from a baited spot of particles and the boilies

My most recent fifty plus from a baited spot of particles and the boilies

Pre-baiting is a strange one really, if the fish are feeding on the bait you are introducing then why not jump straight in and catch them. If you are already catching in other parts of the lake, do you think there is enough feeding activity to guarantee they are feeding on your pre-baited area as well and, most importantly, are you catching less because of it?

If you are pre-baiting then you must assume it is getting eaten, if not then why chuck a load more, fresh bait, on top of bait that is still sitting there from the previous day, or week? If the carp are indeed eating all your free grub then the area is already prime for exploiting, or at least that’s the way I look at it.

The perfect scenario for me is to pre-bait a lake that I am not fishing at the time, one that is close enough to either home, or the lake I am fishing, and one that is not really getting fished by others. This would be ideal as I could happily plan the downfall of the fish while busying myself catching carp elsewhere but, even then, I would probably not give it too many applications before I just had to find out if it was working, impatient should be my middle name!

One perfect way to find out what is happening below the surface on your areas, without actually committing to fish them, is by using a FishSpy camera float to regularly check the area, this will give you a real time view of what bait is left and save you valuable time and effort with a rod and line.

I do understand the power of bait, and I also know that boilies will create more of an ongoing situation than particles ever could. I do not think you could ever condition the fish into seeking out a particular bean, seed or pulse in preference to all other foods but, I know, with the correct application you can educate a carp into eating a certain type of boilie far more readily than another, different type. I have done this on lakes in the past and, by careful and prolonged pre-baiting myself and my friends, have completely dominated waters for a considerable amount of time.

So, I think there is a place for both boilie and particle in most fishing situations and it all depends, for me at least, what I am trying to achieve; a long term result, a quick clearing off of a few spots or a big hit on one session when everything is right for it.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out Dave Lane’s new book? Titled Fine Lines, Dave’s third publication delves deeply into the mysterious, weird and wonderful big carp scene. For more details click here.

Be Different – Dave Lane

I always like to say that, if you do the same as the most successful angler on a lake then, possibly, you will end up catching as much as him, but what if you want to do better?

So, let’s look at some specific examples of how this pan’s out in real life shall we.

Monks Pit, I joined the lake with one fish in mind, a common in the mid forty pound bracket, this would constitute my PB common and first ever UK forty plus common. As with most biggies there was already a set of ‘rules’ in place that dictated where and when you would catch her.

I cannot remember all of them but I know that it was nearly always on the East bank, never in winter and definitely not on a zig.

I eventually landed that magnificent common at forty six pounds on the 7th February, from the West bank and yes, you guessed it, on a zig. I also hooked it from a known distance swim, twenty yards from the bank. So what made me break all the rules surrounding that fish, I was simply fishing where I had seen fish and using the method that I thought was right on the day and the biggun just simply came along.

Wrong bait, wrong spot and wrong time of year

Wrong bait, wrong spot and wrong time of year

I have missed out in the past by adhering to the legends surrounding a certain fish, no lesson was learnt more succinctly than, a few years later, when I was targeting my first UK fifty pound plus common, at Black Swan Lake.

I had a swim on there in which I do not recall ever blanking, it was a long range gap between two islands and I knew the spots like the back of my hand, as such it was one of my favourite swims and I fished it whenever possible.

The big common however, he apparently never got caught anywhere else except for a large bay at the extreme Southern end of the pit. Every capture of this carp had been from there and, although never fifty pounds before, I knew that he would be over that weight during the autumn and winter that year.

I decided, using the information available, to target that one area for the entire winter, starting my campaign in late September.

On my only my second trip in the bay, my long time angling mate Paul Forward decided to set up in the Gap Swim, he was just fishing for fish and that was as good a spot as any; I think you can see where this is headed!

In the evening he invited me round for a barbeque and a couple of beers and later, just as I was leaving to walk back to my swim, he had a bite in the gap. After a short tussle a great big common rolled into his net, first time over fifty pounds, as expected, but not from the bay, from my favourite swim on the lake. I had missed out by fully believing the legend and fishing where others had told me I had the most chance rather than where I most fancied.

So, what of the Burghfield common then, it was accepted that he normally got caught in one of the small bays rather than the open water but, was that because he lived there, fed there, or was fished for the most in there and how does the catch rate equate to rod hours spent waiting?

It was also widely accepted that he did not feed with the other fish, always on his own or with a very small, select band of friends which made him a very tricky target indeed.

Eventually I caught him by doing exactly the opposite. He was the second of a six fish catch from the open, deeper, water and fell to my standard approach of baiting as heavily as the situation seemed to warrant.

I was also catching tench and bream from the same area so I knew that I could use a substantial amount of bait, and it worked.

The Burghfield common, not such a solo feeder after all.

The Burghfield common, not such a solo feeder after all.

That’s the beauty of carp angling; there are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines that we, the anglers, assume to be correct.

You cannot have too much information of course, not when you are tracking a single fish but, as with everything in fishing, there is a time to follow it and a time to follow your gut instinct and only time will tell which one proves to be right.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out Dave Lane’s new book? Titled Fine Lines, Dave’s third publication delves deeply into the mysterious, weird and wonderful big carp scene. For more details click here.

Dave Lane’s Top 5 ‘Must Have’ Carp Fishing Kit

Dave Lane talks about his top 5 carp fishing essentials – never leave home without them!

1. A good set of Polaroid Sunglasses – these are essential for fish spotting, not only when looking down through the water from trees etc but also when looking out across the water to reduce glare. Location is so important that it would be mad to fish without them. I use grey tinted for really bright sunny days and amber for everything else but, if I had to have just one pair it would definitely be amber.

Dave Lane wearing a good set of polaroids!

Dave Lane wearing a good set of polaroids!

2. Binoculars – I have got right back into using binoculars for my angling. If a fish rolls at range it’s so easy to see if it’s bubbling up or just cruising past. Tiny movements on the surface can be zoomed in on and identified between carp activity and small fish or insects.

3. Tea making equipment – I just cannot function without a regular supply of tea. I recently filmed some footage for Fishtec’s website and, out of the five of us needed for filming I was the only tea-drinker! I just do not understand how people can resist it. I will try anything when my supply gets threatened; building fires form twigs when my gas runs out, drinking black tea when my milk has soured and re-using tea bags. I would even consider milking a nearby cow if I could catch one!

Tea time!!

Tea time!!

4. Good Bait – It sounds obvious but I have to have my little collection of Mainline pop-up’s in the side pocket of my rucksack and at least five kilos of the best boilies I can possibly use (at the moment this is the new Hybrid). I need to know I have a hook-bait for any situation and I even have them in differing buoyancies, sizes, colour and flavours.

5. Decent fishing clothing – I have spent so many years in the past being soaked and cold or too hot and sweating while fishing. I always make sure I have a set of TF Gear waterproofs rolled up small just in case and a decent jacket to keep out the cold, even on a summers night.

Dave Lane ‘Biggun Spots’ Q & A

When you’re fishing for these known big fish, do you literally sit in their known capture swims, even if there are fish showing elsewhere on the lake? Large carp obviously have areas where they spend a lot of time and seem to only get caught from those one or two spots, but do you think that they still travel around the lake but just don’t feed in other areas?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of fishing as others have done in the past; in fact I know I have done this on more than one occasion and sometimes suffered as a result.

For instance, if a fish is reputed to have a liking for tiger nuts instead of the usual boilie approach then every angler on the lake will, at some stage, use tigers, even if it just on one rod. Suddenly you have a scenario whereby thirty, forty or even fifty percent of the hook-baits on offer are tigers, and the chances of that fish getting caught on a tiger have just gone through the roof.

If nobody used tigers then it would have to get caught on something else, because it would get caught, they all do eventually.

The same situation arises with areas as it does with bait, those highlighted areas from previous captures tend to get more attention than the rest of the lake, more rod hours equals more chance of a result and more chance of perpetuating the myths surrounding one particular carp.

Putting back the Burghfield Common after ‘doing it all wrong’

Putting back the Burghfield Common after ‘doing it all wrong’

The other way of looking at it is that there is a reason and a truth behind the mythology, that one big carp really does only feed on the shallows, really doesn’t like boilies or does only gets caught on a full moon, but why?

Every carp must feed regularly to stay alive and it could be argued that the bigger fish need a greater amount of food to maintain their weight, so what happens the rest of the time, they feed elsewhere of course and on other things.

Certainly, I believe that a carp will use almost every part of the lake, regardless of where it is most often caught. Maybe, in the other areas it has regular food supply that does not include angler’s baits. There may be natural larders that it always visits on these sojourns away from its catchable areas. There may also be areas where a carp will go regularly with no intention of feeding whatsoever, in fact the big Common at Burghfield seems to have one of these. It is an area where it has been seen a lot but never seen to feed and certainly never on bait of any description, more like a safe area, or sunbathing spot.

To think that a carp only feeds in the spots where it is caught and at the times of year of previous captures is madness.

If it was as easy as to cast under Basil’s bush on a full moon with a yellow pop-up then that particular fish would get caught once a month, the swim would be booked in advance, the poor creature would not only be labelled a ‘mug’ but he would starve to death over the ensuing three and a half weeks.

There is always more to a situation than it first appears, if not carp fishing would be simply carp catching, and as boring as hell.

A carp is a living creature with free will and this is what makes our sport so much more interesting, challenging and ultimately rewarding than most other pursuits; the rules are constantly changing and nothing is totally impossible.

All information about a target fish is good information, it has been correlated over years by capable anglers taking notes about their own particular observations, and most of it will be true and valid. I think though, you need to add your own observations into the mix rather than blindly follow a script.

When I caught the Burghfield Common it went against all the preconceived ideas of where and how that fish would feed.

There was a folklore surrounding him that said it would never get caught in the open water areas of the lake and it would always be a loner or feed with a small band of select ‘friends’ but never with the bulk of the fish.

In fact the exact rumour was that “if you are catching carp then the next bite will never be the common”.

Well, I had it from the open water area as the second bite of a six fish catch so it’s a good job that I ignored the legend on that particular occasion.

Dave Lane Spring Carping Q & A

What areas do you target as the light levels begin to increase? Do you look in snaggy areas where the carp may go to rub up against the sunken branches to remove leeches accumulated during the winter, or maybe shallow areas that catch the sun and warm up quickest? Where do you think we should be looking for our quarry to get that early spring action?

Spring carping

Spring carping in all its glory….

The best thing about that transition period between winter and spring is that the entire lake comes back into play. Areas where the carp have not been for months will suddenly become viable areas to fish and, much more than just viable, they can be the most likely spots to get bites.

A prime example of this is the shallowest parts of the lake, particularly if they receive a decent amount of sunlight and not a lot of wind. These are areas that warm up a lot quicker with a few hours sunlight on them and the fish, when they re-visit their old haunts, always seem to be infinitely more catchable.

To my mind, fish in an area where you wouldn’t expect them to be, whether in spring or even in the middle of winter, have only gone their because they either feel more comfortable or they are expecting to find easily accessible food. Either way, a well-placed trap usually gets a rapid result although it’s not a situation where I would invest too much in the way of bait. A lot of my fishing in the early spring is with single pop-ups or just a handful of free offerings as I feel that the carp will, invariably, move back off these areas just as quickly as they arrived.

Reeds and snags can be good areas although snags, to me, are more of a safe haven at any time of the year whereas reeds are often warmer and shallower and a great place to find fish in the early part of spring.

Monks Pit has a large bed of reeds in one corner where fish will stay right through the winter. Generally, it is the smaller fish but, as the light levels increase, the bigger fish will also leave the deeper water and visit this area far more often and some big hits can be had on the right day.

I am sure that heat from the sun is transmitted down through the reeds and huge beds of Norfolk reed can create the perfect environment for carp at this time of year.

Dave Lane On Silt

Dave Lane’s no-nonsense approach for effective carp fishing over silted areas….

I suppose a lot of today’s carp anglers have started off their fishing on silt bottomed lakes, most smaller ponds and fisheries, especially the natural old lakes, will be sited up through time.
I know all of my early fishing was on either Estate lakes or ponds surrounded by trees and, usually, fed by an inlet stream of some sort. Both of these things will contribute towards a build-up of silt.

Back in the early days we didn’t really think about a lot, we just cast out and caught fish, there were no fancy carp rigs and the question of where your bait ended up in relation the silt never raised its head.

Most of the rigs cast out in the seventies and eighties, by me at least, involved a basic nylon hook-link of about ten inches and a lead somewhere between one, and one and a half ounces which, bizarrely enough, is the exact rig I would now advocate for fishing in deep silt.

We certainly never considered methods to stop the hook-baits sinking into the silt, such as pop-up’s because, after all, that was surely where the free offering ended up?

Such a simple philosophy and one born, I suppose, through lack of outside influence but like I say, still something that I firmly believe all these many years later.

The food does not sit up nicely on top of the silt so why on earth should you want your hook-bait to do so.

All the interim years spent mucking about with helicopter rigs, paternosters, slow sinking leads (made from a float wrapped in fuse wire) and various other balancing devices were, in hindsight, a waste of time really. None of the afore mentioned ‘developments’ ever caught me more carp than a standard nylon hook-link and a bottom bait when fishing soft bottomed lakes.

I will admit that the addition of a very small PVA bag of crumbed baits has slipped into my armoury on occasions but, this is due more to the want to add smell to the area than by a need to keep the bait aloft.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am happy to just chuck a basic rig into any old smelly silt filled ditch and feel confident because that is really not the case at all; there are many different types of silt ranging from clean and barely settled ‘soup’ to hard packed detritus of the ages.

If I look back at the history of some of the siltier places I have fished it is amazing just how much they have changed over the years and the sheer depth of the silt that has collected there.

I recently fished for a winter on particular Estate lake where the average depth is about three feet and, whilst there, I got chatting to a guy who had fished the lake a decade or more prior to my visit and he assured me that is was closer to ten feet deep back then.

Now that is a lot of silt but when you look at the way the lake is fed and the depth variations throughout the year you can see just how this has happened.

There is a small steam at one end that runs through a dam wall into the lake, most of the year this is either dry or just a mere trickle but, during the winter and spring, it can turn into a raging torrent. Not only does it empty the contents of the stream bed into the lake but the stream itself is fed by the run off from the surrounding fields and the water is the colour of chocolate as it pours into the lake.

So much water comes in at one go that the level of the lake can rise two feet over night and that is a lot of suspended particles to add to the silt. By the time the water floods out of the other end it is much cleaner and a lot lighter, having dropped its payload of new silt as it travels along the lake.

Year in year out, three or four times each winter, spring and probably autumn, it doesn’t take long for the build up to accumulate and the lake to lose another foot of depth.

For a while I did muck about with various pop-up and balanced presentations but, in the end, I cut the whole lot off and fished all my rods on nylon rigs, bottom baits and tiny little bags of crumb, just to add a bit of smell. I caught plenty that winter, multiple catches on some occasions, and all from below the top layer of silt.

Not all silt is nice though and I am sure that a lot of areas are not favoured by the carp because of the ‘wrong type’ of silt. Nobody likes to retrieve their leads and rigs to find them covered in stinking black ooze and, I must admit, I have never knowingly caught from these obnoxious smelling areas.

Silt that has arrived via an inlet is probably going to be cleaner than silt that has occurred through a rotting process that has taken years of decay and trapped a lot of gasses during the process.

Try dragging a heavy ball or square lead through the silt to investigate which kind you have and avoid the disgusting black smelly stuff. A FishSpy camera float is also a good way of taking a real-time look at just what you are fishing over.

The FishSpy camera float

The FishSpy camera float.

When the carp are feeding in silt they also release a lot of the trapped gasses and you can sometimes see very obvious bubblers as the patches burst onto the surface.

Occasionally I fish a small silty lake set on the edge of Thetford forest and the fish in there bubble like crazy, particularly at first light when your swim can resemble a Jacuzzi.

I have only fished there a handful of times and always caught fish but, I had always thought I should have caught more and spent most of the day chasing bubblers up and down the lake. Eventually I decided to take a different approach and, rather than chase the fish, I would try and make the fish find me and offer them more than they were getting by feeding on the natural food within the silt.

I didn’t try for a clear or hard spot, I just picked somewhere they had bubbled up that morning and then fished as accurately as I possibly could, by this I mean baiting on the exact spot with every pouch-full and marking and clipping up my lines to ensure I was not just close but ‘bang on’ every single cast. I also put at least a kilo and a half of bait on each of two spots; I wanted them to stop when they found it rather than just keep trawling all over the swim rooting for food.

The next morning was a completely different ball game and just one glance at the surface told me my plan had worked. Rather than little individual streams of bubbles popping up randomly all over, there were two huge patches of froth, one over each spot and as soon as the bites started they came in frenetic succession. I had about six fish in as short a time as it was possible to land them and recast again.

All I had done different was to give them something to home in on, and a reason to stay there once they had. My rigs were just the trusty nylon hooklinks and bottom baits but the method change had been the key, it was that simple.

I have used this heavy baiting approach to concentrate bubbling fish in both silt and weed to very good effect quite a few times since then. The most noticeable of these was on the shallow lagoon at St Ives last year. By baiting heavily and accurately I managed to put together a string of incredible captures that culminated in the big mirror known as Colin at over fifty pounds, all from very tightly baited spots.

A big St Ives bubbler from a tightly baited area

A big St Ives bubbler from a tightly baited area.

Once again, I managed to condense the feeding activity to just my baited areas but outdoing the supply of natural food.

A lot of anglers will avoid silty areas and always be searching for that elusive ‘donk’ of the lead as it hits a hard spot but sometimes you can be missing out by not fishing the areas where the fish are used to finding natural food.

Don’t be afraid of silt or weed, just find a way to embrace it.

Waders – A Carp Fishing Essential

My friend Paul Forward and I have a little saying ‘sensible use of waders’ and it always brings a smile as it was a caption used on a photograph in a magazine photograph of him many years ago, and Paul practically lives in waders.

I too am a great advocate of rubber leg wear and I have many sets of various types. In fact, I currently have a set of wellington type boots, a pair of thigh waders and some of the new TF Gear Hardcore chest waders all in a pile in the back of my truck and I rarely leave home without all three.

Waders are a carp fishing essentail

Waders are a carp fishing essential.

Our sport is a wet one but there is really no need to suffer it by getting ourselves wet and many opportunities and circumstances will require that we get into the water to one degree or another.

Using waders to hand place baits into the margins is a method that has caught me countless fish over the years, scuffing my feet along the bottom to locate cleaned off gravel spots or little depressions in the lake bed.

Baiting up by hand in the margins

Baiting up by hand in the margins.

There have also been many occasions where I could not actually fish the areas I wanted without wading out with long bank sticks and having the rods out in the lake due to the lack of actual swims.

The safe retaining of fish is another area where chest waders are a ‘must have’ item as you often cannot just sack a fish in a shallow margin and a bit of depth needs to be found slightly further out into the lake.

Even on the bank a set of chest waders can be a huge advantage, particularly when dealing with a lively fish in cold and wet conditions for photography. A decent, flexible set of chest waders perform like a set of waterproofs and keep all your clothes nice and dry and warm, allowing you to return to bed in comfort rather than dripping wet.

I mentioned ‘flexible’ because there are, obviously, different types and grades of rubber used in waders and it is important to choose correctly.

TF Gear Hardcore waders are flexible and comfortable to wear

TF Gear Hardcore waders are flexible and comfortable to wear.

A thick or stiff set of waders will be uncomfortable and eventually crack whereas a nice soft and flexible pair like the premium TF Gear Hardcore waders, will be far more comfortable and allow you to wear them for longer periods of time.

Maggot Myth Busting

Now that winter is here a lot of carp anglers turn their attention to maggot fishing, and why not, after all they have a brilliant track record for catching carp.

dl-maggotsOne things does worry me, however, and I don’t think I am alone in saying this, in fact I know I am not.

Somewhere along the line a few people have caught over huge amounts of maggots and, somehow, this had led to the belief that more is better. Quite literally, the more you can afford to shovel into the lake then the more carp you will catch but this is not only false, it is also very dangerous.

Winter carp will only eat a small amount of food, no matter what type is may be and yes, they may find maggots attractive but they are still very unlikely to gorge themselves on them as they just do not need that much sustenance at this time of year.

What happens to the left-over bait, the uneaten maggots that are out there on the bottom of lake?

This is the part that worries me, particularly because most people’s answers to this question will be the same.

Are you also thinking that most of them will either crawl away or the silver fish will eat them?

If so, then you are in the majority but, I am afraid to tell you, probably very wrong indeed.

Unless you have a huge head of silver fish in the lake (in which case maggot fishing is not viable anyway) and you have fairly shallow lake, then the silvers will not be eating much at all.

They are usually shoaled up in and around the weed in shallower and more sheltered area and not down in the deeps on the large open areas you are probably targeting.

As for crawling away, well they just don’t go anywhere, that is a total myth as they are too busy drowning to worry about re-location and, even if they did then that doesn’t alleviate the problem of them still being in the lake.

The uneaten maggots will eventually die and rot on the bottom and huge quantities of rotting bait cannot be a good thing for the oxygen levels or the toxicology of the lake.

I know of plenty of lakes that have now banned maggot fishing for just these reasons and others that limit their use to prevent the problems arising.

Obviously, this problem is not unique to maggots and bait of all sorts can be over applied and end up rotting on the lake bed. A lot of the better-quality boilies will actually float after a short while and often, on pressured lakes, the gulls can be seen to pick them off in the windward edge.

Not all baits will, however, and let’s face it, who wants to be fishing on top of a pile of somebody else’s old bait, no matter what it may be.

The solution, take a look before you start and after you finish, gauge if you need to top up your spots or if it worth pre-baiting before you leave and see what is already out there before you start.

On a recent trip to a Northants syndicate water I spent forty-eight hours fishing a swim that I knew held carp, as I had seen them rolling at first light. I carefully spodded out a gallon of maggots over two rods and sat back to await events.

After two nights with no action whatsoever I decided to break out the FishSpy camera float and see exactly what was going on, I had another gallon of bait in the truck and I was considering baiting up before I left in readiness fir the following week but the lack of action made me hesitant.

I simply wrapped up the spod rod with the FishSpy on to the exact distance that I had been fishing and launched it out onto the spots.

What I saw amazed me, every single maggot, as far as I could tell, was still laying there perfectly presented on the bottom and the fish obviously hadn’t fed at all, despite being in the area.

Maggots everywhere on the bottom.

Maggots everywhere on the bottom – as revealed by the FishSpy camera.

This made me realise that maggots are not the wonder bait we think they are and the fish still have to be hungry to feed, in fact I wished I’d just fished with single boilie hook-baits to be honest.

The one thing I didn’t do was pre-bait before I left and I wonder just what did happen to that first gallon, did they ever get eaten?