After the recent summer heatwave, cooler September temperatures are a godsend for carp anglers. Here, Simon Crow shares his top tips for early autumn tactics including watercraft, rigs and bait.
How to succeed in September
Autumn is one of the best times for catching big carp. Perhaps not quite as good as spring, but certainly the next in line. It’s a time when the carp begin to group up. They start to get agitated and competitive amongst themselves. They know winter is on the way and they head towards the areas they know they’ll find food.
The need for plumbing and searching out the hot spots becomes more obvious in September than at any other time of the year. Generally, results can be a bit hit and miss coming out of summer because the fish will have been bombarded with baited rigs in the preceding months. But, if you track down the spots they visit regularly, you can certainly sneak out a few good fish.
A well-planned pre-baiting campaign will help overcome any shyness built-up by the carp, but a good plumb around now will uncover all sorts of new clear areas, especially those which have been covered by weed throughout the summer. These may only be a few feet across. One of the best ways of uncovering them is with a boat and some sort of looking glass, but not all venues allow anglers to do this so it may be necessary to have a good cast around.
I use two rods to do this thoroughly – the first armed with a simple marker float set up, and the second loaded with a baited rig. I’ll cast the marker out to the area I want to check, and then follow it with the rigged rod, taking note of anything I bring back on the hook. I’ll cast all around the marker, giving the rig plenty of time to settle on the bottom, before retrieving it and moving my attention to another area. I will take note of anywhere clean, especially spots which are several inches deeper than the surrounding area, or where the lead comes back caked in clay.
September brings a lot of fallen leaves which can cause problems with your presentation. Even when fishing over my pre-bait I generally switch to pop-ups at this time of the year, not wishing to risk having my hookbait hidden underneath an obstruction. Presenting bait an inch or so off the bottom is ideal, usually critically balanced, but occasionally over-shotted, especially if I’m in shallow water and there’s a strong wind.
Generally I shorten my hooklinks for pop-ups, usually down to 6-8 inches. I think carp, especially pressured ones, tend to approach pop-ups by placing their mouth right over the top of the bait rather than hoovering up. A shorter link gives them less margin for error here, especially when combined with a heavy lead of 3-4oz.
Half a dozen or so freebies on a stringer alongside the hookbait would be my first line of attack in September, perhaps with a light coating of pellet just to increase the attraction. I always find mimicking nature is the best option, which is why I like to keep everything as tight as possible (similar to how the fish would find bloodworm beds). Early autumn hot spots tend to be quite isolated, so there’s no need for heavy or broad scatterings of bait just yet.
If you’ve been targeting a venue with the same bait throughout the season, you may have lost a bit of faith with it during August as the catches dropped off. That’s the nature of carp fishing, but have confidence in your efforts because now’s the time that they will really come through. The carp will recognise established bait now, more than any other time of the year.
Stick with it
Last year I’d been piling bait into my target venue since April, and despite having a rough couple of weeks fishing in August, things picked up in September. It was hard listening to the advice of angling friends that my target prey wasn’t on my pre-bait, but catching new fish boosted my confidence and proved that sticking with it was the right choice. I went on to land the one I most wanted – at a healthy 38lb!
September is a brilliant month to go carp fishing. You might experience a few blanks along the way as it’s very much a transition period between summer and autumn. However, stick with it and believe in what you’re doing. The results are there for the taking if you put in the graft. It‘s the start of one of my favourite periods of the year, when the fish are beautifully coloured and the big ‘uns love to have a feed.