Autumn Carp Fishing – By Dave Lane

Dave Lane simply loves autumn carp fishing! In this article you will find valuable insights into Autumn carp fishing tactics. Read on to find out how to improve your catches this autumn.

A big Autumnal leather carp

A big Autumnal leather carp.

I love the autumn, after all what’s not to love about it, particularly when it comes hard on the heels of the sort of summer we have just had.

Hot summers are the thing of dreams in this country but, when we eventually get one, we remember all too quickly just how rubbish they can be from a carp angling perspective. The autumn however, now that is another matter altogether.

When everything is suddenly drenched in dew every morning and the low pressure systems start to outweigh the highs, we know we are on the cusp.

Way before the leaves start to fall you can smell it in the air, and it smells like carp!

Autumn is nature’s grand finale, the fanfare to herald the end of summer and the approach of winter. The colours of nature are awesome during the autumn, how a leaf can turn so red or a whole line of trees appear as if they are on fire is beyond me but I never tire of looking at it. I think we are all guilty of spending more time photographing sunsets and amazing scenery than we do fish during this period of the year.

I love this shot with the golden leaves and nice forty pound mirror

I love this shot with the golden leaves and nice forty pound mirror.

Traditionally we look at it as the big feed up before winter but, in reality, it is just a culmination of perfect conditions for feeding carp. The natural food is not as abundant, the big fly hatches of summer have gone, the clouds of daphnia and algae have cleared and anglers bait must seem like the perfect alternative, an easy meal.

It always used to be September that was the magic month for me, particularly the second and third weeks. Quite why this was I do not know but I have had so many big fish in Septembers past that it cannot just be coincidence.

Nowadays, however, the seasons seem to have shifted a little and September can often be as hot as mid-summer.

I think it is more relevant to the type of summer we have had and the level of change as the seasons start to shift.

I often find during autumn that the fish, although not exactly pugged up for winter, are still a lot slower to change areas and spend a lot of time in certain spots. Whether this is because of the location of the remainder of the natural food or just that the shallower and marginal areas play less of a part in their daily habits I am not sure. The result though, is that once found they can be targeted a lot easier and deep water marks, with the correct baiting, can turn up fish week after week and give you a chance to really get things going.

Another phenomenon that I have seen time and time again in the autumn is the way the bigger fish in any lake will all get caught in quick succession, almost as if they all need to visit the bank one last time before winter. How many times have you been on a lake and somebody puts together a last burst of captures culminating in the biggest carp in the pond and then, as if a switch has been thrown, it’s straight back into to scratching time for the rest of the winter. Maybe they just feed so hard that they make mistakes a lot more readily as I can’t believe they actually want to get caught, but sometimes it does seem that way.

If you are staying on the same venue throughout the autumn and winter then this is the time to start to get a bait going, something that you can use with confidence right through the remainder of the year. Because the carp will eat such large quantities of bait throughout the autumn this will ensure that, come the winter, the small amounts of bait you give them are recognised as something they readily accept.

Personally I tend to change my venues in the winter so I often miss out on the opportunity to get a bait (and baited area) well established for the winter and I have to make it up as I go along.

A big thirty common caught at the end of september over a bed of bait

A big thirty common caught at the end of September over a bed of bait.

The reason for this is that I like to stay on those harder and lesser stocked waters throughout the autumn and hope to hit that one big payday when the fish throw all caution to the wind, eat everything in sight, and hopefully my hook-baits are included in that.

I do like to get onto my winter water before the frosts though, to at least give myself a shout of learning a bit about the carp’s behaviour before everything is shrouded in winter again.

Results throughout the winter can only really be measured against what is happening around you, not only on the lake you are fishing but surrounding lakes as well. If you are trickling the odd fish out while everyone else struggles then that, to me, is a successful winter, even if you are not setting the world alight with your captures.

So, with a chance of a big hit on the cards and winter not too far away, what bait to use?

For me the choice is easy as autumn spells boilie time, there is nothing better than a big bed of top quality boilies to keep a shoal of hungry carp interested. It offers a far more substantial form of protein for them and, as far as I am concerned, it’s a lot easier to deliver than a bucket of hemp or tigers. I also find it makes rig choice a lot less important as it’s so easy once you have fish shovelling back great big 18mm boilies, just a simple bottom bait rig or a matched pop-up will nail them every time.

I do love my boilie fishing, I know a lot of people put faith in little PVA bags full of crumbs, bits of plastic for hook-baits or single chod style presentations but I really don’t think you can beat a few kilos of goodness out in the swim, something for the carp to really get their heads down on. It lowers their cautionary level and, during the autumn, I really wouldn’t consider a different approach, even on waters that do not respond so well to it during the summer.

A cracking looking 34 mirror on the boilies in Autumn

A cracking looking 34 mirror on the boilies in Autumn.

I think the only place I’ve ever struggled for a bite on boilies as the temperatures drop was during my time fishing around the Oxfordshire venues, particularly Lynch Hill. Those waters seem like a law unto themselves and the fiddlier it all gets with rigs and baits then the more bites you seem to get, maybe it is a result of the extreme pressure they are under for almost every single minute of the year.

I think the one exception to the boilie rule though, but not until slightly later in the year, have to be maggots.

For me this is a newer method, although I know others have been at it for years. I really had my eyes opened to the effect maggots can have on a water during the latter part of autumn and the early stages of winter.

It seems like a follow on to the big feed ups on proper bait though and I think you can miss out by turning onto them too early in the year, not only that, they are hard work to fish effectively and also bloody expensive.

I am also not sure what would happen to a lake if nobody actually started on them, which may sound weird but hear me out here.

On Monks the fish would happily eat boilies throughout the autumn, great big quantities of them at times but, once the first person started with the maggots then it all seemed to change. As soon as the fish started seeing huge quantities of spodded maggot it was as if the boilies got forgotten and you had to be on the ‘germs’ to keep up.

This creates a situation where everyone is suddenly putting one or two gallons of maggots into the lake every couple of days, sometimes a lot more. Maggot fishing can often just be a matter of who can put the most out, or at least that how it may seem sometimes. I am not overly convinced that it’s the best method for the lake though, after all they can’t all get eaten and then what happens to huge beds of rotting, ammonia filled maggots?

I know I have turned up at Monks in the past and cast out a marker only to retrieve a lump of weed still full of somebody else’s old maggots so I know they don’t all disappear. Also, as the weather gets even colder the small fish don’t seem interested at all in the crawling variety of food; in fact they almost seem to disappear, particularly from the deep water where the carp often are.

On my last winter there, however, the maggot boys were not out in force as they had been during previous years and I persevered with the boilies and had some unbelievable results but I wonder if that would have been the case if someone next door was pumping gallons of maggot in?

This coming winter I may well be going back to the Quarry in Essex, scene of last year’s capture of my new PB January carp of forty six pounds but, before then, we have a whole autumn to look forward to, and I cannot wait.

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Dave Lane

About Dave Lane

Dave Lane tackled his first carp in the mid-sixties, and by 2004 had bagged five different UK fifties culminating with the famed Black Mirror. Since then, Dave has added a further three fifties to his tally. As a product developer, Dave has travelled the world to source the best tackle angling has to offer. As a writer, he’s contributed three books to the angling canon. His most recent title, Tight Lines, is available to order now.