Beginners guide to carp fishing

Are you new to carp fishing? Thinking of taking up the sport? Or perhaps someone you know wants the low down on how to get started.

Here we’ve put together a guide to carp fishing for beginners.

Just the very basics to get you started – be warned – you’ll soon be hooked!  

The catch

Carp

Image source: Fish on Friday
This is what you’re after!

You’re after carp – one of the most exciting, challenging and maddening fish it’s possible to catch on rod and line. Common, mirror or grass carp to name but three varieties is a wide family of freshwater fish indigenous to Europe and Asia. During the middle ages, they were introduced to Britain and farmed by monks for their tasty flesh.

Inevitably, some escaped into rivers, ponds and lakes, where they thrived. Thanks to their power, strength and wily ways, carp were long considered almost uncatchable. With modern carp fishing tackle and baits, you could be in with a chance – but you’ve got to get it right…

Rod licence

Rod Licence

Image source: Bath Angling
Make sure you stay above board.

First things first. if you want to fish without the fear of being tapped on the shoulder by one of the guys from the Environment Agency, make sure you’re the proud owner of an up to date rod licence. You need one to fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish – including carp, smelt and eel with a rod and line in England (except the River Tweed), Wales or the Border Esk region of Scotland.

To get a licence, simply pop along to your local post office and pay over the counter. You don’t need to wait for the licence to come through, just keep the receipt to hand in case you’re asked. A full licence costs £27 at the time of writing, however, if you’re just giving carp fishing a try, a one day licence costs just £3.75.

Choosing a water

Carp Lake

Image source: Cottington Lakes
Opt for a lake with lots of smaller fish.

We all want to catch a big fish, but the truth is, the bigger the fish grows, the wiser it gets. Some of the specimen lakes offer beasts well over twenty years old. In fact the oldest ever recorded carp was ‘Raspberry’, denizen of Redmire Pools in Herefordshire who it’s thought lived to the ripe old age of 67. Old, wise fish are hard to fool and as a beginner, who wants to spend the day on the bank without so much as a bite?

Newbies are better off heading for somewhere that stocks a larger number of smaller fish, say around the 5 – 10 lb range. Catching bigger carp takes knowledge and experience, but put in the hours and you’ll be on your way to being a match for the big’un.

Tooling up

It is true that a bad workman always blames his tools, but if you’re new to carp fishing, the last thing you want is to spend good money on the wrong rod and reel. Do check out our Youtube channel for some expert advice on buying the right equipment.

1. Choosing a rod

2. Choosing a reel

3. Choosing clothing

Never underestimate the vagaries of the British weather – many a good day’s fishing is ruined by insufficient or inappropriate inner and outer wear. But that miserable soul, perched on the bank, sweltering or shivering needn’t be you. Here’s a short video guide to what to wear to the swim – you’ll look like a pro!

The right rig

The intricacies of what fishing tackle to buy and use is a vast subject, and not one we believe should overly concern the novice carp fisherman or woman. Instead, we recommend you start out with a good allround line like, TF Gear GS Carp Line. A leader like this TF Gear Nantec Mono will see you right. Hook wise, you’re looking at the Nash Fang X – add a boilie and boilie stop, a piece of braid and a lead and you’re in business. One of the simplest rigs of all is the ‘hair rig’ – here’s how to tie it:

Casting

You’re kitted up, you’ve assembled your rig, now all you need to do is launch that tackle into the water and wait for the fish to come biting. Right? Well – partially. Where you put that bait is key, and there’s no better way to find the sweet spot of your local water than by asking around. The staff of  the lakeside bait shop, other anglers – ask for a little advice and listen to what’s said. Then make your own mind up. You’ll learn watercraft by osmosis – but be patient because the ways of  the water aren’t discovered overnight.

Now for a guide to casting – you’re nearly there!

Bivvy

We saved the second best bit for near the end. Set your bait alarm, and head to your bivvy for a brew. Not sure which bivvy is best? Take a look at this:

The best bit

You bite alarm goes off! What do you do next? Our top tip – take a deep breath, calm that sudden burst of adrenaline. You might have hooked a fish, but you haven’t yet brought it to the bank. The drag on your reel should be set so if the fish lunges or runs, it will take line rather than tear the hook from its lip. Now keep the rod tip low, and play your fish. Think gentle pressure because wrenching the rod, or winding like a madman won’t help the hook stay set, and it’ll stress the fish too. Instead bring your catch to the bank at a steady pace, and net it as quickly (and as gently) as you can.

Unhook your fish while it’s in the net, and carefully place it on a handling mat. To pick up the monster for a snap, place one hand under its tail, and the other under its fin closest to the mat. Lift keeping the fish close to your body – but don’t stand with the fish unless it’s in the net – they’re mighty slippery, and you don’t want to drop it. Now to put the fish back where it belongs. Place the carp in the water holding it gently by the tail until it’s ready to swim away. Now wipe the proud tear from your eye – you’re a carp angler!

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