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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Night Fishing for Carp

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You’re unlikely to see the full potential of any carp water until you have night fished it.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Are you ready to tackle carp after dark? The small hours can be the best time of all to trick a wary specimen. We asked Dom Garnett to share some sound advice and practical tips for staying comfortable and catching carp at night.

Establish your pitch

night-carping2

Ready for the night: traps set and everything in position.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Even the most welcoming looking swim can become a dark, mysterious place at night. Get to know your swim by day before you go overnight. Have a cast around and take particular note of any snags. Arrive in good time if you can, so you are completely comfortable in the spot before nightfall.

Bivvies and home comforts

Look after your back with a high quality carp fishing bedchair.
Featured product: TF Gear Dave Lane Hardcore Bedchair from Fishtec

To night fish regularly with any success, you need to get tooled up for nights on the bank. You can night fish under just a brolly in the summer, but if you’re serious, get a decent bivvy (you can get a good one these days from around £100) and your essentials in order. Do your back a favour and get a good quality bed chair too.

Accuracy is key

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Solid PVA bags give confidence for a clear presentation.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

If you can, cast out and get your baits exactly where you want them before nightfall. If you’re leaving a rig out for many hours, you want to be absolutely confident you are weed free and presentation is spot on. Solid PVA bags are excellent for a clean delivery every time.

Big baits & simple rigs

If you have your heart set on a big carp, you really don’t want to be disturbed by smaller fish. Bait up with a man-sized, tough bait to avoid the attentions of other species. Tying new rigs or tinkering with your gear is a nightmare at night, even by head torch. Do yourself a favour by sticking to what you know and having a supply of spares ready to go.

Keep warm

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Keep warm and comfortable with a decent sleeping bag and thick socks.
Featured product: The Trakker Big Snooze Plus Sleeping Bag from Fishtec

Even in the summer, it can get really cold in the early hours of the night. It is imperative you keep warm! Pack a decent sleeping bag and a thick extra pair of socks. If you are a real softie, or like winter fishing, a hot water bottle is a rare pleasure on a cold night.

Food and drink

night-carping6

A stove is a wise investment to keep you warm and fed.
Featured product: The TF Gear Thermo Lite-Stove from Fishtec

Another great way to keep your body heat levels up is to prepare hot food and drinks. Keep it simple with tins of soup, bacon, bread and tea or coffee. A well-maintained gas stove is a useful piece of kit for day or night.

Winning margins

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If you’re quiet, carp like this common will come really close in at night.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Don’t feel like you need to heave your bait out miles after dark. Even on pressured waters, carp come much closer to the bank at night. I’d always have one rod close in.

Line management

How many rods and lines should you put out at night? Don’t always assume more is the best policy. Three can be used (if you have the right license!) on big waters, but for tighter swims and channels, stick with just two. You’ll also want to sink each of your lines out of the way, so backleads are a great idea.

Light sources

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A good-quality head torch is invaluable when excitement strikes!
Featured product: The Ridgemonkey Headtorch from Fishtec

Always carry at least two light sources when night fishing. A quality head torch is a must- and I keep mine in the same place always, to be grabbed at a moment’s notice. I also keep a hand torch and small lantern. I wouldn’t be unduly worried about light when making a bite to eat or baiting up, but I do try to keep light disturbance to a minimum.

Ready for landing

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A lovely mirror carp, landed in the early hours.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With a bit of luck, you’ll get that sudden run in the early hours and bank a big fish. But first you must be ready. Have your net within reach and an unhooking mat nicely spread out with tools and scales to hand. Have a camera and self-take set up ready and a means to briefly retain the fish if you must.

Things can be chaotic in the excitement of a big catch, so keep your wits about you and watch where you put things down! Night fishing is all about this sudden excitement though, and the mysterious time when angling dreams really can come true. In fact, it’s probably fair to say you’ll never see the full potential of any carp water until you have night fished it.

Fine Lines – New Carp Fishing Book By Dave Lane

Dave Lane recently completed a new project – the much anticipated Fine Lines, his third book on carp fishing!

Fine Lines by Dave Lane

Whether you are an avid fan and following on from Dave’s first two books, or delving into his world for the first time, you are bound to be entertained, amazed and left wanting yet more of his adventures.

Together with his faithful hound, Padwar, he has traveled the land in search of monster carp and catalogued his experiences in his own inimitable style which is peppered with humour, disasters, bizarre occurrences and, ultimately, success.

Dave’s writing style has always focused on painting the entire picture so that you, the reader, can feel as if you are there on the bank beside him at all times, sharing in the experiences every step of the way.

The big carp scene is a weird and mysterious place and although Dave fishes right at the pinnacle of this strange world he always seems to find time for a bit of fun along the way, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Check out the video sampler below featuring selected images from the book:

Fine Lines is due for release around 1st September –  you can pre-order a copy here.

TF Gear Carp Fishing Tackle Videos – 2017

In this blog post we take a look at some new carp fishing tackle videos produced by Total Fishing Gear in conjunction with Total Carp Magazine.

Each product is reviewed by renowned UK carp expert Dave Lane, who provides valuable insights into some essential new fishing kit for 2017. Watch on to find out more!

Flat Out Superking Bedchair – Designed to give pressure relief, comfort and support exactly where your body needs it- making your carp fishing experiences a joyous one.

3 in 1 Supersize Frying Pan – This superb non-stick frying pan allows you to cook 3 different foods at the same time so now there is no need to take numerous pans with the added bonus that you save on the washing up!

Hardcore waders – Made from the most advanced durable Heavy Duty PVC on the market with double stitching and welding on all seams plus extra layer reinforcement on the knees make these waders the toughest we’ve seen while retaining a supple flexible feel.

Response bite alarms – Loaded with premium features such as sensitivity control, high visibility night lights, silent stealth mode, vibrate and introducing a revolutionary built in torch feature on the receiver, the Response alarms have now taken bite indication to the next level.

Toastie makers – The quick and easy way to make tasty toasties and hot snacks. Super size capacity – perfect for deepfill toasties, fry ups, steaks, burgers, sausages, pies, chips, pizzas, the list is endless!

Trukka barrow – An unprecedented new standard in fishing gear transportation. A heavy duty load bearing frame complete with adjustable sides allow you to carry a mountain of equipment with ease.

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.

Beneath The Surface At Bramble Mere

Fishtec marketing director Allan Crawford-Plane recently visited the tranquil Bramble Mere fishery in the Cotswolds for a quick overnighter. Thanks to a FishSpy camera Allan was able to save vital time, and importantly catch fish!

Read on to find out how FishSpy revealed what was beneath the surface in a less than clear lake….

The bucolic Bramble mere lake had long been a favorite venue of mine. Situated in the tranquil Cotswolds near Fairford, I had arranged a flying visit with just a single night on the bank, hoping for some rod bending action.

After a meet and greet with the owner Steve, a quick reconnaissance of the main lake was made. It was obvious right away that the lake was being dye treated for weed, with a blue green tint being evident.

Bramble mere

The lovely Bramble mere lake

Tactically this is where a FishSpy really comes into its own. With poor visibility from the surface, a quick cast of the FishSpy on record would hopefully give me an idea of the bottom despite the murky stained water. Several exploratory casts were made in various swims before I decided to set up and fish. I was glad I did – as you can see in the footage below the bottom was carpeted in really dense weed of several feet thick.

This presented a problem of finding a good area to lay the traps. A bit more probing with the FishSpy on record revealed a lovely marginal gravel clear spot about 10 yards out from a tree lined swim, a perfect area to add some bait. I fed in a decent amount of the new Dynamite Complex-T 15mm plus 10mm white chocolate and coconut cream – a sure fire way to attract fish. The FishSpy was then submerged on record to check the spot, as shown in the clip below.

With a nice bed of bait in place I was confident that the fish would feed near the margins – the murky water would give them security to come close in, especially with the light now dropping. The FishSpy was set on record for an hour over the spot, as the Airflo bivvy was set up and rods rigged. A quick review of the footage astonishingly revealed investigation by what appeared to be a decent common!

A cast into the area with the TF Gear 10′ Banshee carp rod resulted in a screaming run within a matter of minutes…. a nice fish now graced the net, possibly even the same spotted on camera earlier on. Would the run have come so quickly without using a FishSpy?

Carp in the net...

Carp in the net…

As the night set in several fine steaks were enjoyed on the TF gear Toastie grill. With the rods set, things turned even better that night with two runs at 2.45 am and 3.15 am resulting in two nice upper doubles.

Steak on the grill

Sizzling Steak on the grill pan.

The next morning, a quick inspection of the area revealed the bait had been picked clean. So more Dynamite Complex-T went into the spot. I had to pay the nearby Horseshoe lake a visit for a few hours, so the Fishspy was submerged and set on record over the spot, just to see. Upon returning, a quick scan through the footage revealed yet more fish activity…

A quick recast in the spot resulted in a few liners, but no runs. So without much time left of my session, I packed down the gear leaving all but my rods out. Suddenly the alarm sprung into life – a last gasp take! With Steve on hand to take a snap, a pretty little specimen ended the session on a high.

A last minute run

A last minute run

Without the FishSpy would I have caught four fish? It certainly gave me the edge for a quick visit. The moral of the story – don’t forget your FishSpy.

FishSpy - dont leave home without one!

FishSpy – don’t leave home without one!

For full details of fishing on Bramble Mere, visit www.bramblemere.com

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.