There’s two kinds of carp that live in Britain.
The mud-grubbing, bottom feeding vacuum cleaners that can’t be seen by the naked eye and are largely captured through a bait and wait campaign.
And at the other end of the spectrum is the sport fish. The magnificent carp that move stealthily in the upper layers hunting for insects, basking in the sun, and setting pulses racing as they reveal their scale and proportions.
I really love the surface dolphins with the big ‘yeds’ on em!
When one of those mothers sticks its lips out of the water, sucks a down a floater with an audible slurp like porridge disappearing down the plughole, the adrenaline can’t help to kick into over drive.
Of course, technically what I’m talking about is the same fish, I haven’t totally lost my marbles. But when Old Single Scale or the Big Leney goes from bottom grubber to surface feeding specimen, the fish is elevated in status. For me, the carp then becomes a true sport fish.
I do still own a bedchair, bivvy, alarms and assorted paraphernalia that goes with modern carping and there’s a time and a place for it, but on my latest trip I left all that behind and went armed with one rod, one reel, a small box of tackle and a net.
Slaloming through the bivvies and rod pods on the popular Bluebell Lakes complex, in Northamptonshire, made me realise how free and uninhibited I was. My tackle was so light I could find the fish rather than waiting for them to come to me. It’s fishing on my terms. When sessions are short due to work or family commitments, it’s impossible to wait, wait, and wait some more hoping the bobbin will twitch. You have to make it happen. And that’s my philosophy.
I wandered the busy banksides for half an hour before eventually settling on Sandmartin lake. There wasn’t a huge choice of swims due to the popularity of Tony Bridgefoot’s complex but I felt confident of getting a few fish going on the floaters.
After 15 minutes of trickling in biscuits on a little and often basis the fish started to show an interest despite the annoyance of the swooping black headed gulls. The birds! The bloody birds. They suddenly arrive and it’s carnage. You’re never just trying to outwit the carp. You’ve got to combat the hundreds of lines in the water and the wildlife that love a free meal.
First cast was a good ‘un. It had only been in the water 60 seconds when up came the snout of a chestnut mirror and my strike was met with an explosion of water. Fish on!
The tackle was balanced. My Wild 1.25tc Chub Classic, a Wild 5000 Freespin, and 8lb mainline to low diameter hooklink and a size 12 hook could take on any carp that resided in any of the pools. Unless you’re casting extremely long distances and using very large leads, most tackle carpers employ is hugely over-gunned. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Some of those outfits are beautifully engineered and brilliantly designed but you could catch tarpon on them… never mind a 30lb carp.
The team is just editing a film about the carp session so I won’t reveal all the detail right now, but it was a great few hours on the bank illustrating just how sporting the Bluebell gravel pits are. The carp don’t give themselves up easily, but with a little thought, determination and watercraft it’s possible to get a multiple haul in a very short space of time.
In addition to the quality of the fish, the one fact that did stand out was the apparent reluctance to fish on the surface. No-one was doing it. I find this very puzzling.
I appreciate that when you’ve invested over a thousand pounds in three state of the art rods and big pit reels you want to see them on the pod and fishing for you. But equally, why look ‘the part’ but fish ineffectively?
Everywhere I wandered I saw big fish on the surface and every carp was a potential target. There were fish-catching opportunities all over the place. But to be successful, it demanded effort and an appreciation of light line balanced fishing.
Maybe one of the issues fueling the reluctance to adapt tactics is that carp is now the first species people target – so much of the basic study of fishing has disappeared.
Shotting a waggler, rigging up a stick float, understanding the mechanics of tackle and learning how all fish feed perhaps isn’t necessarily second nature.
Or perhaps I’m looking too deeply for the answer.
A lot of people work hard to earn the right for a couple of nights under canvas with their friends. Sharing a beer and conversation is as much a reward as landing a big fish.
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your sport, it’s purely individual, but for those who are focused on catching more fish, it could be time for a big tactical rethink.
Doing the same as everyone else and perfecting the rigs that all other fisherman use, isn’t going to give you the results you seek. It’s time you started to cut through the hype and see carp for what they really are – magnificent sport fish that can easily be captured by thinking anglers who stay mobile.