[icopyright horizontal toolbar]With the tricky wintery days posing plenty of problems maintaining and maximising your carp catches on smaller waters requires some thought. Will Raison takes us to Sumner's Ponds to show how he protects his peg to minimise disturbance and maximise the catch.
© 2012 Brian Gay www.v2vangling.co.uk
THE way you tackle your peg on a typical smaller carp dominated water can have a dramatic impact on the reaction of the fish already in your peg and those in other angler's pegs at the start of a match. If that statement applies to you then it also applies to everyone else in the match so it pays to think about how you will start your match in relation to the others. This is particularly so at this time of year when the water is still relatively cold and clear and the fish, particularly carp, can easily be spooked by disturbance.
With so many contest venues holding carp of a good average size tempting just a handful of these fish can the difference between success and failure in the colder months so tactics that allow you you achieve this are vital.
I've brought the cameras along to Sumner's Ponds in West Sussex and specifically the match lake to run you through how I would tactically approach a match here at this time of year. Today could well be a typically challenging winter event as half the lake was frozen over when I arrived at 7.30 am and now the sun is out and there is a bright clear sky. That said there is a tinge of colour in the water of the sort often found in heavily stocked commercials. The Match Lake at summers is typical of many smaller match lakes and is very well stocked with carp, mirrors in the 6-8 lb range with she doubles too. There also a big head of roach and skimmers too but if you are tackling a water like this in anything other than a silverfish event you will need carp to win so how do you go about getting them? Well this is how I would do it. We all know that at this time of year that legering is a great way to catch a few carp, either with a neat bomb rig, a PVA bag, pellet cone or feeder and it has become the norm for everyone to start on the tip in the colder months. Now that may be ok on the bigger open water venues but on the smaller more intimate pools I believe that everyone chucking in leads or feeders towards the middle of the lake will spook the fish. Carp are not stupid they know the venue better than we do and they will quickly suss that somethings not right when all of a sudden the middle of the lake is bombarded with rigs. Now I fire that with all this disturbance theres a good chance the carp that were sitting out in the middle will seek out calmer areas of the lake, I dont think they will come right in at short range but I am sure they will be within reach of a long pole and if everyone else if fishing the tip and I am not I reckon that some will move onto what would be my tip swim.
So what I've been doing with some success is leaving my tip swim completely alone at the start of the match and instead starting on the long pole. I may not catch on the pole but the important thing is by doing so I will be protecting my longer range tip swim creating that calmer area for the carp out in the middle of the lake to move into. So while the others are fishing the tip they are quite probably spooking fish out of their swims and into mine. What often happens is a lot of anglers will give up fishing the tip after say an hour without a fish and move onto their pole lines while I go the other way and find carp waiting on my tip line often getting a quick response. This is all about thinking tactically and using situations to your advantage. Now today while there are a few anglers dotted around the lake it's not the same pressure as in a match but I'm still going to fish it the same way.
For the pole rigs I've gone for two options one in case it turns into a carp bonanza, unlikely after the overnight freeze-up, the other if it's harder. The bonanza rig features 0.18 mm line direct from pole to the size to the size 16 Gama Power Barbless hook. The float is a new Team Daiwa Series 6 4x16 pattern which has a fairly bulbous body and a nice thick top that I can read easily. I will be fishing the rigs today set at dead depth and the thick tip will support the corn hook bait and resist liners while allowing me to have a reasonable length of bristle showing above the water. The shotting pattern is a staggered bulk of number 8 shot with the last shot about 20 cm from the hook. This rig is fished with a short line, 8 inches from the elastic to the float, this means I can be very quick in reacting to bites. The elastic is Daiwa's white Hydrolastic fished in conjunction with an Interlastic puller kit. White Hydro is a good choice for the line and hook on this rig but is soft enough to avoid hook pulls. kinder egg style cup. The top kit is fitted with a small 'Kinder Egg' style pole cup, this is because this rig will be used if the fish are having a real good go and the bites are coming soon after shipping out. In those circumstances feeding small amounts each cast is more efficient than using a separate cupping kit.
The other rig is lighter and is the starting rig, its the rig that is ideal for feeling your way into a session or when the bites are fewer and far between. Like the first rig it is made up on 0.18 mm diameter line but features a hook length of 0.14 mm diameter. The hook is also lighter being a Gama Pellet barbless size 16. The float is a slimmer pattern than the bonanza rig, it is a Team Daiwa Series 3 4x16 and also has a slimmer bristle, that said it is still thick enough to support the corn hook bait. Once again the rig is shotted up using the staggered bulk this lighter rig featuring number 9 shots. Another difference is the fact that there is a longer line from the float to elastic - about 12 inches, this extra length allows me to relax a little while waiting longer periods for a bite. Bear in mind that I will be fishing a full 16 metres of pole and the short line is okay when you do not have to wait long for the next bite but on harder days the extra length actually allows you to maintain perfect presentation for longer because you won't be fatigued into dragging the rig about which can occur with a very short line and long pole. The elastic used with this rig is the Daiwa Hydrolastic in blue, softer than the white and although not everybody's choice for carp it does allow you to land theem in the colder months when the fish are sluggish and is a good choice for lighter rigs.
There is no small pole cup attached to this kit because instead I will be feeding with a dedicated cupping kit when using this rig. Why? Well if I am waiting longer for bites there is not need to have the small cup permanently attached to the top kit. Also I will be feeding less frequently- I will feed a line then wait for a bite. As always make sure your cupping kit is the same length as the fishing kits.
As well as the pole kits I have a straight-lead set-up that I can either fish with a single hook bait or with a pellet cone. This is standard carp legering kit for me, 10 lb St Mono reel line, a Team Daiwa 4000 reel, an Airity 10 ft. bomb rod, a 1 oz flattened bomb sliding on the reel line, a clip swivel to attach the 0.20 mm diameter hook length and a a size 12 Gama Specialist Wide Gape Barbless eyed hook tied with a knotless knot and a pellet band to attach an 8 mm hard pellet hook bait. The way I attach the pellet band is to tie it into a small loop at the end of the hair which allows the bait some free movement.
Some people question the need for a big lead on lakes of this size but in these hard winter conditions I donut want to cast too short or wide of the mark, I want to hit my chosen spot first time every time. Remember that if you have to recast it's extra disturbance and more likely to spook fish.
BAIT & FEEDING
On the pole I am going to feed two areas both at 16 metres but using a clock face as an analogy one swim will be at 10 o'clock the other at 2 o'clock, this gives me the ability to fish one line while the other rests. If I catch a fish off one line then I will top it up and fish the other line. Catch a fish off the second line and I will top that up and then go back and fish the first…and so on. Each top up will, just like the initial feeding be minimal amounts of bait just a few pieces of corn and a few pellets. Initially i will look to spend a good hour on the pole (in a match while others are disturbing the middle with bombs and feeders) but only feed in response to bites received and fish caught. On these days when bites might be hard to craft the last thing I want to do is introduce volume of bait as the carp will associate that with danger and back away. If and when I switch to the leger swim I will still keep the pole swim topped up during the match because a well primed pole line can produce a few match winning carp later in the match. Yesterday's match in here was won with 50-odd pounds of carp, just a handful of fish so that gives me an idea of what i am feeding for.
Corn is a favourite winter bait of mine, it is big, bright and visual which are good attributes in winter when bites are hard to tempt. Also it is a very good chose on waters where you want to sit and wait for a carp, but the presence of skimmers, crucians and roach would decimate a soft pellet hook bait. the way I hook the corn is simply to pass the hook point through the top of the grain and out through the side, most of the hook is inside the corn with the point exposed. When selecting a piece for hook bait always look for a nice well formed larger piece.
The pellets I have with me are dampened off 4 mm coarse pellets which are ideal to feed in modest quantities to provide some smell attraction and are also perfect for using on the straight leger set-up in a pellet cone formation. The pellets are dampened by adding some lake water for a few moments then draining off and while doing this today I soon realised that the lake water is so cold it is virtually liquid ice.
I also have some 8 mm hard pellets with me for hook bait on the pellet cone rig. These will be attached to the hair using a standard pellet band.
So it is simply a case of feeding the pole lines each the same with just a few pellets and pieces of corn each, take your time and get it dead right accurately depositing the bait on the areas you plumbed up. To achieve this it is vital that you have identified fixed markers on the far bank, you know the distance you are feeding will accurate by the length of pole in use so the far bank markers will ensure straight line accuracy. This is never more important than in situations like today where you are feeding modest amounts for potentially very few bites from big fish. I have used a fixed platform one of the swims opposite me as one marker and a tall tree for the other. This means that when I ship out to feed or when i go in with a rig I know I am right on the money each and every time, even if I have rested the line for a while.
Having fed the pole lines I bait up the lighter pole rig with a single piece of corn and ship out starting on the left hand "10 o'clock" swim. Now I might get an early bite I might not. In fact the pole line might end up failing to produce especially in these cold conditions, but equally I might be able to tempt a handful of decent carp from it during the next five hours. Either way the main thing is that for this first hour while fishing the pole I am resting that leger swim safe in the knowledge that the other anglers fishing their leger swims will probably be spooking fish. In a way fishing the pole early gives me the best of both in that it allows that all important settling on the leger line plus i might even catch a few fish on the pole!
The drill is to go in on one line on the pole and give it up to twenty minutes or a bite and then switch to the other pole line, do the same and then switch back to the first, only feeding top-ups if I get bites or fish. This alternating of the swims is vital to maintaining a catch rate on tricky days. Unlike the bream feature I did at Furnace Lake a few issues ago where one pole line was fed positively the other negative, when fish for carp in winter both lines are fed negatively. These fish donut need to eat much at this time of year but there is a chance that if they see bait they will eat it not out of necessity but of opportunity so it is important to increase the chance that the bait they see is your hook bait sand not a multitude of free offerings.
TIME FOR A CHANGE?
So I've spent a good hour on the pole without a bite or any kind of indication so I am thinking that it is time to try the leger swim as it has had time to settle and there could be a few fish moved into the calmer water out there. A few pointers about legering at this time of year, although there is an island to my left won't be fishing into the shallowest water tight to the island, instead I will come a few metres away from the island into about 4 ft. of water. At this time of year the deeper water is a better bet than the shallowest waters. That said if the day warms up the later on a few casts into the shallower water might be productive.
If I don't make any bites in the area I am targeting then I will be prepared to cast a round the peg a bit to explore the different areas on that longer range because cold water carp will often hardly move and it is a case of dropping close to them. You'll know if you have carp in the swim as they are big individual fish and will give you signs in the form of liners, small pluck, digs etc. If you get liners then stick with that area as the chances are you will gets proper bite sooner or later.
Just as as i was going to bring the pole rig in and change to the leger rig the float shot under and I hit into a carp. It has been a full hour and ten minutes since I fed the pole line and this just goes to show how little bait can be used to attract a bite from a fish. It feels like a good sized carp although as expected in the cold water it is more of a dead weight that a hard charger. That fish might have been looking at that bait for a while before deciding to take it and that's why it is important to have some feed but not loads because it may only have been inclined to pick up one or two offerings. I will not rush to land the fish but take my time. I'm only on 0.14 mm diameter hook length and it could be a double figure fish so even though it is not steaming around the lake I'm not going to boss it around. That's where the blue Hydrolastic is an asset as it is soft and allows the fish the ability to move around without without fear of a hook pull. The absolute key factor with your gear at this time of year is that it allows you to land every fish you hook, a soft elastic helps and taking your time is equally important. Keeping the pole nice and low is another factor that helps with this gentle, cushioning, coaxing style of bringing the fish in. The puller kit is vital with light elastics and big fish because it just allows me to recover enough of the soft elastic to coax the fish in close and into the landing net.
I didn't rush the fish basically letting it go where it wanted to go until I could break down t the top kit and use the Interlastic system to bring the fish to the net and in all the battle was about ten minutes. The fish is cleanly hooked in the mouth and turns out to be a fantastic low double-figure mirror a fantastic fish to open the account with, as I unhook the fish it felt like I was handling a 10 lb-plus block of ice!
More importantly is proves how being patient with feeding and enduring the lack of action can lead to a decent fish.
STAY ON THE POLE
Now the reason for the long wait could well be because carp ave moved onto my legering swim further out and now one or two have ventured in to my long pole swim, perhaps scenting the pellet feed. So I will postpone my plans to switch to the leger set-up and remain on the pole. My next move will be to top up the swim with a few bits corn and a few pellets and drop back in again and see if there is another fish there.
After fifteen minutes on that same line that produced the fish, despite having small indication no more bites developed so so I topped it up again and went onto the other so far unproductive pole line and almost immediately had a bite and hooked my second carp. Once again I take my time playing the fish to ensure I land it and it proves to be another nice mirror carp not quite as big as the first but probably 8 lb-plus. So two fish for about 20 lb - the light feeding approach has paid off so far.
Now even if I do not get another bite on the in the next half an hour and I decide to try the leger I will not neglect the pole swims, I will still top them up with modest amounts of feed from time time because it is important the have a few options on a hard day so you can nick the odd fish. When we are talking about fish of this size the odd fish soon build up into a potentially match winning weight.
I'm feeling really good right now, the pole has produced two fish for 20 lb and I am convinced that of I have to try the tip I will catch a few on that too, so things are shaping up nicely. It's really probing the point about protecting your peg by leaving some areas alone and feeding minimally on others. I'm basically respecting the fact that the carp will not react well to a lot of bait or too many leger rigs bombarding the lake.
So I've had one fish off of each pole line so what I am going to do now is to top up the left hand swim, the "10 o'clock" one and fish the right hand one. I'm sure that if I had started on a method feeder or straight ledger rig the carp would not have settled in front of us. What I think has happened is that most carp have settled further out on what will be the leger line and the odd one is coming in to the pole swims. This is an excellent situation because I am catching odd fish without putting any pressure on any part of my swim.
Things are really starting to happen on the pole now and by alternating each line and not rushing I'm building a fantastic bag of fish and must have 6 or 7 now and all in the 6-12 lb bracket. I'm maintaining the relaxed steady approach to feeding and alternating the swims and I'm just working for the next fish each time. I've not gone onto the heavy rig for a couple of reasons: firstly I feel that the thinner 0.14 mm diameter line and lighter rig is helping me to fool the fish into giving me a bite soon after a fish arrives in the swim whereas the heavier rig could lead to a longer wait for the next bite; second, in the cold water the fish are not fighting so hard that I am risking losing them with the lighter rig.
So I have settled into a really nice rhythm, catch a fish on one pole line, feed it with minimal quantities of bait and then fish the other line, catch a fish there, feed that line and go back to the other and so the pattern goes on. One thing that can happen is that other anglers might be tempted to switch to the pole when they see you catching but they are often tempted to overfeed in their attempts to play catch-up.
Once you have the fish responding to this negative way of feeding you really must avoid the temptation to start to feed more which is another mistake I see anglers doing. They think because they are getting a few and catching well they are on a big shoal and increase the feed but in reality we are catching because we are feeding light enough to tempt the few fish that are inclined to feed to pick up our bait. Another mistake that anglers make on a regular basis once they start catching is to pull harder in an attempt to land the fish quicker. This might be okay in the summer months when everyone is catching and it can become a race but right now it is a mistake all you will do is significantly increase your chances of losing a hooked fish and trust me a swim can die just as easily as it came to life. So my advice is to just keep the laid back minimal feeding and unhurried playing of fish continuing because if you can keep the fish coming you will end up with a great weight. The quality of these individual fish show just why this way of tackling these smaller waters is so effective at this time of year.
Another thing I have discounted is switching to feeding via the 'Kinder-Egg' style pot because I feel that doing so could cause me to rush the feeding when we have proved that the steadier cupping kit approach is working so well so that is what i will stick with. Although I am getting bites I still have to wait for the next fish to find the bait and so I am not concerned about the extra time that shipping out and back with a cupping kit takes up.
With the sort of gear I am using it is hard to lose fish that are properly hooked in the mouth as long as you are patient and methodical.
After a decent hour or so of catching the carp by alternating the pole swims the wind has increased a little, and it is coming from right to left. Now this is a problem because I am fishing long, at 16-metres even a light wind can affect presentation of the rig and if that happens you are wasting your time because less than perfect presentation will not attract bites. If you start to struggle to maintain presentation then you have to think about a change. This is an example of how you have to be alert and prepared to change. Yes I have caught well on the pole, yes it seems that the fish have been feeding well on that line but i've noticed that the bites on the right hand swim have completely dried up and I'm waiting longer on the left. I donut believe that is because the fish have gone but more likely that i am not getting the same presentation I was achieving earlier so I am going to change to the leger rig. The beauty of the leger rig is that I can tight up to it and know that it is presenting the bait in the way that I intend despite the wind so although the pole has been good up to now, the leger will offer me the best chance while the wind is making pole presentation less than perfect. Sometimes you are forced into making changes in a match that you don't want to but have to to maximise your chances of maintaining a catchy rate. It is better to fish a method that is presenting the bait correctly than persevere with one that isn't.
One other thing of note is that the pole lines were also at their most productive while the sky had clouded over a little, now as well as the wind the sun is back out and shining brightly, it is changes in conditions like this that I like to be alert to.
I'm going to fish with a small pellet cone on the straight leger because I know it has been working at this venue and the fish have responded to smaller a,punts of bait today. I talked about the pellet cone set-up in last months issue and that is how I am fishing it today. I've cast into the swim about 3-4 metres to the right of the end of the island and into about 4 ft, of water. i've tightened down so there is a healthy ned in the quiver tip and i soon spot a liner after about 3-4 minutes so that is a good sign.
After a few more liners and little indications the tip indicates a positive pull round and it's fish on with the straight leger rig. Ironically now the wind has died down again but I'll stick on the straight leger to see the session out as there isn't long left and I am getting plenty of indications on the tip. The first fish on the leger is similar to those caught on the pole and a good addition to the bag of fish.
As the session draws to a conclusion the straight leger is getting better with more indications, another carp and a skimmer. In total I've ended up with 18 fish for over 100 lb an amazing bag in the conditions. Most of the fish came to the pole tactics and showed how balanced tackle and a light feeding approach really can bring rich rewards. It also showed just how by not pressurising the fish you can keep them coming in the colder water. Although both pole lines have been good today I want to emphasise that you should never neglect them as on a very hard day you might just get the one or two bites from bigger fish that you need, on a line that hasn't otherwise produced.
So think about your approach, what everyone else is doing, and try and treat you peg in way that maximises your chances this month. WR
This article was originally published in Will Raison's A World Champion's Angle e-Magazine No 38 March 2012. For the fully illustrated feature, supporting features and eight video clips Issue 38 is available for download here.
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