Carp Fishing – Short Trips, Quiet Days
Rich Wilby adapts his approach to make the most of short session carp fishing: travelling light, moving regularly and fishing the margins can all make a difference.
I’m not really sure how it has happened but in the last season I have ended up becoming a daytime angler for 90% of my fishing and I’ve found it seems to suit my style of angling very well. When I say ‘style’ I really mean impatience, as I think not being able to sit still for very long helps me locate fish regularly and keep on them. Plus I now get to go fishing during the middle of week, which is something I always dreamt of doing when I was packing up at seven in the morning to go back to work after a fruitless overnighter.
My own day-ticket water, Mustang Lake, is five acres in size, round in shape with an island and a few bays. To be honest, the carp spend most of the day swimming around the middle area, which suits it on a busy weekend, when you can’t be as mobile, as they will keep coming past you. On some weekends, when the conditions are good, it can be the angler who puts the most bait in who catches the most fish simply because he is holding them in his swim for longer. But in the middle of the week when just one or two anglers are on the lake the carp will start to hold up in one or two areas and unless you get on them it can be harder than a weekend session when there are ten anglers on the place.
What I’ve also noticed is that if they’re holding up in one spot and you get a couple of bites they will soon drift back out into the main water, or maybe move into another bay. This is when a good angler will up sticks and move, but I do get several anglers who get a quick bite or two and on the strength of that then spend the rest of the day, and even the following night, in the same swim blanking. Midweek angling is about being mobile in my opinion and experience; it doesn’t matter if the lake if five acres or 55 acres, with less anglers about the fish will start to settle in certain spots.
Swim number 5 on my day-ticket lake is what I would call an ‘average’ swim, it does fish regularly, but doesn’t do as many fish as a few of the other swims. However, when no one is in the swim I usually see numbers of fish stacked in front of it. They love the area whatever the conditions are but as soon as someone sets up in there for a session they don’t hold in front of the swim for long.
There are swims like this on most waters, I know a few guys that run or bailiff lakes who say the same thing, so for day trip sessions these are the sort of spots I will try to take advantage of. Sometimes you only need one rod gently lowered into the swim to get a quick bite. My mate, Gav, caught the fish (a mid-thirty) I hope to catch this season, from a club lake the other day by simply flicking his bait just a couple of feet out from a swim where I know they love to sit when the lake is quiet midweek. It was a great, simple piece of angling and that fish is one that rarely comes out.
There is also no doubt that when a venue goes quiet during the week the carp will come closer into the margins. Once again this is great for a mobile day angler to take advantage of and yet I still see anglers turn up on a quiet day, cast out in the middle and ignore 300 – 400 yards of reed lined margins!
I can remember when I fished several years ago at Kingfisher Lake near Peterborough just how easy the fish were to catch in the edge compared to out in the middle. They were some of the hardest, pressured carp I have ever fished for but when I found them in the edge on quiet midweek days they were always up for a bit of bait. I remember watching them feed on my broken Scopex Squid boilies with so much confidence and thinking to myself ‘why am I struggling when fishing the open water?’ I think I had four fish in four afternoon trips from Kingfisher in a couple of weeks, yet only managed four fish in about 25 overnight sessions when fishing for them in open water. And some of those nights I had so many fish showing over my area it were hard to believe I wasn’t getting takes. I know that I wasn’t the only angler on that lake who thought the same.
I have just got back inside the house from walking around my lake and an angler has just told me how he witnessed two carp feeding inches away from the front of his swim on the bait which had fallen out from his catapult as he baited up the previous night. It just confirms to me how carp, especially on day-ticket lakes, learn to creep in close and mop up any bait that has been dropped in the edge. They very rarely get fished for that close in and seem to be very confident at feeding yards from the bank when they are not disturbed. I’ve lost count of how many fish I’ve caught quickly just by staying quiet and dropping a few ‘chops’ into the edge before lowering in a simple rig. It has worked for me on both hard and easy waters, but you need a nice quiet day to stand the best chance.
On day sessions at this time of the year it is also clear to me just how active the carp can be. On some days I will find the same fish at different ends of the lake every time I do a lap. On one of the lakes I’m fishing at the moment I have found my target fish at both ends of the venue on four different occasions in the same day. That lake is nine acres in size, so I know to catch that fish I need to stay one step ahead of it and try to predict the circuit and route it travels most days. Carp location can be unpredictable at times but they are creatures of habit and I know that the more time you spend at any water the easier they are to keep on top of - and catch.
Last year I fished an old lake a few times during the day and there was one snag tree which never had fish under it until late in the afternoon. It was on the north bank so it wasn’t until later in the day when the full sun hit the area. The carp only seemed to like it once the sun was warming up the gravel below its branches. I even lit the area up late one night with a powerful torch to see if the fish were using it at night, but it was devoid of fish when I looked. But by learning this I was confident to position a rod under the tree around lunch time, before the fish would start to drift in. It paid off for me a few times, as when they were already in the area it was hard to get bait in without spooking them.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt over the years is to be at the water before, or at, first light. I’m not great at getting out of bed in the morning, but when I know I’ve got a day fishing ahead of me it makes the alarm clock a little bit more bearable at 5am!
I went out fishing yesterday and was at the lake by 6am; there were no other anglers on the place and by 7am I had a fish on the bank and by 8am I had another 20lb mirror on the bank. I had simply turned up and found fish straight away, bubbling up and rolling. The weather was slightly unsettled and after 9am I did not seen any other signs of fish activity, so if I had stayed in bed I would have struggled to locate and catch fish, at least on that particular day.
I’ve also scaled my gear down this year to suit day session angling. My standard carryall has been compacted down to a new mini carryall and I keep spare leads and bait in the motor instead of dragging it all around the lake with me. Being able to up-sticks and move quickly is a massive edge when the lake is quiet. I also try to keep my eyes on the water for as much as the time as possible and if can’t see a part of the lake I will try to keep my ears open to hear any fish crashing.