Simon Clarke with a thirty taken on an Avon

Apologies for the delay in this latest episode, but as we all know April 2021 has seen more frosts than any other April on record, so you probably weren’t chomping on the bit to get out there!

I run a syndicate on the famous Kingfisher Lake in mid-Norfolk, a water that once produced the East of England’s record carp. Let me say at once I really like the guys (and girls) in the club, many of whom I have known for two decades. I also have the highest regard for their abilities… these truly are thinking anglers of the highest order. There is a “but” coming, as you have guessed. I never cease to be amazed by the gear they use. 3lb and 4lb test curve rods. Giant big pit reels. Battles are grunting affairs, and even in the hands of the most sensitive of carpers, rods like these show little grace. I, and the people I take carp fishing, catch great fish… including plenty of 40s… on gear you can enjoy, on rods that let you feel the fish. I like to think also, that vitally we do the fish absolutely no harm. On slightly lighter gear, fights are not greatly protracted, and because we don’t bully fish, mouths can never be damaged.

Alan Blair in action

We pick up very good fish indeed on the more powerful Avon-type rods. This is largely because we rarely fish at more than 60/70 yards, so extreme range and power are not needed. Most of the fish we pick up are observed fish, and this is where the strength and enjoyment of this style of carping lies. Quite a few of our carp come on vintage or retro rods as well. My two cane Mark IVs are quite up to the job, and I make no excuses for mentioning our parent company Thomas Turner here. I see TT is offering some Chapman 500/550 carp rods for sale in pretty good nick. Finding these took me back to the Sixties, when I had a pair of 500s and worshipped them. They were perfect for fish to 20 plus then, with the closer-in methods we used, just as they would be today. If you haven’t played a twenty on cane, then you are missing out. There is an immediacy to the fight you just do not get on the more brutal carp rods of this century. I fish with the great Alan Blair, and I know Nash make tools that are enjoyable to use, but I’d still hand-on-heart recommend a clash with cane! 

While I am at it, I’d love to see a modern carp range that offers more in the way of user-friendly than user-efficiency. Way back in the day, when Hardy were making the Marksman range, we were discussing just such a rod when the Americans bought in, and coarse was scrapped in an instant. I feel the gap is still open, but disabuse me you carpers, please?

Simon Ratcliffe with a super fish caught close in

In the same vein, plenty of guys around me like to fish the margins with ‘pins. I can only repeat that this is not Crabtree nonsense. A ‘pin gives ultimate feel, and you really can go lighter on line strengths when you are playing a fish through your fingers than through the medium of gears. You can go new if you are investing, or again TT have some great versions of older models that have years of service in them. 

Of course, use powerful modern rods and big reels if you wish, but when we get to Part 5 of this short series you’ll see that the methods we use and enjoy are often those that do not demand the heavy approach. “Enjoy” is the key word in all this. We love our carp, and we like the way we fish for them in an active hunter-type fashion. I co-wrote one of the more important carp books of the Eighties (Carp, Quest For The Queen) so I would never disrespect the “professional“ approach to carp, but I am suggesting there is another way for the Casual Carper who has limited access. 

Perhaps the ultimate shot of a thirty and a forty,
both taken in ten minutes of each other just off the rod tip!

I’m accompanying this piece with some meaty pictures NOT to brag, I assure you, but simply as proof that my friends catch super fish, fishing for them most frequently Nine ‘Till Five. Next time we’ll look at float approaches that work very well for us. And hope these unseasonal frosts get lost for good!