Without doubt autumn is my favourite time to be out on the bank targeting carp. I’m happy with a big fish at any time of the year, but catching them in their prime condition and autumn colours is something special and very hard to beat. and I’ve seen some stunners on the bank too, it is those moments and memories that make me want to be out with my rods so much in the next few weeks before we head into winter ‘proper’.
You always need to adjust to the conditions and be versatile in carp angling to gain consistent results. But I have found in autumn a simple approach with boilies, particularly food baits, will stand out over any other tactic. Carp always feed hard in the autumn to build up their fat and muscle reserves as the water temperature starts to cool down. Like most animals in the wild it is a natural urge to make sure their body is fuelled well before the harsh winter conditions come along. So it makes sense to use a high quality boilie at this time of the year because it is simply what they want. Bright single pop-ups, particles or small PVA sticks etc are not my preferred autumn tactics. Give me a throwing stick and a kilo or two of boilies and I’m in my element in the next couple of months.
If you can pre-bait I would also recommend this highly. You don’t need to put in silly amounts like some of the ‘top’ anglers recommend. Little and often is best in my experience, just half a kilo every other day on most venues can be all that is needed to get the carp really confident on your bait and area. Plus by not filling the lake in you are not wrecking it for other anglers, which is so important and is very good etiquette.
Ten or more years ago I got on Nash Bait Scopex Squid boilies and they honestly worked everywhere I took them and certainly came out best in the autumn months. I was a full time carp angling photojournalist back then, so I was fishing different waters every week. Some were prolific and others were lower-stocked big fish venues. I remember going to a popular day-ticket fishery in deepest Kent on a magazine feature and being lucky to catch the biggest carp in the lake within a few hours of introducing a couple of hundred Scopex Squid 15mm boilies. I backed that fish up with another six carp and was told by the bailiff the following day that everyone else was using the going bait from another big bait manufacture. It proves that sometimes the carp just want something different, but they also recognise quality when it comes on a plate for them.
I now rely more on the Monster Squid, it has the same effect because carp recognise it as a quality food source and that is why these baits come into their own during autumn. On my own fishery it is clear that quality boilies from a handful of bait manufacturers stand out this time of year, Nash baits are one of these, but there are other companies that produce baits which are a decent food source. High attract baits definitely have a place in carp fishing, and in my own angling, but they are not most effective now.
Maybe one bright pop-up on the hook fished over quality bait or a snowman hook bait tipped with a bright pop up will tempt a bite, from its visual impact. Fishing Monster Squid mixtures utilising the red, black and purple colour options is another tactic that’s working well right now. In each case it is the quality of the bait which gets the carp feeding confidently.
I can remember the big old carp of St Ives Lagoon, The Fat Lady, getting caught four or five autumns on the trot on Scopex Squid. I think that statistic says a lot about what I am trying to get across. It was such a mega fish and one that I would have loved so much to have caught.
A simple approach
In the last month or so, I’ve had some really good ‘old school’ anglers visit my Mustang Lake and they have proven how keeping things basic, particularly on pressured waters, can often be the best tactic. Three bait stringers for instance are so simple compared to making up stick and bag mixes, but they can be a devastating edge when boilie fishing. I would say that only one in twenty anglers use a stringer these days, so it is different as well.
Running leads and mono hooklinks is another combination that has stood out on my fishery in the last month. I think the longer the season goes on the more finicky these day-ticket fish become, simply because they have all been banked a few times and their sense of caution is more finely tuned. So a basic rig that is different to 95% of the other anglers, benefits most at this time of the year.
I have a few lakes to target this autumn, so I will be spending my time between them and putting some effort in on each when I think the conditions are favourable. One lake is deep and the other is shallow so I will be targeting each one when I think it will be best. Shallow lakes can switch on and off very quickly as the water temperature starts to fall, where deep lakes are less affected. So if we get a proper cold snap it makes sense to get on the deep pit, so the carp in the shallower water can acclimatise to the cooler conditions.
You can still find carp all over the lake in autumn, but as things cool down further they will start to settle more in certain areas. Deep margins are worth a look as they still get ignored by many, but on most lakes the open water areas start to become very productive.
On gravel pits I love to find the smooth silt gullies between the bars or on the side of a hump. These spots have always been good to me in autumn. I think carp like to feed up on the remaining bloodworm beds in the silt, plus I also believe the ‘harder’ spots on most venues these days are heavily pressured throughout the summer months.
It is so important to still stay mobile in the autumn. I know it can be cold and the nights are longer, but carp can still be nomadic and I will still walk the banks looking for signs the same as I do in spring and summer. It is not usually until the depths of winter that carp start to hold up in certain zones on most lakes.
Wherever you plan to fish this autumn, remember to get as much time in as you can and stick to a top quality boilie. Winter always comes along quicker than you think and if it’s as long as last years you need to make the most of the next couple of months. Good luck!