How to Fish for Carp Chapter 2
In Chapter 1 of 'How to Fish for Carp', I covered the basic Carp fishing tackle you would need to get started in this amazing sport, as well as optional (but great to have) Carp fishing gear that you might like to consider also. In addition to this information I covered Carp fishing baits, and aimed at a list that were fairly simple for a beginner to obtain, use and understand.
In this chapter I intend to cover the planning of your first day fishing, and what preparations you might want to make the night before your Carp fishing trip in order to minimize stress on the morning of the day itself. I shall also cover your arrival at the lake, setting up your Carp rods, baiting your hooks, casting out etc.
My Business Partner Andy's and My Fishing Lake
The Night before your Carp Fishing Trip.
There are a number of preparations you will want to make in advance of your Carp fishing trip, as this will save you time and stress on the morning of the trip itself, and as you will no doubt already be planning on getting up very early in order to get a full day's Carp fishing in, I highly recommend you get as much done as possible the night before your trip.
1) If you intend to take your own cooked Hemp, then boil the dried hemp for 45 minutes (or until the kernels split revealing the white part) the night before. Drain the liquid off, allow to cool, and then bag it up ready for the following day.
2) Check out the weather forecast for the next day, and decide what clothing you need to take. Organise this into one place so the basics are ready to put on first thing in the morning, and the rest of it is with your tackle ready for the day's Carp fishing.
3) Check that you have spare batteries for any gear that requires batteries to function, e.g. bite alarms, head torches etc.
4) Check you have full gas cylinders for any gas stoves or gas lanterns you are taking with you fishing.
5) Purchase your live bait such as maggots and worms the night before your trip and store them in your fridge secured in bait boxes (with air holes). If your Wife (or Husband) is not keen on having maggots in their fridge, you might want to get hold of an old second hand fridge and keep it in a garage or outhouse solely for this purpose.
6) Make your sandwiches in advance and keep them in your fridge ready for the morning.
7) Write yourself a list of things you must remember to take at the last minute, such as the sandwiches, a thermos of tea or coffee, a few cans of beer, live bait, fully charged mobile phone etc.
8) By now you will have already sorted all your smaller tackle such as hooks, swivels, forceps etc into your tackle box, so this, and the rest of the main fishing gear need to be amalgamated into one area ready to load into your vehicle before you head off fishing. The list of things in this area will be something like this:
a) Tackle box. (containing all non-livebaits, such as boilies, the cooked hemp, canned sweetcorn, luncheon meat etc, as well as items such as drop arm indicators, bite alarms, catapults, a fishing knife, weights, shot, weighing scales etc).
b) Rod Holdall, (also containing your rodpod, landing net handle, umbrella, your rods, latter with reels already attached if possible).
c) Tackle bag containing sundries such as the gas stove, gas lamp, gas cylinders, toilet roll, spare batteries, camera etc.
d) Spare clothing.
e) Fishing boots.
f) Landing net head, (the handle will probably be stored in your rod holdall).
g) Keepnet, (if they are permitted).
h) Unhooking mat.
i) Fishing stool (if not using tackle box to sit on).
The Morning of your Carp Fishing Trip.
Get up really early, and I do mean really early. Carp feed mostly in the cooler times of day such as early mornings and after dark, so to make it a successful trip you should consider aiming to be at the fishing lake by about 06.00 am if at all possible. This means depending on how far away from the fishing venue you are located, you need to not only allow for travelling time, but also for the things you need to do before you leave home. Once you are up, awake and dressed, the important matters commence:
1) Load up your vehicle with all the main tackle you amalgamated into one area the night before.
2) Fill your thermos flask with hot tea or coffee.
3) Retrieve your sandwiches from the fridge.
4) If using a cool box or cool bag, place any foodstuffs such as the sandwiches, milk, bacon eggs etc into it, (along with any cold beers).
5) Load cool box and thermos flask into your vehicle.
6) Retrieve maggots and worms from fridge and put them in your tackle bag in the vehicle.
7) Make sure you have your mobile phone and that it has plenty of battery life in case of emergencies.
8) Tell your partner where you are going, in case of accidents.
My Business Partner Andy's and My Fishing Lake
When you Arrive at the Fishing Lake.
Firstly, don't be in a mad hurry to empty out your vehicle and start unpacking. First, take a walk around the lake and see what is going on. Look for signs of fish activity such as bubbles rising to the surface, (indicating the Carp are feeding). Check out the best location to fish from in terms of shelter, ease of casting (not too many overhanging branches ideally), access to water's edge (for landing your big Carp on the bank), vicinity of any islands on the lake itself, (great to cast up to as Carp often patrol the edges of islands feeding on insects, berries etc that land in the water from the trees and bushes growing on the islands themselves), and of course the location of any nearby anglers, as no doubt you will all like your space and privacy to some degree. Speak to any anglers who are fishing the same waters, and ask them how it is fishing right now, what baits are working and if there are any spots they can recommend for a newbie to fish without it being too difficult. Most Carp anglers will love to help and enjoy encouraging newcomers to the sport, so don't be shy, and don't be afraid to ask for advice.
Once you have decided on your chosen fishing swim you can begin to bring your fishing equipment from your vehicle to the location of your swim . This is where a fishing trolley is helpful, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to drive right up to your swim, otherwise be prepared for several trips to and from your vehicle before all your fishing tackle is in your chosen location.
Next you will need to begin setting up your Carp fishing tackle as quickly as possible so that you don't miss the best feeding times. Remember, keep as quiet as you can to avoid spooking the Carp, and don't stand right on the edge of the banks as Carp will spot your silhouette and avoid the area like the plague afterwards. Hopefully you remembered to wear camouflage gear, or at least neutral earthy colours that would not stand out.
Setting up your Carp Fishing Tackle.
Now I am pretty sure most Carp anglers have their own ideas of which order they prefer to set up their tackle in, and I am no exception. All I can do here is advise you of the order I prefer to set up my fishing gear in, and no doubt as you become more experienced in the sport you will adapt to your own idea of the most practical order to set up your own tackle, (plus of course it will depend on what other luxury items you might invest in too such as Bait Boats etc).
1) I usually start by positioning my tackle/seat box 6 feet or so back from the water's edge in the location I have chosen to fish. I then adjust the legs to make sure the box sits level on the bank.
2) Next I assemble my rodpod, making sure there are rod butt rests on the back and drop arm indicators, followed by bite alarms on the front. I raise the rear legs of the rodpod in order that once the rods are resting on it the rod tips will be pointing down towards the water's surface.
3) I then lay out my unhooking mat and place my forceps on the top of it, along with a towel to wipe Carp slime off my hands after I release them back into the lake. Nearby I place my weighing scales and weighing sling.
4) I now screw my landing net head on to its handle and again place this adjacent to where I am fishing in order to be able to reach it easily if I have a large Carp hooked and I need to land it solo.
5) I don't really use keepnets any more, but if I did, now would be the time I would throw mine out and ensure the bank stick it was attached to was firmly pushed into the bank.
6) Assuming the weather is okay I would not bother putting up my fishing umbrella, but if it is raining or rough, you might want to do this fairly early on in your setting up of fishing gear to avoid beginning your day soaking wet.
7) Now is a good time to start mixing your groundbait if you are using it.
a) Get your collapsible mixing bowl and tip in about half of your bag of groundbait mixture. Add to this about half as much again of brown crumb.
b) Add in a selection of freebie snacks to attract the Carp, e.g. some cooked hemp, sweetcorn, squashed luncheon meat, canned tuna etc. Also include the liquid from cans of sweetcorn, cooked hemp and oil from canned tuna.
c) Using water taken from the lake itself (where possible), add a little at a time to your dry mixture whilst stirring with any available implement such as a stick etc. You want a consistency that sticks together when squeezed, but breaks up when it hits water. As I explained in my previous hub, too wet and it won't break up, too dry and it won't hold together. When you think you have the mix right, leave it to stand for ten minutes to give the crumb time to soak up the moisture. check it again and add more water if required.
d) As a final check, take a small ball of the mixture and drop it into a shallow area of water and see if it breaks up or not. Adjust mixture again if necessary by adding more crumb, or more water.
e) Cover with a towel and place in a shady spot away from direct sunlight.
8) Now it is time to begin "feeding up your swim". Some anglers will even visit a location for a number of days in advance of their Carp fishing trip solely in order to throw freebies of bait into the swim they intend to fish. The idea of this being that the Carp get used to feeding safely in this area, and therefore are easier to catch on the actual day it is fished. I don't tend to do this, not least of which because you don't know what other angler might beat you to your swim on the day, and all your hard work will only benefit them. Possibly it can be worth popping to the location the night before to feed up a swim, but only if the lake is relatively quiet and you can be fairly sure your swim will still be available when you arrive the following morning. To feed up your swim I suggest:
Using your catapult (for longer distances), or simply throw (for nearer distances), small amounts of cooked hemp, sweetcorn, balls of groundbait and samples of your intended hookbait, (be it maggots, chopped up worms, luncheon meat cubes etc) into the area you intend your hookbait to be situated. Don't overdo this though, the idea is "little and often" to keep the fish feeding without filling them up. A small handful each time of the smaller baits is enough, and possibly a few golf ball size balls of groundbait.
9) Now we come to the all important topic of setting up your rods. I have left this until last deliberately, as it is the most important part of all. In actual long term practice you may choose to set up your rodpod and rods first in order to be able to cast them out earlier and continue to set up the rest of your other Carp fishing tackle in the meantime, (you never know, you might get a bite whilst you are putting other bits and pieces into position, such as umbrellas, bivvies, camping stoves etc). If you choose this option though, remember to ensure your landing net is assembled and nearby, as well as your unhooking mat and forceps, just in case!
So, setting up your Carp rods for fishing, here goes:
First of all remove your rods from your rod holdall. Usually Carp rods are in two pieces which slot together, so join these two halves together ensuring the "eyes" are in line down the full length of the rod, (the easiest way to do this is to hold the rod butt under your eye and look down through the row of "eyes" to make sure they are in line).
Depending on the type of rod holdall you have, there may be a pouched area below where the rod butts rest when not in use. This is in order to allow you to leave your rods "set-up", i.e. complete with reels permanently on the rod handles, and even with the line threaded through the eyes and weights, floats, hooks etc all ready to fish if you wish to. Assuming you do not have this type of holdall, you will need to secure your reels to your rod handles using the screw up grips provided on the handle of each rod, (ensuring the reel and "eyes" are on the lower side of the rod itself, not on top like a lot of sea-fishing rods and reels are used).
Once these are tightened and in position, you will need to turn the small knob on the opposite side of your reel to its handle, until the reel handle rises into the correct position for use.
The next stage is to thread your line under the bail arm ensuring it rests under the line roller, (see diagrams right for reel parts). Then, in order to allow the spool to turn freely, release the anti-reverse lever located on the underside of the reel behind the spool. Begin to thread the line through each eye of the rod, making sure you don't miss any out, and also gently pulling the line as you go so that the reel releases it slowly without tangling up. When you get to the tip of the rod, carefully slide your hand back down the rod until you can reach the reel with your right arm and control the flow of line by holding the spool as it turns, continue holding the free end of the line until enough spare line has been released so that you can then rest your rod on the rod pod, before sitting down to complete the remainder of the setting up process.
Ideally once you have enough line to reach back down to the rod butt again, you should free up about another three feet of line to you have a little slack to work with, then re-lock the anti-reverse lever so the spool ceases turning.
Make yourself comfortable, and ensure all your smaller tackle such as snips, floats, shot, weights, feeders, hooks etc are close to hand.
Setting up your Feeder or Leger Rod
I will start with setting up your feeder or leger rod, purely because these are the easiest to set up, especially for a novice. You will find this only takes a matter of minutes before you are ready to cast out, so less time is wasted on plumbing depths etc as with float fishing.
1) Slide a leger weight or swim feeder on to your fishing line, followed by a leger stop (tube part only), alternatively you can use bb split shot later on.
2) Then attach either a hook or a hair rig to the end of the line using a knot such as the one illustrated. My personal favourite is the "Uni" Knot, as it works for all occasions and is quick and easy to tie, (a useful tip, wet the line using saliva before you knot it, as this reduces friction and therefore avoids your line being weakened as you draw the knot tight). Bear in mind a hair rig will have a swivel at the top of it, so you will be tying your main line to a swivel, and not to a hook, but the principle is exactly the same.
3) Slide the line/leger stop to approximately 12 inches from the hook and fix in position with the small peg that accompanies it. Alternatively, squeeze a bb shot on to the line at the same distance from the hook. This ensures the leger weight does not slide down to the hook and cause a problem.
4) Until you are ready to bait up and cast, hook your hook either over the bail arm of the reel, or on the small hook holder eye on your rod (if it has one). Then leave the rod on the rodpod whilst you set up your next rod, alternatively bait up and cast this one out now so you won't miss any bites whilst setting up your next rod, (see below for baiting up and casting methods).
How to Tie the Uni Knot
Setting up your Float Rod.
Once you have set up your rod as initially described,
1) Choose a float that you would like to use, slide the eye of the float onto the line then tie a hook or hair rig to the end of the line, before attaching a plummet to the hook, (see image right).
2) Now move the float up the line, the further you move the float up the line the deeper your bait will sit in the water, so for example if you place the float 30cm from the hook, when you cast your bait will be floating 30cm below the surface.
3) Place one shot either side of the float. Begin to make a series of casts in the area where you intend to fish. If your float sinks out of sight, reel in and slide the float and shot further up the line, alternatively if the float lies on its side you are too shallow and need to slide the float and shot further down the line.
4) Once you get to a point where the float sits upright with the water level allowing the brightly coloured tip to be clearly visible, you have the depth correct, ( if you wish to change the depth at any time, simply move the float and the two shot up the line if you want to fish deeper, or down the line if you want to fish shallower).
5) Use your line clip (on the side of your reel) to clip the mainline to before reeling in. This ensures that next time you cast, your line will only flow until you reach the exact same distance, so avoiding the water depth being different if you over or under cast.
6) Remove the plummet from your hook and add a number of bb shot below your float. The way to space these varies according to opinion. Some Carp anglers like to group all the shot together, others like to spread it out, so see right for an example of ways this can be done.
7) Cast back out to your chosen area. If your float sinks now you have too much shot on the line so you need to remove some. If your float lies on its side you don't have enough shot on. Keep reeling in and adjusting the quantities of shot, then casting out again, until you have it right. Ideally lots of smaller pieces of shot is better than less larger pieces. To make your life easier you can buy ready weighted floats that only need to be attached to the line with a minimum amount of effort as the hard work has been done for you.
Depending on the kind of bait you are using and if it is alive and wriggling or static, will largely determine how you bait up either your hook or your hair rig. Hook baits are slightly less fiddly to attach than hair rigged baits and might be the easiest option for a beginner to Carp fishing, (or any kind of fishing for that matter).
1) Luncheon Meat: This can either be used simply on the hook itself, (ideal for the smaller cubes), or can be hair rigged, (ideal for the larger cubes). If hooking it directly on to the hook you will want a relatively small cube, (about the size of a little fingernail). I find the best way to use luncheon meat as hookbait is to invert the hook above the top of the cube of meat so that the shank of the hook is in contact with the side of the cube itself. Then push the hook down into the meat until the bend of the hook is in contact with the top surface of the cube. At this point I begin to turn the hook in order that the point will emerge from the side of the cube, and the shank will be fed down into the centre of the cube of meat. Always aim to have a small part of the hook point exposed to avoid failing to hook your Carp when you strike.
To hair rig luncheon meat simply insert your boilie needle through the centre of the cube of meat, hook the 'hair' (loop) of the hair rig and pull it back through the meat, remove the boilie needle and insert a bait stop in the visible area of the loop at the bottom of the cube, then carefully pull back the hair rig from the top until the bait stop is against the bottom of the cube of meat. You should be aiming for the top of your bait to be just below the bend of your hook.
2) Sweetcorn: The rules for this are very simple, and it is one of the easiest baits of all to use. To use as a hookbait simply thread it carefully on to your hook on the fleshy end of the corn, making sure the hook point is exposed. Sometimes you might want to use double sweetcorn to help deter smaller fish from going for your bait, or to make your bait more visible and appealing to the Carp. The same rule applies here as above, just with two pieces of sweetcorn.
To hair rig sweetcorn use a fine boilie needle to thread through several pieces of corn and then treat the same as for the luncheon meat cubes. It is up to you how much corn you choose to hair rig, but I have used 6 or 7 kernels of corn at once before now.
Remember to check your bait regularly when using sweetcorn, as it can get nibbled away by smaller fish without registering on your bite alarms.
3) Boilies: Probably the most popular Carp bait of all. These can only be hair rigged as they are too large and too hard to be used as a hookbait. The principle is exactly the same again as for the luncheon meat though, it is just a little bit harder to push the boilie needle through a boilie. The great thing about boilies is they can last all night without a bait change, plus the commercially sold boilies often have Carp attractants added that will give off tantalising scents for hours. It is possible to buy boilies in different sizes, and not unusual to put more than one on a hair rig if going for those monster Carp that have mouths big enough to take in large bait offerings.
4) Worms (Lobworms in this case): Slightly wriggly to hook but worth the effort. A word of warning though, if not hooked correctly you will kill the worm. Don't be tempted to hook it at one end or the other, instead aim to hook it in the centre through the thickest part of the worm (the saddle), then hook it again through the centre close to the first part you hooked in order to prevent the worm wriggling off the hook. I also suggest that you snip off the very tip of the tail end of the worm in order that the scent gets into your swim and attracts the Carp, (the tail end is the slightly fatter, blunt end of the worm). Worms can also be hair rigged, (see image right).
5) Maggots: Probably the best known bait, and superb for all kinds of fishing, including Carp. They can be bought in a variety of colours and it is worth experimenting during your fishing session, as often it is the colour, not the maggot itself that will attract the Carp. To hook your maggots squeeze them very gently on the blunt end of their body and just nick the hook through the skin. If you have done this correctly your maggot will not be leaking any body fluids and will be wriggling like mad. As you are fishing for Carp and probably using a hook size of about 8 or 10, I suggest you put at least three maggots on the hook, and anything up to six or seven. This will also help disguise your hook. Again, check your bait regularly when using maggots, as other species of fish such as Roach and Rudd will often sneak up and suck your maggots dry without triggering off the bite alarms. Maggots can also be hair rigged, but unless you first superglue them to an object such as a piece of cork and hair rig the cork, you will most likely kill the maggots.
6) Cage/Swim Feeder: If you are using a cage/swim feeder as part of your rig, then before you cast out your hooked or hair rigged bait you will need to pack the feeder with some of your groundbait mixture. This is easy, simply place the cage / swim feeder still attached to your line into your groundbait mixture, and squeeze enough of the mixture into the cage to fill it up relatively firmly. When your bait and feeder hit the water after casting, the groundbait will produce a cloud of crumb and particle baits all around your hookbait, therefore attracting the Carp to feed in your swim.
Close Range Casting:
1) Hold the rod in front in front of you pointing in the direction that you want the bait to go, get hold of the line found running between the reel and the first eye on the rod, (using your index finger to hold it against the rod). Whilst holding this line take the bail arm off so that line can now easily flow from your reel when you cast the rod. Now swing the bait backwards and forwards by the lifting the rod up and down and when the momentum is right, flick the rod and let go of the line. Once your bait hits the water, wait a second or two and then flick the bail arm back over the line to prevent further line from being released and tangling up.
2) Hold the rod over your shoulder whilst you are facing in the direction that you want the bait to go, get hold of the line found running between the reel and the first eye on the rod, pinning it to the rod with your index finger. Whilst holding this line take the bail arm off. Line can now easily flow from your reel when you cast the rod. Now in a forward motion flick the rod forward and let go of the line. This can be quite difficult at first. Now flick the bail arm back.
You may find you have line visibly floating on the surface of the water. The easiest way to solve this problem is to submerge the tip of your rod into the water, and then give a couple of sharp turns on your reel to submerge the line. This is important if you don't want to be too late striking at a bite, and slack in the line also means that when you strike, you simply take up the slack instead of hooking the Carp.
Gently place your rod back onto the rod rests on your rodpod. At this point in time your bite alarm should be switched off. Flick forward the "free spool lever" (see reel diagrams earlier) that is located on top of the butt of the reel. Give a couple of gentle turns until it locks into place, then lift the drop arm indicator from the front of your rodpod, and clip it on to your line behind the bite alarm. Very carefully release it so the line dips slightly, but the clip remains attached to the line. Once the line is stationery you can carefully switch on your bite alarm, (it might give a slight beep at this point if your line hasn't settled properly).
Hooking and Landing Your Carp.
This will most certainly take some practice, especially as there is still lots to learn about setting the "drag" on your reels in order for them to release line to a degree even when you are playing the fish. I shall keep things simple here though and work on the principle that your reel is already set to allow line to be released to a degree if you simply apply enough weight to the line. If it won't, then you will need to adjust the drag settings on the reel until some line is released when enough weight is applied.
So let's assume you have now set up all your tackle, your rods are cast out and you are sitting relaxing by the lake in question. Suddenly your bite alarm starts screaming, and as you watch line begins to fly off the reel on one of your rods thanks to your baitrunner. Your adrenalin starts pumping instantly, so what do you have to do next?
1) By the time your bite alarm is screaming your Carp is usually pretty well hooked already, but to be sure you will still want to strike. This is achieved by quickly picking up your rod and giving a gentle upwards or sideways flick of the rod, (not too hard or you can tear the Carp's mouth). At this point you can begin to wind forwards with your reel, and this action will cause the "free spool lever" to click off in order for you to play the fish.
2) The main thing to remember now is to keep your rod tip upwards and don't let the tip drop or you will most likely lose the Carp. Concentrate on steering it gently away from any potential snags such as branches, overhanging bushes, islands etc.
3) Be patient, there is no need to rush the fish in, and if you try to bring it in too early you may well find it snaps the line and escapes. Allow it to tire itself out first. If you have the drag correctly set on your reel the line will be released automatically when the Carp pulls really hard, so all you should need to have to do is concentrate on the reeling in part.
4) Be aware that when your Carp appears to tire and you get it near to the bank, it will often have a sudden surge of energy when you least expect it. If it then takes off again spend another few minutes "playing" the fish to further tire it out before attempting to land it a second time.
5) When you are fairly certain your Carp is ready to be landed you will need to use one of your hands to pick up your landing net, whilst holding on to your rod with the other and making sure you still maintain the rod tip in an upright position.
6) Sink the head of the landing net into the water and once you see the Carp is allowing its head to be lifted upwards, gently scoop the net underneath the Carp and lift the sides clear of the water.
7) Place your rod on the ground in order to free up your other hand, and then bit by bit bring the landing net right up to the edge of the bank, before lifting the net, complete with the Carp, out of the water, (making sure your hands are right at the top of the handle by the net or you risk snapping the handle with the weight of the Carp).
8) Carry the net over to your unhooking mat and place the Carp on to the mat.
9) Remove the hook using your forceps.
10) If weighing the Carp transfer it to a weighing sling and then attach the sling to your scales. In order to determine the exact weight you will need to deduct off the weight of the sling afterwards.
11) Either ask another angler to photograph you holding your Carp, or invest in a camera that allows you to set it to take a photo after a time delay (in order for you to get into position with your Carp).
12) Carefully carry your Carp back to the water's edge and if at all possible place it into the water before releasing it. If the Carp is too big to make this easy, then place it back into the landing net and lift it down into the water before slowly inverting the net in order to release the fish.
Look at the Kind of People Who Really Love Carp Fishing!
I hope you found Chapter 2 of How to Fish for Carp useful, and if so please look out for further chapters I shall be writing in the near future. You might also be interested in seeing more of our own Carp lake which can be seen at www.lesrouvetslake.com .
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