Carp fishing in France
Big carp & tench stocked in Smallwater lake
Below is a big mirror carp stocked at smallwater lake.
So many time we all fall into a rut of doing things simply because they worked before, but forget to our cost that carp are dynamically learning creatures with a very strong instinct to survive! We can think and not simply learn by association and that is a gigantic edge over wild creatures like carp; but often we donít think enough to achieve the great catch results that are most often just waiting to happen. So donít miss out...
It has been said on many occasions that the biggest edge in carp fishing is being different. This relates to the fact that carp learn all the time by association in terms of all our angling activities, tackle, baits and physical presence in and around their environment. This is often apparent by the fact that carp can literally stop feeding freely when they feel the vibrations from a tackle barrow trundling down the bankside, or even when sensing fishing lines passing through the water...
This power of association is so acute in some fish and on some fisheries, that the slamming of car doors by anglers at the carp park can either turn fish on or off depending on what they associate it with. The same goes for night feeding fish on day fishing only lakes that can start feeding literally the moment they sense most of the angling lines are being reeled out of the water at dusk! A very simple example of this is a small pond containing only 9 small carp, which will feed freely on ground bait upon first introduction; but the moment the first line enters the water, they simply disappear...
It might seem like a waste of time, but Iíve caught enough big carp by setting up for 3 days and nights and not fishing until the third night. The time is not wasted though, as small amounts of small baits are introduced every half hour during the day, and every few hours during the night in order to get the bait stimulation source familiar to carp in the area in safety with no lines in the water.
There was one small by very tricky water I used to fish where 70 percent of short-term anglers would blank all the time. I used to fish primarily 3 day and night sessions there as it was obviously the only way to get fish to take baits because they were so spooked by a new angler setting up in a swim and introducing bait and casting out. This was the kind of smaller fishery where casting 3 rods out was just enough to ensure you might get a take in the swim within 48 to 72 hours, but much more than this and you would blank!
(This sounds extreme; but this really is the case there, and it is proven to be so consistently over the years.) The best approach I found with such waters, was to set up as light of foot and slowly and carefully as possible. The most successful baiting-up method very frequently to fire a wide swath (as opposed to pin pointed,) of small, often crushed and fine particle-sized bait items, introduced in very light scatterings, extremely regularly, and right from the moment of first arrival.
This often meant setting up right in the middle of the regular non-feeding times which on this water were 10 am to 3 pm daytime. No bivvy peg mallets, or those close encounters of the third kind of LED head torches were used and high decibel alarms were turned right down.
(I believe carp hear their vibrations sounds when you are attaching your indicators at the rod for example.) I go to the extent of using a low tone low volume sounder box leading from the alarms and the alarms are turned so low you canít hear them so any sound vibrations are removed from my activities at the rod and indicator. I also set-up my rigs and indicators with the alarms turned off and only turn them on when everything is ready; which is when they get double-checked at the sounder box and rods.
With very wary fish and at many busy carp waters, those alarms such as the Fox ones which go off at high decibels (5 times,) the moment they are turned on create huge disadvantage. This is not just via tight lines either, but I believe via air across the water and even via the ground in the case of fish in near proximity. Just because it is popular to show off the sound of who got the loudest most expensive alarms on the lake, it doesnít mean they are not shooting themselves in the foot!
I donít know about you, but for me, fishing is a very rare opportunity to escape the rat race and madness of everyday humanity and relax in a totally unexpectant neutral and natural environment that has no opinions! I now personally avoid the waters where from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, there is a cacophony of blaring bite alarms. This is from those peace-shattering alarm fiddlers constantly spodding and casting, maddening mobile phone tones (and their users, shouting down them at all hours,) and ignorant shouting right across the lake because certain individuals cannot handle boredom or are addicted to the sound their own voice!
To my mind, these are not carp anglers but out of place football or pub groupies and might as well bin the fishing rods, get a football season ticket, or go down the pub instead and watch it there, where you have to shout to be heard and where theyíd feel right at home! Donít get me wrong though, Iím not strictly a purist; I fish for results like any angler, and have been known to be exceptionally competitive with it; but not to the ignorant cost of my fellow anglers! But happily, the actions and behaviours that induce a truly peaceful fishing environment catch you far more of those big wary fish, especially on highly pressured smaller waters.
So many articles focus purely on the rig end of fishing activities and bait introduction, when what is critically very often over-looked and equally important, is your own impact upon fish, just by your presence at a water. What about being aware enough of how you change fish behaviours by your presence and fishing activities, in order to develop many productive corrective behaviours - that genuinely catch you more big fish!
When I see someone trundling up to a swim with a heavily-laden tackle barrow in clothes designed to make you look like a walking bush, it does make me laugh. Where fashion meets artificially created popular demand, things can well over the top! Just how many more fish does looking like a tree trunk catch you; if you are not stealthy?! Some of the biggest carp Iíve ever caught from very small waters were caught by being stealthy, acting as if the fish can see me at all times, and very light on the feet. Also in such situations very rarely casting-out, and using dim pencil torches at night; instead of shooting 100 million candle power lanterns at the water from my head each time I turn round are definite edges!
Iíve actually had a carp fishing fashion freak, (an advertising and peer pressure-conditioned carp angler) say that my 3 rod set-up (with metal pegs on the line to create alternative line pressures,) looked Mickey Mouse (a deliberately insulting phrase!) But when you design your whole individual fishing approach including your thinking and all tackle, bait recipes and angling practices tools to solve each specific challenge you face on a particular water; you can achieve successes that are not normal!
I personally take someone inferring that my set-up is not fashionable, dangerously non-conformist and too different to normal, to be a sure sign - Iím doing something very right...
By Tim Richardson.
Soon we will be in the midst of the best time of year for big tench, but do too many anglers spoil their chances by not being adaptable in their approach. Paul Hamilton thinks that this is especially the case in modern tench fishing
For many more years than I care to remember tench have been my favourite early season species and I always spend a vast amount of time every Spring and Summer trying to outwit these beautiful and enigmatic fish.
One of the most appealing things that I find about tench fishing is the infinite variety in which I can actually fish for them. There is a never-ending stream of tricks to try and with such a vast array of tactics and techniques to draw upon, tench fishing constantly keeps my mind churning over like a runaway washing machine. There is never time to become bored whilst fishing for big Tincas!
Float fishing has to be one of the most delightful ways of catching tench and although it can also be the most frustrating of methods, given half a chance, it is still the technique I will jump at using. On the big fish waters that I usually target, I do limit float fishing to specific times, since staring at a little red dot for long periods without any sign of tenchy action can be really hard work. I reserve my float fishing for when I know there are tench in the swim; obvious things like fish rolling or fizzing give the game away and provided other factors are suitable, this is the time I will reach for the float gear.
Another of those factors is the range at which I am fishing and basically, the closer the better. Since deep margins make cracking tench swims, I normally end up fishing spots like this if at all possible and float-fishing is then a distinct probability at some stage during a session. The weather also has a say in any float fishing decisions. A strong wind makes life difficult with undertows dragging float tackle around, but I do like some movement on the water and a chop on the surface certainly improves the chances of a fish no matter what method you are using. Having said that, a flat calm summerís dawn is a superb time to be float watching. Bubbles dimpling the smoking surface with the float swaying tantalisingly as big tench brush the line has to be the height of suspense!
There are many ways of tackling tench with float gear and it doesnít have to be particularly sophisticated to be successful. A friend of mine, Malcomb Swinfen, regularly catches far more tench than I do on the float and he is a real old traditionalist, still using cane rods, centrepins and crow quills laying at half cock! He uses a sliding float to cope with the deep margins, often fishing anything up to 15 feet of water, the float stopped using a water knot tied with 4lb powergum. This can be slid up and down the line without damaging it and can be removed at the end of the session by pulling both ends of the knot until it breaks free.
One big problem whilst float fishing for tench is that of foulhooking. With big fish upending and fanning those paddle like fins close to the line, false bites can be a real nightmare. I donít think there is any way of totally preventing foulhooking, but one method that I like when fishing in very close is to use a tiny piece of peacock quill and adding just enough weight to sink it. I adjust the float so that just a tiny slither is showing above the surface. This indicates that the line is tight between float and shot and the only way the float can now rise is if a fish picks up the bait, followed by the weight. I make myself ignore any dips on the float and will only strike if the float pops right up and lays flat.
This method certainly cuts down dramatically on the number of foulhooked fish, but it is limited to fishing in really close. When I have to cast further, I like using a Drennan Crystal Insert Waggler and adopt a similar approach, shotting the insert down and waiting for a good lift before striking. In a heavy chop, I choose a bulb-topped Windbeater and my most memorable catch of tench on the float came whilst using one of these lovely inventions. It was a rare day when those gravel pit tench decided to really play ball. Several times that morning the Windbeater rose majestically out of the wavelets, waggled about briefly and then slid rapidly away. My big fat lobworms were proving irresistible to the tench and I caught several beauties to over 9lb.
Despite float fishing being the most pleasing way to catch tench, I have never really found it the most effective. Todayís self-hooking rigs are so much more efficient, although for many long years before those kind of tactics became universally popular, I fished for tench by legering in a much more traditional manner. And these good old tactics caught me plenty of fish as well.
A very simple running link ledger was my standard rig, a lead link of some six inches and a hooklink around eighteen. This set-up actually demanded that the angler sit beside his rods, concentrating on the bobbin, which was hung about two feet below the rod. It could be very frustrating, with numerous lifts of the bobbin indicating feeding fish that were constantly mouthing the bait. Although every so often it would sail up towards the butt ring and I would strike back into a tench.
I used to find, and still do, that hitting into a fish like that is so much more satisfying than casually picking the rod up after a tench has hooked itself on a bolt rig. In fact, that is why I still use this old fashioned kind of set up even today. Not as much as I should do perhaps, but now and again I feel a hankering to drift back in time and experience some rather more active and I reckon more enjoyable fishing.
Before the advent of boilies and rubber baits, my favourite three tench baits were cheesepaste, luncheon meat and bread crust. I fished these over a groundbait mixture of stale bread, wetted down and stiffened with bran and layers mash. That is not a combination I would consider using now, but those three hookbaits are certainly still very effective. And the fact that tench rarely see any of them these days is a damn good reason to keep using them!
Having said that, these old tactics and baits are never going to beat the way that most people fish for tench today. There is no doubt about it, self-hooking rigs are the tops when it comes to effectiveness and they re certainly where I place my faith most of the time on difficult waters. Float fishing and using running ledgers are wonderful ways of fishing, but on a rock-hard gravel pit where one bite a day may be the norm, there is a good chance that you would miss that rare bite using those tactics. I know that my modern methods convert most bites into fish on the bank and although thatís not all that counts with my fishing, it is rather important!
Malcomb loves sniping at todayís modern tactics, claiming that it must be stupendously boring sitting all day looking at a brace of bobbins. But as I am constantly retorting, the truth is absolutely nothing like that! Thereís so much involved in this style of fishing that my mind is a constant whirl of activity, especially if I am not catching. There is so much variety behind the maligned practice of bolt rigging that old Crabtree Swinfen would be amazed at how fascinating it is if he peered out from behind his creel sometimes!
I must admit that a lot of specialist anglers are very lazy and blinkered in their approach to fishing, but fortunately I used to spend time with some top class match anglers whilst photographing features. These guys could really show many specialists the way home and I learned a lot from them, not least of their controlled impatience! Never content to sit out the duration of a match struggling for bites, they would be constantly experimenting if bites werenít forthcoming. Experimentation is their byword and it is something that I really try hard to emulate these days.
Those wretched non-anglers who always come out with the hackneyed phase íoh, you fishermen must be so patientí, simply havenít got a bloody clue! They certainly havenít watched me fishing Ė even on ultra-hard waters I am constantly fighting the urge to change this, mess with that, even though I often know that I am already using a tried and tested rig. Waters like this arenít really places to do a lot of experimenting, especially first time stuff, but that still doesnít stop me completely and I often end the day being surrounded by the detritus of discarded tackle that I have been chopping and changing constantly.
A lot of these changes wonít be enormous, but I have often found that what appears to be a ridiculously minor alteration to the rig can have amazing effects. Another day spent with a match angler many years ago really brought home this fact to me. I was in Cornwall to photograph a feature on roach fishing and when the guy showed me his rig at the start of the day, I must admit I thought his initial statement was rather extreme. The set up terminated in a 22 hook and he claimed that on this size catching fish wouldnít be a problem but if he upped to a 20, then he would barely get a bite.
Naturally I humoured him and was delighted to see him catch a netful of fish in the next two hours enabling me to take plenty of shots for the feature. He caught all these fish by placing the rig right next to the bankside reeds but eventually he got too close, snagged the hook and pulled for a break. That gave him the opportunity to prove his earlier statement so he tied on a size 20 hook. And immediately stopped catching!
Over the next half hour he landed just one solitary roach by which time he reckoned heíd made his point. Back on went a size 22 hook and instantly it was business as usual, every put-in producing a fish. I had never seen such an amazing demonstration of how such a miniscule change could have such a dramatic effect on results and I keep that extraordinary day in mind whenever I go fishing.
All this experimenting may sound like hard work but I reckon it is part of the reason I have stuck with fishing all these years. For someone with a very low boredom threshold, fishing offers so many variations that the fascination really is endless and tench fishing certainly offers plenty of variety in all its aspects. Even so, when it comes to rigs I have developed a handful of old faithfuls which form the backbone to my tenching. Most revolve mainly around feeders in one form or another. Out of the many I have tried, the open ended inline feeder has probably caught me more tench than any other bolt rig set up and I have usually got at least one of these deadly arrangements sitting on the lake bed.
I make my own in-liners from a length of tubing used in the club-carrying section of golf bags. It is just the right diameter and is already black, although I do camouflage it with brown and green matt paint after I have finished making it. I cut away a rectangle and Araldite a 2oz lead into place in the gap. The slide-on feeder leads are my choice as I ram a length of rigid rig tube into the slot with a few millimetres extending either end of the feeder. To one end I superglue a tulip bead into which I will eventually pull the hooklink swivel.
Apart from the standard 2oz design with a feeder length of about two and a half inches, I always carry a selection of other sizes, both length wise and weight wise. The weight I use will depend on the type of bottom over which I am fishing over. A soft silt persuading me to go for a lighter feeder and visa versa. The volume of the feeder I choose depends on conditions and fish activity. Under favourable conditions, a big feeder carrying plenty of loosefeed would be my first choice, but a much smaller one would be best to start with if things didnít look so promising.
After threading the 10lb Fox Soft Steel main line through the feeder, I tie on a short hooklength. I normally start off with one about two inches long, usually constructed from 10lb braid. Drennanís Micro Braid is as good as any and I will increase the strength if I am fishing particularly snaggy water. This is also a consideration when choosing the hook pattern. In reasonably clear water I initially reach for Kamasan Sedge Hooks, but sometimes also experiment with Drennan Super Specialists if I want to increase the strength or reduce the size. Or both.
I straighten or even slightly inturn what is initially the out-turned eye of a Sedge hook. Unlike some hooks, which are too well tempered to do so without snapping, Super Specialists amongst them, you can gently bend a Sedge using a pair of small flat nose pliers. Grip the eye and bend a millimetre or two down the shank, not right on the original bend which will snap. When using braid and a knotless knot, I fancy a slightly inturned eye flips the hook and is more likely to prick a fish.
Now that the magnificent rubber casters have become one of my favourite baits for tench, I usually begin a session using a size 14 Sedge hook coupled with three casters. This combination allows the hook to just sink, the baits hovering above it. The hook sits point down below the casters and I wonder whether part of the reason these artificial baits are so effective on this method is because they hide the hook so well? A size 16 Sedge takes two rubber casters to achieve the same effect and I will even try using single baits on size 18 or 20 Super Specialists. I have had some remarkable improvements in fortune after changing from double to single caster, another example of how very small changes can make significant differences.
Other changes you can make to this type of rig can be in the length of hooklength, the material used (braid or mono) whether you fish the bait on the bottom, popped-up slightly from a longish hooklength or even perhaps straight up off the feeder. The latter set up I have found to be particularly deadly, catching me several double-figure tench on real maggots from Ringwoodsí Half Pit in the days before rubber baits.
Despite the extraordinary results I have now had on rubber baits, I certainly donít neglect real ones, because sometimes the tench much prefer a live, wriggling grub. I will often experiment with a combination of rubber casters and live maggots. As usual, I will be chopping and changing until the right set up is found for the day.
Another favourite feeder rig, this time using a cage feeder, is a paternoster set up. Over bottoms with lots of debris the in-liner can sink into the rubbish and the hooklength is likely to become snagged. A paternoster rig will enable you to position the hooklength lightly across the bottom and with a balanced bait, it should rest delicately on top of any weed or silt.
I usually prefer a short hooklength of some two inches with the feeder link slightly longer, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I will experiment with different lengths and materials. I have caught lots of tench with hooklengths of around six feet, the thought behind that being that it gives the fish plenty of line to move off without feeling any resistance until they bang up against the heavy feeder, then it is too late. Using hooklengths that long has been successful enough to suggest that this theory works, but I must admit that a short hooklengths has often been even more effective.
At least that can be the case on one day. Go back the next and the tench may well have changed their feeding ways and youíll have to start experimenting once again. But is that not the beauty of this fishing game. Who would want it to be totally predictable? Tench are notorious for being fickle and they will certainly keep you on your toes, but one of the main attractions of the species is that there are so many different ways of outwitting them. Anything from flicking out a tiny quill off the rod tip to lobbing out a heavy lead eighty yards.
I have only scratched at the surface here and the world of tench fishing is so infinitely varied that it is enough to keep most anglers fascinated for life. They really are the most absorbing of fish and with this coming Spring, I will surely be out there once again pitting my wits against these canny creatures. No doubt I will have to put my little grey cells into overdrive to persuade them to visit my net, but as I canít overemphasise enough, the variety of fishing that results from this simply cannot be beaten. Tench fishing is definitely the best of the best!
This article was originally published in Coarse Angling Today
Twenty mirror carp between eleven and fourteen kilo ( 25-31lb )Ten mirror carp between fifteen and eighteen kilo ( 33-40lb )
Three twenty kilo (44lb) common carp
One twenty five kilo (56lb) mirror carp
Plus 400lb of big tench up to 4 kg + ( 9lb )