Spending time on a venue observing is just as important as time spent fishing. Not only is it enjoyable to sit in the warm sunshine on a summers evening watching the kingfishers dart across the lake, buzzards circling high above and the rabbits venturing out from the safety of the hedgerow for a quick nibble on the dandelions, you also gain an idea of the carps habits, patrol routes their numbers and size.
When conditions suited I spent many hours watching the carp in the lake prior to fishing for them. My main aim was to roughly work out the number of carp present as my tactics would vary depending on the stock. On sunny afternoons some of the carp would behave as expected and visit the shallows, enjoying the warm water, here I could observe their feeding habits. The most carp I saw at any one time was 4! They generally visited in twos or threes, a few of these fish I could identify as the same fish on different occasions however these areas where never “black” with fish and on days when the conditions were perfect to see carp basking in the shallow water, I still rarely saw more than two at a time.
Other waters I have fished with much higher stocks of fish I have witnessed dozens of carp in small areas of the lake as they enjoyed the summer sunshine, I guessed the stock of this captivating water at maybe a dozen fish, I am certain I would have observed more carp in these areas if they were present. As I was only fishing for a handful of carp I started to put together a plan to catch them. At the time it felt as if I was attempting to pot a snooker ball on a table the size of a football field!
When starting a campaign on your chosen water you have to decide what is going to be your ultimate goal. Whether you are targeting the biggest fish in the lake or simply trying to increase your catch rate you will require a plan of attack. For instance, if I was targeting a specific fish in a venue I would gain as much knowledge as possible on that fish, where it is most often caught? What bait was it caught on? What time of year did it mostly make an appearance on the bank? In my case I had no other anglers to exchange knowledge with, these fish had never been angled for so I had to rely on techniques that had served me well in the past. Thankfully carp are generally creatures of habit and behave similarly on different venues. I had decided to catch as many of the inhabitants as possible, I had already gained an idea of the numbers of carp in the water and had started to build a knowledge of some of the areas they visit. The best way of finding feeding areas is by spotting carp head and shoulder or crashing out of the water however these wily carp rarely showed themselves and I only witnessed one carp crash out during daylight hours and that was in a small bay just above the shallows. So with this in mind prebaiting would probably be my best option, creating feeding areas attracting carp to my chosen spots.
Using a marker float and rod I spent several hours accurately finding the depth from the margins right out towards the middle of the lake and locating any clear areas between the weed. Although local knowledge is always helpful I take such advice with a pinch of salt until I have investigated the information personally. I remember standing on the banks of a water some years ago having a conversation with a grizzly faced seasoned angler who had been born and raised in that particular area, he commented that an overgrown corner of the lake was famously “bottom less!” Once the aged angler had left I was intrigued to find out the cavernous depths on the venue. Within 3 minutes I had accurately plumbed it to just over 9 feet! Not quite what I was expecting! Local knowledge can be helpful and also misleading and in most cases it is worth investigating personally to give yourself peace of mind.
My venue was fairly uniform, margins shelving down to 6 foot with around 8 foot towards the middle of the lake with the odd deeper area reaching 9-10 feet. The shallows were 2-3 foot, a depth the carp enjoyed on summer afternoons. Making a detailed map of my chosen venue is something I have done since I started carp fishing many years ago and they have proved invaluable throughout the seasons as a reference. I will map a new water within weeks of fishing it to help me build up a picture of the lakes features, the rest of the season the marker rod can stay in the holdall, when I arrive in my swim for that particular session I can refer to my map and if no fish are showing work out the best areas to place a hook bait.
One particular area on this venue was a clear patch towards the middle of the lake which was surrounded by weed, if this was not already a feeding area I felt I could persuade the carp to feed here away from the sanctuary of the nearby weed beds.
The other spot that I fancied introducing some bait into on a regular basis was a crater like area the size of a pool table, 9 foot in depth it was a clear depression as the surrounding depth was only 8 foot. This raised a few questions, with the lake bed being so soft had the carp created this depression with regular feeding here? This was worth further investigation. These were the two areas of the lake I decided to prebait as I did not want to bait too many areas as I required the carp to visit more often, returning for food once they had accepted my boilies as part of their diet.
There were other obvious clear patches amongst the weed in the shallows however I decided these would be best left for any opportunist fishing, mostly stalking, that came my way during the hazy summer afternoons and not to be prebaited. I required a couple of lines of attack, prebaiting and stalking would be my best options and believed these would give me results and if not then reassess the situation at that point.
Time would also be a factor, being a single parent, sessions would have to be planned in advance and if an opportunity to go fishing presented itself my gear would have to be ready to be loaded into the van at short notice. I had to make the most of my situation and as I worked within a mile of the lake when time permitted during my lunch hour I would nip to the lake to throw in my freebies knowing I had a session planned within a few days. On my shorter day sessions stalking would be my main tactic and the prebaited spots would be fished during my longer sessions.
All that was left for me to do was to start prebaiting at least a couple weeks prior to my first session and put my plan into action, I was excited at the prospect to hopefully tempting some uncaught forgotten carp to the bank.
To be continued……