If you are going to be fishing a new carp water in the UK or planning a carp fishing holiday in France, then there are some fundamental principles to follow that will increase your chances of putting fish on the bank.
Do your research
Probably the best research you can do before starting your fishing campaign is to visit the water you are intending on fishing. If possible, try to be at the lake for first light or dusk as this will maximise your chances of seeing carp show. Spend as much time as you are able to at the water and make a note of any signs of fish activity. When you do see signs of activity or a ‘show’ then also make a note of the time, as well as weather conditions as this can be valuable information.
If you are not able to get to the lake before you are due to start your campaign, which is almost always the case with carp fishing holiday venues, don’t worry, there is still plenty of useful research you can do. Social media platforms and the internet have revolutionised how information is shared between anglers.
For better or for worse, depending on your view, it is here to stay and it is a valuable tool. You’ll find most lakes or angling clubs have a social media presence, which usually has useful information such as catch reports. Make a note of the dates of the captures and screenshot the catch photos on your phone. When you visit the lake try to match up the photos with the area of the lake to gage an idea of the swims the fish may have been caught from.
This is helpful information to know when you are starting out on a new lake. However, always remember that fish are mobile and their behaviour and location will change depending on the time of year and the weather conditions. Do not assume that the areas you have identified from previous catch reports will always be the most productive areas to fish.
Locating where the carp are, is the biggest factor in increasing your chances of success. An angler who knows the carp patrol routes and preferred feeding spots has a huge advantage over an angler that does not.
When you first arrive at the lake, rather than opt for the nearest swim to the car park or the most comfortable looking swim if you are on a week-long session, walk a lap of the lake and carefully scan the water for signs of carp. If there are any trees that look easy to climb then these will give you an excellent vantage point.
As you walk the lake if you come across any marginal spots that look like they may be an area that the carp visit, then scatter a handful of bait in. A good option is to use boilies that have been pre-gluged and mixed in your bait bucket. As you do a second lap of the lake look for any oily slicks coming up to the surface, feeding bubbles or general water disturbance which indicate the presence of carp.
If you can’t find the carp or see any signs as to where they may be, a good option is set up in a central area that will give you good visibility of both sides the lake. Fishing in the middle of the lake means that will never be too far from the fish, but also means that you have really good water coverage and can move when you do see signs of where the carp are.
When you have decided which swim you are going to fish, the next task is usually to flick a lead out to see what the lake topography is like. If however, you have found a swim and there are fish feeding and you don’t want to spook them, you may want to cast out a PVA bag or a rig such as the chod rig which will give you effective presentation over most lake beds.
When you start feature finding it’s really important that you make a note in your phone or in a note pad of where the feature is and the number of wraps from the bank. Firstly, if you catch a fish on the spot then you want to be able to get the rod out to the same spot again with the least amount of commotion.
Secondly and this is particularly useful for long campaigns, by keeping a record of lake features and depths you will start to build up a picture of the lake. When the temperatures drop and the fish show themselves less, having this knowledge will help you to make an educated guess as to where the fish may be.
Pre baiting can make a huge difference between success and failure, especially when it is a new lake that you are not familiar with. Offering the fish ‘free bait’ with no lines in the water will build up the carp’s confidence as they start to feed more freely. If you keep baiting the same areas carp will start to visit these spots regularly, as they come to associate them with food.
On club waters and syndicates where you are permitted to pre bait, it can give you a serious edge especially if you are able to visit the lake in between sessions.
On holiday venues it is of course generally not possible to pre bait. It is also very tempting to cast out soon after your arrival. You will have been planning the trip for months and spent a fair amount of money on the trip, so naturally, you want to maximise your time fishing. However, maximising fishing time does not always equate to maximising the number of fish caught. Some holiday venues see pressure all year round so you need to set yourself out from the crowd.
For these types of lakes, pre-baiting and resting the swim can pay huge dividends if you are brave enough to do it. Bait up your swim, but try to resist the urge to cast your lines out for the first 24 hours. On pressured lakes, the carp will naturally migrate to areas of the lake without any lines. By giving them a free meal and building up their confidence when feeding, the carp will lower their guard making them easier to snare when you do wet your lines.
If you can resist fishing when you first arrive at the lake, then another option is to rest the swim for a few hours during the middle of the day. On pressured lakes where the fish often see the same tactics every week of the year, these small changes to your approach can make the difference.