I’ve always done carp stalking one way or another most of my life. At times its been with a float, or just free-lining, bread or worms. Being able to watch big fish feed is so exciting especially when your hook-bait is close by.
Spot the red topped float in the margins. I’ve always stalked carp in close.
When I arrive at the lakes its early morning, but the sun is up and on the water. There is no point stalking carp too early in the day, as you simply cannot see them until the suns up, and the fish are moving. In just a short time being around theses lakes, I know the movements on two of the lakes carp, and a little on the bigger one. Five and six are strangers to me as yet, but in the coming few weeks I’ll catch up on five, six will take a full season I’d guess.
I leave all the stuff in the car, change into my comfortable walking boots grab the sunglasses, wide brim hat, bait tub and set off walking. All I’m doing is looking for carp cruising, returning from their nights foraging. They mostly work the same margins they have done for years, the sunny side, where is just a little warmer. Sometimes they feed all way back, dropping down in margin hot-spots, or hopefully where my tit bits are positioned. On a new lake is just guesswork, but you do find areas even in the margins the carp like better than others. These become your banker swims, and ones you visit first each trip to trickle bait in, over again. If things are going well on the day with catching, I’ll feed these swims but not fish them, simply getting the carp’s confidence up in that spot to feed. But on hard days they can be the only places you have a chance of catching on? Often I’ll put the bait in a position that cannot be fished due to snags, or risk to the carp. It’s only when I know they are feeding hard, that I’ll put some more bait in a fishing position. This maybe only a yard away from the original spot, but it will give me a much better chance of landing a big fish. (I will cover a Stalkers kit requirements in another post, maybe when the fishing is slow in the colder months?)
26lb Italian mirror taken on a float under the rod tip, on a very wet day.
Once back at the car, I take out the rods and reel, then long cast the main stalking rod with a Gardner twist buster lead to reduce any line twist or curls in the line. During a day I doubt there is any more than 15 meters of line used at any time, it’s this that gets the wear. Also 20lb line is a bugger for twists and jumping off the spool when you don’t want it to, like when you hook a fish. Then its loaded back on the reel with care, and the leader checked for cuts of nicks. I’ve gotten into this routine now, so it’s second nature, but it’s so important to re-do all knots and just be sure all is 100%. Then I will load up with all I need for a few hours stalking. In summer its without a chair, substituted by a home made camo cushion. Everything I need is in my unhooking mat, including two mini stainless rod rests. One has a snag type head, the other a screw fitting for the camera. Another rod 6′ sawn off for floater fishing, in close, bait, hand towel. A very small ruck bag on my back has camera, and maybe a drink. Spare leads, hooks, and some small bits and pieces. Everything else is back at the car, including my tea making kit with teapot and real tea and china cup.
It goes like this, if I catch a fish, it’s back to the car for a celebration cuppa and a think.
I fish for the bigger girls, but sometimes the teens jump in when your backs turned!
9.30 am. The first swim I visited was empty, but the second had fish tails up feeding, a sight you never get tired of seeing. The swim had no room for anything apart from my rod, so I sit well back with the rod placed on my open landing net that just hangs over the banks edge. This keeps all the line off the ground away from twigs, stones, leaves, general crap. The rod tip is over the waters edge by maybe 10”. A car drives up the lane past me, another angler looking for fish? In the car? It’s what they all say to me any-way! He doesn’t see me and carries on. I glance back (the whole sequence having taken just a few seconds) and the rod was off the net and in a fighting curve as the 17 pound common tries to get under the near tree branches. Fortunately the gear was too much for it, so when it turned my net was ready. I’d guess it took more time to sneak in position, than it did to catch the fish, but that’s stalking for you.
I’ve found if bites don’t come within ten minutes on feeding fish, something is wrong. So I’m in a habit now of using very small leads, recasting after 15 minutes, or moving on. It could be the first cast you get a hard landing, but the short hook-link is hidden, or sticking up. I’ve had times when a second cast brings a fish within seconds, so now every cast has a small bag attached, just to stop situations like this, but they do still occur on the odd occasion? Some folk don’t believe you can go fishing for 8/10 hours, but only wet the line for an hour or so. It’s true, it is all about finding fish, knowing you’re not wasting any time. Many times during the day, the carp are simply not feeding, it’s those times when they are browsing, a little tit bit might tempt a big old girl. When not feeding a large bed of bait is pointless, but a single tiger, or two grains of corn can work.
I like to carry the little sawn off loaded with 12lb floater line. It’s a just in case situation, like what happened a few trips ago. It was hot and all the fish were under the trees and bushes, out of the sun. I was between two large trees overhanging the water, when a nice carp swam into view on my left. He sat there just mouthing the air (under the tree) as they do when it very warm. No way could you get a bottom bait in the spot, but a little piece of bread, or floater? Understand the fish was about eight feet away, so the sawn off was ideal. I put two floater baits directly on the size 8 wide gape x hook, then simply lowered it in slowly onto the carp’s nose. Without any fear, it took, I struck, but oh!!, too soon. The hook caught in a branch, the carp bolted, I cursed. That chance would not have come without the 6′ swan off. It’s a 3.5lb so ideal for the job of knocking fish off balance and straight into the net, before they can get going. Also I can free-line bread, crusts, floating pellet. I cannot remember how small it goes, but it gets lost in the unhooking mat.
Fish two came from a deep nearside bank that had no snags as such, but rushes and lilies the carp would shake as they feed. Only the odd underwater flash and rocking reeds gave their presence away. I cast to my right and almost hit my own bank, but it was still 6/8′ deep. Then the rod was placed in the rest and as I sat back the line dropped right back, then picked up and traveled to my left, the little lead doing its job. This 13 ponder was again landed quickly, but I gave myself the luxury of allowing the fish to take a bit of line, once the danger as over. Both fish today were commons, back for another cuppa at the car and maybe a bite to eat? What will the afternoon have for us?
In the past I’ve had my blanks, not just at the A1 pits but most places. It’s a method that takes time to adjust too, and you have to learn about the carp, and the lake itself. Contours, deep margins, shallow close in bars, solid tree lined banks that are un-fishable, but the fish hide in safely. Popular swims that have always bait in them, unfashionable swims that you cannot get a umbrella in, all you take in and learn. You walk a long way, some days not seeing hardly any fish at all. However you do get to know the fish, where they are at specific times of the day, what the big one does in the morning he/she will be doing next day, and the next and most importantly when they feed best.
An earlier time when this 14 pounder found free-lined lobworms irresistible.
It’s not something you can do with two rods, alarms, a big umbrella, television, or barbecue. Those that have spent thousands of £s on three rods, a spod rod, marker rods will have to put them in the attic and forget about them, you just don’t need all that stuff for this game. I must tell you a little tale of something that happened to me last week.
I’d been baiting one of the lakes for a few weeks, in a weedy but accessible spot. The swim was unpopular and had no real features you could see, but I’d seen carp they’re most trips. I was just getting the gear out of the car when a chap pulls up and said he fancied fishing in just that spot. I told him I had feeding carp on a spot, but he seemed determined to fish there. Apparently he had just done two nights and blanked, so wanted a move and a fish. So I took him down to the spot, showed him exactly where I had baited (minus the carp) and said fine, the fish are right in the margins. He thanked me and I moved to another swim, just around the corner.. About half an hour later, I saw fish moving across the lake from his direction, past me and onward. So I walked back around to see what was going on? He had moved his car to the waters edge, put up his brolly, 5 rods (honest), kettle and everything just ten feet from the FEEDING spot? I simply walked away and thought what a waste of a prime spot. I genuinely thought he was going to just drop a bait in the edge and sit back for a few hours, this was after all morning, he had all day and night to set up camp? Maybe stalking is not for everyone, I hope he caught as he seems a nice chap, but totally clueless about water craft.
I think some folk have a blockage, they see carp fishing as 5 rods, a big umbrella, and overnight stays. For me thats camping with the fishing thrown in, anything that stops you catching is a hindrance. They have so much gear, and bait goes in so quickly, they see it as an investment they cannot give up. I’ve told many people over the years when I’ve seen moving fish at a reasonable range, cast-able range. They also tell me things, so why not be generous, but I can count on one hand the number that have moved on that advice. I even had some fish on-top just 50 yards from one guys swim that were taking my floaters, would he move, no he was on “bottom baits” today? “Well you can only take the horse to water?”