There can’t be a much more exciting way of catching a big carp (or any carp for that matter) than watching it feed close into the bank, planning your approach and then watching the moment the fish is hooked! It is an easy and effective way of fishing, but too many anglers get caught up in the 3 rods on a spot and sit back and wait approach, when there are so many more opportunities to be had with a little hard work.
On a recent session, a friend and I enjoyed some brilliant stalking action on a small syndicate lake I have been targeting this spring. The fish in this lake love spending their time in the dense marginal snags once the water warms up, giving the perfect opportunity for some close in action. With this in mind, I had been baiting a handful of areas around the lake on a regular basis to get the fish used to finding free food in areas it was safe to fish for them. Not a lot of bait was needed, just a couple of handfuls of hemp, 2mm and 6mm CC Moore trout pellet and some chopped and whole Odyssey XXX boilies every few days, soon had the areas polished down to the gravel. Several times when baiting the area there was already fishing there having a grub around, but I had to resist the urge to fish, knowing the longer I waited the better chance of getting several bites.
The session finally arrived, and with hot weather forecast for the duration of the stay I knew that we would be in for a few marginal chances. So with the gear set up in the main swim, I went straight round to put a bit of bait into the spots. We had both managed to get bites from our main swims during the night, the biggest being a 28lb mirror falling to my rods, but we were buzzing to try and get some margin opportunities during the day. With the sun beaming down, fish were cruising all over the surface by 8am and they could be seen heading into the margins so I was quickly round to the first area with a small bucketful of bait, net and a rod.
Having already baited the area during the morning, by the afternoon it was evident fish were visiting the area in numbers so it was time to get a rod in position! The set up was strong and reliable, with a 2.75lb TC rod couple with a small reel loaded with Pro XM main line to be able to steer the fish away from the nearby snags. This was attached to a length of CamFlex Silt leadcore with a 4oz inline lead set up drop-off style. The rig was something that my mate had been using lots, and as I was going to give him the first bite we decided to give it a try. It is a variation on the D-rig, using a whipping knot to create a large loop on the back of the hair, with a trimmed Odyssey XXX wafter mounted on a small swivel running on the D.
At around 1pm the spot was alive with feeding fish, so Andy managed to lower the rig in super slowly amongst the feeding fish. However, before he had even managed to sort the rod out a fish had snaffled the hookbait and was hooked! It darted straight out into the lake and Andy followed it with his waders on and I was close behind bringing the net. After a tense battle it was eventually netted, and we were actually stood further out into the lake than where the fish was hooked- such was the shallowness of the water! It was a stunning mirror of just over 24lb, and a great sign of how confident the fish had become due to the lengthy pre-baiting of the area.
The bait was topped back up, but with the disturbance of the other fish being caught it took a couple of hours before the fish returned to the area. This time there was less fish, but of the 4 fish on the spot 3 were over 30lb topped by 2 huge commons. It was my turn with the rod this time, and after a flicking a few broken boilies into the water to semi-spook the fish the rig was carefully lowered into position. Within seconds the fish were back, lead by the biggest common of the lot! My heart was in my mouth as it up-ended right over the rig. Suddenly, its pectoral fins stiffened up as it rose from the bottom shaking its head savagely, I saw the lead come flying off the line as line was ripped from the clutch of the rod resting by my feet. I grabbed the rod and jumped in the lake to steer it away from the trees down to the left, and it was soon in open water. Knowing the size of the fish I was attached to was a big nerve wracking, but after around 5 minutes of it waddling around in the margins in front of us, Andy expertly slid the net under the fish. After quickly getting the mat wet and zeroing the scales we hoisted her ashore. It was in scale perfect condition, and on the scales pulled the needle round to 37lb 14oz, which was a new PB common for me and also set a new lake record common! Andy did me proud with the shots, before she was carefully slipped back into the lake to fight another day. With 2 bites off the area, and darkness drawing in, we decided to bait the area again and return the next day for another try.
By the early afternoon there were fish all over the spot again, including one of the big ones called “The Scar” easily recognisable by its big scar. The fish were a bit more cagey this time, but once Andy had got the rig in position there were fish constantly visiting the area to have a munch and surely it was only a matter of time before one of them made a mistake. This is where this type of fishing can be so exhilarating but frustrating at times as you think you should be getting bites but the fish manage to avoid the hook bait time and time again – I hate to think what it is like when fishing out in the lake! It took much longer this time, but eventually 2 fish were mopping up every bit of bait on the spot and all of a sudden bolted from the spot accompanied by a screaming clutch! Andy was on it in a flash, and guided a lovely 26lb mirror into the net shortly afterwards. Sadly, this was the last bite from the spot as the weather changed to much colder and windier which moved the fish into a different area. But it did show the effectiveness of fishing the margins as the lake only did a handful of other fish while we were there, and I don’t think we would have been able to single out the bigger ones in the way we did!
Don’t be scared to get out and give it a go, you can learn so much about how the fish react to certain situations and rigs which will help you put more fish on the bank in the long term!