Spring is the time of the year that we carp anglers look forward to the most. Not only are the longer days and lighter evenings so much more pleasant than the long winter ones, but big fishing rewards are also there to be had as it’s when the fish are often at their easiest to catch.
That said, it’s easy to become blasé and think that it’s going to be far simpler to land a string of whackers than the reality turns out to be! Although the carp are much more visible and generally show themselves more than any other time of the year, I often see many anglers make mistakes which cost them opportunities. I’ve done it myself several times, and then come away from a session with nothing, kicking myself for being so stupid.
Personally, I think the most common mistake comes with baiting approaches. This is where I’ve certainly got it wrong. After thinking the fish are up for a big feed after a long winter, and then putting way too much in and spoiling everything almost before I’ve started. I now try to view spring with a ‘one bite at a time’ approach. This is my way of stopping myself from over-baiting.
Single hook baits often score well in spring, and although I’ve caught on these, I have more confidence in fishing over some bait. The main factor with baiting is also how mobile the fish are at this time of year. Whilst they may hold up in snags that are hit by the sun during long parts of the day, they can also fly around the lake making location tricky to say the least. The question that arises is how much bait do you need to get them to stop and feed, or is going for singles, in an attempt to grab a bite as they pass you by, the better method?
When fishing near snags the baiting is more straightforward, as the fish normally remain static in there for longer periods, but out in the lake that is often very different. Success comes for me when I can anticipate where the fish are going to be at some point while I’m at the venue, having my traps set before they arrive.
This is one of the greatest skills to be able to have really, but it’s not easy! ‘Find the fish’ is often a hard piece of advice to follow, but when they’re bombing round and round it’s not always that straightforward. I’ve chased them round the lake, only to set up on fish, and have them move immediately after, not necessarily because I’ve scared them off, but just because they are so mobile.
Consequently, I try and look for bottle neck areas or features that funnel fish into the snags, and get my baits and rigs positioned set there ready. Fish rarely spend nights in snags, so I look for routes they will follow on their way out in the evenings, and on their way back the following morning.
A couple of years ago I arrived at a venue on one of the first warm days of the year to find several fish sat up in the biggest snag tree in the lake. One of them was a decent fish, much wider across the back than the others, and I estimated him to be close to 40lbs. He was content weaving in and out of the mass of branches in the warm sun, and seemingly oblivious to me as I watched him for ages from a bit of raised bank above. The nearest swim was a small gap really, and it wasn’t possible to cast anywhere close to the snags because of the angle. I had decided that it was far too risky, as I could see how savage the snags were from just peering into them, the twisted branches going down deep and stretching a long way out.
However, I felt that the margin of this swim was a point that they would pass as they exited the snag tree on route to get out into the main lake. To be fair I had a pretty good idea that they weren’t going to stay in there, and sure enough as the sun began to dip down, less and less fish were present.
Just on dark, I was sure nothing was in there anymore, so I had flicked out two rods in the gap swim, both no more than a rod length out either side, with small 1.5oz leads on and hinged stiff rigs with sharp chod hooks. It was all done with minimal disturbance, feeling the leads down until both hit with nice firm thuds. I then put out half a dozen B5 boilies as quietly as I could and sat back hoping I’d have a chance the following morning. Sure enough, an hour or so after first light my left-hand rod was away, and after a tense battle in the confined swim, I netted was what without doubt the big mirror that I had watched in the snags the previous day. A capture bought about by having my traps set in early enough, and it was a valuable lesson learnt with regards pre-planning.
I’m sure that putting a big hit of bait in wouldn’t have helped me in this case, and even though I like boilie fishing, I’ve toned that down in recent springs. I think the heavy baiting works better after spawning, normally around June, and that method has better success then as the fish are looking to replace lost weight.
I do like using alternative coloured pop ups though, and these seem to really go well in April and May. My standard bait, Essential’s B5 is a red coloured fishmeal, but I’ve had excellent results fishing different coloured pop ups over this, my favourites being pink and orange. A pale pink over-flavoured Salami pop up really does work well, even on harder waters where it may look a bit blatant. These coloured baits make presentation almost like single pop up fishing, but actually over free bait, if that makes sense. I’ve often had quick bites, before the fish have eaten all the free baits, as the brighter hook bait often gets taken first. It is certainly an easy way of getting baiting right, as it gives you that margin for error.
Lastly, rig presentation is often overlooked. I think at this time of year, making your end tackle and main lines as covert as possible is vital. The spring months are often when the water clarity is at its best, and with the lack of weed rigs or lines will tend to stand out far more than at any other time.
I’m obsessive about pinning my lines down, either by back leads, or the new GT Covert Tungsten Link-Sinkers, and if I can I’ll always choose to use my favourite Mirage fluorocarbon main line. With the range of Covert rig items now, it’s possible to disguise rigs so well, that really all that is visible is your hook bait itself. Even leads can be tailored to match the lakes bottom, and I like the chod coloured ones for fishing over silt, small things that all add up to substantial advantages over others. Clear unobtrusive lines, coated hooks, covert swivels and green tubing are all things that are called upon in the spring.
Best of luck, and enjoy what can be the best time of year.