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 it actually is. Angling pressure is another significant factor, as the banks will always be far busier, after the lull of winter. Although the carp are much more visible and generally show themselves that much more than any other time of the year, I often see many people make mistakes which cost them chances. I’ve done it myself a number of times, and then come away with nothing, kicking myself for being so stupid.

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 too much in and spoiling everything before I’ve almost started. I now try to view spring as a one bite at a time approach, this is my way of stopping myself over baiting. Single hook baits often score well in spring, and this is a method I’ve really taken to in the last couple of springs. It is a confidence method though, and for someone like me who has always fished over bait, it certainly takes some getting your head around. When the fish are super mobile, with little weed to hold them in places, I think no amount of bait will really stop them. This is where singles come in, but it also a super stealthy method, as there’s no need for leading about or the crashing of spombs, just the feel for a decent drop and you’re fishing.

I started really getting into this on a big 40-acre windswept pit last year, when I realised as soon as I found fish, once I’d baited up they’d be off, and a herd of birds would then come in and eat everything I’d put out. By watching the water, it became apparent that the fish were well spread, as I would see a show 40 yards to my right, and the next 130 yards out to my left! Once I started using singles, mostly a yellow or pink pop up, and casting these out into the general zone, I immediately started catching, in one case two at once, with the baits about 80 yards apart!

Snags are a carp magnet in spring, and always the first place I look when arriving at a lake. One place I used to fish was so predictable in where I would first see fish after the winter. One bank was full of overhanging branches and woodwork, and without fail it was the first place I would find them. It was like the flicking of a switch too, one day I would go there, usually early March, and see nothing, but a couple of days later, with no change in the weather or conditions, and they’d be there, cruising in and out of the submerged branches, often covered in clay, clearly active and catchable.

This leads into the issue of baiting whilst considering how mobile the fish are at this time of year. They may hold up in snags hit by the sun during long parts of the day, as I previously said, 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. When fishing in or 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 during my session, and having my traps set in advance of them arriving. This is the greatest skill to be able to have really, at any time of the year, but it’s not easy! Find the fish is an often-heard piece of advice, but when they’re bombing round and round it’s not that straightforward. I’ve chased them round the lake, only to set up on fish, and have them move very soon after, not necessarily because I’ve scared them off, but just because they are so random in their movements.

I try to look for bottle neck areas, or approaches that funnel fish into the snags, and get my baits plotted up ready. Fish rarely spend nights in snags, so I look for chances on their routes on the way out in the evenings, and on their way back in the following morning. I can clearly remember an example of this, I arrived 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 40 lbs. 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 anyway, partly because of the angle, but also as it was far too risky, as I knew how savage they were from just peering I there, the twisted branches going down deep and stretching far out. However, I felt that the margin of this swim was a point that they would exit past in order 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. By just on dark I was sure nothing was in there at all. I had flicked out two rods in the gap swim, both no more than a rod length out either side, with small 1.5 oz leads on and hinged stiff rigs with sharp chod hooks, just feeling the leads down until both hit with nice firm thuds. I put out a couple of dozen 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 I had watched in the snags the previous day. A capture bought about by having my traps set in early enough, and a valuable lesson learnt about preplanning and anticipation.

I’m sure that putting a big hit of bait in wouldn’t have helped me there, and even though I like boilie fishing, I’ve definitely 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 with the fish looking to replace lost weight. I like more bait when the weed has taken hold too, as the fish will stay and feed for longer when there is weed to keep them there. I really do like the alternative coloured pop ups though, and these seem to really go well in April and May. My spring and summer bait this year is DT yellow/brown coloured fishmeal, but I’ve already had excellent results fishing different coloured pop ups over this, my favourites being pink and white, and a pale pink over flavoured pop up really does work well, even on harder waters where it may look a bit blatant. However, this tactic may have a shelf like, and as spring goes in summer I generally move over to matching hook baits. These coloured baits make presentation almost like single pop up fishing, but actually over free bait, if that makes sense. I’ve often had instant bites, before the fish have certainly eaten all the free baits, as the brighter hook bait often gets taken first. It can be an easy way of getting baiting right, as it gives you that margin for error.


Lastly, rig presentation is often overlooked, but especially vital at this time of year. Disguising your end tackle and main lines is a massive edge. The spring months are often when the water clarity is at its best, and with the lack of weed, rigs and lines will stand out far more than at most other times. I’m obsessive about pinning my lines down, either by back leads, or the GT tungsten sinkers, and if I can I’ll always use my favourite Tiger Line fluorocarbon. I think line lay and concealment is more important than baits or rigs to be honest. I avoid bow string tight mainlines, with fish often passing through off the bottom these stand out too much. I much prefer using them as slack as possible, with the line hanging down from my rod tips. I always use Tiger Line fluorocarbon to which I’ll add a metre of the Camflex lead free leader material, which is super strong and thin, but again excellent for pinning the most important part of your set up down. The Tiger line has superb sinking qualities, but also casting ability as its softer and thinner than any other fluorocarbon I’ve ever used. There’s no clattering as it goes through the rings, and the days of being limited by range have no gone, I can easily fish it at over 100 yards plus. With the range of covert rig items now, it’s possible to disguise rigs so well, so that all that is visible is your hook bait itself. When I use pop ups I always check my rigs in the edge first, and with the bait correctly set above the hook, with clear hook links and covert swivels it is the ultimate in stealth. Even leads can be tailored to match the lakes bottom, and I like the new cloaked helicopter leads which are perfect for fishing over silt. These small things all add up to substantial advantages over others. Clear unobtrusive lines, coated hooks, covert swivels and green tubing are all things that are at the top of my tackle box in the spring.

Best of luck, and enjoy what can be the best time of year.

Rick Golder.