Find, Feed and Catch Carp When fishing for the biggest fish in a specific body of water it is a puzzle that needs to be put together, or at least that is how I approach any new venue I fish. So I never expect things to always be 100% from the word go and the same applied on the new river venue I planned to fish. One needs to work things out by ongoing trail and error and really using as much as you as carp angler have to find the fish , feed the fish and catch the fish. Time spent actually observing and fishing a water is 80% of this puzzle and knowledge of how carp behave in certain circumstances is about 20%. The first part of the puzzle is to find out where the fish feeds. In a dam a very popular strategy is to find the old riverbed and fish this. The reason being is that it’s normally a little deeper with a drop off and there is a natural flow in the riverbed that carries natural food. Now how do you fish if you only have a riverbed in an almost still / slow flowing water. Easy ...the same as you would a riverbed in a dam. You fish the margins and the middle/deepest point. And when investigating this river the middle had a nice gravely bottom surrounded by clay and silt and a good place for carp to look for food. The margins have big overhanging trees and these areas will always hold carp for the security they give and the free offerings that might make their way into the water from birds and seeds and fruits that fall from trees. The margins also hold an abundance of other food that wash into the river when it rains and then there are other aquatic life that finds the river walls a safe haven and forms part of the cap’s natural food sources. The depth in the margins vary from 1.5 to over two metres in other words other than the roots of trees and a few drowned juvenile trees there aren’t too many snags that could make landing fish difficult. I must admit that on a small venue like this and knowing that most river carp would be nomadic it was really easy to choose the most likely spots for the carp to look for food simply because there are only a few options. Our feeding campaign started two weeks before our actual session. We wanted to get the fish used to our bait so we poured the bait in. We fed twice in the first week with about a total of 20kg of pellet and 10 kilos of boilies. The week preceeding our session saw a more conservative approach in about a total of 10 kilos of pellet and about five kilos of boilies. We would arrive at the river on Friday late afternoon so we fed on Wednesday afternoon for the last time before our session. We did spread the bait over about an area of 100 m along the bank we fished from. The idea being that the margin of error will be less the more you spread your bait. The bigger area you cover the more fish would get in contact with the bait as well. We also did not have the problem of someone else fishing our spots and this also gave us the option to move or spread out over a larger area if fishing was quiet in one particular spot. I had a hunch about specific spots and placed a bit more concentrated amounts of baits on these spots cause they were the spots that I would place hookbaits first off. Feeding over a distance of 15 meters with pellet can be tricky especially if the wind blows. Using a spod rocket is an option but feeding 10 kilos at a time is time consuming so we used a baiting spoon on a six foot throwing stick. This also helped us to spread the pellets over half the width of the river at one go. The boilies was spread with both a baiting “kettie” and the baiting spoon. Both are quite accurate after a few tries. Our strategy was not to feed at the start of our session but to fish with pva bags with boilies and pellet in. Now with a lot of hard work behind us we still needed to catch a Carp.The hours was passing slowly but the Friday evening at eight the camp was setup and all the rods was very carefully placed in the very carefully chosen spots. A very important point that should not only apply to small venues like rivers but any carp fishing venue no matter what the size .... this is stealth. This includes not hammering tent pegs into reasonably soft soil , not making bon fires that cast light onto the water, not creating unnecessary noise on the bank. This is not just about respect for your neighbour who might be fishing in the margins but you will be doing yourself a favour to not unnecessarily spook fish from the area you are fishing in. This venue demands a very stealthy approach so we set our bivvies up back from the water’s edge. This also meant that we had to set our drags quite tight. I opted to start by only fishing with two rods to keep the line pressure on our spots to a minimum. My setup was very simple and I opted to fish off bank sticks so that I could minimize the line angles. I ,as always, fished with a sinking braid main line this gives me complete control over the movements of the fish. I used a normal lead clip with a 3 ounce flat pear gripper lead. This is very important when fishing waters with snags cause you want the lead to come off once the fish try to escape into snags like the branches of submerged trees. My choice of hooklink was my confidence rig which is a combi rig made up of ESP Ghost 18 lb fluorocarbon boom section and a 3cm supple part of Kryston Silkworm in 25 lb. I used two different hook patterns. I was trying out the Owner C3 which is a hook pattern that I haven’t tried before this is basically a short curved shank wide gape hook.
The other was the old trusted pattern in the Owner C4 which is a more orthodox short shank wide gape hook. I also use a rig ring that is looped on in almost a D-rig style and then aligned to the shank of the hook by some shrink tubing. This means I can use different sized hookbaits on one hooklink by just tying the hookbait onto the rig ring with baitfloss. I do not extend the shrink tubing past the eye of the hook because in both these hook patterns the eye of the hook faces towards the point of the hook and this gives the hook a good aggressive angle. That is if you pass the supple braid through the eye of the hook from back of the hook eye. We were fishing from a very steep bank and there is only one spot to land the fish which was on some manmade concrete steps that is situated on the far left side of the swims we were occupying. This meant that to prevent fighting carp from picking up the other lines in the water we had to use captive backleads which worked a treat once you get them to the bottom without them falling from your mainline which is not that hard if you are two people.
As hookbait I used double 14 mm Formula 1 boilies (bottom baits) on both my rods. To this I hooked a pva mesh bag with ten or so freebies and some of the pellets we fed in our pre-baiting. Need I explain that there was complete mayhem when I got a absolute screamer less than half an hour after the traps was set. I was very surprised and I managed to land this beauty of a river common that weighed just over 20 lbs. What a start!!
We were even more surprised when my other rod whizzed of shortly after releasing the first fish. As if this was not enough Frans’s rod was off as well in a bit of confusion since at first it looked as if my fish picked up his line but when the fish broke water he dropped the net and he was in. We landed both fish and I had another 20 lber under the belt and Frans had a new PB at 21 lbs. What was very good to see is that our bait was CONSUMED by these fish as they all were spilling boilie all over the unhooking mat.
We caught 12 fish through the course of the night with seven of them being over 20 lbs and the smallest was a 12 lb very healthy river carp. All the bigger fish we caught were very long fish but they lacked that big broad bodies. This is very common for river fish reared on the natural food sources they live off. The thing is they have to cover long distances in getting all the food they need since the river is only 15 metres wide but more than a kilometre long. The runs went on until about 10 o’clock the morning and then all bites we got was from crabs and huge ones as well. There was some rugby on the afternoon and and round about 6 that evening I got another good run and again a scrappy 20 lber.
We decided to put in some bait and spreaded about a kilo each on the spots we were placing our hookbaits since the fish was feeding very confidently we should be cleaned out in no time and we stuck to the pva approach. We did not get the same amount of runs that evening but we got a several runs around sunrise. The size of the fish landed was between 12 and 16 lbs. We ended our trip on the Sunday with a total of 20 fish landed between the two of us. Although we didn’t get the real biggies we got the fish out at a decent frequency and I was happy with my first session at this promising carp fishing venue. In the next issue I’ll elaborate on the ups and downs of putting together your puzzle in catching the Big CARP.
A nice 20lb river carp The first fish get landed
A nice 20lb'er Another fish that was solidly hooked
Another nice 20lb'er Another 20lb river carp falls to my traps
The Hook hold you want This is how you can build confidince in landing your fish, with good hook holds.