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Surface sessions

A scaly 24lb mirror that couldn’t resist a surface bait

Being versatile is not just an asset that might make you a better angler; it is a strength that will catch you more fish, says Adam Clewer.

Catching carp consistently requires a wide-ranging approach. In reality most of us fish a certain way and are reluctant to branch out. As I write it is early April, the leaves are still absent from many of the trees outside my office window, and there was a chill in the air during my early morning dog walk. However, over the last week I have caught 10 twenties – all off the top! I love surface fishing, but I didn’t used to; I used to avoid it. In reality, surface fishing requires more skill than sitting behind a set of alarms fishing with rigs that are designed to self-hook. However, a number of years ago I pushed myself to better hone the art of surface fishing and I haven’t looked back!

Over recent weeks I have ventured to my local lakes only carrying my surface equipment. This means I can’t give up after a quick glance and revert to static fishing. I look for opportunities, and if they aren’t obvious I look some more. On occasion the fish have made their presence evident. At other times I’ve needed to create a scenario required to catch carp off the top. Rarely are my sessions any longer than a few hours, but we have all heard the line before about a short time in the right place, etc. A couple of recent sessions spring to mind when the fishing has been mixed, but the prizes are so very worth the effort.

Another one in the net – and it’s a good one too!
Creating the feeding scenario is key to success

Two weeks ago I arrived to fish at my chosen lake to be greeted by an increasingly overcast sky with the very real threat of rain shortly becoming a reality. Armed with a surface rod and a bucket of Mixers, I sheltered under some trees and grumbled to myself about not bringing a jacket. Fortunately the rain passed and I strolled around the lake looking for signs of fish. On the first lap things were looking bleak. I elected to drift some dog biscuits across the less-than-ideal ripple that was frustratingly increasing in strength. A splash of hemp oil on the pellets improved visibility, causing a slick to appear around the baits. After what felt like some time – in reality probably only 30 minutes – I noticed the subtle yet palpable signs that the occasional biscuit was being taken. This encouraged me to continue to feed the swim, holding back from casting a baited hook until the fish’s confidence had increased. After another 15 minutes it looked good for a cast. Some thought was given in regard to where to cast, and my plan was to drift the rig on to the fish rather than simply cast on top of them. My bubble float twice glided over the area that Mixers had been disappearing from before the first one succumbed to my advances – fish on! A protracted fight followed, the fish attempting to find the sanctuary of some marginal trees. Fortunately I won the day and a low-twenty mirror sulked in my net.

The action continued over the course of the hours that followed, the fish’s confidence mounting as I maintained regular feeding of the area. The best fish of the afternoon weighed a little over 24lb, but given its striking scale pattern, the weight was of little importance. Not a bad afternoon’s fishing!

Fishing for just a few hours, travelling light and catching fish – ideal!
Even the smaller ones are well received when they look like this

Buoyant from my previous success, I returned the following Friday hopeful for more of the same. This time I wasn’t alone; my nephew Joel joined me. Without going into long details, in recent weeks my family has suffered the terrible loss of the death of my brother James. He was 38 and leaves behind two beautiful children. Joel, my brother’s son, had been fishing with me before and was hopeful that we would catch. Not wanting to disappoint, I took an assortment of tackle with me, planning to fish for the roach that haunt the margins and fish the surface for the carp should the opportunity arise. Thankfully the lake that greeted us had never looked better, with large shoals of roach darting back and forth in the margins and several carp basking on the back of a warm wind at 20-30 yards range. This was ideal.

28lb 2oz mirror – not bad for a short day’s fishing
Joel with one of his surface-caught carp – a priceless moment

Joel caught numerous roach and enjoyed every one of them. As the day went on, I decided it was time to try and catch one of the larger shadows that appeared to be good-size carp. We caught immediately, the first being a mid-double that resulted in the biggest smile I have seen on Joel’s face for some time. Special times indeed!

Action was incredible; the more I fed the swim the more the fish kept taking. Over the course of the afternoon we caught upward of 10 carp with the best a little over 28lb. Interestingly, whilst I played and landed the 28-pounder, Joel was catching roach and showing no hint of despondency at the contrast in size between our captures – they were and are all special. Fishing continues to provide both a wonderful distraction and also an opportunity to reflect, consider, laugh and, at times, cry. This particular day’s fishing will certainly stay with my memory for a very long time.

In conclusion, if you haven’t fished the top much this year, or are perhaps averse to trying, I really would encourage you to have a go. So often bottom rods sit static for long periods – especially during the warmer months when the fish are nowhere near the bottom. A few hours surface fishing can and often will out-score the stationary approach, so give it a try!

Simple, low-cost bait is all that’s required
I sometimes sprinkle groundbait on my mixers – it adds attraction and varies the size of the loose feed
My choice of hookbait is always a cork ball pop-up

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