Spring Surface Success
Mike Jarvis gives US his tips for catching off the top.
Spring is one of my favourite times to be out on the bank. The carp are much more lively, the days are longer and the old faithful floater rod can be dusted off ready for action! The first warm rays of sunshine quickly see the water in areas of the lake becoming warmer, and as a result the fish become more susceptible to floating baits. This is the perfect time of year to have a go for them on the surface, and it couldn’t be easier.
Surface fishing, in comparison to many other angling approaches is generally quite simple, but there are a few key aspects that are vital to ensure consistent success. With only minimal tackle required, it makes fishing and moving about simple. I store all of my floater tackle alongside my camera and scales within my FX Combo Mat, carrying just my rods and net. I have everything in the van ready to go at a moment’s notice, and the small amount of tackle often means that I can do a few hours fishing straight after work, especially with the lighter evenings.
The most important aspect of floater fishing is finding the fish and getting them feeding competitively on the floating baits. Travelling light makes it easy to walk the lake looking for signs of fish near the surface. I generally look for areas of flat-calm water which receive the sunlight throughout the whole of the day and into the evening. A minimum amount of surface ripple caused by wind ensures good rig presentation, so I always look off the back of the wind. Vital pieces of equipment for finding cruising carp are a peaked hat and pair of polarising sunglasses; they make spotting carp under the surface glare much easier, especially in fading light.
When you’ve found some fish that look likely to take a floater or two, get some bait out to the area and watch closely how they react. I use an Impact Spod to introduce a mixture of oily 6mm and 11mm floating trout pellets. You’ll be quite surprised how little the Impact Spod spooks them once you get the fish confidently feeding. I tend to introduce a good amount of floaters to start, 5-10 medium Impact Spod’s worth, using the oil from the baits to flatten off the surface nicely for watching them feed. Once the first few fish start to take the floating baits, you will often find that more soon follow. At this point, don’t be tempted to cast out and spook them off early; keep introducing floaters little and often, slowly building their confidence.
As you keep the bait going in to get them confidently feeding, now is the time to set up your rod ready for when the time is right. A floater setup couldn’t be simpler, which makes setting up quick and easy. I opt for a specifically designed floater fishing mono main line, Fox Surface. I thread the end of the main line through the back of an Exocet Controller, which is then tied to the supplied quick swivel. Next I tie my hooklink. This comprises 12lb Edges Zig+Floater line knotless knotted to a size 8 Arma Point SR hook after the floating hookbait has been attached to a overhand loop. The hooklink needs to be between 4ft and 8ft long; I usually start around 5ft. I then tie a large figue-of-eight loop at the other end, over which I thread the supplied sleeve. This finally clips to the quick swivel in the Controller and it’s ready to cast out.
The best time to get your floater rig out to the feeding group is when the fish are regularly taking the baits, competing against each other in a feeding frenzy. Always overcast the feeding fish, reducing the chances of spooking them, then carefully wind the hookbait slowly back into the group of feeding fish, keeping an eye on the hookbait and the orange Controller top at all times. Watching the hookbait in this situation is vital; bites can be extremely finicky when fishing on the surface, and striking the moment the fish takes the bait is often the only solution to picking up those types of bites.
It’s also important to remember to keep the floaters going in the whole time you have your rig in the water. Keeping them feeding confidently is vital for prolonged action and the chance of getting an extra bite. Another great tip to ensure that your hooklink stays super buoyant, especially after it begins to take on water, is rubbing a small amount of fish oil up the hooklink to ensure it stays on top of the surface film at all times.
You may also notice that the fish seem to shy away from the hookbait at the last minute. This could be because your hooklink is too short, so solve this problem by tying up a slightly longer length. On some days, a bright bait can often be an out and out winner, whereas on other days a dull matching hookbait is the way to go. By changing between the two and cutting the hookbait down to match the size of the free offerings, you will soon work out which bait is more readily taken on the day.
This is a small insight into the way I go about fishing for carp on the surface, but employing these small factors and tips will no doubt lead to success and enjoyment on any floater session, whether it’s after work or during your weekly overnighter. The best way to learn and improve is to get out there in the right conditions and give it a go.