Tom Forman details this very effective surface-fishing method.
With the recent scorching temperatures, it’s been difficult not to get excited over the prospect of a spot of surface fishing. I’d been awaiting this period for what seemed like forever, and when it eventually arrived I didn’t need telling twice and I’ve been taking full advantage of the conditions. How many of you can say the same?
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked round a lake and seen a floater rod leant up against a bivvy when conditions look prime for it. When I’ve asked, the same excuses come up: “There’s too much birdlife”, “It’s too windy”, “I’ve put a few mixers out but they are not having it”... The reality is you could sit behind bottom bait rods for days with no activity and simply blame it on the warm weather when, with a bit of effort, the carp are there to be caught, often in numbers.
I’ve always loved floater fishing. Growing up it was one of the first ‘styles’ of carp angling I learnt. I loved nothing more than nicking a fish or two off the surface whilst others around me were blanking. However, over the last three or four years, it’s gone from a tactic that nicks a bite or two here and there for me to a method that can result in big hauls of fish, often in short succession. This is where the over-depth zigs really come into play.
Until a few years ago, all my floater fishing was done with a single rod, a controller float and a bag of mixers. It was only when I started getting serious with my zig fishing that I started to combine the two tactics. Over-depth zigging is effectively fishing a bait on the surface of the water anchored a lead. Some would say it’s a lazy method of floater fishing that takes out much of the fun. Initially I would have agreed, but I was soon converted once I realised how devastating the method can be.
As with any method of carp fishing, location is paramount, and with the arrival of the warm weather finding them isn’t too difficult. Cruising carp are always a good sign. I specifically use the word ‘cruising’, as there is a big difference between carp moving or cruising on the surface and static carp that are simply sunning themselves. Don’t get me wrong, there are occasions when basking carp can be enticed to have a feed, but it’s the carp that are moving from area to area in the upper layers that are most vulnerable.
Once the carp have been found, you need to work out how to fish for them. The key aspect of over-depth zigging is to know the exact depth of water you are fishing in. The first thing I do once I have found a group of fish is quickly flick a lead in and around them to gauge a depth. If a marker float is needed then I will use one, but the majority of time I can get away with just using a lead and counting the depth as the lead falls through the water. Once I know my depth, I know the length I need to tie my zigs and I’m fishing.
There is no need for any form of leader or tubing, so I fish ‘naked’ with my lead clip attached direct to the main line. One key factor when zigging is to ensure you are able to drop the lead as soon as needed. I always opt for the Weed Safe Bolt Bead, as it’s perfectly suited to the job. Anyone who’s tried it will know how difficult it is playing and landing a fish on a long zig when the lead is still attached. I tie my Zig Flo hooklink straight to the swivel, incorporating an anti-tangle hooklink sleeve. This simply kicks the long link away from the lead on the cast, ensuring it’s fishing every time and not tangled.
Then all that’s left to do is decide on a hookbait, and 99 per cent of the time I use Floater Zig Bugs. Not only do they give me three brilliant options (Riser Pellet, Chum Mixer or Floating Pellet), they also allow me to set up and fish quickly and effectively. I tie these up in advance and have them ready to go. Once I have a fish in the net, I can quickly cut the hooklink, tie on a fresh one and be back fishing within seconds – before dealing with the fish in the net.
On the majority of lakes it will not just be the carp that you will be feeding – initially anyway. Birdlife can be a big problem, but the key is to not give up as soon as a few birds move in and mop up your first few patches of floaters. Let them be, give them a free meal and be patient. After a couple of mouthfuls they will be full and leave you to it, hopefully allowing the carp to move in. One trick I always use is to feed a separate area away from the group of fish, which acts like a decoy for the birdlife. By alternatively feeding both areas you can keep the birdlife away from the area where the carp are feeding.
The next stage is to get the carp feeding confidently and aggressively. Sometimes this may take time, so be prepared to sit on your hands and resist casting too soon, possibly ruining your chances. A group of carp competing with each other for food are a great deal easier to catch than one or two fish picking off the odd mixer here and there. This is where Riser Pellets come into play. I started using the Risers a few years ago and I have been hooked on them ever since – as have the carp. Riser Pellets not only hold the carp in the area for longer, they also get them competing for every little particle, often quite aggressively. This in turn makes the fish easier to catch. My floater mix always consists of two thirds Riser Pellets and one third of the larger Slicker Floaters. It’s important to have the larger 11mm Floaters in the mix, as the carp sometimes get too preoccupied on the tiny Risers, which makes getting a take much more challenging. I then simply add a good dose of Slicker Juice. This serves two purposes: it adds more attraction to the mix, which in turn draws the carp in; and second the high oil levels in the Juice creates a large slick/flat spot, which makes life much easier, especially on a windy day.
Reap the rewards
Now you have done the hard work and got the fish feeding competitively, it’s time to take full advantage. On the majority of lakes where three rods are permitted I always have two out on zigs and my third rod set up with a Bolt Machine. Once you have a routine going, things can really start coming together. Nevertheless, it’s paramount to continuously feed to keep the fish in the swim and competing for the food. When you consider that a bag of Risers or Floaters costs around £6 and a sack of mixers from a supermarket is even cheaper, there really is no excuse not to have enough bait at your disposal.
All that’s left to do now is bag up. A small amount of preparation and a lot of hard work on the bank will catch you good numbers of carp at this time of year, often when others around you are blanking.
Fish hard and reap the rewards!