Jules has a great reminder that being prepared to adapt to what the carp are doing is the golden rule for a red letter session
It’s that time of year when the sun finally is out and at last the carp are spending some of their time in the surface layers as well as feeding on the bottom. As an angler on limited time, it’s easy to slip into a one approach mode, whereas for carp anglers with more time it’s a lot easier to ring the changes. After all, even if you make a bad call, there’s always tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that... However, if you’re on short sessions or overnighters you don’t have that luxury; you need to get it right there and then, and capitalise in an instant.
Here’s a brief insight into one of my recent trips when escalating water temperatures and a change in tactics led to a red letter session.
With much of my spring fishing local to home it wasn’t until May that my more serious carping began on my syndicate. I’d been told the carp were getting ready to spawn and many were holed up in an area where one or two swims commanded all the opportunities. First overnighter on the venue and only two others were there, but of course I knew where they would be... and I was right! Arriving just after 5pm, two laps of the venue revealed the weed was getting a firm grip, and although lots of carp were making lots of noise, it was more likely to be of an amorous nature than feeding. With the soft, sandy bottom, as soon as the carp dip down to feed the water colours up, but it was like tap water.
With plenty of time before dark I spent two hours up and down trees and looking around. Carp were grazing over a sandy patch in the margin created by the inflow pipe from the adjacent dyke; not feeding strongly, but it was a start. No need for a shelter, so it was a case of setting up quietly and not spooking them. Two rods would go left to the sandy patch by the pipe, and the third just over the weed in front of me.
Rather than spook the carp with leads, I threw broken boilies in their direction, which soon had them ambling off. Then the small Spomb gently deposited 10 loads of Key Flake, Slicker Hemp and Tiger Nut Slush, which I’d had soaking for almost 24 hours so it was soupy and formed a lovely cloudy haze. Two Key Airball pop-ups fished just off bottom were mounted on multi-rigs and the fluorocarbon lines were left limp to keep them pinned down. Rod three went out just over the weed line, also with a Key Airball pop-up sitting over a bed of mush – game on. I set up the bedchair well away from the water; no matter how tempting it was, I would have to rely on the R3 telling me the carp were back rather than my eyes.
The first take came just before ten and a nice upper double was soon in the net. An underarm lob and the rod was back in position whilst I did the self-timer shots. Thirty minutes later the same rod was away again with a similar carp. By 4am I realised sleep was unlikely as liner after liner had me up and down like a bride’s nightie on honeymoon.
With a warm day promised I guessed the carp would soon be spawning, but as I always do on overnighters I fired out some Riser and Slicker Pellets just before first light to see if any carp were around. Two pouchfuls of Risers, one of Slickers, kettle on and it had hardly boiled before carp were slurping baits off the surface. For a few minutes I watched half a dozen carp pick at and then feed strongly on the floaters. Two more pouchfuls of Risers on their heads failed to spook them – get in!
I always have my floater gear with me summer and winter alike, so it was off to the car to fetch the rod sleeve out of the back. With hooklinks pre-tied, I knotted one to the swivel buried in the Bolt Machine, added a smear of Mucilin and went back to the swim. The right-hand rod was wound in, as I knew that if I hooked a carp this would be the one in the way.
Although only just visible because of the mist, it was clear that the carp were up for it and feeding strongly. To avoid preoccupation I added two more pouchfuls of Slickers, and even though they landed on the feeding fish they still didn’t spook. A Slicker was slipped into a bait band, overcast as usual and drawn into position in the mist. Frankly I didn’t need to see it, as the clutch screamed and carp number one tore off against the braid – excellent! Finally the fish was beaten and carp number one off the top was in the net.
Experience has taught me that if I keep the pellets going in the carp will continue feeding. Rather than bore you with the repeat, repeat, repeat story I can tell you that in under 90 minutes I netted four more carp. As soon as the sun burnt the mist away it was all over; feeding became spawning and it was time to wind in and go to work. I was shattered and cutting it fine to get home, changed and on the train, but that’s the life of an overnight angler.
I had been in two minds whether to go at all, but obviously I’m glad I did. Even if you have a preferred approach, don’t get tied down to doing the same old, same old each time. Opportunities will present themselves, and it’s a case of recognising them, changing your approach and capitalising on them. If nothing else it might encourage a few more of you to fire out floaters at dawn and always carry your surface kit in the car!