2nd January 2018


The first day of 2018 and another clear blue sky greeted me as I made my daily wander around the lake. It is only days away from starting to run over the spillway once again so I will soon be able to float off the remaining cut reeds ready for fresh growth in the spring.
Anyway, the real reason for this post is that I became aware of some minor disturbances in the wind ripples and further examination revealed that they were coming from a couple of carp feeding in front of Stumps. I stood and watched but there only appeared to be the two there but then this feeble brain of mine started to work overtime. What had made me notice such small indications?
There’s no definitive answer to that but I have some theories which lead to other theories so here goes.
I have now lived on the banks of my own lake for 16 years and I walk the lake almost every day, sometimes several times each day. I believe that my love of fishing and lakes in general has made me observe, and in doing so, become more observant of what is going on in normal conditions. In short I have become tuned to the lake. It appears to me that I have grown to know what to “expect” to see as I walk the banks and the slightest deviation from that norm attracts my attention. In a pure fishing situation I guess you would call it watercraft but it extends slightly further than that. I’m likely to notice a broken branch because the “shape” of the overhang on the opposite side of the arm has changed. I notice small movements in the forest from deer or boar, even when I’m not really looking for them. Now this is where it becomes interesting.
I’m not relying on this “recognition of the normal” for survival but it is something that has developed naturally and not by any sort of training on my part. If this same instinct is switched to the brain of a carp then it leads to some very interesting suggestions.
I accept that all wild animals are born with a natural survival plan which goes from avoiding danger from being eaten by other fish or simply recognizing and finding food. Now my first question is, does this instinct become more developed over the years? If so, does this mean that the bigger, older, carp are more aware of the norm than their younger mates? The reason I ask this because I’m not sure that I would have been quite so aware of the small nuances on my lake 16 years ago.
I’m going to throw in a few scenarios with no proof but just pure bumbling thoughts.
I refuse to accept that carp have powerful enough brains to recognize danger in specific rigs or baits, Jesus, their brains are smaller than mine and I struggle to work out the reason for some of the rigs. If they did they would have stopped eating round food items about forty years ago. However, I now ask, does a poorly presented rig change what they have got used to, (the normal situation) and cause them to become defensive? Would this also explain why small carp seem easier to catch than their big brethren? Possibly they haven’t yet had enough years patrolling their home territory to immediately recognize the change from the norm. I have had some very, very experienced anglers ask me why pop ups don’t work as well as bottom baits on here. Maybe they just don’t look “normal”.
This can also be applied to bait in two ways, color and flavor.
I have noticed, and been stupid enough not to realize, that even fishing with sweet corn needs a bit of thought. I can remember stalking some fish, close in, down the Southern Arm. My float was armed with three grains of corn and about ten grains scattered around it. Two fish surrendered to it in quick succession so I loaded the swim with loose offerings of corn and ……………… didn’t get another sniff. My suspicion is that the small quantity of corn was acceptable but the mass of grains changed the norm and put the fish on edge.
I have also watched a very experienced angler have a fantastic week with heavy baiting. He then returned the following year with the same bait but in a yellow base color ………….. and blanked. Was this coincidence or did the color of the bait change the norm? I have also tested very pale baits and I can’t get the same results, with beds of them, as I can with darker baits.
I have had some major successes on big beds of boilies but the most successful have certainly been dark colors and the same goes for all of my bigger fish.
Now here’s another true story. Some years ago I walked into Leaning Tree and there was a young lad fishing with loads of carp feeding like crazy. I was astonished when he said that he hadn’t had a bite and that he thought the bubbles must just be marsh gas. I pointed out that the patches of bubbles were moving so they were definitely fish. He was fishing pineapple pop ups on all three rods and the fish obviously weren’t interested in either the flavor, color or presentation. I suggested he switch to a bottom bait and try that. Two hours later I walked back into the swim and he still hadn’t had a bite. I asked whether he had switched to bottom baits and he said “Yes. They’re baits that I’ve had glugged for two years. They’re brilliant!” I suggested that, it could be that the flavor was too strong and that he should try a bottom bait straight out of the bag. I’m pleased to say that my advice paid off and he had 7 carp, including his first forty, that afternoon. Now that opens a whole barrel load of worms. Were all of the options that he tried presented wrong, too bright or too strong? Does that also go some way to explain the effectiveness of washed out baits?
I have been carp angling for 50+ years now and I can remember the experiments with making our own bait. I remember making strawberry flavor for Darenth big lake with 2.5ml of strawberry flavor and catching on my first session. Brilliant, I thought, 5ml will rinse the place. WRONG! Couldn’t buy a bite.
Well that’s probably enough waffling so I will sum up what I THINK I’m getting at.
1. Is it worth trying to ensure that your bait flavor isn’t too obvious if you’re fishing a rich water? If the carp are feeding on bloodworm and snails etc they are not searching for a strong flavor. The glugged bait might even put them off as it is totally different to the norm and might even make them ignore that area.
2. It might be better to opt for darker baits than to go for lots of bright baits spread over a swim. Unless you’ve been prebaiting like that for a long time that is not what they will be expecting to find as they mooch through their garden. It could take some time to get them to accept this as normal. It could also explain why it often pays to use the same bait as the majority of other anglers. With lots of anglers baiting regularly, that bait becomes accepted as a food source, which is pretty much the same as saying that it is what the carp expect to find.
3. Think about your presentation to make sure that it doesn’t give them reason to avoid it because they’re not used to seeing it. If they’re feeding in the mud why not present the bait where they’re feeding.
However, I would also add that a single bright, pink, yellow, white or whatever, pop up can be used very effectively as an “opportunity” bait that can be roamed about to trip them up. After all, the only way carp can test things is to use their mouths.
Bet that’s got the grey matter bubbling.
Be lucky.