Okay, okay, it's as old as the hills but it still makes me smile and it does emphasise how simple things can be misunderstood, like how to catch carp on sunny days (another thing that makes me smile).
Although carp feed in abundance during the warmer months they do enjoy sunbathing as well, or 'basking' as the politically correct terminologists would have it. Whatever the proper vocabulary is, don't be fooled into thinking our bronze-flanked advisories aren't there for the taking all the time.
Come rain or shine, a percentage of these buggers will be on the look out for food; it's in their nature. Carp grow big - fact! They grow big for a reason, the reason being they eat a lot - fact! Catching them must be easier than the 'wily adversary' brigade would have us believe then, yes?
I know the 'romantics' argue about carp being akin to chess champions, masters of their own environment and all that, but at the end of the day they are just dumb-assed, stupid fish led by a survivalist instinct to live. I personally have never known an instance, regardless of conditions, when at least one carp somewhere is not there waiting for a chance to eat.
They are an opportunist feeder; it just relies on you, the angler, to give them that opportunity.
The whole hair/bolt/boilie revolution was a mixed blessing, whilst on one hand it gave this 'uncatchable' species a lifeline to anyone with enough patience to try to bank one of these beauties, it also took away the necessity to explore deeper. Laziness has become synonymous with some of the modern carp anglers, all competing in a weird carp culture. All looking the same and fishing the same methods regardless of conditions. All with time on their hands to wait for the fish to come and find them and each possessing an extraordinary quality of endurance. Not for me!
For me, time is of an essence. I am a single parent, I have a full time job, at least three kids, an ex-wife (therefore little money), a current girlfriend (likewise even less money), places to go, people to meet, dogs to walk etc., and when I do get an hour or two spare to catch my quarry I then have to rush home and write about it all before the editor's deadline... and you thought you had problems!!
Now maybe you can understand why I don't mind looking like a prat with one float rod, why I don't own any three rods or reels that match and why I don't always fish to a preconceived ideal laid down by the 'in-crowd' clones (with no disrespect). If this style of fishing suits your needs and you enjoy it, then go for it. Read your glossy magazines and dream away the long, lonely hours with thoughts of when your chance might come. If however you would like to put a few more fish on the bank then I'm afraid you will have to make the ultimate sacrifice and get off that bloody bed-chair.
Going back to the 'matching rods ' bit, all fishing rods are designed for a particular purpose, be it long range, short range or somewhere in between. This would indicate then, that if you fish identical set-ups they should be fished at similar distances. Therefore if you fish with one rod slung towards the horizon, another to a midway island and the third dropped in the margins, shouldn't three completely diverse methods be employed?
A few years ago I had a week fishing the mighty Embalsa de Chira lake in Gran Canaria (a trip I would recommend). During the first few days nothing was caught, nor looked like being caught by the eight members of our party, so I went to investigate the alternative options. I found a small bay with a uniform depth of three feet, slung out two tins of the 'jolly green giant' wonder bait, lit a cigarette and watched. Within ten minutes the first telltale bubbles started to emerge. I hastily set-up and had around about a dozen fish, with three on at the same time at one point. The fish weren't massive, all 'doubles' up to about sixteen pounds but they were fish and good action, which is what it is about after all.
Being the nice guy I am, I relayed my story to the others that evening and offered anyone to chance to take up my swim the following day, knowing everyone else were blanking. To my amazement everybody declined saying they were comfortable where they were. Comfortable! Now, am I missing a point here, am I the one soldier out of step, blaming the other ninety-nine?
I returned to the same spot at daylight and resumed where I left off. Finally with only a couple of days to go one of the group tentatively enquired, "You're not float fishing are you?" obviously knowing me from old that I'd be just as likely to do something so mad-cap. I reassured him all was strictly above board, leads were being used; I was fishing 'properly'. With this, he asked if he could fish the swim on the final day.
The last day arrived and he duly tackled up with his three thirteen foot horizon busters, his matching reels the size of small badgers complete with 61bs mainline, and gently lobbed his end tackle the twenty foot-or-so to the 'hot-spot', leaving the shock-leader knot about twelve inches from the tip ring. Later when I questioned him about his day he replied with great gusto about the six fish he'd hooked and how they must all have been monsters because every one had smashed him up, snapping the line like it was cotton. (Or 61bs BS monofilament, perhaps?)
I had spent the day fly-fishing for the many freshwater bass that were present, much to the sniggers of everyone else... But who cares! I enjoyed myself.
Another similar incident happened as I walked my dog around a lake; just having a snoop. I got chatting to one guy who had three lines disappearing off to some distant gravel bar. As we were chatting I noticed three good carp, all twenty-pounds plus, swim by virtually underneath his rod tops.
"Did you see those? " I said enthusiastically.
"Yeah, " he replied nonchalantly, "They've been doing that all day".
I didn't bother to question him on why he hadn't bothered to put a little tempter their way. They probably "don't feed in the margins" on that venue... If I had a pound for every time I've heard that as I've dropped another bait in the edge I'd be (in the words of Harry Enfield) "Considerably richer than yo '!" And all the other classic one-liners; "They don't take floaters/pop-ups/fishmeals/particles/etc here mate". "They only feed at night/during the day/in the mornings/when there's a westerly blowing" etc. etc. Etbloody-cetra!
Bull-manure - the sticklebacks would outgrow these carp if they fed so infrequently!
What people actually mean is; the carp are more likely to bite at the recognised times, in the recognised places, on the recognised baits - if the conditions are right. I except that fact but do not accept that they can't be caught at other times by differing means.
Maybe I should get down from my soapbox now and go and lie somewhere quietly in a darkened room! I 'm straying from the original point of this article; which was to explain how to tempt basking sharks, I mean, carp, by stalking them.
Given that in certain conditions carp are unlikely to be feeding in their 'designated' areas, you have the perfect opportunity to reel in and wander. Polaroid sunglasses are a must, even on overcast days for effective fish spotting. The higher up you get, the more you see, so don't be afraid to climb the odd tree or two. Most importantly don't rush; fish are difficult to spot on purpose, nature made them that way, the day that Beelzebub created cormorants.
Spend a good ten minutes in each swim (and between swims) allowing your eyes to become accustomed to the watery view and you'll begin to notice shapes and shadows that weren't there before.
Tackle should be of a minimum. One soft, ten foot rod, the old glass-fibre ones are quite adequate. A reel, filled up with a strong abrasion resistant line (12 to 15lbs BS). A float, a box of swan shot, a big strong hook and a collapsible landing net, as used by trout anglers, that's all that is required.
As for baits, you should opt for a three-pronged attack, never knowing what may be required. You'll need bait that sinks fast, one that sinks slowly and a third that floats. To summarise... you'11 need some bread!
When you spot a fish don't do anything other than keep quiet and watch initially. Ask yourself three questions. "What approximate depth are they at, are they feeding or looking for food and do you stand a realistic chance of landing them from your position?" Having ascertained these criteria, you should be able to make an assessment on whether a few free offerings would 'spook' the fish or arouse it's interest. Incidentally, try to flick out any baits using your thumb and forefinger. Carp are not big on wild arm movements.
Decide whether a bottom or surface presentation would have the better chance of success, then go and tackle up as far from the spot as you can. It is inevitably a very exciting way of fishing and I am convinced the carp can pick up on the 'electricity' in the air (I'm sounding like an ol' romantic myself now, eh?). Anyway, even if they can't, it's best to keep out of their view.
Keep all movement restricted to the minimum. Try to prejudge their next move by casting to where you think they are moving to, rather than directly at them, unless of course they have their heads down in a mass of silt and bubbles.
Watch how the bait is taken. Carp often suck and blow at foodstuffs to work out if all is well. Fishing the lift method with a float is always a good indicator if you can't actually see the carp's mouth, because the bait must be in its mouth for the float to rise - scientific fact, says so in my Boys Book of Knowledge. Then, all you have do is reel it in, lift your prize aloft, smile and get your photograph taken.
That's another thing with bloody nouveau carp bloody anglers. Why is it fashionable to look like you've just stood in dog shit in a photo? Smile, for crying out loud, you've just caught a fish! You should be bloody happy, that's what it's all about... Where's my bloody soapbox gone? (I don't belieeeeeve it!)
Good luck anyway,
Victor Meldrew (a.k.a Young Rodders)