Carp are quite gregarious, social creatures, and often shoal up together, but I have noticed on many waters that the larger fish tend to be loners. For this reason, it is always worth exploring the deepest, seediest, most overgrown areas of a lake, where a big carp might just think it’s hidden away safely.
Many of my angling friends and many of the anglers I read about speak of the same thing, and it is often the case that the largest fish pop up in the most ignored areas of a lake. These areas are usually extremely cramped, take various whippings from branches across the polaroids to get to, and you can barely fit a chair in let alone a bivvy.
However, these swims can be very profitable, as they are so often overlooked.
I remember reading an article by Ian Poole, about his time on Manor, and how the largest fish were rarely seen with any pals around them. Could this be a case of juvenile carp teasing the larger fish, in the same way as most of us ridicule a sumo wrestler or an obese celebrity? Or is it simply a case that the big carp know that if they get excited into a feeding frenzy by competitive doubles that they will probably end up with a few minutes on an unhooking mat.
I may be that these carp, probably being the older of the carp, just like a bit of peace and quiet, away from noisy youngsters and even noisier anglers. Either way, this brings me to my point about using the margins to stalk your quarry.
Chances are, the first few times you went fishing, you walked along the bank and scared the living daylights out of numbers of margin carp on separate occasions. I still do it from time to time, missing opportunities as I do so, and it really gets to me.
The margins are the biggest feature on any lake, you can fish gravel bars and islands all day, but chances are, nearly every fish in the lake will visit some area near the bank at some point, every single day.
But how should you approach it? Well, there are many ways you can go about it, from the elaborate ways written about by Sheringham (Which I won’t go into) or the straightforward ‘hunter’ approach.
We have all heard the quote by Isaak Newton, “Study to be quiet”, and Isaak couldn’t have put it any better. The slightest movement can spook a carp, but the sound is of the most importance, as even the slightest twig break can send a carp bolting off into the depths never to return.
You must really envisage yourself as a ‘stalker’, like a hidden hitman, an assassin, but one who catches carp. You need to be invisible.
That brings me onto the ‘invisibility factor’, which is mainly a rig and bait matter.
Right, you’ve been perfectly silent, and you’ve found a 30lb common sitting around 6 foot away from you, you’ve found it, but how are you going to catch it?
In this situation the introduction of freebies could prove the kiss of death, especially with large baits like boilies, however, baits like maggots, or casters, should float down silently enough, and naturally enough, to not cause a great disturbance to the carp.
Maggots are a great line of attack when stalking, and I rarely look any further unless I have already baited a spot beforehand, which I will talk about later. They are something similar to what carp will come across in a natural food larder, and for some reason, carp really wolf them down!
This Carp certainly loved these maggots.
Arguably the best approach however is to simply put a single hook bait in front of a carp, but not on the nose of a carp, as chances are at that distance the carp won’t be able to see them, and would probably be alarm by the sudden appearance of them if they did see them.
So dangle your wrigglers carefully, I’d suggest around 4-6 feet in front of a carp. You may use other baits though, sweetcorn is always a good bet, a nice big worm is also a cracking bait when stalking, as are pellets and paste.
If the carp seem to be out of free lining range, then there are a whole host of rig ideas you can try.
Leadcore is the best friend of a carp angler fishing the margins, as the main area of interest is not obscured by any line, that can easily spook a carp.
This is extremely important, as carp aren’t very fond of seeing or feeling line, also, the leadcore adds casting weight, so you don’t need the added splash of a lead.
I recall a time when I had just begun fishing, and I was fishing a crystal clear lake that was mainly used for match fishing, but because of the prolific mussel beds, there were quite a few 20lb carp swimming around.
I was fishing for carp, but I was also flicking in a fingerful of casters about 3 feet from the bank just in case a big perch or roach came along. The roach came first, then a few nice perch, but then, completely unexpectedly, the lake record mirror stumbled into view, all 26lb’s of it. An awesome sight for me at the time, and one that had me very quiet, speechless infant.
I watched this magnificent creature suck in a single caster, then turn and swim off as though it couldn’t really be bothered to feed, either that or it could feel my heart beating at 3 million miles an hour. It returned though, from the same angle, took one of two mouthfuls, and then disappeared slowly again. It came back a third time, this time with a friend, a common of around 20lb’s, and they both took a few mouthfuls, the mirror swam off slowly again, but the common hung around for a little longer, and then swam off to the left of my peg, up a reedy margin.
This baffled me, was the mirror going to look for its favorite friends to tell them there was a free meal right near the bank? Or was it simply swimming from baited patch to baited patch picking and choosing what it wanted to eat? What also confused me was how it was only taking a single mouthful, and then casually strolling away.
I saw my opportunity, and I reeled in my one rod, left my set up on [a simple mono hooklink with a 1oz lead] put on some casters, and plopped it into the spot the mirror was visiting.
The carp came back and didn’t seem to look puzzled at the fact that the casters it had once eaten had been replaced, and started to feed more confidently until my own angling inexperience came into play.
I had left my rod with the line tied tight to the lead, and the fish brushed against it. Within a split second all my hopes and dreams of breaking my personal best, by what would have been 16lb at the time, were broken.
It was then I learned the importance of pinning down the line and keeping it well away from your baited area. Slacklines also have this effect, but you may need some SSG shot to aid the cast.
These large shot act in the same way that any lead would, causing alarm in the fish and a given opportunity that the fish may decide to up sticks and leg it! Which may result in a caught fish. However, the end tackle you would use for general carp angling may also be used to stalk the margins.
Sometimes stalking can be a case of baiting and waiting. It is often advisable to bait up a few likely looking spots and cruise between them looking for signs of interested carp, although you can leave your rig in amongst one of these ‘traps’ and wait patiently for a carps imminent arrival.
Baits that are excellent for these situations are particles and pellets. A pellet mix works wonders, especially when a combination of sizes and textures are used, although I favor a simple mix of hemp and corn.
A simple, cheap, yet amazingly effective way of catching big carp.
Chopped or crushed tiger nuts are also amazingly effective, as are ‘soups’ of sloppy ground bait and seed mixes. Partiblend has accounted for more than its fair share of margin caught carp, and the size of the variables in the mix is probably the reason why. Small baits are often looked at by carp with much enthusiasm, as they resemble the size of natural food they come across.
Two other fantastic baits are the great floating baits, bread, and chum mixers.
For some reason, each of these baits is taken readily by carp, as if they grew up eating them as treats in their natural environment. I often think that bread takes the form and yeasty smell from some form of shrimpy or mussel flesh and that some sort of chemical reaction with the water is what makes it so deadly.
Although the new artificial bread looks really good, I am a little skeptical at the moment, although I am sure I will have those worries taken away. Hopefully by my own experiments.
Dog biscuits are also good, but floater fishing is a different ball game to stalking, as the carp make themselves utterly obvious when fishing the surface, but when stalking, it’s a different ball game down on the lake bed.
In these situations, rigs can be very important, as you want to be subtle in your presentation, but not so subtle that any fish hooked will snap off.
I favor a long length of leadcore, about 6-12 feet, attached to a long length of snakebite, which is combi rigged by peeling back a little of the coating to tie the hook with. Small hooks and long hairs are also tactics I employ, as I want the fish to feel as confident as possible when feeding.
I will go as small as a size 10 hook, and opt for owner gorilla’s or ESP raptors, as these hooks are extremely strong in small sizes.
As for leads, well this is up to you. I have recently been playing around with drilled stones, to make inline leads, but I believe the Pallatrax boys have brought out an entirely more refined product with the same principle. I do like in-lines for margin carping, although most leads are up to the job. I’ve varied from big 6oz ball leads to 1oz flatties, I think that your knowledge of the particular fish you’re fishing for should indicate what sort of lead arrangement to use. I apologize for being that brief, but there is no universal truth in that situation.
A great rig, for those wishing to fish single pop-up boilies, is the hinge rig. We all know it well but I think many people fish it the wrong way. It’s a difficult rig to tie, and my teeth are slowly being pulled forwards by wrenching at the line to bed down blood knots. Here is the set-up I prefer, which involves a really small pop-up section, something that I believe acts as a bristle that the carp find difficult to eject.
Here is a rig that will take any pop-up.
Another fantastic way to stalk carp is to use a humble float set-up. I prefer to use the Goose Quill Floats made by angler Mark Price, they are superbly handcrafted and look perfect in the water. You can see reviewed here: http://www.carp-uk.net/reviews/mark-price-floats.htm
Float fishing is a very silent task, it is very subtle, and hooklengths of 8-10lb are better than thicker lines, although I do like to use my usual rigs tied onto the end underneath the float.
http://www.carp-uk.net/floatfishing.htm is a great little guide that shows how best to use a float. From the swivel, I like to use snakebite, or kryston multistrand, a great hook length when float fishing.
Now you’ve got your rigs and bait sorted out, you need to equip yourself with the correct gear. It is no use using your distance rods to fish the margins, as you will be far too overgunned and may suffer hook pulls, resulting in damage to the carp.
You can buy specialist rods for the task, but anything from 2.5lb downwards is suitable. I like to use a strong barbel rod of around 2lb, these are strong and have the perfect amount of give for fishing in close.
10-15lb line is your best bet, I like Diawa Sensor, although I am impressed with Sufix’s Magic Touch which I have recently spooled up with. Bear in mind that many of the areas you’re fishing will be full of snags, so choose a good strong line.
That’s all from me at the moment, I know it might seem like hard work to begin with but once you start getting your rewards you’ll never sit still again. If you’re struggling to locate carp, get your arse up the nearest climbing tree [Be careful] and start looking.
My eyes are buggered from trying to stare through the water so often. Keep your eyes out for muddy waters, dark patches, the shapes of carp, bubbles from the mouth of a carp, or the most obvious things, like a carp jumping clear of the water.
Keep it simple and keep it quiet and I’m sure those margin carp will come your way. All the best and tight lines.