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Friday, 27 December 2013

Rugby Lake "Finding The Key"

Every so often a water comes along that really catches the imagination, for me Rugby is one of those lakes. It's in a woodland surrounded by trees, it has long reed beds and lovely overhanging branches and bushes. After some marker work I have found it to be very deep in places with a few really interesting little drop offs and channels. The water contains a lot weed and can make presenting a bait some what of a challenge. It has a very impressive stock, with the rumour of five fish in the thirty pound bracket with lots of fish in the twenties.

Rugby
I do rotate a fair few waters but over the past months I have made the decision to focus my efforts on Rugby. It hasn't really been a kind water to me, I always manage to get at least one bite most sessions but something nearly always happens that prevents me from landing the fish. If I fish near the reeds they always seem to manage to get in them or bury themselves in the weed beds, last winter I managed a real nice looking twenty pound mirror. There was a part of me that always felt like it was more luck than judgement. 

A Room With A View
Once settling on the water, watching and really thinking about how I was going to wire myself into the lakes workings. I decided to eliminate a few things before I started my time on the place. Firstly I was going to avoid the far margins and any of the obvious features, all of these spots get continually hammered and through the years I am positive the carp, at least some of them have wised up. I believe when a fish is caught enough off of a certain spot, it could be very reluctant to continue feeding there. 

There's a metaphor in life that has always interested me and I feel it walks hand in hand with a specific fishing approach - "You can spend your whole life looking to the horizon for solutions, when more times than not the answer is right under your nose". When I think of the amount of times I have incorporated this in to my angling, it's spooky. The amount of good fish I have had out of the near side margins greatly outweighs fish I have had from visible features. 

With all this fresh in my mind I thought fishing underneath my rods tips might just be the answer. The beauty of Rugby is that in some swims it drops off down to a really good depth less than a rod length out. So in theory there is a possible patrol route right under your nose. For this approach to work I would have to set my rods up so they didn't hang over the margin and from arriving at the water I had to be very quiet from the moment of setting up, being silent was something I felt was going to help this approach work. Silence is something some anglers overlook.

Sometimes when I am out fishing it really surprises me how loud other anglers talk, sometimes I can hear guys so clearly and they are fishing way up the other end of the lake. If I can hear them, I am pretty sure the carp can to, learning to be quiet is a discipline, it is ironic really, I have spent my whole life making a huge amount of noise with my drums, angling for me is such a polar opposite. 

Regarding rigs, in the past I had been using long running helicopters, replacing the back bead with PVA cord and making sure the bait sank slowly and was perfectly balanced. After having a think I decided to try something a little different, I took the concept of the Withy Pool rig and combined it with the chod. I got a lot of stick from people when I posted this specific rig up on my Facebook feed. I didn't really understand all the animosity, the great thing about angling is that you can try and experiment with whatever you want to. Once you understand the basics and basis of rig design, it can open up a whole new world of creativity.

My Chosen Rig

As you can see with the rig above, the silicone is long and when it sits up it creates a 'claw' type presentation. The micro swivel on the hook allows the bait to rotate 360 degrees, this means that whatever direction the fish come from, the hook can spin and nail them. Because Rugby is weedy I don't want to spend ages trying to find clear spots, I am confident that this rig will present efficiently over pretty much any lake bed, I wouldn't use it on gravel though. The hook link material is Krystons Snakeskin, it's stripped back to just under the silicone tubing, the hook length itself is very long. On the cast I will wrap a PVA nugget round the hook, this ensures that once the lead has settled, the hook link will stay suspended in mid water, once the nugget dissolves the rig will flutter down and perch on whatever is beneath it. 

How The Rig Sits

View From The Top

The hook I am using for this rig is a Size 8 Nash Fang Twister, the silicone tubing is ESP, the stops are from ACE tackle and the micro swivel is made by Fox. Below is a short demonstration of how a PVA nugget pauses the decent of the rig. The more balanced your hook bait is, the slower it will drop through the water. Doing this allows the lead to settle nicely before the hook bait comes to settle, ensuring that you are giving it the best chance to present properly.

Rig Demo On Entry To The Water

Moving onto the subject of bait, I have been mixing it up a little, baits that have delivered me bites have been Starmers Garlic Sausage, Tangerine Fish, Banana Cream and Honey Nectar. Because winter is starting to set in I'm going to scale down on the amount of bait that I introduce. This time of the year I go for 'maximum attraction', making sure that the solid items that carp can pick up are at a minimum. 

Instead of using beds of boilies I favour fast dissolving pellets and method mixes. Because the carp aren't feeding as much as they were earlier in the year, using this approach can really help produce. Method mixes and pellets breakdown leaving a nice scent on the lake bed, I believe this helps to draw the carp into the area. If there are only a few solid food items then it ups your chances of getting a pick up. If I am pre-baiting a spot then I will use boilie crumb, again, the reason for this is because I don't want to fill them up. I really want to try to keep them active and feeding.

I have a very strong belief that carp feed all the way through the winter but it's just for shorter periods of time. That's what makes location and bait application so important, also during the winter I rarely take my eyes of the water, some days it's as if no carp are in the lake, other days they might give themselves away with the odd bit of bubbling, or the smallest of shows, more times than not the water will tell you everything you need to know, you just have to be listening.

One approach that I often use when I am fishing close in is something I call 'burying the bait', I have covered this in an older blog post. For those that may not of read it I will explain it again. One of the great advantages of fishing close in is the fact that you can be so precise with your baiting. 'Burying the bait' is an approach that I wouldn't recommend for fishing at distance. It's a very simple method of moulding a ground bait or method mix ball around you hook-bait.

I have been using Starmers Green Lipped Mussel method mix with some ground up boilies thrown in, to this I will add some salmon oil and a few whole boilies so my actual hook-bait doesn't stand out to much. The mix itself is relatively stiff, I want it to be solid enough to grip to the bait on entry to the water and on the landing. I find that it slowly breaks down giving off a nice level attraction, once it's fully broken down the pop up just rears its head above the mix. Before casting out I throw a few handfuls of boilie crumb over my spot.

Boilie Crumb Selection

Ground Up For Maximum Attraction

Getting The Mix Right

Mould The Mix Into A Small Circle

Place The Rig On Top

Roll Into A Ball 'Burying The Bait'

As you can see by the above pictures, it's a very simple process, you can make the finished ball as big or small as you see fit. I opt for a larger size because I feel it drops to the bottom at a good rate, I need this for my chosen spot because it's a good 9ft deep, there can be advantages to it breaking down before landing, the spread of the mix would no doubt cover a large area. The firmer the mix the longer it will take to breakdown. You can get as creative as you want regarding what you include in your mix, in the past I have combined Starmers 'Carp Red' ground-bait, tuna, anchovies, anchovy paste, 10mm boilies, crushed sardines, the list is endless.

The rig I use to fish this particular method is a simple pop up presentation, I make sure the boilie is nice and balanced so when the carp come in and start hovering, my bait flies up into it's mouth easily. With all my pop up rigs, I like the bait to be touching the hook, I don't opt for any free movement when using a popped up bait.

Burying The Bait Pop Up Rig

View From Above

Anyway, that's enough of my waffle, I think I have pretty much covered my main approaches, I am looking forward to getting stuck in on Rugby. I know it's going to be a ball breaker but it's fishing lakes like this that makes me feel my angling is heading in the right direction. I know that my catch rate is going to drop but I also know that when I do get a fish, it's going to be something pretty special. I'm looking forward to sharing this new journey with you all.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Diawa Crosscast S And Crosscast X Reviews

Before I start my reviews I would like to state that I am in no way endorsed or associated with Diawa. Like I've stated in all my other review posts, this is solely to help people out, I get frustrated sometimes because there is a lack of information on some of the products I am interested in purchasing. Instead of reading a sales pitch I would much rather hear from anglers out on the bank putting the kit through its paces. 

So I could get a truly rounded experience of both reels, I went back and used my Crosscast S series for a solid month, this way I could give an honest opinion. I had some good sessions and managed to really put them through the ringer.

I haven't really gone through a huge number of fishing reels considering how many years I have actually been fishing. My first set were the Shimano Baitrunner 6010's I was really fond of this specific model and used them for years. Actually it got to a point where I was trawling ebay and purchasing a good few that were in mint condition, it started to get a little out of hand. To me this series of baitrunner was a classic design and I thought it was built like a warhorse. 

It goes without saying that in the last few years tackle development has come on in leaps and bounds, both in rod and reel design, and I also feel you don't have to be spending stupid money to get real quality. It's just a case of taking a look around and being prepared to do some research. I didn't want to give up my 6010's and it took me a long time to come around to the idea of moving onto my first 'big pit' style reel.

Crosscast S 5000

I initially purchased two Crosscast S's for spod and marker work. One day I had the idea of trying them out as my main fishing reels. To be honest, once I had loaded them up, cast out and landed my first fish on them, I didn't look back, I was pretty much blown away with the whole feel compared to the bait-runner.

Crosscast S 5000 Details

"The Daiwa Crosscast S is said to be setting new standards, offering so much in a big-pit reel under one price tag: how many reels can eat over 100cm of line with each revolution of the handle? This one does so it’s perfect for long-distance fishing and lead-retrieve. The polished aluminium spool and matte black body are particularly good-looking but the many hidden features are equally attractive to the discerning carp-man. Digi-Gear and quality ball-bearings combine with worm-drive to produce superior Cross-wrap line-lay along the full spool-length; infinite anti-reverse completely banishes irksome 'play' in the handle; full 'T' hand-piece gives positive, confident winding and Twist-Buster baling serves to prolong line-life."

 Features


  • Twist-Buster
  • Infinite anti-reverse
  • Digi-gear
  • T-shape handle knob
  • Cross-wrap
  • Aluminium spool
  • Advanced locomotive level wind
  • Weight 635g
  • Line Capacity (approx)- 400yds of 14IB (370m of 0.35mm) line
I thought that it would feel odd going from using a baitrunner system to a reel with a front drag, it wasn't. The first thing I noticed was how 'in touch' with the fish you are and because the drag is on the front, you can easily adjust and cater for all the lunges and pulls that a hard fighting carp gives you, easily and quickly. 

The line lay on the S series is very good and it's lovely to cast, the line peels off nicely and it struck me how much easier it was to get distance with minimal effort. The retrieve is smooth and quick, geared at 5.1:1, the Crosscast will eat up 108cm of line per handle turn making it perfect for big distances, also I didn't suffer from the line getting coiled under the spool. The clutch is smooth and firm when playing a fish and it makes a nice ticking sound which is very satisfying, the reel itself has a three ball bearing system. 

Front Drag System

The one element I am not to keen on is the quality of the line-clip, it's plastic and I am not sure how long it would last, I used these reels for a good year before upgrading and I didn't have any problems with it, my gear does get hammered because I am out a hell of a lot, I am just curious to see if after a good few years of use it would still be up to the job. The upside to it being plastic is that it's very easy to get your line under the clip, which can be a pain with some metal clips.

Plastic Line Clip

The reel itself isn't a bad weight and balances out with my Free Spirit X Wraps perfectly. In regards to the build of the reel, I have no doubt that you will get years of use out of it. I do find that it doesn't quite hit the spot in feeling 'solid', the weak point for me is the handle, even when you tighten it right up there still seems to be a little movement/wobble in it, but that is a very minor point and with all of the companies that now do reel conversions I am sure you can get this particular model 'tarted up' a bit, if you felt the need.

All in all for the price which is £59.99 you are getting a really good reliable bit of kit, I feel this series is spot on for those that are thinking of ditching the bait-runner system. It's a good entry level reel that opens the door to the world of the big pits. And again because of the price it allows anglers that maybe didn't have the money in the past, to get stuck in and give the 'big pits' a go.

Moving on to the Crosscast X, this is a different kettle of fish - "excuse the pun". After about a year or so I upgraded to the X series, I really liked the S's and wanted to stick with their mechanics and design. The Crosscast X has five ball bearings compared to the S's three, this makes for a much smoother and solid feeling reel. Cosmetically it's a feast on the eyes and the QD - Quick Drag facility really makes a massive difference, all in all you're getting one hell of a brilliant reel at a really competitive price, to be honest I thought it had the wrong price tag on it.

Crosscast X 5000

In regards to the quick drag, before using one I really didn't get the point of them, but since using a reel that has the facility included it makes fishing a whole lot easier. It's literally half a turn and you are in complete control of the clutch. Again it makes catering for what ever a carp throws at you really easy without the ache of having to twist the clutch back and forth a load to try and find the sweet spot.

Diawa Crosscast x 5000 Details

"The arrival of the Crosscast X has extended this family of unbelievable reels to four models and with it taken the standard up another level. The X features Quick Drag, HIP high impact line clip and Air Bail. It is also furnished with a machined handle and spare spool. Sharing Digi Gear and quality BB's combined with the worm gear enhanced Cross Wrap line lay and Twist Buster they deliver an impressive performance for the price. All geared at 5.1 : 1 the Crosscast eats up 108cm of line per handle turn making them perfect for big distances."

Features


  • Air Bail on X model
  • Quick Drag on X model
  • High Impact Line Clip on X
  • DigiGear
  • Twistbuster
  • Infinite Anti Reverse
  • T Shaped Handle Knob
  • Cross Wrap
  • Advanced Locomotive Level Wind
  • Machined cut Aluminium Handle
  • Aluminium Spool (spare supplied with X model)
  • Ratio 5.1 : 1
  • Weight 21.5oz
  • Line Capacity 360m 14lb.

As you can see in the list above, it's loaded with features. It has a high impact line clip, this can be a little fiddly until you've used it a few times. The design and the mechanism of the handle is top notch and you don't get any shake or wobble. From a distance it's reminiscent of the Basia handle. On the photo of my reel above you will notice the wooden handle, I got these modified at 'Lee Valley Customs', mainly for visual effect but it seems to make the whole reel feel more balanced and weighty. The clutch is ultra smooth and when attached to the rod it feels nice and solid, it doesn't feel as cheap as the S series. The bail arm is chunky and strong, it's great on both the cast and the retrieve. I have no doubt that this reel performs as good as those that are twice the price.

High Impact Line Clip

One thing I noticed after loading the spool, the line lay is nice and tight, again I haven't had any issues with line getting coiled around the shaft. It flies nicely off the spool on the cast and I can get good distance with the lightest of leads. Once again for the price, which is around £90.00 I believe you are getting something pretty special.

To sum up, I feel both of these reels are great for the money. As we all know, tackle is very much a 'personal preference', we are all different and looking for different things in what we buy. Nowadays there is so much on the market, the carp angler really is spoilt for choice. What makes your tackle good is if it does the job that you want it to do, and it caters to your style of fishing. Either way if you are thinking of dropping the bait-runner design to step into the world of the big pit reels, the Crosscast series is well worth a look.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Burrows 'Nailing It' Part 2

After the success of my last two sessions I had a gut feeling I might be close to getting one of the 20's out. Again my focus was on getting the takes, that was my priority. I set up in the swim I spent my first session in, the day was a lot colder, I turned up at 3:00pm so I had just over three hours to make something happen. 

Today I was fishing with Honey Nectar on one rod and Green Lipped Crab on the other. Just like previous sessions, I got a good amount of bait out along the margin I was fishing. This time I decided I was going to fish one rod on the drop off to the 9ft channel that runs up the centre of the lake. I find I get the runs on the 5ft shelf of the drop off, it falls gradually down to around 9ft.

Because the Green Lipped Crab is a slightly darker bait I decided to top it off with yellow, I left the Honey Nectar bare, being such a bright bait I didn't feel the need to top it off. Regarding rigs, they were the same as previous days, I didn't waste any time getting the rods out, bobbins and back leads were on quickly so I was fishing within about twenty minutes of arriving.

View From The Swim

I am not going to explain in great detail exactly how I was fishing because that was all covered in part one, I was fishing the same setup on both rods - "if it isn't broken, no need to fix it"Like previous days I managed a quick bite that came shortly after casting out, resulting in a lovely mid double common. It put up one hell of a fight, it fell to my Green Lipped Crab rod.

Mid Double On The Green Lipped Crab
After getting her back I cast straight out, I held off from adding any loose feed. Because I was only here for a few hours I wanted to up my chances of getting a take. A little bit of time passed before I got my next fish, this was off the open water rod, it went flying away, I lifted into it and after yet another intense fight, I banked an awesome looking mirror weighing in at 14IB.

14IB Mirror Caught On The Honey Nectar 
I was very pleased with this capture, it goes to show you must never ignore the open water. There is no difference in fishing to an underwater feature or a visible one, other than the fact the feature underwater probably doesn't see as much pressure. 

When I look at any water, I want to find points of interest below the surface, doing this can really pay off. In the carp mags and on the DVD's, marker work is almost being shunned, with the term "Thrashing The Water To A Foam". I don't agree, marker work is an important skill to learn. Even if you dedicate a few hours to it on a day you aren't fishing. Putting a little more effort in can produce on days when the obvious features are not delivering. It's taken me a fair time to really grasp marker work to a level that I am happy with. I generally really enjoy seeking out areas of interest. You start to develop a true sense of the lake make up the more you do it.

Before I managed to get the rod back out, my right one was away, this felt like a slightly better fish and after a quick battle, I slipped the net under a lovely looking mirror, scales sunk to 16IB.

16IB Mirror Falling To The Green Lipped Crab
After returning this fish I got both rods back out and the day slowly evaporated into early evening. I packed down with the view point of coming back in a few days. I wanted to do a couple more sessions before I move on to my target waters for Autumn and Winter. The main two waters I have chosen are hard but hold a great stamp of fish. If I am going to be out in all weathers I want to make sure the chance of a big reward is possible.

My next session was another short one, I have been working a fair bit and I am trying to slot my fishing in whenever I can. I arrived at the water for 2:00pm and had to leave on a job at around 4:00pm, this gave me two hours. I fished the same swim as the previous session, this time I kept my baiting sparse, I wanted to try to produce some quick bites. Once again the action happened pretty fast, about 30 minutes passed before I got my first fish, it was a screamer and resulted in an immaculate 13IB mirror, the scale pattern was awesome.

13IB Mirror On The Green Lipped Crab
The rod went straight back out, pretty much as soon as I set the bobbin, the other rod was away. This resulted in a lovely looking common carp of 12IB, this was taken on a Honey Nectar bottom bait.

12IB Beauty Taken On The Honey Nectar
Once again I got the rod straight back out only putting about 10 freebies around it. The weather turned and it started to get a little colder and dull, I had about an hour of fishing time left.

What happened next was sheer chaos, I got a double take, one rod shot off, followed 30 seconds by the other. It was a very tricky situation, I have had this a few times in the past with varying levels of success in managing to land both fish.

The way I deal with it is try to jam the reel of one rod behind the back rests of my bank sticks. I managed to land the first fish pretty fast, which was a 13IB Mirror, I kept it in the net, luckily the other fish was still on my other rod, I grabbed it frantically and managed to gain control of the situation, I eventually banked a little common. 

One downside to Burrows is that the mud and clay on the banks is a bloody nightmare, I found myself sliding all over the show and where I was taking pictures of the fish, was like a swamp, my feet and trousers were caked in layers of clay, I had to keep moving my cradle and camera into a more convenient position for pictures, which was becoming frustrating. It makes me laugh, more times than not when walking back to the car with my barrow, my legs weigh a good couple of pounds more than when I arrive due to being caked in clay and mud - gotta love the mud !

13IB Mirror - Double Take

Clean Little Common - Double Take

Once the madness had calmed down I got both rods back out, this time I opted for singles, I only had a short time left so I was hoping for a bonus bite. I slowly started to pack my gear away when the left hand rod was off again. This was a real scrappy fish, I eventually slid the net under a fat little mirror, scales sunk to 13IB.
 Honey Nectar Does It Again

I decided to start packing down this rod, leaving my other one out whilst I slowly got my gear together. I pretty much had everything packed away when, out the blue my remaining rod tore off. Once again it was one hell of a fight and I banked my last fish of the session, resulting in another mirror, its autumn colours looked great.

Last Knockings Paid Off
I was very pleased with the result for such a short session, I planned to do a few more trips before knocking Burrows on the head. I did take a trip back down a few days after, planning to do the day but I got rained off, the weather was just terrible, I managed one out but surrendered after getting thoroughly soaked through, it was impossible to stay dry.

A Wet Common

Final Session

So this was going to be my final session for the foreseeable future, my heart was moving towards new horizons. I know I can catch fish from the water and I really want to spend my Autumn and Winter targeting slightly bigger carp. Rugby has been a lake that I have found so hard and I've decided to commit my time and my thinking into cracking it.

For my final session I fished the first double swim, this swim can really produce if you get your baiting correct. This time around I decided to fish both banana cream and honey nectar, I have huge confidence in both of these baits. As I was baiting up and getting ready to cast out, I had no idea of the sheer lunacy that was ahead of me. Before casting I got a good half a kilo out on both my spots, making sure I spread it all over, I wanted to draw the fish in and keep them there.

 View From The Swim

It took about 45 minutes for things to start kicking off, my left hand rod sprung into life and I was in to my first fish of the session. As with all Burrows carp, it put up a wicked fight considering it ended up being in singles figures.

Scrappy Little Mirror
I got her back, fired out another hundred or so baits and then whacked the rod back out, 'on the money'. Realistically the bait had been in no longer than ten minutes before it was off again, this felt like a better fish. The rod arched round and I was battling yet another hard fighting carp, the fish surfaced, it looked like a good upper double. I eventually slid the net under a chunky looking mirror, scales sunk to 20IB dead. I was very pleased, I thought it was about time I had a bigger fish out, it was very deep bodied and stumpy looking.

20IB Chunky Mirror
Once again, I got her straight back, hammered another load of bait in and got my rig out. The next fish came off my right hand rod, shooting off like a bullet train, I scrambled to grab it, instantly the fish was manic, I assumed it was a common, the commons in Burrows are very hard fighters, eventually I slide the net under a perfect looking common, scales sank to 13IB.

Manic 13IB Common
Back she went, a load of bait was fired out shortly followed by my rig. Within no time at all my left hand rod gave out a yelp, it was away again. It instantly felt like another common because it was really giving me some stick, once netted the scales sunk to 13IB.

13IB Common 'Fins Up'
Same procedure as before, slip her back, fire the bait in and get the rig out. What happened next was pretty crazy, after the cast I put the butt of the rod down to get my back lead on, before I even managed the chance to get the lead on, the line flew out of my hands, a carp had pretty much taken the bait on the drop. Sadly I lost it because by the time I managed to clock what was happening and get the reel in my hand, it had managed to get into a snag, luckily I got my rig back. I shot it back out and got a bit more bait in. About 30 minutes passed and then my right hand rod was off again, this felt like a better fish, it had a slow plod to it, soon I was netting a clean looking mirror, scales sunk to 17IB 5oz.

17IBer Taken On The Honey Nectar

Same procedure, pile the bait in, get the rig in and 'relax', only a few minutes passed before I got another take, half way through playing it my other rod shot off, luckily I hooked into a small fish so I managed to get it in the net quick, once done I grabbed the other rod and teased the hooked carp my way, eventually two fish were sitting in the net staring up at me, they were both singles but real clean looking mirrors.

A Slippery Single 

Second From A Double Take
I got both the fish back, shot out another 100/150 baits, whacked the rigs on the spots and actually tried to sit down. It had been lunacy from the get go. I have always known that if you get the baiting right in this swim, you can really clean up, it was safe to say that today was one of those days.

Things started to slow up, to be honest I was a little relieved, I decided that I wasn't going to put anymore bait out. I only had a little while left and I wanted to still try and nail a few. The hour went by pretty quick, I managed to bag another single off of my left hand spot.

A Sneaky Single

I was starting to slowly get my gear together, when my right hand rod fired away, again, it felt like it was another common, it was flying all over the place and it felt like it was about twice the size of what it ended up being. Scales sunk to 14IB.

14IB Hard Fighting Common
Well that was me done, I felt really pleased with how the session came together. I am done with Burrows now for the foreseeable future, I want to move on up to Rugby, I am determined to find an approach that works for me and the quality of the carp swimming around in there is just awesome. I've always managed the odd fish out but I feel it is time for me to really focus my thinking on getting some consistency, it's going to be a 'nut cracker' but I feel I am ready. 

Over the seasons I have had plenty of good carp from Burrows, moving waters now will make me think a lot harder about location and presentation, I am really looking forward to getting stuck in. I have been thinking hard and making various notes about how I am going to approach the lake. I am excited about the prospect of documenting my progress and keeping all of you out there who read my blog, in the loop.

Be Lucky

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Clutch And Fish Welfare

In this blog I am going to touch on my feelings about the use of the clutch and certain aspects of general 'fish welfare'. Fish welfare is the main priority for me and it starts from the moment a carp is hooked. There is no excuse for lip damage or any other kind of injury to a fish. Obviously there are so many factors involved in hooking and landing a carp, there are times when however careful you are, small damages can occur. If I felt I couldn't treat the fish I catch with the respect that they deserve, I would give up fishing all together.

The Clutch, maybe a lost art?

I started my quest for carp back in 1990, there was no YouTube, DVD's, Korda etc, and very limited magazines on sale, I have never been one to read the carp mags anyway. I had to learn everything through immense trial and error, Graham, who use to own Crowborough Tackle showed me a knotless knot and the rest I had to explore myself, it took years before I started to grasp things correctly. The beauty of this process was the fact everything was learnt on the bank, it was understood gradually so through the years you developed a broad understanding. 

With the way the carp fishing industry has developed through recent years and with the explosion of the Internet, it's almost like the work is being done for you. Someone else gets out on the bank, films themselves, talks you through what's working and what isn't, how to find the fish, how to apply the bait etc. All from the comfort of your front room.

I feel this puts a hold on your own learning journey. You can't learn watercraft or how to handle a fish by watching YouTube, and you can't develop your own fishing knowledge by sitting at home. The only way you learn is by doing, a boxer can train and train but he only knows when he's ready for the fight when he steps into the ring, on his own. A band can rehearse a song endlessly but they only know if it's any good when it gets released. The best experience is your own experience and that is something that can't be bought.

I remember when I had a little float rod and I'd go fishing with a pot of maggots and my little landing net. I could sit and catch roach, dace, rudd, perch amongst others and I would be so happy. The feeling when that float bobs under was an indescribable sensation. From this style of fishing I learnt how to handle and carefully unhook what I'd caught. The first time I float fished for carp was on a private lake on the grounds of someone my Dad knew. When I hooked into my first carp from the water, the owner would guide me, telling me how to play the fish safely, slowly, and to treat them correctly, carefully unhooking them and placing them back to fight another day.

From that point onwards I felt what I was being shown became inherent within me, the care and attention I gave each fish I caught, resulted in them swimming back with no real harm done. Through the years I can't really remember ever catching a carp with bad lip damage that I'd caused, that might sound crazy to some, but it's the truth, I don't bully the fish, I savour every moment of the fight, we wait long enough for it. There have been a few occasions when the hook hold was weird or when my braid might have made a tiny incision, but that's about it, and all damage was carefully treated. I use a combination of "NT Labs Wound Seal & Propolis", I find both these products to be very effective and I wouldn't go fishing without them. There has been a few instances when I've had a recapture and the carp have been in good shape, the products had done their job.  

Keep It Clean

I stopped fishing most commercial waters a while back because on a lot of them the condition of the fish I was catching was unforgivable. I found myself coming up against the statement "Well What Do You Expect On A Day Ticket Venue". I am sorry but that is no excuse, a fish is a fish, be it a huge pit, a syndicate, small water or a day ticket, they all count and having a blase attitude towards day ticket fish was something that just didn't rub with me. There is no prize for yanking a fish in quickly, bullying it and putting it under unnecessary stress. The fish will signal when it is ready to be netted, you can see it and feel it. And this now brings me onto my point about "THE CLUTCH".

Quick Drag

I have always been an avid user of the clutch, it's one of the most important elements for me along with the line clip. For many years I used bait-runners, I loved my Shimano 6010's and was very reluctant to change, I think it was the 'old school' in me. Through the years they got battered, the clutches were tired and as my fishing progressed I decided to invest in my first set of big pit reels. This would be the first time I was dealing with a front drag. I have to say the difference between the two was light-years, having a front clutch was a dream and it really seemed to put you completely in touch with the fish. You could cater for any tug and lunge, accommodating accordingly. 

When I play my fish I get a sense when the clutch needs to be loosened, it all comes from the tip of the rod, once the tip is bent round, if the carp starts to drag the tip down violently, I will loosen off so the pressure from rod to fish is relieved. Obviously there are times when you have to give them a fair amount of pressure but I keep these to a minimum. Finding a fine line between being gentle but also keeping control is the key. With the ever increasing range of rods that are appearing on the market, test curves seem to be going up and up. With the correct use of the clutch you can still fish comfortably using stiffer rods without the worry of pulling the hook out. It is possible to find a sweet spot between reel and rod that is perfectly balanced. If your reel has a "Quick Drag" facility then you can fine tune even more.

Away She Goes
Up until around last year I have stopped fishing to bad snags or near any feature where the fish could get tethered, the idea of really heaving them out of branches has evaporated, this alone keeps the carps welfare at the forefront. The "fish at any cost" approach only puts the carp at greater risk. Nothing is achieved from dragging a fish through snags, lilies etc other than unnecessary damage, if you can't cast to the spot due to obstacles then you shouldn't be fishing there. I'd rather fish a spot knowing I can land the fish safely rather than a spot that poses the danger of a tethered fish. Again, there are some lakes were you can't see the snags and obviously there is always going to be those days where the fish seem to get away with it or lock you up, that is the nature of the beast.

It's pretty clear to me that as the carp fishing industry grows so does the demand for venues to fish, more pressure on fishery owners to stock bigger and better carp, imported or not. It's as if newcomers to the sport want to bypass the process of growing as an angler and developing both their skills and understanding. There's a hunger to just step straight into the realms of "needing to catch a thirty" - "disappointed it was shy of forty", this attitude alone devalues any fish caught that isn't 'a monster'. Where's the magic gone? and more importantly where has the respect gone?, not just for the fish but for your fellow anglers that share both your waters and this amazing pass time. 

I believe there has to be a certain level of educating, be it in the mags or on the FREE '5 hour' promo DVD's, that educates everyone that's new to the sport about the importance of fish care and using your tackle correctly. A solid message has to be spread that todays big fish will one day be gone and the scamps or 'pasties', that some people seem to call them, will eventually be tomorrows monsters. It is our job as anglers to make sure the carp and the waters they live in are looked after and nurtured so the magic of this 'other-worldly' pass time can continue for years to come.