Fall - Usually a great time of year to target big carp

Fall – Usually a great time of year to target big carp

HONEST EVALUATION

With the winter well and truly underway I have been looking back at my fishing over the last few months to evaluate my results and to ask myself honestly if I could have done better. I would think most regular anglers have family, work and various other commitments and interests that can limit the time you can spend on the bank. For some, one session a week is workable, for others it may only be one per month, or less. Generally, I am able to get out on the banks once a week or so, sometimes less and sometimes more. I have found myself fishing less day sessions and more overnight’s over the last few years, due to my target waters being much more productive at these times. However, this past Fall has seen me spend a lot less time fishing and as such I really had to decide on my target waters and maximize my time on the bank.

Now, before you start crying for me and my lack of fishing I am happy to point out that I am very lucky to have an understanding wife and a job that allows me to get away for 12-24 hours at a time. I know many anglers who fish a lot less than me and several who fish 3-4 times per week. I would imagine I am somewhere in the middle and as such I really value my time fishing.

What follows is a review of my fall, with some other thoughts and evaluations thrown in for good measure.

September Stunner

September Stunner

ETHICS

Iain Sorrell wrote a very good article on Ethics in Carp Fishing in the spring of this year and some of his points were experienced first hand in my own fishing this fall. I would imagine we have all done some ‘dodgy’ things or as we say in England, ‘pulled some tricks’ in an effort to catch carp. I myself have been guilty of a few indiscretions in the past but I can honestly say I do try my best to avoid stepping on other anglers toes, especially in relation to fishing swims that have been developed by other anglers.

Lets just say in the first few weeks of the Fall one of the spots I have fished over the past few seasons (along with a few other guys) became a hot bed of activity as numerous anglers from the same group inundated the area. This didn’t really affect me in terms of access as most of my sessions are mid-week when the banks are quite. However, with an unknown quantity of bait and pressure now being exerted the overall fishing really did suffer. In the long run this has done me a favor as I really do need to develop a few other areas I have been looking at for the past year, which will provide me with a new challenge. Rather than become bitter with the situation or get into confrontations with other anglers I prefer to stay positive and move onto pastures new. It’s a shame that we have to go to the lengths we do in order to cut out backgrounds and hide the locations but with Google Earth and the like, it really does become necessary as there are one or two individuals that would happily travel the length of the country to fish a going area.

Before I get branded as ‘bitter’or ‘jealous’ I would like to point out that everyone is free to fish where ever they like. I don’t claim credit for discovering new areas nor do I expect them to remain quite for any length of time. I guess the draw of big carp effects us all at times, some more than others. For myself, I will continue to enjoy my fishing and move on to new challenges which I hope to share with a very select group of friends. Secret Squirrel from now on!!

A stunning mirror - it seems everyone wants one!

A stunning mirror – it seems everyone wants one!

CHANGE OF TACTICS

With an unknown quantity of bait going into my first target area I decided to not only change my baiting strategy but also adapt my rigs as I was sure that the carp were wising up somewhat due to the pressure and constant activity. Baiting wise I started to use a mixture of home-made soluble boilies and a small amount of ground bait. I was also convinced the carp were avoiding fresh baits so any ready made boilies I used were pre-soaked to wash them out. Amounts were kept to a minimum, with one or two handfuls of bait over each rod; in effect fishing for just one bite. This seemed to work as over the next few sessions I caught steadily with several good fish gracing my net.

I also changed my rigs and hook bait choices. From my own observation I believe most anglers fishing the area were using fairly short (5-8 inches) hook-links. My own favored length for this area is around 8-9 inches but after a couple of cautious pick-ups I changed to a minimum of 12 inches. Combined with an over weighted snowman rig every fish from that point on was nailed!

Essential items for my over-weighted snowman rig

Essential items for my over-weighted snowman rig

AMAZING CREATURES 

Carp really are amazing creatures! I have witnessed carp surviving various injuries from man, machinery and other wild life but it does warm my heart when I personally get to see a fish make a good recovery when it was looking grim. Generally, if the carp are still growing and therefore young they will have the ability to heal from wounds and fin damage but it’s not very often a fish will regrow a large portion of a fin or tail. I was happy to catch a beast of a carp that really put up a good account of itself and when I got it on the mat I was sure I recognized it. Sure enough it was a fish that had been caught the year before and had suffered some pretty significant tail damage. However, the fish had nearly regrown the damaged area which in only a year between captures is pretty amazing. Look at the comparisons below to see the regrowth and the last picture shows the fish in all it’s beauty.

Tail looking very badly damaged

 

Nearly regrown

Nearly regrown

 

'Arfa' in all it's glory

‘Arfa’ in all it’s glory

SCALEY BEASTS

I love a scaley carp and have been lucky enough to capture some amazing specimens this year. However, two fish really blew me away this fall. The first was a low twenty that was nothing short of stunning and really shone in the morning sun.

The second was over ten pounds heavier and had absolutely massive horse shoe scales. The pictures really do not do it justice, but it was taken shortly after dark and there would have been no excuse for sacking the fish for over 12 hours just to get a daylight shot. I find a decent camera and tripod do the job and I would much prefer a lower quality picture than stressing the fish out for several hours to satisfy my ego.

Horse Shoe scaled beauty

Horse Shoe scaled beauty

NOT SO SCALEY BEAST

I mentioned the area I was targeting was receiving a lot of pressure, but I was keen to keep fishing it as there were still several fish that I wanted to catch. However, after a slowdown in activity it was time to make a move. Another location was picked for the remainder of the fall (less than a month) and a few social sessions were planned with friends which would make a nice change from fishing alone. The nights in late fall and winter can be brutal with over 12 hours of darkness so the company of friends who have a common goal is well appreciated.

On our first session there were three of us and it started well with a mid double coming only a few hours in. We were all in a confident mood but this soon evaporated as the hours passed without another beep!! At noon the next day one of our party left and with only a few hours to go myself I was unsure as to if we had started our fall campaign too late? A couple of hours later I was proved wrong as I had a blistering take and became attached to a very angry carp that was desperate to shake the hook. After several head shakes I managed to slow it down and 10 minutes later I was staring at a mid thirty that was very sparse in scales. This time I got some excellent pictures.

Very nearly a leather

Very nearly a leather

Just as I was packing up I bagged another smaller specimen, and also helped my buddy land and nice twenty as well. He stayed on and had three more fish overnight with a couple of scaley beauties so a return was arranged a few weeks later.

In the meantime I managed to get back for a short morning session and bagged a couple more fish, but the main aim was to keep some bait going into the area for the following week.

KEEPING THE FAITH

I’m not sure if you would consider late November as the winter or fall but non the less we wanted to keep fishing the area. Weather can be very fickle at this time of year and this session was typical, with bright days and very cold nights. Again the session started well as shortly into dark I received a blistering take. I had trouble slowing the fish down and to be honest should have been a bit more aggressive with the fish. It took around 40 yards of line and then everything tightened up. With no obvious snags in the area I assumed it had found a dying weed bed, but whatever it was it managed to dislodge the hook and left me feeling very deflated.

Fortunately, I only had to wait a few hours and I had another chance; this time landing a low twenty. The next day passed very quietly and it wasn’t until the middle of the second night that my alarm sounded again. This time the culprit was a cracking common.

At this stage it would have been easy to write off the area for the year, but myself and my fishing companion agreed to give it at least another session as at this time of year it is often the weather conditions that dictate when and if the carp will feed. These spells tend to be much shorter and localized and we both believed we were in the right area, but we just needed the weather to come good.

This was proven on the next session when a mild front came through the area and my friend had a fantastic session catching one of the fish I had been after all year. To be honest I could not have been happier for him as I know what it feels like to catch the fish of your dreams and it is even sweeter when you can share it with friends. I also knew that I would have another chance to catch this fish and others in future and it gives me motivation to keep fishing the area.

Last decent fish of the Fall

Last decent fish of the Fall

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have definitely fished way less this fall than in the past few years. I had also chosen to fish venues where a few fish per session is a good result so obviously my numbers have suffered. However, I have managed to learn a few good lessons which will hold me in good stead for the future and I have also caught some stunning fish. All in all I am pretty happy.

Now is the time most anglers start to pack away their fishing tackle in preparation for the winter. Not me! I’m one of the mad few that love fishing in the winter. My first goal will be to try and tempt a winter whacker from Upstate New York and then it will be onto a new water for the challenge of some hard fighting river commons. I can’t wait.

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