With the summer heat and humidity in full swing at the moment I find myself much preferring short sessions or night fishing. As I’m originally from the North of England I am not a lover of the sun, in fact I prefer the winter, which might sound strange but then again I’ve been called much worse over the years!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to nip out for a few hours in the middle of the day. The weather was 92 degrees and very humid so it was not exactly good conditions to catch carp in. However, I headed for a very shallow section of the Blackstone Canal and the plan was to either walk around and stalk a few fish or drift some small floating pellets across the canal and get the carp feeding on the surface.

Now many of you I am sure have used bread; either floating or sinking to stalk and catch carp. I also utilize this method and have caught carp to over 40lbs doing exactly this as it’s a great technique to catch carp that are cruising or feeding in small groups. I’m sure some of you have even used dog or cat biscuits to catch carp off the surface, but I’d bet very few of you have ever used floating pellets.

Yellow

A Yellow Koi carp that couldn’t resist floating pellets

Why use pellets? I have to go back to the early 1990’s when I was happily catching carp on bolt rigs and boilies. I was visiting ‘The Anglers Workshop’, which is owned by Kev Baines, who builds rods and generally gives out sage advice. He is also well known for telling you where you are going wrong! In this case, he was asking why myself and my fishing partner were wasting our time sitting behind rods. He then proceeded to show us a large bag of floating trout pellets and over the next few hours described how they were best employed. Fast forward to the following week where I saw first hand exactly how effective they can be in the right situation. Let me explain.

Pellet Choice

Originally I was using floating trout pellets, approximately 4mm in diameter. However, I have used various sizes over the years to see if their effectiveness differs. I have found that if you use solely larger sizes (8mm+) the carp will feed very similar to how they do with mixer biscuits; they will come up for one or two baits and then drop back down to cruise around. With the inclusion of 4mm and smaller pellets the carp eventually come to the surface and then stay on the surface! They basically swim around with their backs and mouths out of the water, sucking in the pellets.

A dog biscuit caught carp, before I discovered floating pellets

A dog biscuit caught carp, before I discovered floating pellets

I would be quite happy to fish with trout pellets, but I have found a much better and cheaper pellet that is easily ordered from a grain or feed store. There may be other makes but my own personal choice is Purina Aqua Chow Pellets. They are available in sizes from 200 to 800 and I generally order two sizes and then mix them up. Price wise they usually retail for $30-40 for a 25lb bag. In a typical 2-4 hour session I will use around 2-3 gallons of pellets, but they are very versatile and you can add them to method mixes or scald them with hot water and form them into paste; I have also blended them into a powder and used them as a base mix for fishmeal boilies!

Enhancing your Bait

The pellets on their own are excellent but if you want to give them a boost or if you have any duck weed present a simple dousing in oil will really help. Personally I use hemp or sesame oil. I will also add liquid/flavor to the pellets on occasions and a personal favorite is Nutrabaits Blue Oyster booster liquid. With the oil added the duck weed will disperse and if you have any wind on the water you will also be able to create a flat spot where the bait is located.

Feed Them before you Fish

On occasions when a fish is close in I will free-line a bait to them without feeding as you can sometimes get an instant result. However, when using the pellets correctly I am attempting to create competition amongst the carp and more importantly, confidence. If the fish are feeding warily they are much, much harder to fool.

The best way I have found to feed the pellets is with either a catapult or a throwing spoon. I will set myself up in an area where I can get the pellets to drift; this usually means you want to be on the back of any wind that is blowing. I will then feed them in regularly, every 2-3 minutes. This may go on for an hour or more until I get the feeding response I am looking for. It’s very tempting to cast in as soon as you see the fish feeding, BUT if you do you will most likely ruin your chances of catching more than one fish.

Once the carp are up on the surface, cruising around and feeding heavily I am then happy to start fishing for them. This does not mean that I will stop baiting. It’s almost impossible to overfeed the carp with these pellets and a bucket of 2-3 gallons usually sees me through a session. I will keep up the baiting every 2-3 minutes and if I see the fish slow down I will increase the feeding! I will even continue feeding as I am playing a fish and it is not uncommon the see fish actively feeding next to a hooked carp as they become preoccupied.

In this shot the fish are taking the pellets but are not pre-occupied

In this shot the fish are taking the pellets but are not pre-occupied

 

After regular feeding the fish are now up on the surface, feeding very confidently

After regular feeding the fish are now up on the surface, feeding very confidently

After you have landed a fish you may notice the feeding will decrease. Be patient and resume the feeding and in most cases the fish will resume their activities each time.

Equipment Needed

You can certainly use whatever carping equipment you currently have, but I would recommend scaling down. Generally you will be fishing lighter lines and using smaller hooks, so a soft through action rod will be ideal. It does not have to be 12 feet in length and in fact a 9-10ft rod is ideal as it can also be used as a stalking rod. You also can scale down your reel size as there is no need for reels that hold 200-500 yards of line.

A balanced set-up makes surface fishing much more fun

A balanced set-up makes surface fishing much more fun

My own set-up consists of a couple of different options, based on the size of fish I am targeting. For larger fish I will use a 2.25lb rod, coupled with a 4500 Shimano bait runner whereas for smaller fish (under 20lb) I will use a couple of different rods (8-11 feet) which are very soft and have test curves of between 1-1.5lb. I will also use much smaller reels that hold about 100 yards of line.

Traveling light with only the essentials

Traveling light with only the essentials

Line wise you will want to use mono-filament as the added stretch is a major help when playing fish on lighter set-ups. Again the breaking strain depends on the size of fish you are targeting but most times I will be using 8-10lb main-line and a 6-8lb hook-link. With the hook-link I will be using a fluro carbon for the added invisibility; just make sure you take care over your knots as fluro carbon is not forgiving if you kink or damage it.

With hooks you will really need to scale down, but make sure you still choose a pattern and make that is very strong. I used size 8-10 hooks, usually Fox Arma Point SSBP’s.

You will also need a float of some description, unless you are fishing within 15 yards of the bank. Fox, Korda and Nash all make good models and you can also use bubble floats. I will set these up, inline style with a float stop to keep them in place. They also will aid with hooking the carp if they take the bait positively as they have some resistance to them. With a float I will use a hook-link of 4-8ft, depending on the size of the rod.

Hook-Bait Options

This is where it can get complicated!! My choice and style of hook-bait will be very much dependent on how confident the carp feed and if they are wary of bigger hook-baits. Generally your hook- bait will be bigger than the feed so the carp can be more cautious when taking them.

You can choose to hair rig a plastic imitation bait, a mixer biscuit or even a cut down pop-up. If you do hair rig your bait I would recommend that you mount the bait tight to the hook as in this case you do not want separation between your hook and bait; in fact, you want your bait and hook to go in at the same time. When I am waiting to strike, as soon as I see the hook-bait disappear I know the hook is inside the carp’s mouth and this I will hit into the fish, hopefully hooking it.

Terminal tackle and some hook bait options

Terminal tackle and some hook bait options

In some cases the fish will suck in and blow out your bait before you have chance to strike or they may simply approach your hook-bait and then abort the take or back off the bait. In this case the fish knows something is wrong and most likely sees the hook. My approach now would be to side hook a bait and trim it down to mimic the actual feed. However, remember that you also need to see your hook-bait otherwise you are relying on the fish to hook itself!

This fish took a cut down boilie

This fish took a cut down boilie

Other Necessities

Without a doubt make sure you have a decent pair of polaroid glasses, which will help you both see the carp and also see your hook-bait. A peaked hat or baseball cap will also help you vision. Stay off the skyline where possible, but more importantly be stealthy. Do not stamp around the bank and make slow deliberate movements. I have been within a foot or so of feeding carp and not spooked them, even when moving but sudden noises or movement will see them disappear.

A baseball cap, a decent pair of polaroid glasses and a catapult are all essential tools for the surface fisherman

A baseball cap, a decent pair of polaroid glasses and a catapult are all essential tools for the surface fisherman

Another little trick you can use is to grease your line with a small dab of vaseline which will help it float and thus make controlling the float and hook-bait much easier.

Recent Results

Lets go back to the Blackstone Canal where I was out for a few hours. I arrived to find a shallow section covered by duck weed, which was also acting as a cover for lots of small carp. As soon as I introduced the pellets the carp were feeding, although knowing this spot I was not fooled as they are usually very hard to tempt off the surface. As an example I also had a feeder rod with me and on several occasions while I was feeding pellets I cast out a couple of pieces of corn to a different area and had to wait less than 5 minutes on each occasion before I was winding in a carp.

Over the course of the next hour I tried a few different hook-baits and each time was frustrated. In the end I resorted to fishing my hook-bait 1 inch under the surface on a 12″ hook-link (basically a short zig rig) and this really solved the problem as I landed 4 carp in quick succession before I decided to go home to the AC.

Little Blackstone mirrors like this one are a challenge to catch on the surface

Little Blackstone mirrors like this one are a challenge to catch on the surface

Lets move forward a week or so and after fishing a night session with little success I decided to drop into a pond filled with Koi carp on the way home. I knew these fish had been fished for heavily over the past 5 or 6 years and I wasn’t expecting the fishing to be easy. I was not disappointed! I got the carp feeding confidently relatively quickly but getting them to take a hook-bait was not quite that simple. They clearly knew they were being fished for and they clearly knew the difference between the feed and the hook-bait.

I persevered and kept the feed going in and finally hooked one…..unfortunately it was a greedy Grass carp which although weighing around 30lb’s only took 5 minutes to subdue before it went mental in the net.

This 30lb+ grass carp couldn't resist the chow pellets

This 30lb+ grass carp couldn’t resist the chow pellets

After releasing the grassie I then fed the fish again for around an hour before they got their confidence back and I was able to get one to take again. This time it was a koi carp and it was a nice golden specimen.

I left, vowing to come back with more pellets and a better presentation in order to fool these wary koi carp. A week later I arrived just after noon. Conditions were far from ideal but I got on the back of the wind and started to introduce feed. It was about 20 minutes before I started to get a good response with around 6 fish feeding competitively. Over the course of the next hour I tried several hook-bait presentations, all of which were rejected by the koi’s. They would approach the hook-bait then either abort the take or sink under it, both of which told me they could see the hook-bait was not right!

Scratching my head I decided to go back to a simple presentation and side hook a boilie. With this method the hook is partially buried in the bait with the point exposed. I also trimmed the bait down a bit so it was not sitting too high in the water, another reason the carp were most likely aborting. Within 5 minutes I had two koi’s in the net and I knew I would get a few more chances.

Two koi carp caught in quick succession

Two koi carp caught in quick succession

I ended with 4 koi carp before I headed home and although I still had some missed takes the chances I did get were much more positive. The fact of the matter is that these carp were very, very wary and are pressured most days of their life as the pond is probably less than an acre in size. I’ll be going back in a few weeks to try my luck again and as it really is a very exciting way to catch fish. What ‘s better than watching your quarry take the bait. It’s definitely a great opportunity to watch and learn and even if you are not that successful you’ll learn a lot from just observing.

A cracking orange koi

A cracking orange koi

 

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