Stalking carp at close quarters is my favourite style of fishing. There is nothing more exciting than watching carp feeding feet or sometimes inches from the bank and waiting for the rod to wrench round. As much as I do enjoy sitting behind three rods waiting for a screaming bite alarm, turning up to a lake with minimum tackle and roving around the lake looking for fish can be just as productive, especially if you have limited fishing time.
Locating Carp in the Margins
It does take skill to stalk carp in the margins, firstly you need to be stealthy in your approach, keeping low, treading quietly and trying to blend into the background so dull coloured clothes are essential. Also essential to stalking carp is a decent pair of polaroid glasses, it’s amazing how much difference glasses will make. I fished a lake in Northern France last year where on the far side of the lake the margins were deep and covered by overhanging brambles, trees and bushes almost creating a roof up to 5 feet from the bank in some places. As a result, the light levels were very low with the reflection of the overhanging branches making visibility below the surface practically zero. Without polaroid glasses spotting fish would be impossible. With the glasses I was able to see that there were several large carp that could be spotted just inches from bank no more than 6 inches beneath the surface. I was just able to make at the shape of the fish as the glided up and down underneath the canopy of the overhanging branches.
I should also add that there a couple of ways to approach stalking. The first is to find the fish and then fish for them. The second which can be more productive or just required, especially if locating the fish is proving to be difficult, is to scatter bait in some likely looking marginal areas and the hope the fish move in on the bait and show themselves. One of the advantages with baiting multiple areas is that once you have caught from one spot, fish may also be feeding on one of your other spots making multiple catches possible.
Locating fish this way it is often the second, third or even fourth time I walk around the lake that I finally spot signs of fish actvity. Look for water disturbance, tail patterns, clouding up of the water, knocking of reeds or water vegetation. Sometimes it is the smallest sign that has enabled me to identify that there are fish in the swim. The more experienced you get the more reactive you will become to the signs. A good tip is to add some hemp oil to your mix. When fish do start to feed on it you’ll notice the disturbance causes the oil to rise to the surface in patches, sometime even creating a flat area on the water.
You can just make out a carp underneath the surface of the water in the photo above.
Above, the water disturbance caused by the carps tail and it feeds in shallow water in an area baited up inches from the bank
You can stalk carp using both surface baits and bottom baits. If you are targeting particular fish, surface fishing can often allow you to be quite selective if fishing under the rod tip. I have often lowered to bait onto particular fish or actually drawn the bait away from smaller fish and into the pathway of the larger ones.
The tactics I use are generally quite simple. If I can get the fish feeding off the surface I’ll usually just use a hook and attached the bait with a bait band. Dog biscuits work well and the oils they let off defiantly work as a good attractor. Crusty bread is probably my all time favourite. With bigger baits the carp really suck the bait down which in my view helps maximise the hooking potential.
I’ve found that keeping the line off the surface is a massive advantage as fish will often spook when they see the line or avoid taking the hook bait. To do this I’ll usually try to loop the line of some light overhanging foliage. The line needs a little bit of slack in it, just enough to allow the fish slurp down the bait before it feels the resistance of the rod. If the line too tight when fishing under the rod tip the carp may not be able to suck the bait into its mouth, meaning you miss opportunities.
Once the fish are feeding you’ll see why this really is such an exciting method of catching carp. Your heart will be racing as carp mop up the bait and mouth your hook bait. All you have to do is try and keep calm and wait for your rod to arch over and reel to scream off!
If the fish are feeding on the bottom I’ll usually use a fairly heavy drop off lead system, around 4oz. You can get away with a heavy lead as when you are margin fishing you can generally lower in the rig so it will cause minimal disturbance. It’s usually harder to be selective when fishing on the bottom as quite often the water clouds up when the fish are feeding but it is equally as exciting when you see the fish are feeding and you know it is a matter of time before a fish picks up your bait.