February 2015 Guest Feature Is By Simon Crow

This Month’s Guest Feature is by Simon Crow

many thanks for this Simon



I think it’s fairly safe to say that carp fishing today most definitely goes through fashion phases. An influential angler or company will say something is good and before you can say “I don’t agree with that”, everyone and his uncle is using and advocating it, regardless of any theory being put forwards.


It is only when you try to offer an opposing thought that you see this, because it doesn’t matter how experienced you are or what you have to say; if you dare say anything against the masses you are in for some serious flack on the bank and social media sites.

I probably sound like I’m getting old – and maybe I am – because this month I want to touch on something which just baffles me about carp fishing today. I know I’m going to get some stick for what I write, but I couldn’t care less because I know the sensible anglers out there will be able to relate with what I say.

En vogue

Slack lining is definitely sweeping through the industry like a virus, and if it hasn’t reached your country yet, it will do soon. Walk the banks of any lake in the UK and eight out of ten anglers are sat there with their bobbins on the floor and the line all drooped through the rings whilst their tips are in the air.

          I’ve seen all sorts of anglers fishing like this, ranging from the complete novice right the way through to the experienced. Whilst I’m not doubting its effectiveness in some situations, I do know from speaking to the anglers I have seen fishing like this, a large percentage of them simply do it without thinking why they are doing it and whether or not it is helping them.

          I saw a guy last summer fishing 100m out in 15ft of water with his lines all slack and he was surprised when he had a take and the fish had kited 90 degrees before he had any indication at his end. I even witnessed one of my mates doing it at 60m range in 11ft when exactly the same thing happened to him. Interestingly, that followed the two of us having a deep conversation about why he was fishing in that way. The worst of the lot, however, was when I saw a guy doing it on Manton New Lake last year, fishing out into the middle which is probably 80m and over the top of half a dozen weed beds only to find out the next morning that he had had a fish on for god knows how long!


I don’t know about the rest of you but everything I do in my carp fishing I need theory to back up my decisions. Sometimes I get it wrong, but having done lots of tests on indication when myself and Rob Hughes wrote our first book in 1996, I like to think I’ve got that side of my angling almost perfect – a single bleep usually meaning I’m in.

I think you’ll all agree that the sooner we know when a carp has picked up our hookbait, the better the chance is of landing the fish. The only sure way of knowing this has happened is to actually watch them do it when stalking, but obviously most of us prefer to fish in the long-stay style with static lines, meaning it isn’t possible to do this. Instead we rely on buzzers and indicators to inform us.


          I know when I was at school, I was taught physics and that a straight line is the shortest distance between the two points of A and B. It therefore makes perfect sense to me that when the end of a line is pulled, if it is straight the other end will feel the pulling motion quicker than if there is slack in it. It also makes sense to me that if a weight is added to the line (like a bobbin), should the two points become shorter, the bobbin will take up any slack that is created on the line. If the bobbin is not there, the line simply becomes limp and before any movement is felt at one end of the two points, it must be tightened so the slack is taken out. In the case of a fish pulling at a line therefore, or swimming towards you, it makes sense to tight line with a bobbin indicator if you are wanting the perfect indication when static bait fishing.

          This theory makes me wonder why then, so many anglers currently prefer to fish with slack lines instead of tight. I’ve heard it said that slack lining is more sensitive than tight lining which based on science just can’t be true. Those trying to argue this case say that the pressure of water adds weight to the line which makes it act differently to when you do the tests out of water. Well, all I will say to these people is I don’t believe you’ve ever done the tests properly. If you had you would be of the same opinion as Rob Hughes who compiles most of the underwater carping features in the monthly titles. Both Rob and I might not agree on a lot of things, but we most definitely agree on this. Take a look at Strategic Carp Fishing, the title of our first book, and you will clearly read that tight lining with the right weight of indicator results in the best indication.

Line shy

The other theory put forwards by slack lining fans is that carp don’t like bow-string lines in the swim. I can understand where they are coming from with this theory, as not only am I convinced that carp can sense vibrations passed down the line if you are noisy when fishing in this way, they also see it much more easily when fished in shallow water.


Last year I watched the carp in Orchid Lake spooking at close quarters on line they could see, and although it looked OK to me from where I was stood only a few yards away, there was clearly something about it that the carp didn’t like as they closed in on it. You had to see their reactions to know what I mean by this, the fish coming into the zone of the hookbait, going down on it and spooking once they were right next to the line.

          Of course there could have been other factors that caused them to do this, but I know from what I saw they were spooking on what they saw rather than what they sensed. They especially didn’t like the line when they got close up to it, several fish spooking at the first sighting and not coming back into the swim until several hours later.

This all happened in 1m of water, and just like Steve Briggs pointed out recently in Carp-Talk, such a reaction is understandable when you consider the science of how carp see. Basically they use the under-surface of the water to create a reflection which bounces back at them. This reflection works better the closer the fish is to the surface and the flatter the surface is, hence the reason why they see well in shallow water. I couldn’t tell you the exact depth their eye sight becomes less effective (I believe it is around 5ft) because every lake is different and it will depend on water clarity. All I can say is the deeper you go, the less they use their eyes to feed compared to their other senses such as taste, smell, hearing, etc.

Another example

The carp I watched feeding at Orchid spooked every time they saw a bit of line. I tried slack lining and they reacted to it in exactly the same way. In the end I really had to go to town with my presentation to get myself a bite, disguising it by freelining and adding putty all along its length right into the margins so that it was pinned down on the deck. I had to do this whilst slack lining to meet the contours of the bottom and it was proper finicky stuff, but the extra care I took got the bite in the end, watching the fish take the hookbait and then striking almost instantly.


A day later I ended up finding some fish in slightly deeper water in the next door swim and a little bit further out. The trouble was it was much harder for me to see the hookbait here so I had to rely on a lead to do the work for me. Try as I could to pin down the line, it was nowhere near as good as it was the day before. The depth was about 2m in this spot, and I could see the line clearly from where I was perched up a tree, but the carp’s reaction to it was completely different. In this area they knocked and swam into the line closest to the rig without spooking and it wasn’t until one came up in the water and saw the line closest to the surface that I had my first spook-off. That fish was not to be seen again, but I did go on to catch two fish in quick succession a short while later.

I could have put that result down to all sorts of other reasons because there are always variables behind why we catch more one day than we do the next. However, my experience told me it was down to the carp not seeing the line in the deeper spot. I’ve seen carp react to line on so many other occasions, and the best examples are those when surface fishing. When you see carp leaving your hookbait on the surface it makes you wonder how on earth we manage to catch anything; they don’t even go near it because it stands out like a sore thumb.


Line shy carp and rig shy carp are two completely different hurdles the carp angler is faced with. On the underwater dvds we see fish regularly mouthing and blowing our hookbaits out which is much different to them not even going near to the rig. If they know what anglers are, when they see your line they spook, it’s as simple as that, so the secret is keeping it as disguised as you possibly can.

There are definitely pros and cons to slack lining, however, the pros in my mind are very few and far between. In close quarter shallow situations I can definitely see the advantages of keeping that line pinned to the contours of the marginal features and taking all of the tension out of it, but the deeper you go the sight of the line becomes less important. Furthermore, the further out you fish, the harder it is to see what’s going on by the rig, so the priority then should be about knowing when a fish has picked up the hookbait and you getting the indication that this has happened.  


I spend most of my static-bait fishing with rigs placed some distance away from where I’m set up so I use tight lines more than I do slack. There are times when I fish in shallow water at long range too, but in these instances I weigh up the situation and try to work out how much of that line may be visible close to the rig end. The further out I’m fishing, basic science lessons tell me the lesser the angle in the line will be and the more likely it is to be on the deck.

Of course there are situations when you have to sacrifice a bit of indication in order to get the take so slack lining or slipping on a back lead may prevail, but the only golden rule here is to fish safely. Doing it over the top of weedbeds, gravel bars or close to snags that are some distance out is just asking for trouble.

Chinese whispers

The overuse of slack lining today is definitely related to companies selling indicators designed for that type of fishing. However, I don’t think it is fair to blame the industry for this, because in my mind it is definitely a bad case of Chinese whispers. One angler picks up on something and then passes it on in a slightly different way to what he heard or read. Before you know it, it’s gone viral and everyone is talking about it. It then gets even more distorted when a few whackers get caught on it; everyone thinking it is an edge and no-one considering whether or not the angler was fishing safely or if he may have caught more had he been tight lining instead.


The moral of this feature therefore is to think about what you are doing when angling rather than doing something because someone has told you to do it. I’m not saying you should not slack line end of story because that would be foolish. I just think it is massively overused in carp fishing today (certainly in the UK), and it is not necessary to fish like it in every situation. I’d even go as far as to say it has got out of hand and become more of a danger to our carp than it has the asset that many believe, especially when fishing beyond the margins or over the top of features

About richardhandel

I would like to give a brief snap shot of my life and introduce myself; My name is Richard Handel and was born in 1965 in Suffolk. I have worked as a UK Operation & Intermodule Manager for a shipping company. I live in Hampshire now and am married with 2 young children, both girls so I am a bit outnumbered even the cat is a girl! I have been fishing since I was about 7 years old. I started on small local rivers in Suffolk, then moved onto gravel pits and then carp fishing. My personal best is a 39.08 mirror, over recent years I have started river fishing again, on the Hampshire Avon, this is a nice break from the carp lakes. My life has turned a big corner this year, the company I was working for relocated their Operation centre to Estonia. I was offered a job at the head office in London. This would have meant a 5 day commute and working in Stratford. As a family, we did not fancy this, as I would hardly spend any time with the children (and the Mrs). So after 22.5 years, I was given a nice redundancy package and with my wife is working full time. I became the house husband. This has meant a complete turn around in my fishing, as I can pick and choose when I go. I have found a splendid new syndicate to fish this year, which includes 5 lakes and some 8 miles of river with only 150 members. It's an amazing change to the way I am able to fish. I am now trying to start my own tackle business and make a bit of a name for myself in the world of fishing, as I have retired from real work. Richard
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