Is observation the paramount key to success in carp fishing? I believe it is as it encompasses so many key factors.
I even feel that with the best bait in the world, you can still fail to catch unless you are in the perfect spot. I have spent hours just watching carp and their behaviour, just to see how they move around the lake, in the hope that I can spot a pattern in their movement and feeding. My most memorable time was on Vinatrose Lake (near Chichester), when I had spent over 2 hours watching a carp move up and down a channel in the weed. I was trying to work out the exact spot the carp would feed on. Once I was happy, I managed to get the bait in the perfect spot, only to have the carp come down that very channel and stop about a foot or two away from my bait. It proceeded to stay there for over an hour. I was absolutely amazed the carp had clearly noticed a change to its environment and it wasn’t very happy. It never picked my bait up. It just turned around and wondered back up the channel.
This fish was taken by watching the lake for sometime. I spotted a head appear out of the water, but I only just noticed it.
Observation can come in many different forms from a quick walk around the lake (in your lunch hour), to teaming up with someone (this can help to pool your knowledge as to where the fish are showing and their feeding patterns), this can help aid you in the capture of your target fish. One very overlooked bit observation is watch other people! Don’t be despondent when other anglers catch and most anglers certainly get the green eyed monster from time to time. Use this information to your advantage, write it down in a log book. I wouldn’t advocate jumping in their swim as this isn’t will not help you catch the same fish. Just remember it for the following months or even next session. If it’s possible and not to dangerous, get yourself up a tree, watch the fish feeding and also watch before you put a bait in the water. I have sat and watched a very old mirror carp come up to a pile of bait, turn on its side, flick its tail over the bait, waft it up in water and only pick up the bait which moves off the area. It did this until all the bait was gone, other than the hook bait. I always carry binoculars for observing the far margins as you can’t spot bubbles with your own eyes! This has proven a very successful method of observation as well.
I spotted a few bubbles a bit further along the tree line and flicked a bait on the spot.
Corners of the lake and overhanging trees are perfect areas to spot feeding fish. Put a small handful of bait out and keep watching or walk round and comeback later to see if its gone – be mindful of bird life as they will be very happy with you doing this! If the water is coloured up and you cant see your bait it’s best to use something like sweetcorn as it stands out better. Don’t forget right in front of the swim is a perfect spot, so many anglers forget this. Just under your feet is a prefect feeding spot for carp, best lakes for this are park lakes as people feed the birds. Wait until they have all gone home and take a look for yourself, it will truly surprise you. It did me very well on an old boating lake near the seaside in Suffolk, when I was a lot younger.
They were right under my feet
Get up early and stay up late to see what is happening around the lake, this will help you find the best time of the day to spot showing fish. On one of the lakes I fish, the fish show mostly between 0930 and 1330. At first I found this very odd but also very helpful for my day trips out as I could come back in the evening and be quite certain that I was in the the right area. It also helped me to catch a few fish in the day time as well. I have even found that the most productive time for spotting fish can be the middle of the night. This can be hard work on mid week trip in between work. I found the best way around this was set up, get a few hours kip in and then get up at the appropriate time, have a brew, watch the fish and even move if you feel it necessary, or just use the information for your next trip down.
This article links nicely with my favourite method, which is margin fishing. I have spent hours observing the carp move up and down the tree lined bank. I realised that I was best staying put in one swim as the fish would move up and down this bank all day long. I could easily move into an area they had already been in and I not realise it!
Observation can be as simple as spotting a few bubbles, a carp sticking its head out or even down to noticing what sort of bait presentation other anglers are using. Please don’t ask them as we all dislike that but it’s easy to tell of they are using pop up or bottom baits. Balanced baits and Wafters are a bit harder but it’s all about watching and learning or just keeping an eye on your surroundings. I got out fished by a friend once simply by not spotting that he had switched to bottom baits. I had assumed he was still on pop ups – my error for not spotting this simple change.
I certainly learn from that and swapped over
We all clearly don’t have the time to be on the lake 24/7. Even if you are there only once a month, over time a pattern of events will start to become clear to you. Don’t get despondent when others are catching, they just may have had more time then you or just hit on the perfect combination quickly. Just observe and take note. A quick hello or ‘morning’ may just get you a snip-it of information, this may crack open the nut! Personally, I am happy to help, if I have spotted a fish feeding or even a sign of one. I may suggest that another angler goes in this spot and he then catches a fish. If he does catch a fish, I know I was right in my thinking and he has actually help me learn something. It is all about us against the fish and not each other.
Even this photograph was taken after observing small fry feeding under my rod tips. During the night I had dropped a hand full of micro pellets into the water and the kingfisher would sit in my rod tips every morning feeding on the small fry.
I have even noticed on a very peaceful lake (which didn’t get much angler pressure), that when the gate would clunk closed, the loud noise would echo across the lake. It was in a small valley and if I were observing the fish, they would tense up a bit, it was as if they had noticed the sound and were aware that someone was on the bank. It’s amazing how clever they are.
Hope this helps