During the periods of my life where I don’t get the chance to get to the waters edge to pursue my life long quest to catch fish, very rarely does a day manage to creep by me without sparing a thought or two about angling. Whether the thought is about a certain angling situation, planning a forthcoming trip or just simply analysing past adventures and trying to make sense of how or why it happened, maybe subconsciously this thought process has therapeutic values? As comfort for not being by the lake on that particular day?
I believe psychology plays a massive part in fishing and even more in Carp fishing than in other forms of angling. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you have to think more about what you’re doing in Carp fishing and I’m not naive enough to suggest that game and coarse fishing is less taxing on the brain. I’m talking more about the amount of time you actually physically handle your tackle to set and present your bait to try and fool your quarry. In game and coarse fishing it can be a constant cycle of casting, changing presentation and maybe offering bait or trying a new run or swim which keeps the constant hope alive. I’ve personally found that with any form of angling a new cast always instills fresh hope for the angler in some form or other. In Carp fishing there isn’t a great deal of casting involved, in fact the less the better when fishing for the tricky big Carp that have seen a few things over the years.
As Carp anglers we need learn the ability and have the confidence to leave the hookbait in its original chosen position, which is normally the best way in my experience, unless you’ve seen something obvious to change your mind. For example, when you have selected your swim, more often than not you choose the area for 1 or 2 reasons. One might be for blind reasons and a pre-meditated decision that can be made on the days leading up to your trip, for example wind direction and lake depth/water temp. The other is normally an obvious showing fish or physical features such as known gravel plateaus/bars, trees/bushes/snags in the margins or on an island, weed beds or an inlet or outlet. It’s normally something visual that gives the swim that attraction to look like a likely area.
Most of us fish three rods these days (even though I still think two is plenty), but it’s funny how very rarely you think all three rods have an perfectly equal chance of getting some action. The first hookbait is deployed with pin point accuracy to the mostly likely spot (to you) in your swim and baited accordingly. The second rod is put out, again where you think you might get a bite but with slightly less anticipation than the first. The third for me is just a ‘chancer spot,’ this is the cast that never screams Carp at you and is always a lot less obvious than the first two. That’s not to say that any of the spots are any better or any worse than any of the others (unless you’ve got hard evidence, previous success etc.)
This sort of analytical breakdown of everyday angling situations is something I think about a lot these days. If you look at catch rates per rod over a season it’s frightening how close your results match the order of preference of spots within your swim. Why can’t we have three areas with equal run rates? Or even two? There’s no doubt that when choosing a swim on a lake that you’ve fished before or know quite well that swim selection is made because of a particular hotspot in that swim, but we still go through the same procedure of setting three traps, of which two of them could be detrimental to your banker area. Maybe the third rod (that just got put out with less conviction) is hampering your second rod which actually might be on a better spot than your first rod? But because the third rod’s line is going up over a weed bed and therefore displaying poor line presentation, the carp put their guard up and turn your more likely bite spots into poorer ones. For me, things like the above scenario are common practice and are grossly overlooked in modern carp fishing. I know how we all think along the same probability lines, more hook baits equal more chance of a bite and all that. Yes, in a black and white world maybe but a lot of the time not all is what it seems in fishing.
So much of a Carp angler’s time is left to thought alone that I’m surprised that more of us haven’t gone round the twist! I can’t think of any other hobbies or pastimes which are spent actually doing nothing to contribute towards achieving your goal. Ok, yes you can watch the water like a Hawk, try and create a rig with potentially more hooking capabilities or devise a baiting strategy that will have the fish eating out of your hand but all these things are often done in vain and give little help towards getting you that bite. With carp fishing it can often be a long slow drawn out affair to piece together hard evidence and draw conclusions on what we are doing that works. I think the mind seriously has its work cut out to draw on all the info and decide what the useful elements were in any particular capture.
This, in my eyes, is what separates us as anglers. We are anglers who have the ability to reproduce presentations, baiting applications and swim selection with watercraft for that particular day based on past experience. Thousands of hours on the bank don’t automatically put you in this privileged position. It’s knowing how to extract the best from your time on the bank and using it to your best advantage. When you learn this ability it’s a massive edge in your Carp fishing armory that will help you catch Carp more that any bait or piece of tackle on the market today.
How do you know if you’ve learnt this ability? I don’t think its as cut and dried as learning a piece of music or learning to drive, I don’t even think the process has a defined end or start, it just seems to be a continued journey of progression from the minute you start fishing. I think a lot of the time in fishing we can’t get blinkered into thinking that the reason we have done well on any particular day was down to a new bait, different hook link material or maybe hook pattern and we’ve all said and done it, right? Sometimes all it was down to was some good angling, drawing on everything you know and doing a complex calculation of all possible variables that may or may not lead to a capture and having the confidence to see your chosen approach through to the end of your session. Most conclusions are drawn in carp fishing over a period of time whether it be 24h hours or much longer. It seems that people, even though they have found success in a certain method or area may struggle to give the same time back to that method or bait in future trips. It’s worked once so surely it will work again? Why can’t people just be happy with finding something that could be the foundation blocks to building something better for their angling future? Are people just too impatient for any natural learning progression these days?
We hear the phrase ‘instant carper’ a lot these days, with a lot of reasonable priced decent tackle on the market more and more people are taking it up but they soon learn that it takes a bit more than some nice tackle to get their hands on the fish they see in the mags week in week out. Patience and the ability to understand why is a must to catch big Carp on a consistent basis.
There are few contradictory practices that go into Carp fishing, where opposite theories are used in conjunction with each other (sometimes with great successes) which then may bring other theories into doubt. One that springs to mind is the use of a fluro pop-up over a bed of normal bottom bait. This practice does blow my mind but lots of people do it and catch fish. We spend a lot of time and effort in carp fishing trying to make our end tackle as invisible to Carp as we can by coating leads and using different coloured hook link material to camouflage as best as possible against the lake bed and then we use a fluro pop up as a hookbait amongst a load of free offered bottom baits? How easy does this make it for the carp to distinguish which bait spells danger for them? Or are we giving the fish too much credit? Surely if you are trying to hide the rig you want your hook bait to be an exact replication of the other free offerings around it? Well that’s how I see it, or am I missing something?
Are these angling situations that are all in the mind and dreamt up by fisherman with hours to burn or do we spend our many hours alone on the bank over analysing the simple pursuit of man versus fish? Food for further thought!