Observation & Watercraft

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The term ‘watercraft’ is often used in angling but what does it actually mean? Well to me and many of my angling friends, watercraft means being able to read the water and its features, predict what the fish are going to be doing and where they are going to be at any particular time. I guess in a sense it means observation.

So, you’re booked in for a 48 hour session on a chosen venue, you turn up knowing that Joe Bloggs had five Carp out of the car park swim the week before, and it always produces a few fish. So that’s where you head for – the swim is free so you put the bivvy up, get the bed out and away you go…

Who can count the mistakes with that statement? I can see three:

  1. Assuming a swim will produce based on other peoples results
  2. Getting the bivvy up without even knowing if there are fish in front of you
  3. Getting bivvy and bed ready before the rods are sorted out.

OK so that statement might be a bit extreme, but you can see what I am getting at?

Swim Choice

When you arrive at the lake, leave the gear in the car, just take yourself, a pair of Polaroid glasses and a bait bucket with you and go for a wander around the lake. Sure enough you can visit the ‘going’ swims and if you see fish moving or showing then great but, if not don’t assume they are there, or that they will turn up. Have a good walk round, two maybe three times if need be. I would rather spend two/ three hours looking for the fish and setting up with them in front of me, than setting up and waiting 47.5 hours for them to turn up, which they might not. Things to look out for are showing fish, fish jumping, boshing, head and shouldering, cruising under the surface, disturbed areas of the lake bed, bubbles and lilies or reeds moving as Carp brush past them. Whilst observing the lake never forget the margins which is an often overlooked Carp hot spot.

Carp in the margin

Carp in the margin

Approach every swim quietly, slowly and stay back far enough not to be sky lined – to put it simply, don’t let the fish see you first! If you are lucky enough to see fish in the margins or close in then your bait bucket now comes into its own. Not only can it temporarily reserve the swim while you get your gear from the car but it can also provide you with some bait to feed the fish! Trickle a handful of pellets three at a time, watch for the reaction of the fish. They may well move out the swim, but I guarantee they will be back if you are quiet, and this time they have some pellets to feed on! Lastly, forget the bivvy unless it’s lashing down with rain, get the rods out and get angling!

North Lake Bosher!

North Lake Bosher!

These ripples were caused by a fish repeatedly crashing out over the same spot – it turned out to be a 22lb 8oz mirror which I caught after seeing him jump over and over again.

Other Things To Look Out For

– Disturbed areas of the lake bed, clouds of silt ballooning off the bottom will be a sure sign something fishy has disturbed it, trickling in some pellets wont hurt, but don’t forget to check back later, you may be pleasantly surprised!

– Snags, overhanging trees etc are a natural holding spot for Carp, they will often be seen brushing against branches causing them to shake and move, keep an eye out for these.

– Islands are a great place for catching Carp, they use them as patrol routes, as well as the shelter provided by overhanging trees and branches.

– Lily pads – Carp just love these! They can often be seen sucking off snails and other insects from the bottom of the pads, and are quite easy to spot.

– Channels and gullies – Carp use these as routes around the lake, almost like roads, they know where they lead and where that have come from. Bait along a channel between two islands will invariably produce some action at some point. Working out the times they visit all these areas will dramatically increase your chances of catching.

OK, so what happens if you turn up, and see no signs of fish anywhere? Have a walk round and talk to any other anglers, ask them what they have caught, what they have seen? If they were there the previous night, did they hear any fish crashing out at night and if so where roughly?

Use as much information from as many sources as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, the bailiffs will usually know what’s going on and where the fish have been caught from.

Lily pads and trees

Lily pads and trees

The Weather

This can have a big impact on where the fish are going to be, temperature, wind direction, wind strength; water temperature and air pressure can all influence the Carp and where they are likely to be.

Sunny days even in the coldest of weathers will invariably find the Carp in the shallower areas of the lake where the water will warm up quickest; these are always worth an investigative look on those bright, sunny mornings.

Wind Direction

We all have theories on wind direction and south westerly gales being great for fishing into, but does it really matter? On a huge inland sea of a lake like Wraysbury (200 odd acres) then yes I am sure it would make a difference, but on smaller waters under say 12 acres, I doubt it would make much difference, unless there was little or no tree coverage for the wind to be absorbed by.

A general rule of thumb is to have a warm westerly in your face, and a cold easterly wind off your back…

Water temperature can be vital, and its not something I want to dwell on too much but suffice it to say, the colder the water, the harder the fish will be to catch? Possibly, but I had some great results in near freezing water conditions, fishing single bright pop ups with no food content, just single hook baits.

The jury is still out on that one for me as to why single bright baits work so well, but they do, time and time again!

Air pressure, generally the higher pressure seems to slow the carps feeding habits, and lower pressure seems to make them want to feed? Draw your own conclusions, moon phases are another one, do they really make a difference, I’m not convinced either way, but get out there and draw your own conclusions.

Carp lake

Carp lake

Observation While Fishing

Try not to get drawn into sitting in the bivvy and reading a book all day whilst waiting for a take. Sit out on your mat with your stove, make some brews and watch the water, not just the water in your swim, but all that you can see. Showing fish, especially in winter can mean the difference between bagging one, and going home empty handed so to speak.

If you are seeing nothing in your swim, and have had no bites, and you see a fish or two consistently showing down the far end of the lake, what do you do? Personally I would lob all my gear on the barrow and be off down the lake like a rat up a drainpipe! Seriously, it’s important, with the increases in angler pressure on most venues to be prepared to move onto showing fish, even when you really can’t be bothered.

I have fished for a number of years now, and one thing you will never see me doing is sitting on the bedchair waiting for action. I like to think I am a meticulous angler who, wont be afraid to make changes to get that extra bite, I prefer to travel very light and move onto showing fish, taking only the bare essentials to catch my quarry.

Well I hope this has helped you in some way, adapt it to your own fishing and keep your eyes open and it will help you put some more fish on the bank.

Tight lines for now


New to angling? Check out Ian’s video guide to starting out on our official Chub YouTube channel.

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