Carp fishery tactics: ‘wag and mag’

After winning Cornwall’s 1992 Shillamill Festival, former World Champion Ian Heaps shows you one of his tactics for taming fishery carp.

In the last decade or so a great many new stillwater fisheries have sprung up all over the country. Many of these have been stocked with carp. Mirrors, commons and leathers are popular with anglers because they grow big and fight hard. They are popular with fishery owners because they are easy to breed and put on weight quickly. But often match anglers view carp in a different light.

For some anglers carp are just too tough to handle. Match anglers would like to catch them because carp are solid brutes that build a big weight — but more often than not the thought of time wasted on playing fish and losing them and on waiting for bites, plus the possibility of broken tackle, puts them off. Therefore they avoid carp fisheries. This is a pity. If you use the right technique you need lose few, if any, fish and can take some staggering catches.

Mobile feeders

Carp feed at all levels – actually in the bottom, on the bottom, right up through mid-water to the surface. Specimen hunters are aware of this and take big carp on bottom-fished baits, pop-ups and floaters. But many matchmen, when fishing for carp, tend to nail their bait to the bottom, forgetting that carp are mobile feeders.

In fact, if you can get them feeding off the bottom — by loosefeeding maggots for example – carp behave rather like trout. They swim slowly around the mid-water region waiting to see whether more free offerings come their way. As soon as the maggots hit the water they dash to the surface to intercept the feed – often when it has fallen only a few inches. Given a swim full of fish you can, by careful loose feeding, whip them into a real feeding frenzy, causing the surface of the water to boil with activity.

How the rig works

A rig that enables you to cast to the feed area and allows the bait to fall naturally through the upper layer is just what’s needed. A straight waggler with all the shot bulked around its base for easy, accurate casting and no shot at all down the line — to give as slow a fall as possible — is perfect.

But what comes next may go against the grain with many anglers.

To complete the rig you should set the hook so that it is no more than 45cm (18in) below the float — and more often than not it is best set at only 35cm (14in) or so. Admittedly this short distance makes the rig look as though it is the result of a nasty tangle, but the funny thing is that it really works.

There is no point in having more line between hook and float if all the activity is taking place 30-45cm (12-18in) beneath the surface. In fact, a rig which fishes the bait deeper is unlikely to be as effective. You are trying to fool carp into sucking in your hook-bait with the same confidence with which they take the loose feed. But if most of the loose feed never makes it past the first 45cm (18in) then a hookbait which has been rejected and has fallen farther than this is probably not going to be taken at all. On its own it stands out like a sore thumb and is ignored by the carp which continue to focus their attentions on the top layer, waiting for more free food to arrive. In other words, fishing shallow keeps your bait in the right place while fishing deeper simply wastes a whole lot of time.

Bite indication

As you might imagine, a 4lb (1.8kg) carp hitting a bait at high speed, when the bait is only 30cm (1ft) below the surface, causes the float to go under! But the fish doesn’t stop there. If anything it goes faster – heading for the safety of mid-water. This causes the line between the float and the rod end to tighten – very quickly – so that the fish hooks itself. (The only exception to this is if the fish runs towards you — something which rarely seems to happen.) If you have the rod pointing directly at the fish it will should be treated in just the same way but they’ll take longer to land, so you’ll have to be patient.

Snagged fish A fish that has become ‘weeded up’ or snagged can sometimes be freed in the following ways.

If you can feel the fish kicking about in a weedbed, then steady pressure often causes the fish virtually to free itself. (This only works if the weed stalks are thin and easily broken.) Another tactic that works with weeded fish and those that have bolted into more formidable snags is to put the rod down and let the line go slack. It’s surprising how often a fish swims out of a snag once it feels the pressure taken off. It might take five minutes or more before it does, so keep an eye on the line – once it starts to move then you’ll know the fish is back in the open. You can then pick up the rod and resume the fight where you left off. Good luck and power to your elbow—you’ll need it! probably break the line. As a precaution against this, the rod is fished to the side.

In fact, with this technique the rod acts as a bite indicator and the float merely becomes a marker – telling you that your bait is in the right area and helping you to loosefeed accurately. The soft top of your rod tells you when you’ve got a bite – so that the technique is rather like quivertipping-exceptyou are using a float!

Playing carp

What to do once you’ve got a fish on is as much a part of the technique as getting it on in the first place.

Don’t strike Whatever you do, don’t strike! As the rod tip goes round just pick up the rod and the fish should already be on. If the hook isn’t in properly the fish soon pulls it home as it bolts. If you do strike as a fish goes in the opposite direction the result is inevitable – a snap-off. Don’t panic Expect a fast, powerful first run. Unless there is immediate danger of the fish running into a snag, don’t try to stop it straight away. Give line under pressure and try to gain a feeling for the size of the fish. Start to panic and you’ve lost it before the fight has begun. Keep a cool head and stay with it.

Don’t let it fight With carp you’ve got to let them know who’s boss. Treat them with respect and they won’t respect you—leading you a merry dance. Keep the pressure on and, within the limits of the tackle, bully them as much as possible. Larger fish

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