Carp hunting

Go in search of a big carp and you at once join a fraternity of anglers who, over the years, have pooled their knowledge and experience so as to get the better of a respected opponent.

The most important aspects of cat-ching specimen carp are the quality of the waters that are fished, and the baits used. There can be little doubt, too, that the current emphasis on baits in the pursuit of big carp represents a change from the early days of carp fishing, when technique and bait presentation were paramount.

Locating big carp can be a slow process. But there is nearly always some local knowledge of their whereabouts and information can be gleaned from other anglers, tackle shops, club secretaries and published reports. The Fisheries Officer of the local Water Authority is often able to give information of past stockings of carp in his area. If the introductions were of small carp, then remember that 10 years or so must pass before these will have grown to a reasonable size.

The farther north, the fewer the carp waters, and a line from Yorkshire to Lancashire represents the limit to reasonable carp fishing in Britain. But increasing carp in-troductions are taking place, and while most of the fish released in the North cannot be expected to grow as large as their southern counterparts, the stocking does mean that carp fishing there should become more of a worthwhile proposition.

Carp are adaptable fish, and can grow large in a variety of habitats, from rivers like the Trent and Nene, to shallow, muddy, tree-girt lakes and deep, open, wind-blown gravel pits. Some of today’s best carp fishing is available in gravel pits. The shallow, mature, well-weeded gravel pit, which is not overstocked with fish such as roach and bream, is an ideal environment.

Bread’s main drawback

The baits used for carp fishing in the 1950s were bread, potato and worms. Bread still catches plenty of carp if used intelligently, and the modern carp specialist uses it in all its varied forms because it is cheap and easy to obtain. But the most serious drawback of bread is that almost all other species of fish find it attractive and will remove it from the hook before the carp find it.

Potato, although it can withstand the unwanted attentions of nuisance fish such as bream, roach and tench for long periods, is often not attractive to carp in most of the carp waters I have fished. The records show that quite a number of large carp have been caught on it, but many of these catches may be due to the persistence with which the bait was used in the past.


Specimen sizes Specimen size in carp depends, as in many sea and freshwater species, on the water or area. A 20lb fish is a specimen in a few waters, but, where the average size is small, a 10-pounder qualifies.


llft-llVfeft fast taper lift (134lb test)

Methods, techniques

Float-fishing, ledgering, freelining and casting to feeding fish. They can be made to float by injecting them with a small amount of air, using a hypodermic syringe with a fine needle, and can then be floated or ledgered. Lobworms and redworms are the best.

In the middle and late 1960s, many experiments with different carp baits were made, particularly in Kent, where carp stocks in local waters were of realistic quantities. Enough carp were caught to be able to formulate opinions. From these tests, many hundreds of baits have been created, and the variations on the existing baits allow combinations which must run into several thousands.

Sausage, an excellent bait, will catch many carp. My preference is for the beef types, although pork will also work. It is best to purchase sausage meat rather than sausages, and the meat usually needs stiffening with rusk, flour or groundbait. Many flavourings—even curry powder—can be used with success.

Cheese is an underrated bait which can be made into a paste to reduce the cost. The best types are strong Cheddar and Leicester, with the crumbly, mild types not so good. Edam resists the attacks of small fry, and can be cut easily to make small particle baits. Experimentation with different binding agents produces a variety of pastes.

Tinned pet-foods make good carp baits when stiffened with rusk or groundbait, and the addition of a small amount of flour keeps these baits intact in the water for long enough to be useful.

The effectiveness of luncheon meat varies with the particular brand. I have been successful with Plumrose’s Bacon Grill, which is also useful because small roach and bream have difficulty in removing it from the hook. Certain brands with a high fat content will float when cut into small pieces, and can be ledgered above soft bottom weed.

The term ‘natural’ describes any small animal which occurs in or out of the water, such as maggots, casters, worms, beetles, snails, slugs, caterpillars, caddis, shrimps, wasp grubs, leeches, mealworms, freshwater cockles, mussels, small crayfish, silkworms, and dragonfly larvae. All of these will catch carp. They come into their own when used to stalk and cast to individual feeding fish.