After a particularly busy summer coaching soccer camps I was rather hoping for a few more opportunities to fish in the Fall. However, with work not slowing down and wanting to spend what free time I had with my family my fishing ground to a halt. Desperate remedies were required and in early September I decided that although I did not have any days at my disposal I would have to be creative in order to get some much needed carp therapy.
My plan was to fish after work, typically leaving for the lake at 7.30pm. Problem was that the areas I wanted to fish were around 2 hours away from me! Deciding to suck it up I packed the car before coaching and then headed out to fish, usually arriving between 9.30 and 10pm at night. This usually gave me around 10 to 12 hours to fish, before I had to return home to shower and then work again. I chose to do this mid week and again on Sunday’s to try and maximize my chances of nabbing a few decent fish.
While many anglers have the benefit of extra time or opportunity to pre-bait with large quantities I was limited to a matchmans approach; mainly fish for one bite at a time. To be honest, this is how I fish most of the time anyway as I rarely fish beyond 24 hours and I don’t really get the opportunity to visit my spots regularly as they are usually at least 100 miles from me. This makes me work harder at location, both in regards to the areas I fish and also the actual spots within these areas. On the flip side it’s much cheaper as I am not piling in bait so I tend to buy very high quality baits as I want to make sure I have 100% confidence in them. My main baiting approach would be boilie based, but also adding in high quality pellets and also a particle laden ground bait for flowing water. One product I have used a lot over the last 2 years has been deer feed powders. I can get them from several locations and they are relatively cheap ($10 for a 5lb bag). They are also loaded with attractors and have a decent protein content, both of which add to their effectiveness.
For many anglers the dark is a strange medium to fish in, but for myself I thrive in it. Most of the waters I fish are busy in the daylight and the fish feed less cautiously once the sun goes down. Having fished a lot a night, I find I rarely need a head light and can operate quite well in the dark. I am also tuned into the natural elements and don’t have a great deal of fear as to what’s out there!! Obviously, it pays to fish areas you know are safe and there are certainly many areas I would not entertain fishing at night. However, if you pick a good venue you may find you catch more and the added benefit is that now one will know you have been there.
My first session I headed to a know fall area to see if the fish had turned up yet. I opened my account with three fish, with a couple of decent doubles and a nice low twenty scatter scaled mirror.
Three fish from this area on a short session is certainly a decent result and I knew my tactics were spot on. The Nutrabaits boilies I had been using in the summer continued to work and the added addition of hemp oil, certainly made the fish aware that the baits were in the water. I was baiting relatively lightly as I was unsure as to who else was fishing the area and the best choice was to fish for a bite rather than trying to compete with what was already out there.
I returned on Sunday night, but on turning into the pull off area the reflection from another anglers car shone back at me. Rather than disturb the angler (as it was 10pm) I turned around and drove the extra 15 minutes to another spot that I had only fished once or twice before. I was actually happy that the first area was occupied as it had forced me to fish somewhere I had been thinking about for a few weeks. Knowing that the spot was relatively unfished I changed my baiting approach. I had a few casts with a lead just to make sure I knew where I was putting my baits and then put out around 1kg of boilies, soaked in hemp oil. The oil puts a massive amount of attraction into the water and I knew that it would attract the chub population which would in turn bring in any carp that were in the vicinity. After only an hour carp were already rolling over the areas and I was confident of action.
After several hours without a beep and constant carp activity I was unsure what to do next. I knew the carp were attracted to the bait and I knew my rigs and hook baits would work if they decided to feed. After another hour of scratching my head, finally one of my rods ripped off. A very spirited batter commenced and I was very happy when a cracking upper twenty common rolled over the net. On closer inspection it turned out to be a two tone common and it was very angry with me and the whole ‘being caught’ situation!
One interesting thing I discovered from the capture was what the carp were actually eating and why the activity had not resulted in more takes. After catching the common I put it in the retaining sling for 30 minutes to sort out my camera gear and on inspecting the sling the fish had expelled a whole bunch of muscle shells and actual muscles themselves. From this I deduced the fish had been attracted into the area by the boilies and hemp oil which had triggered a feeding response. However, they first fed on the abundant natural food before finally picking up my offerings. This was further hit home when 30 minutes after the common I had a take on the same rod which absolutely roared off. The fish felt much bigger and gave me a proper run around heading to the deeper water and stripping line off a tight clutch on several occasions. After 15 minutes I got some control over it and finally bundled it into the net. What emerged was a big mirror with a massive head, a true wild American carp. A few quick pictures were rattled off and then I had to pack up and head back to reality.
My next couple of overnights were coinciding with my birthday and I was keen to keep up the tradition of catching a carp or two to celebrate. I split my time between the two swims and picked off a couple of nice looking fish but kept up my run of good form with a brute of a fish that again, took a liking for my boilie approach. This fish just fell short of the 40lb mark but I was very, very happy with it as it was in fabulous condition and gave me an excellent fight, at one point picking up my other line and snagging me. Never the less I did manage to get it moving again and once on the bank it cooperated nicely, posing for several nice shots, displaying some beautiful fall colors.
The next few weeks were busy and it looked like the middle of October would be my best chance to get out for a few nights. The weather had been very mild for the fall and as such many of the good cold water spots were still inconsistent. With this on my mind I decided to spend a more social session with a friend, the only problem being that my first choice of areas was not an option due to an access problem! Even more of a problem it looked spot on for a few bites. Sulking a little bit we decided to fish our second choice of areas, which although we had several fish each, resulted in quite a few smaller fish. Not what we were looking for, but I did learn a few things. Similar to one of my other fall swims, there was an abundance of natural food and the carp were reluctant to pick up baits. My answer to this was to increase my baiting in the hope that they would not be able to resist.
This worked as I had most of my bites over the one area I had put in about 3kg of bait. Although non of the fish were over mid twenties I did land one that would not be out of place in an Oxfordshire Estate Lake.
The last day of the session was very slow and so I decided to once again set up a meal the carp could not refuse. I put around a kilo of hemp, cracked corn and pellets and around half a kilo of boilies over one spot in the hope a bigger fish would find it irresistible. In the middle of the day the rod sprang into life and a tussle with a carp I though was much bigger ensued. Once in the net it got a bit smaller, but at over 30lb’s I was still happy to salvage a session I had hoped for much more.
Fortunately for me, the spot that I had wanted to fish was once again accessible and I jumped on the chance to fish it. This session was an even later arrival as I had my dog in tow. I did not get the rods into the water until around 11pm and it was a bit of an adventure with my dog and a pack of coyotes, yapping away around half a mile away. Fortunately, they never came any closer and I settled down for some sleep only to be awakened by a savage take around 3am. The run and fight was truly brutal and as the fish got closer I could see a long common on the surface. It got bigger and bigger as it got closer and eventually I had it in the net. I’ll leave the full account for another time but I was very, very happy with my prize.
During the session I also caught another fish and returned two weeks later to tame a few more beauties. I have to say I never get tired of catching carp and I have been rewarded with some truly special creatures over the last couple of years. This fall has not been any different and I’ll leave you with a couple of other stunners that my last two sessions have produced. As the temperatures continue to drop I find myself with a little more time and over the next few weeks I’ll be fishing hard to try and tempt one of my targets before the snow arrives in force. Even though the nights are long and cold the rewards are still there if you stick at it.