BRING ME SUNSHINE
Tony Welch gives you a round-up on a recent session and how and why the increased hours of daylight play an important part in his approach...
With the daylight hours rapidly increasing along with the warmth of the sun, fish activity will be increasing on all lakes. Spring can be hit and miss for carp angling due to the weather and the time it takes sunlight to penetrate and individual lakes to warm-up.
I’ve had some brilliant sessions in March/April for example, but also a few blanks too. It’s well known that on many venues the carp can be found all winter long in the same areas of the lake however when that sun starts to carry some warmth and daylight hours increase the carp will soon be on the move and searching out the areas of the lake where the sun is the strongest like the shallows, and the west bank margins which receive the morning sunshine after a cold night and island margins in the lee of the wind, for example.
It’s a case of watching the weather and the water because the fish won’t all move to these areas just because the sun pops out, the winter areas will still hold fish right up to May and in some cases on some of the warmer sunny days can be taken on Zigs in the upper layers of the winter zone.
I recently had a quick night at my disposal and I fished an 85-acre lake, which has a good stock and a proven cold-water record, an ideal winter venue. These days, because my time is far more limited than in previous years I tend to fish for ‘bites’ rather than fishing for a ‘target’ fish. If I had two/three nights a week my angling would be different. Saying that, I’m happy at the moment doing short over night sessions rather than being camped out for days on end. I’ve had to adapt and change my approach to suit this type of fishing but it’s another dimension to carp angling and I enjoy it.
The weather wasn’t great for carp angling with an easterly wind blowing and a heavy frost forecast. I don’t get to pick my days to go fishing, I have to go around work and family commitments so when I get to go, I just go in any conditions and pull out all the stops to try and make it happen even when conditions are poor.
With nothing showing and nothing to go on I decided to fish a well-known winter zone due to the forecast. The sun did come out to play but it didn’t have much warmth behind it and along with the poor forecast I discounted the shallows. The swim itself gave a lot of water to cover so I spread my three rods out over different areas and depths to try and search the fish out.
I went with the same rigs and bait on all three rods. The main line I have been using for a while now is Gardner Pro XM light blend, which I absolutely adore. It’s strong, supple, limp, casts extremely well for a thicker diameter line and will also sink. It’s basically the best all round line I’ve used in 25 years of carp angling, it’s that good! With leadcore being banned on so many lakes now I have got to grips with the fairly new Camflex lead-free leader material from Gardner. This stuff is as supple as it gets and will truly follow the contours of a lake bed when fished with a slack or a semi slack line, which is how I was fishing on this session. On the end of the leader I opted for lead clips and Kwik-loc swivels so I could quickly change hook links or swap to Zigs in literally seconds. Hooklinks were constructed using the new Ultraskin soft coated hook link. This is certainly the best supple coated braid I’ve used. If I want a stiff coated braid then I’ll use something like Gardners Sly Skin. On this session I was fishing over silt so a suppler coated link was preferred. I constructed the hooklinks as simply as possible by removing a small section of the coating to form just the Hair. I then do a 9-turn-knotless-knot on to a size 8 Covert Mugga hook. Around 10mm above the eye of the hook I break the coating and strip it back around 5mm. This leaves a stiffer section right above the eye to aid turning and a short supple section above that to aid movement. The rig is tangle free; I’ve never had a tangle using it, not one! I use this set-up sometimes as a single hookbait and sometimes fished in conjunction with a PVA Stick. It depends on the depth of water I’m in, the range I’m fishing and how ravenous the bream are!
On this short session I was fishing at 70-80 yards in around 12 feet of water and even though the sun wasn’t carrying much in the way of warmth I knew the light would still penetrate down through the layers in the tap water clear reservoir and I was counting on this to get the fish moving and a chance of a quick daytime bite.
I opted to use the PVA Sticks as a starting point, to test the water so to speak. I made the Sticks using a variety of Mainline Stick Mixes including Cell, Hemp, Tiger Nut and the brilliant Cloud-9. I also add a variety of liquids to the Stick mixes including Hemp Oil, Condensed Coconut Milk Syrup, Multi-Stim and Cell Hookbait Enhancement System dip. The liquids can’t be overloaded and I normally make a wet mix around a week before I’m fishing so when the fishing day arrives the mix has dried into a nice fluffy texture, which oozes attraction and makes a large spread around the hookbait rapidly.
I don’t go fishing without the Cell; it’s been a bait I have used for many years starting around two years prior to its release. It’s an amazing bait, which I have total faith in. I know it’s horses for courses and other anglers will have as much faith in other baits, but for me it’s Cell. More recently I’ve been mixing it 50/50 with Hybrid and using these two baits in different sizes as my free offerings and then using an alternative hookbait over the top. I’m a great believer in using bright hookbaits in the spring when the fish are waking-up. I’m told their eyesight improves as the water sees an increase in temperature and with this the fish will be moving and seeking out food. Bright attractive hookbaits allow them to home in on an easy morsel of food. As the year goes on when kilos and kilos of boilies have been introduced then the fish can spook off bright ones and this is when dull coloured hookbaits with the odd fleck of colour seem to work best, but certainly from my experience bright ones work best in the early part of the year.
On this particular session I decided to incorporate the Essential IB High Impact readymade boilies. I wanted to spread around 40 over each rod and over a fairly wide area. The IB’s are a lovely yellow colour and I wanted the fish to firstly be attracted to the area with the colour and then actively looking for other yellow baits as they picked up the individual IB’s between the Cell/Hybrid freebies. I should point out that the reservoir I was fishing was crystal clear. I used the IB Balanced Wafters soaked in the hookbait dip as hookbaits along with the potent PVA Sticks. I thought this would be a good plan of attack and give me the best chance of putting a carp on the bank.
I had the rods out by lunchtime and by 4pm I’d had a couple of fish from two different rods, but then as the evening arrived the temperatures plummeted and although a bite was still possible it was a quiet night, just as I thought it would be.
The sun is a powerful carp attractor especially at this time of the year. Similar to low pressure systems and how they get the fish moving and feeding at anytime of the year, at this time of year as the daylight increases and the warmth of the sun kicks in us carp anglers can take full advantage around how the spring sun affects our quarries movement and feeding habits.