FISHING LARGE LAKES
South West carper, Amy Maunder explains how fishing large waters may seem a daunting idea, but is actually one to relish!
Like most anglers I guess, I’ve learnt my way from fishing the waters closest to home, which for me has been my local canal and the two large, near-by reservoirs of Upper and Lower Tamar Lakes. Obviously two quite different venues, although they do have a one major things in common; the fish have plenty of room to travel and hide. In the case of Upper Tamar, the lake I am fishing here, there are some 80-plus acres of water for the superb head of Perch, silver fish, and of course high stock of carp to inhabit. Although the lake, split between a Cornish and Devon bank does offer something I find very valuable indeed – plenty of space to enjoy being out on the bank. Having acre upon acre of water in front of you can be a bit off putting I guess, but it needn’t be as much of a daunting idea as you might think. In fact, going into Autumn when the carp are hungry, active and feeding-up for winter in can be a very attractive and rewarding prospect indeed…
Okay so you like the sound of beating the crowds and having plenty of space to work a piece of water rather than squeeze your rods in between the lines of a pressured venue. Sounds great, but where do you start? Well unfortunately for the car park carpers out there it means a fair bit of walking, looking and then in some cases a long run with the barrow. Carp on large waters as you can imagine can be pretty nomadic at times, and are not always in areas visible from any one standpoint. So you do need to have a good look around first. This also helps to well… almost shrink a large lake down a bit and make it more manageable, as you can often discount some areas either already occupied or simply devoid of any signs of carp.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, beginning with the obvious and looking out from the bank accepting the wind is for me the best place to start. Big pit carp like the ressy fish at Tamar are massively effected by weather conditions such as the wind direction when it comes to location. They love to follow a big wind especially one that is new, warm or both. Attracted by the prospect of food being stirred-up in these areas. Although in the case of Upper Tamar where the wind can really pick-up some speed across the large open expanse of water, the fish can often back off a really big wind. Instead attracted by another influential element on a big lake: the undertow. This is basically a flow of water travelling beneath the surface caused by the wind travelling in the other direction. When the ripples turn to waves on the lake it’s worth taking this into consideration and having a look further back down the lake from the bank accepting the wind or even on the back of it. I would also do this if the wind was cold. Carp are just like us in some ways. They’re not always overly bothered by a cold breeze, but will often find the warmer area’s off or at the back of a chilling wind more attractive. So the wind direction is really the first indicator as to where to start looking, basically with a keen eye over the water looking for signs of fish showing and activity.
Now it is worth me pointing out that I’m talking about fishing larger waters here, so not necessarily low stock venues, which of course could be any size. No I’m referring here to bigger lakes that hold a good number of fish, Tamar for example holds a terrific number of carp and so when your on them you’d expect to catch a few. The reason I’m pointing this out is that ‘location wise’ there’s other things to consider, particularly when it’s difficult to get on the main body of fish due to swims already being taken. Something as a weekend angler I often encounter. In this scenario I’d look at areas that offer good access to water I’d expect fish to frequent. Side bays and point-like sections of bank especially, any vantage point where I can spread my rods, keep my eyes on the water and cast at any sign of carp I see. As I keep mentioning, keep your eyes on the water and even listening out into the darkness at night is a good idea. If you see or hear crashing out somewhere, well then there’s nothing else for it other than a move. A need to be mobile coupled with the fact you generally are going to be barrowing some distance at times, means that it does pay to travel light where possible. Luckily tactics for me at least are pretty straight forward on the big ressy, so there’s no real need to push anything other than essential tackle.
Once you’ve plotted-up somewhere it really does pay to take some time and make a few casts with the marker rod especially when you may have barrowed a mile and a bit. There’s no point wasting all that effort, your traps need to be set in the best possible positions, which are not always that far out. Now if I was to cast out and find weed or see it at the surface then yes, I’d be looking for holes within it and clear presentable spots, but 99% this is not the case at Tamar or the large waters I fish. Generally speaking, they are silty and deep, which means that depth or rather changes of depth are important and one of the things I’m looking for with the marker rod.
With acres and acres of fairly uniform lakebed any undulation or small patch of harder/smooth bottom within the silt can be a proper little ‘catch’ gold mine. They may seem small and insignificant to us when dragging a lead, but will standout much more to the carp, which have often created them anyway. Perhaps cleaning away layers of silt feeding on natural foods such as snails and bloodworm. Either way small spots such as this and any little change in depth is certainly worth noting, which leads me onto what for me is the one of the best features of all on a large lake: the drop-off.
This section of lakebed where the marginal shelf begins to level out or ease off, is one that is effected greatly by the winds and undertows found so attractive by the carp. In most cases a silty lakebed will firm-up at this point and gravel areas in contrast to the majority of the bottom can be found. Great for good rig presentation and the place where food is stirred-up and therefore a place carp would also expect to find food. So the ideal place to dispatch your bait.
As I’ve mentioned, deep water is also often encountered, so I like to try and place my baits at varying depths, just to try and edge my bets as to what layers of water the fish are travelling in and then most comfortable to feed in. Depth and the marginal drop-off; get these covered and its time to apply some bait.
When it comes to bait boilies or rather ‘food source’ boilies really are my main focus, especially through autumn – full of nutrition and attraction they really are perfect for targeting hungry carp on a big lake. Not only do they go some way in avoiding nuisance fish they really suit the baiting situation I’m trying to create, which is a good spread of baits around my rigs. I may cast out a couple of Spombs to place a nucleolus of bait around my rigs, but essentially I’m looking for a spread of boilies within my swim. The throwing stick is the ideal tool for this, quick, quiet and accurate. Dotting baits around at the range I’m fishing, and giving off a big food signal over a wide area for the carp to pick-up on. So hopefully a few fish come across a bait or two, begin to feed and search for more baits. Having to move between the spread boilies, in turn gaining confidence and becoming very catchable.
As I’ve already said location is massively important on a larger water and so I have found that pre baiting can help localise fish to likely areas. I’m not one for using masses of bait and I don’t think you need it, just a few handfuls to get the fish accustom to finding your bait in your chosen areas. If nothing else the fish will be gaining confidence within your boilie flavour, which is another plus point of using a food source style boilie such as the Mainline freezer baits and the Essential Cell I’m using here. Crucially theses baits are easily digested by the fish so you can apply them the whole year through, simply reducing or increasing the amount of feed dependant on the session activity or time of year. I really like this as it makes things really simple where bait is concerned, and it’s not only the confidence of the fish that grows, but your own as well. Something extremely valuable when you’re perhaps taking on an 80+ acre water in the middle of winter.
HOW TO… SET-UP A THREE BAIT STRINGER
A great way to add attraction and a few baits to the vicinity of the hookbait.
So with a spread of bait in the swim I do like to then boost the attraction of my hookbait a little with some liquid attraction. The Hookbait Enhancement System dips are perfect for this, dispersing an attractive food signal throughout the water column and giving emphasise to the location of my hookbait. Plus, they are unaffected by low water temperatures, so I can again keep to a working formula the whole year. Being PVA friendly is another advantage – I can not only dip my hookbait, but a small stringer too. One little tactic I really like. Again it’s a simple way to boost attraction and improve presentation. With the weight of a two or three bait stringer helping to keep my light, Balanced Wafter hookbait away from my lead set-up during the cast and helping prevent tangles. Not too mention placing a few baits close to the hookbait and again improving the attractiveness of my presentation.
PVA Sticks or bags are another good way of doing this. Simply crushing down a few boilies, perhaps adding a little Response Pellet and then some liquid attraction. It’s really easy to do, but when combined with the responsive Balanced Wafter hookbaits creates quite an advanced set-up. What’s more these stringers and PVA tactics are very instant in they’re appeal – great for casting at showing fish at any time of year or a minimal tactic in winter.
HOW TO… PUT TOGETHER AMY’S HIGH ATTRACT MESH BAGS
A simple way to add a mass of attraction!
Rig-wise things needn’t be complicated either, simple and reliable is what I find important, and a ‘rotary’ helicopter arrangement provides just that for my lead set-up. Ideal for fishing over the silt I’m generally faced with, as the lead can plug a little without pulling in the rig, but also great for preventing rig tangles. Another element that again I think sums up fishing large waters – it pays to keep things simple, keep to a trusted bait and the things you’re most confident in. Allowing you to concentrate on location, which as soon as you even look at a big lake becomes the most obvious and important side of success. Because when you get this right a large lake suddenly becomes a very small one, and the bites will come!