Introduction to Carp Fishing
Carp fishing is a hugely popular sport that is best known as being just one element of the sport coarse fishing. This article is not aimed at the advanced Carp angler because there is a huge range of Carp fishing tackle and information already available, (Carp fishing tackle online, in Carp fishing magazines and fishing tackle shops etc ), so much so, that I believe too much of this information would confuse a beginner to the sport if I were to go into it here. Personally I believe Carp are the most desirable Coarse fish to catch, but everyone has their own idea of the perfect coarse fish.
Chapter 1 of "How to Fish for Carp" is going to cover such information as the basic Carp fishing gear you will need to get started, the best Carp baits, optional basic Carp fishing gear you might want to indulge in, and of course a few other tidbits you might find of interest. If you enjoy this article I hope you will read my upcoming ones which will cover everything you need to know to start you off in this wonderful fulfilling hobby.
Welcome to one of the most relaxing, yet exciting sports you will ever have discovered, (and as someone who not only runs a coarse fishing lake stocked with Carp, but also someone who has written about coarse fishing before, I can, from personal experience, confirm that this is true.
Essential Basic Carp Fishing Tackle
These are the items you will want to have as an absolute bare minimum for your Carp fishing gear setup, (some of which will be demanded within the rules of any private Carp fisheries you choose to frequent).
1) Carp rods, at least one or two good quality ones .
2) A Carp fishing reel for each rod (bait-runner reels are favourite for Carp fishing).
3) Enough high poundage line to fill your reels to the rim of the spool. I tend to use line of about 15 lb breaking strain, but some people prefer to use far higher strengths than this, the disadvantage being the Carp are more likely to spot it in the water and avoid your baits, plus if they do still manage to snap your line, they are at a higher risk of becoming tethered to undergrowth or snags, and may be unable to escape and therefore die.
4) An unhooking mat to lay your Carp on whilst removing the hook. This will avoid damaging the fish, plus is usually required within the rules of most Carp fisheries.
5) A pair of forceps in order to be able to easily and safely remove hooks from your Carp, plus these will reach further down the fish's throat if he has swallowed the hook down too far, (a problem often caused by inexperienced anglers not striking at the bite quickly enough).
6) The hooks themselves, some fisheries insist on barbless hooks, so always check the rules before you fish at a new location. I like to have a variety of sizes for Carp angling, but usually use 8's to 10's as my preferred sizes.
7) A good sized Carp landing net, as this will be essential when you are getting your huge Carp out of the water safely.
8) A pair of snips (small scissors), for cutting line when necessary, (which will be every trip in general).
9) Swivels to avoid line tangles.
10) A boilie needle for threading boilies on to the line, (I will cover boilies in the bait section)
11) Boilie Stops for keeping boilies on the line.
12) A catapult for getting freebies (unhooked baits to attract Carp to feed in your swim), out to where your bait is situated.
13) Depending on the type of Carp fishing you prefer, you will need either Carp floats (ideally controller floats), cage feeders (if you intend to use ground bait), or leger weights if you prefer to leger fish without messing about with ground baits, method mixtures, pastes etc.
14) Split Shot in a mixed size box. these secure things like floats, feeders, weights etc in position on your line.
15) Either a rod pod or bank sticks with appropriate rod rests or bite alarms on top, so that you can rest your rod on these to ensure the line flows freely if a big Carp comes along and takes your bait when you are not immediately by your rods.
16) A weighing sling and scales, as you are going to want to know the weight of that monster Carp once you land it.
17) A camera to photograph that same monster Carp.
18) A tackle box to carry all your bits and pieces in.
19) A rod bag to carry your rods, bank sticks/rod pod, landing net handle etc in.
20) Either a small collapsible fishing stool, or make sure your tackle box is a comfy one for sitting on whilst you wait for that elusive Carp to take the bait.
21) A bait box or boxes to keep your maggots, worms etc in.
22) Some waterproofs (it can get very wet when you are fishing).
23) Toilet Roll, trust me, you will need it if you don't have it, and it is rare for there to be toilets on fisheries!
24) A thermos flask for your tea or coffee, (see point 22 above if you have any doubts you will need this).
25) A head torch for when you just can't tear yourself away, and then realise it has got dark and you now need to pack up your gear and go home.
26) A towel for drying your hands on and wiping off the fish slime that your massive Carp will inevitably cover you in.
Optional Carp Fishing Tackle, (but helpful to have).
1) A fishing umbrella, these are great and beat standing under a tree trying to keep dry, plus they can be pegged to the ground so they don't blow away.
2) A keepnet, on the fisheries that allow you to use them these are a good way of keeping your fish contained in the water after capture, and until the end of your Carp fishing session, at which point you can weigh your entire catch all at once before releasing them.
3) Bite alarms, these will let you know very quickly if a Carp has taken your bait by emitting a loud alarm. By having these you can relax a whole lot more and go off and chat to other anglers, go for a pee, have a sleep, make a cup of tea or coffee etc.
4) A Bivvie, (small fishing tent). These are great if you want to consider night fishing, but are also useful on cold Winter days fishing.
5) A camping stove, (and appropriate utensils such as pans, kettles etc). Another very good idea if you plan to do overnight fishing, as they enable you not only to boil kettles, but also to do yourself hot food.
6) A Carp chair or a Carp bed. These are designed for Carp fishing, and are very comfortable unfolding beds or chairs somewhat resembling fabric sun-loungers.
7) Polarising sunglasses. These reduce the glare you normally have on the surface of the water, and make it easier to see what is going on beneath the surface in terms of fish activity.
8) Fishing gloves, usually fingerless, and often made of substances that really keep your hands warm like neoprene, (the same material diving suits are made of), these gloves are a godsend in the cold weather.
9) A fishing trolley, very useful for stacking all your Carp fishing gear on in order to transport it from your car to your fishing swim.
10) Fishing waders, these all in one waterproof suits are great if you are in need of wading out through shallow water in order to get a better spot to cast from, or in order to make landing your huge Carp a little easier.
11) Fishing boots, a bit like wellington boots, but designed for fishing, again, much like the gloves, usually neoprene lined for extra warmth.
12) A fishing hat, (usually neoprene lined), as all those hours sitting quietly still, and waiting for a bite can lead to you feeling pretty cold, and as most body heat is lost through your head, a hat is a good way to keep warm longer.
13) Drop Arm Indicators. These are usually suspended on the line immediately behind the bite alarm (nearest to the angler). If you get a drop bite (the Carp takes the bait but swims towards you), the bite alarm wouldn't normally go off immediately, but in this instance the weight of the drop arm indicator will drag the line the wrong way through the bite alarm sensor, so the alarm will sound anyway.
14) A collapsible mixing bowl. These are very useful for if you intend to use groundbait in cage feeders, as you are definitely going to need something to mix your bait up in.
15) Line Stops, which essentially consist of a tiny tube and a peg that will wedge inside of it. These are easier and more reliable than shot for use in holding a leger weight or a feeder etc in position on your line, and are far less likely to slip.
16) Illuminated float tops or rod tips (disposable). These attach to either your float tips or your rod tips in order for you to see them in the dark, especially useful for seeing if you have cast where you intended to at night, (in the case of the float tips). They consist of a small tube containing two chemicals. When you "snap" the tube, the two chemicals mix and begin to glow brightly. Each one of these lasts between 8 and 12 hours depending on the brand.
17) An illuminated controller float. These contain a battery, and can be used either with or without the light switched on, but they do make it much easier to cast at night, and see which direction a hooked Carp has taken off in.
18) Camouflage clothing, just like the army wear. This is very useful as Carp have incredibly good eyesight and will see bright colours moving around on the banks. The camouflage gear does improve your chances of securing a large Carp. In fact a lot of fishing gear such as Bivvies, chairs etc can be bought in camouflage colours now.
19) Pre-tied hair rigs. These are used for Carp fishing a lot, and are the best way to present your bait to the Carp, especially if you are using boilies, luncheon meat, tiger nuts or other large baits.
20) PVA bags and PVA string. PVA is a wonderful substance that dissolves upon contact with water. It is very easy to bait up your hook normally, and then add a PVA bag of "freebies" (unhooked bait of the same type as you are using), to the hooked bait. After you cast, and your bait hits the water, the PVA bag will dissolve in seconds, leaving a nice amount of free bait surrounding your hooked bait. This attracts Carp into feeding within your swim, and hopefully they become less wary after enjoying some of the freebies, and then take the hooked bait as well. PVA string is either used to tie the neck of the PVA bag closed and then to tie it to your hook or line, or it can be used on its own with a string of boilies threaded on to it and then tied to your hook or line. Both methods of using PVA work well.
21) An Octoplus system or similar product. This is a system that consists of a framework of metal you screw on to your tackle box. It comes with attachments for various uses such as supporting your fishing umbrella, holding your bait boxes, securing your keepnet, supporting rod rests and even has legs and mud feet that allow you to adjust each leg if your seat box is on uneven ground in order that the box is stable and not wobbling. The mud feet stop the legs sinking into wet ground.
There are literally tonnes of Carp baits you can try available on the market, be them the more old fashioned baits or the multiple flavours now available in such popular baits as boilies, bait dips etc. I cannot possibly cover them all here, so I am going to cover a small range of the baits I think give you best chances of catching a large Carp as a beginner, and without getting too complicated about it, (I hope). As you learn more and become a more experienced Carp angler you will without doubt try experimenting with new baits that come on to the market, but initially I suggest keeping it simple and following these basic guidelines.
1) Sweetcorn. This is an extremely popular and inexpensive Carp bait, and requires no special methods of baiting up such as hair rigs etc. It is a simple hook bait for the majority of the time, plus a great addition to ground-bait mixtures. It can be used on a hair rig too though. Most anglers tend to buy a can of the stuff for each carp fishing session, but I prefer to thaw out some frozen sweetcorn as it is far more cost effective and just as good. You can also buy flavoured sweetcorn e.g. strawberry, cherry, tutti frutti etc, from fishing tackle shops, online or from fishing magazines.
2) Pork Luncheon Meat, Spam etc. Most of these canned meats make an excellent bait, and can be cut into cubes of all different sizes in order to rule out attracting Carp that are too small. I have seen it cut in cubes anything from a little fingernail size, up to a matchbox size. Luncheon meat can be used directly on the hook as a hook bait, or it can be hair rigged, (essential for the larger cubes). You also have to option of using flavoured fishing dips to soak it in before using, or you can fry it up in kitchen spices such as curry or chilli powder, (Carp love strong flavours). Additionally if squished up into your ground-bait mixture its greasy nature creates a mini, smelly and oily slick around your bait, and attracts more Carp to feed in your swim.
3) Dog Biscuits. These are difficult to hook as naturally they tend to be pretty hard in texture, but there are two good ways of attaching them as bait. You can use a hacksaw blade to cut a shallow groove down one side of the biscuit, then using a small amount of superglue, carefully glue this on to the back of one of your hooks, before allowing to set before casting to avoid the suspicious smell of the glue getting into your swim. Alternatively, prior to your Carp fishing trip, use a very fine drill to produce a hole through each dog biscuit, and then you can hair rig them when fishing using a normal boilie needle.
4) Kidney Beans. Cooked kidney beans also make an excellent bait, and you can treat them exactly the same as sweetcorn, although I prefer to use a hair rig to attach them to my line. Buy a can for ease when fishing, (make sure it has a ring pull, or add a can opener to your basic essential equipment).
5) Maggots. Easily purchased from your local fishing tackle shop, usually in a range of colours from reds to pinks to whites and yellows. Ideal as a hook bait, although you might find they attract the attention of fish other than Carp too. You can also use these in closed end feeders that have holes in the sides. This enables the maggots to crawl out when the bait hits the bottom of the lake, and therefore adds more freebies around your actual hook bait.
6) Bread flake. A popular bait used mainly as floating crust. Fluffy white bread is partially squeezed on to the back of the hook, leaving a large fluffy area of bread untouched and visible to the Carp. Works well, but ducks can be a nuisance trying to steal it, plus it needs to be changed often as it breaks down in the water. Also attracts other species of fish who nibble it away before the Carp can get to it.
7) Pepperoni (Pepperami) or Salami. Carp love spicy flavours, so either as a hook bait or hair rigged, both Pepperoni and Salami work very well indeed, plus they can be soaked in fishing dips of various flavours.
8) Smelly Soft Blue Cheeses. These can be moulded into a big ball, and small amounts torn off and squeezed on to your hook leaving just the tip of the hook exposed. Carp are very attracted to strong smells, so next time you have an old piece of Stilton rotting away (or crawling around) at the back of your fridge, take it Carp fishing!
9) Worms. Much like maggots these are very popular as bait, plus are easily available in your own garden, (just remember, worms come to the surface when it rains, so if you want to dig your own, water the patch you intend to dig 10 or 15 minutes in advance). If you don't want to dig your own, or start a wormery, then usually fishing tackle ships stock worms as a matter of course. It is important these are hooked correctly or you will kill them, and this is something I shall cover in the next chapter.
10) Boilies. My favourite of all the baits as they are easy to use, each one boilie lasts all night if needs be, plus they come in a truly vast range of flavours, with new ones coming out all of the time. I am not kidding on the flavours front, apart from the obvious strawberry and tutti frutti flavours, I have purchased such flavours as blue cheese, whiskey, pineapple, Pepperami, Swiss white chocolate, cherry B, scopex (don't ask), tiger nut, halibut pellet etc etc. In addition to them already smelling amazing, you can also use dips to enhance their appeal. I have bought many of my most successful boilies on ebay from a chap called "carpysteve" who makes his own, (no relation or friend I promise). The good thing about people like him are you can buy mixed batches of flavours, each designed to contain enough boilies for one good fishing session, or just so you can trial them out before buying a larger quantity. Boilies do need to be hair rigged however, so you will need to have a boilie needle, hair rigs and boilie stops in order to use these, however, I feel they are one of the easiest and most successful baits of all to use.