Carp don’t do much for me. Apart from annoy me. They are fat, stupid, overrated fish, who populate too many of our country’s lakes. They spend most of their lives sucking great gobfuls of mud from the bed of ponds, causing clouds of fine silt to colour the water. Which usually kills off any other decent resident fish, apart from their grubby mud-sucking relatives.
Classy fish like trout or roach or perch, don’t like to live alongside carp, because carp’s mucky table manners put them off their food. Fish like trout and perch rely extensively on their eyesight to find food. So they dine best when the water is clear. Thick, soupy, opaque water is hard to see through, so they go hungry. Trout and roach, also have finely-tuned breathing apparatus, that requires a good flow of clean water through their gills. All the mud that carp stir up, clogs the more sophisticated fish’s gills, especially in hot weather when oxygen is in short supply. This can all too often make them turn belly up and croak.
Yet, it’s this time of year when the sun is hot, that my frosty heart warms slightly to the species of carp. Carp are keen sun worshippers. And, given the opportunity of a hefty dose of UV rays, a carp likes nothing better than to wriggle out of his trunks and climb on top of the pond for a sunbathe. Apart from just loving to soak up warm rays, the hot weather turns them from mud-suckers into surface-slurpers.
One of the only truly great things about carp, is that in summer they start to feed from the water’s surface. And, true to their pig-belly, trough-snuffling form, they’ll happily try and eat anything they think they can fit down their pudding shute.
I’ve seen carp slurp down everything from lumps of polystyrene to twigs, weed, leaves and even dog-ends. It’s at this time of year you’re most likely to catch a carp off the surface, which is, in my humble and hugely-prejudiced point of view, the only really good way to catch them.
To hook a carp off the surface, the three best baits to use are bread, dog biscuits or a large bushy fly pattern. Carp are crazy for bread, especially if they live somewhere like a park or an estate lake where people daily feed ducks and swans. In these places, bread’s become a normal food source for them. But even if they haven’t seen bread before, it doesn’t take long for the surface cruising fish to decide to wrap their laughing gear around a stamp sized chunk. And once they’ve got a taste for it, there’s no stopping them. Carp have absolutely no regard for fibre or calorie-counting. They like their bread white and gloopy. Although they’re also partial to a bit of crust too. But wholemeal or good brown bread is totally wasted on white trash carp. Give them gummy old Mother’s Pride and they’ll love you for it.
To catch a carp on bread, first loose feed a few chunks around the cruising fish, while you slip the point of a strong size four or six carp hook through a lump of crust. Try and hide as much of the hook bend and shank as you can. Use a minimum of eight pound line all the way to the hook. Then, flick your hook loaded hunk out to sit near the free floaters.
If the carp are cruising too far out to be able to just free-line the bread, then you can put a controller float, or even an old pike bung three feet up the line, to give it some casting weight. But don’t be tempted to put any lead shot on the line or it’ll just make the hook bait sink.
The Pedigree Chum style of fat pellet shaped dog food, has become a huge favourite with carp anglers. It floats for Europe. And, small handfuls can be easily and accurately catapulted some distance. Carp soon switch on to dog biscuits even if they’ve never heard of them before.
When you’ve got some fish surface-feeding on your loose-fed freebies, then you’ve got to get a biscuit onto your hook, which can be quite a challenge. You can use a small drill bit to drill a hole across one corner and slip the hook point through the hole. This works well, but it’s frustrating because you’ll soon find they frequently crumble and break. A good trick to try, is to soak a couple of handfuls of biscuit with a few tablespoons of hot water. Leave them in the sealed bag for an hour, and they’ll take up enough moisture to allow a hook to be stabbed through and stay put. This’ll cast and lie in the surface happily for several chucks. And when this biscuit does eventually start to sink, simply swap it for another from the plastic bag.
When your loose feed is holding a few fish and making them slurp off the surface, then it’s worth trying a big fluffy fly too. A floater pattern. Something large and noticeable, like a Royal Wulff. Carp aren’t fussy. They’re naturally inquisitive and gutsy. So they’ll suck down most things that look like they might contain nourishment.
Carp are hogs. And generally, I do hate them. But, when you see a huge one cruising straight towards your well-presented floating bait, it’s amazing what a buzz of anticipation suddenly starts fizzing through your veins.
Fishing is always most exciting when it’s visual. When you can see a fish and see your bait, and then see the two coming closer and closer together, the fact that it’s a stupid fat, scum-sucker suddenly doesn’t seem to matter at all.