On pressured waters, the carp have often well and truly seen it all by this stage in the season. Wayne Izsatt reveals a few tricks he uses to keep the bites coming from such venues…
As we move into early autumn, the fishing at many day-ticket venues be become a little on the tricky side, especially on weedy waters which hold an abundance of natural food.
Five months of solid, round-the-clock angling pressure can mean the areas of water in front of many of the more popular swims – often the most angler-friendly and comfortable swims – are treated as serious ‘no-go’ areas by the carp, which soon learn to associate them with danger.
In such a scenario, a little ‘thinking outside of the box' can be hugely beneficial in order to locate the type of areas where you stand a better chance of a bite or two.
In the zone
Over the past few seasons on a gravel pit that I’ve been fishing, I have noticed that come late summer the carp will often hold up in the zones that don't tend to see a hook from one year to the next.
These areas are often the triangular zones created between swims and the boundaries of the casting areas from them.
This is often dictated by overhanging trees or reeds at the sides of the swim, which effectively cut them off in some respects. These zones get completely ignored, as anglers become complacent and just fish their usual spots, spots which might well have produced for them earlier in the season.
I too have been guilty of this down the years, but in the past few seasons I’ve been exploiting these little ‘safe zones’ with some success, and all it takes is a little extra effort.
If the fishery permits wading, then often that is all that is needed to widen your casting boundary. We all know that waders are a bit of a chore to keeping putting on and taking off for every cast and for baiting up, but that to me suggests an area that sees little or no angling pressure as most won't bother to make that effort.
If wading is not allowed then 'side sweep' casts can get you in the zone. This takes some practice to master, but like anything else, practice makes perfect - or possible in my case!
Remember, the more awkward the cast, the less likely it is that the spot has seen heavy pressure.
These same areas can also be stalked, with baiting done by hand and a rod poked through the foliage if it is safe to do so.
By fair means or fowl…
Some areas of a lake can often receive little attention simply because they are a headache to fish, such as heavily reeded margins favoured by diving waterfowl.
One such example is a swim that I have fished a fair bit over the past couple of summers. Due to there being two reedy bays along the far margin, it was home to several families of coots and a pair of swans, both of which caused their fair share of problems.
The coots were constantly diving on my spot, often removing my hookbaits, which meant a lot of recasts and rebaiting.
Understandably, the swim didn't get fished very often by other anglers, but the carp loved the area, so I had to find a way of combating these feathered pests.
The first thing I tried was feed them off, slightly away from my baited area. I would hoof in loads of cheap, visible baits, such as chickpeas and sweetcorn, all around their nests and in the reeds, to keep them occupied in the hope they would not venture out and visit my spots.
It worked to some degree, but the areas that were close to the reeds, along the far margin, were still getting visited by the coots.
The carp were there in numbers too, so I began to think…how does a farmer keep birds off his crop? Then it came to me…a scarecrow, or 'scarecoot' in my case!
Coots are cautious creatures and don't like to be too close to humans. So, after a quick rummage in the back of my truck I found some duct tape, a couple of long bank sticks and a hoody.
Hey presto! ’Kevin’ was created. Those anglers who, like me, were obsessed with A Passion for Angling’s Redmire Legends episode will know why I called him Kevin!
Anyway, Kevin has since gained a face, in the shape of a Scream mask which has an expression sufficient to scare an ostrich away!
I know this is starting to sound a bit like a wind-up, but trust me, it really does work and with the scarecoot in place at the back of my far margin spot (obviously out of the carp's eyeline) the coots didn't go anywhere near it and I could crack on with fishing the spot properly.
Another big edge when angling for pressured and 'cagey' fish is to conceal your line to the extent that it’s impossible for the carp to see or bump into it.
There’s one method that allows you to suspend your mainline completely out of the water. It’s called the 'washing line’, and if you’re not familiar with this method, I’ll do my best to explain how to set it up.
It takes a little time and effort, but it can be well worth it. You will need a storm pole, a landing net pole, a hair band and a grass stem.
The first thing you will need to do is remove your hooklink and cast your lead onto the far bank, next to where you want to present your rig.
Then, position your rod on the buzzer, with the tip as high as possible and a tight-fitting butt grip rest on the rear. Set your reel clutch fairly tight, then walk round to the far bank, pick up your rig and reattach the hooklink.
The storm pole, with the hair bobble wrapped tightly around it near the top, needs to be placed firmly into the ground behind your far-margin spot, as close as you can safely get it, but still far enough away that the fish won't see it.
Next, use your landing net pole with the rig hanging just down from the V on the spreader block and ship it out directly over your spot, all the while keeping the line in your other hand.
When you are happy that your rig is hovering above the right spot, carefully pay out line with the other hand and lower the rig into position. If you’re not happy with the drop, you can always pull it back it up and go again at this stage.
Once you are satisfied, step back to your storm pole and pull the line to the rod tip tight so the line is lifted out of the water completely.
Next, form a loop in the line at the storm pole and push it through the hair band, before securing the end of the loop with your blade of grass (acting as a semi-fixed hair stop).
Ensure that the grass stem breaks and pulls through the loop with ease when a fish bolts when hooked, and also that the grass stem is to be durable enough to withstand gusts of wind.
Finally, return to your rod and clip your bobbin onto the tight line. That's the trap set and should you get a bite, you will first receive a big drop back as the line frees from the storm pole, which should persuade the fish to swim in the opposite direction to the margin as they generally bolt away from the initial direction of pressure.
This means the majority of the time, the fish will head out into open water, and this makes it a better method than simply casting over to a far margin spot, where they are more likely to bolt away from you and into the sanctuary reeds once hooked.
I must also point out that when setting up this method you’ll need a mate (or the bailiff) to stay by your rod if your spot is any distance from your rod. I know the chance of a carp picking up your bait after the disturbance in the short time it takes you to return to the swim is very slim, but rules are rules.
Going ‘off menu’…
My final tip for tricking up wary carp at pressured venues is to use alternative baits to the norm.
By late summer they will have seen countless thousands of little round boilies, so going ‘off menu’ can be all it takes for them to drop their guard.
Three of my favourite baits in this respect are pre-drilled garlic pellets, Meaty Fish Bites and the tinned water snails Dynamite Baits sell. While the first two are worth trying simply because the chances are no other angler will have tried them on your water, the snails mimic the carp’s natural food perfectly, and why they aren’t more popular is beyond me.
Anyway, I hope that some of the ideas I’ve suggested here have given you sufficient inspiration to put your thinking cap on.