Jonny Fletcher gives you his top tips for keeping your hook points nice and sharp - ultimately leading to a better chance of keeping your bite.
SPRING IS A TIME WE ALL LOOK FORWARD TO AS CARP ANGLERS AND FROM EXPERIENCE, TO MAKE THE VERY BEST OF WHAT CAN BE THE MOST PROLIFIC TIME OF YEAR, PLANNING AND PREPARATION IS VERY OFTEN KEY.
My own planning begins way back during the winter months, by obtaining tickets for the waters I have chosen and starting to make those first important recce trips. Those trips can usually be just a walk about, but quite often, if possible, I will take a marker set up and learn a little of the topography around the pit. I map out the lake in a diary, make numerous notes on any distinct features it contains, such as bars or plateau, areas of shallow water and any old weed beds etc. The main idea from this is to get a feel for the venue and make life that bit easier when things start to liven up as daylight hours increase, especially after the equinox.
Bait preparation will be in the forefront of my mind and the approach I have decided on for the particular venue will often dictate this prep. Between trips to the venue, I will soak and boil some batches of particle and freeze them down in readiness for the warmer days ahead, and also roll up any special hook baits I feel I may need. Cork ball pop ups in particular require time and effort to get just right and I like to charge mine up slowly over a number of weeks in small amounts of liquid, allowing that steeping and drying process to develop over time. Once I'm happy, I freeze them in small batches ready for use later in the year. Another job boxed off. At the same time as the cork balls, I usually prep up a few pots of wafters and bright ones with the matching liquids, so nothing is left to chance once the fish are active. For those initial trips, and quite often throughout the months of March and April, my main approach will be single bright pop ups cast at shows during the daylight hours, and depending on levels of activity from the carp, maybe a small spread of baits scattered with a throwing stick or catapult. This simple way of angling allows me to remain mobile, stealthy and reactive to weather, matching the nomadic nature of the carp at this time of year.
THIS SIMPLE WAY OF ANGLING ALLOWS ME TO REMAIN MOBILE, STEALTHY AND REACTIVE TO WEATHER, MATCHING THE NOMADIC NATURE OF CARP AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR.
The winter generally takes its toll on the kit and during the course of a year’s angling, as most of my equipment is in constant use. As spring approaches, I strip all the kit down in my garage and give it all a good airing and a thorough clean-up. The sleeping bag will get a hot wash and the shelter will be re-proofed with Fabsil. It's all ready then for another year of punishment from our unpredictable island weather. The next task is to re-spool my reels with fresh line and check over any braid that may have suffered wear and tear over the preceding year. This is an important job and takes any element of doubt away! Next, the buzzers and receiver will get a new set of batteries and be given a quick maintenance check.
As I said earlier, the mainstay of my early spring approach is location and mobility, often just casting single bright baits at shows, so I need to be fully prepared for these scenarios and waste no time. New leadcore leaders are tied and stored in a small clip top box, then some chod sections and a number of multi-hinge rigs are tied up in readiness. I also make up a good number of short, stiff D-rigs for in the edge stalking scenarios and I store these in an old PVA tube. Once all the main items of bait and tackle are sorted, I go through the tackle pouch and list any items I need to re-stock. With a fresh start now complete on the main kit, I turn my attention to the van and all the spare items of tackle including my ‘survival box’. This consists of dried/packet food, long life milk and spare batteries etc. I also ensure a quantity of preserved bait and pellet is kept in a bucket in case I run out of fresh, or a big opportunity arises that requires more bait than I generally carry with me about on the lake. A small holdall contains spare clothes and any ancillary tackle that could be required such as spare spools for the reels, PVA, zig and floater kit, leads and H blocks etc. Last of all, I inflate my little boat, checking for wear and tear, repairing any punctures and giving it a good wash out. Then the lifejacket gets a once-over and the gas inflation cartridge is replaced if necessary.
A weekend spent making up plenty of food stash for the freezer is the next job, and that’s one that gets done on a monthly basis for the rest of the year. I make a variety of meals including curry, bolognaise, chili and stews and store them frozen in portioned containers ready to grab and go.
Once all this technical prep is taken care of, my mind can focus purely on the angling scenarios and learning the ways of the pit and its inhabitants. The most important factor in a spring campaign for me is location, as it’s usually very hard to get the carp to come to you via baiting in early spring. They have huge natural resources at their disposal and will take advantage of the many natural larders and occurrences, like hatches, as the water warms.
FOR ME, THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A SPRING CAMPAIGN IS LOCATION!
For carp the really early days of spring are all about finding sheltered warm water and the sun. I will spend much of my time looking in the shallow bays, reedbeds, south facing snags etc., really hunting out the sightings. This is the best chance to catch the fish off guard at prime time and before they have been really pressured once again.
One of the key triggers at this time of year are the big hatches that occur when the sun is higher in the sky and can penetrate the layers. We all know the carp is cold blooded and so will seek the warmest layers of water, which generally means the upper layers of deeper pits and any shallow or sheltered areas will always get special attention from the fish seeking to absorb solar energy. Once the months move on and the water temperatures become more stable, the metabolism of the carp will be on fire and I will usually react with a heavier baiting response to areas of activity and then gauge the reaction. Generally, by May, I have a good idea of the areas I wish to concentrate my efforts and will hopefully have a good idea where the fish feed both naturally and with some encouragement from bait. If the lake is fairly quiet, some time should now be spent preparing marginal areas ready for when the weed comes up with vigor and the heat of summer is upon us!
GENERALLY, BY MAY, I HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF THE AREAS I WISH TO CONCENTRATE MY EFFORTS ON.
So, spring for me is mainly simply a case of getting out on the pit as early as possible, feeling your way forward and spending as much time watching and observing the carp as possible…using watercraft and learning the moods of lake… with pre-planning and preparation the rest is all taken care of!