After my early may trip to Sandhurst I had some time to kill before my main water opens on June 16th, rather than drop onto a water I already know I decided to have a bash at somewhere new for a few weeks, I find if you keep going back to the same places you get bored easily and one of the most interesting things about carp fishing is starting from scratch and piecing together a new water. The fish, the baits, the rigs, patrol routes, feeding patterns, general carp behaviour under different conditions and the methods to catch them all need to be worked out in order to achieve what is for me the holy grail of carp fishing, consistency.
I had a couple of choices when it came to new waters and one lake in particular caught my attention, it was a small 4 acre pool nestled in the Shropshire countryside, well off the beaten track and generally ignored by carpers simply because the carp in there weren’t big enough to warrant the effort involved in catching them. The thing is, the lake itself was stunning and under fished and most of the time I've been the only one there!, in this day and age of rammed banks this place was bliss!.
My first trip came the weekend after sandhurst and I blanked, I literally picked the nearest swim to the car park because it gave me a good view of the lake so I could watch the water. The second trip I made my first mistake, all the carp I’d seen on the first trip were up the far end and instead of going up there I dropped into the same peg so I could watch the whole lake again, very silly and I should have known better, the carp were all up the far end again. My third trip was bank holiday weekend at the end of May and as luck would have it there was nobody on again. I had a quick look around and it didn’t take long to find them on top at the far end, I grabbed my gear from the car and made my way round the lake, watching the water as I went. There were carp cruising round in front of one particular swim so I dropped my gear there and sat down to watch them for a while. It soon became obvious the carp had a liking for one particular tree along the margins to my right, they kept swimming round in a big circle then they would return to a spot in front of the tree to sun themselves for a while before going in another circle. My second mistake was not bringing any floaters even though I knew it was going to be sunny for the bank holiday weekend!. I did have enough bits to cobble together a couple of zig rigs though so I set about rigging them up to see if I could tempt one.
Zig rigs seem to be all the rage at the moment, at sandhurst a few weeks ago the world and his dog were using Zig Bugs fished up in the water and I must admit I’ve bought some myself. I think I’ll find mileage with these zig bugs particularly on this little lake as it’s stuffed with natural food. I kept seeing fish show during the afternoon and being so close to them I managed to work out that the shows were carp ploughing into large groups of naturals, from a distance you’d swear they were rolling and feeding on the bottom and the penny dropped as to why I’d blanked the previous two trips, I hadn’t sat on my hands for those two trips, I’d covered showing carp with bottom baits and they’d been feeding up in the water on the abundant insect life. Watching them like this told me two things, firstly I’d been fishing the wrong method and secondly, with so much food available to the carp I was going to struggle to get a run on conventional baits like boilies.
Zig bugs may be all the rage at the moment but my favourite bait for a zig rig is a small piece of Yellow Rig Foam, you might be surprised at that but yes, yellow foam as a zig rig bait catches carp!. I use Drennan Double Strength Mono for all my floater and zig rig fishing and I started to tie my rig by tying a loop for the Hair Stop, with the loop tied I hair rigged a small square of yellow foam then cut the mono to a length I thought was over depth, in this case that was about 8 feet, I knew the water was shallower than this but I find it best to start over depth when setting up one of these rigs. Next was the hook, an ESP Big-T Raptor in Size 10, I find these hooks perfect for zigs, they are small, light, sharp and very strong. The hook goes on knotless knot style and it’s a simple case of positioning the yellow foam as close to the bend of the hook as possible then whipping along the shank of the hook to help keep the foam in place, threading the line back through the eye of the hook completes the knotless knot. With the bait in place I threaded on a small length of Silicone Tubing which is used to cover the swivel, the silicone rig sleeves are ideal, this was followed by the Swivel itself.
I liberated one of my backleads from its clip and pressed it into operation as a running lead for the rig, it was only 1oz so I could cast it in with minimal disturbance, an Adjustable Zig Rig would have been preferable but the carp were close and I dare not risk spooking them with such a heavy setup. I dropped the zig rig in and sure enough the yellow foam stayed on top with the lead on the bottom so I re-tied the rig 6 inches shorter and tried again, it took me 4 goes but eventually the foam was pulled a few inches under the surface, perfect head height for the crusing carp I’d been watching. I set up another zig the same way but for a different area further out, this was on the path of the circle they’d been taking so even if they drifted off from in front of the tree I’d still be in with a shout as they may stumble across this second bait.
I settled down to await a run but it didn’t come, the carp came and went from in front of the tree but nothing. As the afternoon wore on I saw less and less of them and I assumed they’d disappeared, at around 5pm a bow wave away from the tree was accompanied by the sound of my Delkim melting as a carp finally took the bait, they hadn’t disappeared, they’d just gone a bit lower in the water and with a breeze on the water I couldn’t see them.
I struck gently and sure enough my rod took on a nice curve. Playing a fish with a lead 6ft away from the hook is always a bit strange but with the lead being so light it wasn’t a problem, the carp charged up and down the margins and put up a fantastic scrap before finally slipping into my waiting Landing Net, a pristine common that I weighed at 16lb 2oz.
I released the fish, checked the yellow foam was still ok and firmly in place then dropped it back to the same area, I still had the evening to come and evening time is when they've been most active, I wondered if it was too much to expect a second fish but you don't stop trying just because you've caught one do you?. Sadly I couldn't tempt another and it wasn't through want of trying, as the sun went behind the trees I tried fishing singles to showing fish again, I was hoping they'd be prepared to have a root around on the bottom what with the warmth of the sun having disappeared but again the bottom baits failed miserably.
It was a case of third time lucky on this new lake, Its early days yet and I think I’m going to have my work cut out when it comes to finding consistency on this little water, carp that have abundant natural food and don’t need anglers baits are always the hardest ones to catch, my 16lb 2oz common was very welcome though and it’s opened my account at least. I don’t know much about the lakes stock numbers wise but what I do know is that this was an above average size fish for the water, there are a couple of known 20’s present but getting through to them is starting to look like hard work. I like a challenge though and I think I’ll be persisting with the zig rig when I need too and when my main waters are closed, I’ll be back to carry on trying to unlock the secrets of this lovely little pool.