Sunday, 11 November 2012

Short Session Carping

Lightening the Load.

For the last few years I’ve been fishing a syndicate lake here in the north west but recently I’ve been struggling to get out due to a back injury. I got to the stage where I had to see a chiropractor to try and sort the problem out so I’ve had a forced absence from the bank this summer. I’ve not fished a single night since the first week of August 2011 and my bank time has been minimal as I’ve struggled to come to terms with the necessary changes to my fishing and my lifestyle. I’m not a person who is easily defeated by anything and during my absence from the bank I had a clearout of my gear, Its not the first time I’ve stripped out all those items of fishing tackle you always seem to take and never use but this time I really went to town to try and get the weight of my fishing gear down to a manageable level. So, ‘lightening the load’ or gearing yourself for ‘short session carping’ is the theme of this blog entry.

I needed to divide my gear up so I could carry what I needed and nothing else, no night fishing meant no bed chair and no sleeping bag so they were the first casualties. My rucksack was a 110 litre aqua that was rather heavy, leaving the contents aside for a minute, the rucksack itself had to go so I downsized to a JRC 40 Litre Rucksack which was perfect for the job, it was small, light and had just enough room for the minimal tackle I was going to carry.

My new JRC 40 Litre Rucksack, great for short session carping

After downsizing to a smaller rucksack I had a look at the contents, I found 3 head torches in my aqua rucksack so only one was kept, a Petzl Tikka 2 because it was the smallest and it had a couple of different brightness settings plus a red led which I find useful for keeping a low profile when fishing into dark. My Reuben Heaton scales were quite heavy and bulky so they had to be downsized too, I bought a set of Sportster Flyweight Mk2 Scales which happily were made by Reuben Heaton anyway. The Flyweight Scales were excellent, very light and compact, 40lb x 1oz divisions and brilliant for short session carping.

Sportster Flyweight Mk2 Scales by Reuben Heaton, unbelievably light!

My tackle box was quite heavy too and I decided the tackle box itself had to go in favour of a smaller one, I always avoid purpose made tackle boxes because they are such a rip off so I replaced my big box with a small 6” x 9” ‘organiser'. These Stanley Organisers are pretty much a tackle box but they are sold in diy shops where they are used for keeping various things like screws and washers, amazingly they look rather like a fox box but without the rip off price tag, the organiser I got had 12 compartments and cost £3.80, eat your heart out fox!.

Cheaper than a Fox Box, a Stanley Organiser makes an ideal tackle box!

My old tackle box had far too many lead weights in it so I transferred just 2x2oz leads to the new box, 2 spare leads meant two spare lengths of Rig Tubing and no more, that afforded one loss of rig per rod, not something that should really happen on a 6 hour session but it does pay to have some cover even if its only a little. I bought a couple of new bits for the box too, some ESP Braid Scissors, a Gardener Boilie Needle and a few assorted Fake Baits I use occasionally to try and get an extra fish on the bank. Things like Hooks I took from my main tackle box but again only really enough to get through one session. The new tackle box looks great, its got everything I need but weighs a fraction of my main tackle box!.

My new tackle box open, Just enough bits for short session carping

As far as my rucksack goes I pretty much left everything else out, scales, camera and a few bits of tackle was all I needed and by time I’d finished my new rucksack was a fraction of the weight of the old 110L Aqua I’d been used too. This new 40L rucksack has proved to be an excellent purchase as it made walking with my gear so much easier, it’s also easier to pack into the car too!.

Next for the chop treatment was my Aqua Quiver, four rods became two, two Landing Nets became one, no need for a carp sack, no need for a floatation sling, no need for so many banksticks either so they all went too. At the moment I’m looking to upgrade my banksticks to lighter carbon versions but as yet I haven’t found any that will fit my brolly so I’m carrying 2 small adjustable sticks that are aluminium, they are quite light but I still intend to switch to carbon as and when I find them. Lightening my rod quiver didn’t stop there either because I changed my reels too, my infinity reels are fabulous but they are quite heavy so I swapped them for a pair of Shimano Baitrunners, the shimano’s were much smaller and lighter and changing to them made my rod quiver much easier to carry. I did contemplate leaving my Rod Sleeves off too but the thought of exposing my rods and main line to damage gave me second thoughts, particularly line damage in transit, in the end I decided to keep the sleeves but I know a few guys who’ve dropped them too to save weight.

I couldn’t change my rod pod, my original KJB Pod is about as light as you can get although I did cut down from four delkim alarms to two, no point in carrying extra if you only intend to use two rods!, I cut the indicators down too so four monkey climbers became two as well. The only thing left to look at was my chair, I’d been using a Nash Daddy Long Legs Chair which was great for comfort but not for carrying!, I changed the daddy long legs for a Chub Lo-Lite Chair, a nice comfortable chair that was half the weight of the nash chair!.

With my new gear all sorted I couldn’t wait to try it out, the first time I carried my gear to the lake I couldn’t believe how easy it was, having been used to a near full 110 litre rucksack and multi rod setup my newly stripped out gear was so easy to deal with.

I picked a tricky water for my first session back but I found not being hindered by so much gear was an absolute bonus. I had a good walk around looking in every nook and cranny around the lake until I found some carp. Once I’d found my targets I simply sat and watched them for a while, it soon became apparent that the fish were active within a certain area and over time I managed to pick a couple of spots in my swim that the carp were visiting on a regular basis, they always drifted off then came back to the exact same spots, I simply waited for them to vacate the area then under armed a couple of rigs into position. I put Backleads on then pulled my lines slack with my monkey climbers on the deck, half a dozen baits scattered around the shallow area and I retired to a safe distance to see how things would unfold, it was all so simple, back to basics if you like, find them and set the traps.

The lake was like tap water but the lines were well hidden, it took a good two hours before my left hand Delkim burst into life, runs when slack lining are best described as vicious as the fish has usually bolted before you hear the alarm and this was no exception, I looked up to see my monkey climber literally ram into my rod butt!. The fight played out fairly quickly as the fish itself had small fins and a small tail, it was an old ‘character’ fish with very little power to trouble me and I quickly netted a 15lb 4oz mirror.

An old Cheshire warrior of 15lb 4oz

I was happy enough with that result so I put the rod back out as there was still more fish around. I continued to watch the swim from a safe distance, every tail pattern the carp made gave their presence away in the shallow water and I’d made my mind up to move the other rod to what I thought would be a better position. I got up and took a step towards the rods when all hell broke loose, there was a massive eruption of water quickly followed by my right hand delkim going into full meltdown!. Just as well I never made it to the rods, I was literally a second from blowing this chance!. As soon as I hit it I knew it was a bigger fish and this one took me all over the swim making repeated strong runs. The runs got shorter and shorter and I already knew it was a decent fish. It seemed to take an age to reach the spreader block but eventually I lifted the Mesh and engulfed what looked to me like a breathtaking prize. It was a real stunning mirror and my new sportster scales gave a weight of 23lb 6oz.

23lb 6oz, a stunning heritage carp and a great way to return to the bank in summer 2012!

It would be an understatement to say I was pleased with both of these fish, specially as they came from a very tricky water, I was equally pleased with the way I’d stripped my gear out too, the new lighter tackle items along with a few bare essetials from my main Tackle Box made walking and moving very easy, I fished on for an hour or two extra to see if I could tempt another but that was it for my bank side return. The walk back to the car park was a breeze and I was equally happy to have completed my return to carp fishing without crippling myself again in the process!.

I know many carp anglers have suffered the same fate as me, sleeping on a bed chair, the cold and the damp, none of it helps you if you have a back problem and you suffer more the older you get. Short of giving up the hobby the best you can do is to make life as easy as you can. Stripping out the gear and going back to basics has been the answer to my problems. I was so focused on cutting weight any way I could I even bought replacement tackle items rather than make do with the gear I had and I‘m not exactly known for chucking my hard earned around!. If you suffer with a back problem like me or you just want to gear yourself for short session carping then I can tell you, ’lightening the load’ and going back to basics is a great place to start.

Tight Lines


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Safe Carp Rig

Recently I added a list of ‘most popular’ posts to this blog and one thing that became apparent to me was the popularity of the piece I wrote about Lead Core Leaders. For those of you who haven’t read it, lets just say I’m not a fan of lead core at all, I believe that anyone who thinks they can tie a safe rig incorporating lead core is, quite frankly, delusional!.

Click to watch a video of my Safe Carp Rig

Having pretty much slated lead core I thought I’d take a look at the safest carp rig I know and the one I use for just about all of my bottom bait fishing, the simple inline lead carp bolt rig. The components needed for this safety bolt rig are all very simple, and I’ll quickly run through them before I look at just how I set this carp rig up.

Rig Tubing. The first rig component is rig tubing, as a general rule I make my rig tubing a couple of inches longer than my actual hook length. With the new generation of ‘heavyweight’ rig tubing like ESP’s Anchor Rig Tubing you can be confident your end tackle is pinned down without the need for any lead core. As my rigs are generally quite long, I use around 12-15 inches of rig tube.

ESP Anchor Rig Tube, A perfect reason not to use leadcore!

Tail Rubbers. The next component of this carp rig is the tail rubber, again many companies supply these, generally I like the ones from Korda or Nash tackle but there are many others. The rig tubing should be a nice tight fit into the tail rubber and the tail rubber should fit over the tube at the back of the inline lead in the same way.

Inline Lead. I don’t buy lead weights from the tackle shop anymore, last time I was in a tackle shop I got the shock of my life when I saw how much they were!, perhaps I should have carried on making my own leads as I used to but when I found other anglers selling them cheap online I decided not to waste my fishing time making my own anymore. Most of the time I get mine in bulk from Ebay, if you buy 20 or more leads in one go you can generally get them for 50-60p each, less perhaps if you buy more although 20 leads should last a long time!. I prefer my inline lead to have a recess in it to house the swivel, I think a carp rig set up with this type of inline lead is nice and neat and a very efficient hooker of carp.

Carp Swivel. The swivels I use for my safety bolt rigs are 50lb test, again many tackle manufacturers make these kind of swivels and it’s a personal choice for most anglers, if you’re not sure then Korda and Nash Tackle are both very good.

Hook Length. My hook length is generally 25lb Kryston Silkworm, I’ve been using this material since the early-mid 1990’s and I have total confidence in it, however, this article is about setting up a safe lead arrangement so I won’t dwell on the rest of the rig.

Setting up this safety bolt rig is easy, simply thread the rig tubing onto your main line, this is followed with a tail rubber, then the inline lead and lastly the swivel from your actual rig itself is tied on, the whole lot simply pulls together, the tubing fits into the tail rubber, the tail rubber fits onto the tubing at the back of the lead and the swivel is pulled into the housing within the lead, its very simple and very straight forward.

Safe carp rig ready to be pushed together.
This perfectly safe bolt rig looks neat and tidy when finished.
This isn’t the end of the rig though, you need to make sure the swivel will release from the lead housing with little resistance, as a general rule, I hold the rig up by the hook length and the weight of the lead itself should be enough to release the lead, if it doesn’t then I slightly crush one half of the swivel into an oval shape to make it release easier, this is simply done with a small pair of long nosed pliers.

Slightly crush the swivel if the lead won't fall easily when held up by the hooklength.
If the swivel will release from the rig just by the weight of the lead you can be sure you’ve done enough to make the rig as safe as possible. Should a carp pick up your bait, you have a proper bolt rig to hook it and when it runs the swivel pops out of the lead housing and you are effectively left playing the fish in with a running lead, a lead which will simply drop off the line in the event of your main line snapping.

Hold the rig up by the hooklink, the lead should fall away under its own weight.
I think we have a responsibility as anglers to leave our fish with the minimum of tackle to deal with should we be unfortunate enough to have our main line break and this rig is just the job for that, the lead and rig tube have only been threaded onto the main line and in the event of a break, both will be lost and you simply can’t get this level of safety if you use lead core!. I’ve been using this rig for the best part of 20 years now, its simple, very effective and as safe as a carp rig possibly can be.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Carp Hooks

Its been a while since I wrote anything about end tackle so I thought I’d concentrate on possibly the most important part of any carp rig, namely the carp hook. The carp hook is so important but it can so often be overlooked, these days I really only have 3 patterns of carp hook I use regularly but before I look at them I’d like to look at two other important items namely a magnifier and a hook sharpener.

Your hook point is so vitally important, a razor sharp hook that’s able to take hold easily is vital in today’s modern carp world, if you don’t keep your hooks razor sharp you will undoubtedly loose fish at some point (lol).

Two things I always carry in my tackle box are a magnifier and a diamond file hook sharpener. I’ve seen the magnifier available from the odd fishing tackle company but it comes at a bit of an extortionate price!, the magnifiers correct name is a Jewellers Loupe and you can find them for a fraction of the cost a tackle company charges if you click the link!. Generally you want a jewellers loupe with a x10 magnification to inspect your hook point carefully but they are also available in x12, x15, x20 and x30 if you want to take an even closer look at your hook point. As a matter of routine I always check my hook before I cast out any rig, to not do so is to invite a lost fish and it’s something every angler should do. Can you imagine fishing a hard carp water and waiting 6 months for a run only to loose the fish because your hook point had turned over and you hadn’t checked it?, it’s just not worth missing out that quick hook check before casting!.

Jewellers Loupe Magnifier, ideal for inspecting and sharpening carp hooks

As much as tackle companies would like you to use a fresh rig after catching a fish, or starting a new session, or even casting out again!, you can’t escape the fact that carp hooks are expensive!. I tend to use the same hook week to week until it’s blunt enough to need sharpening, when the hook reaches this stage I’ll touch it up using the jewellers loupe and a Diamond File Hook Sharpener. After one touch up job, next time the hook blunts I’ll bin it and tie a new rig. Again you can get a diamond file from a few tackle companies but they are available cheaper elsewhere, it seems these days putting ‘carp’ next to something entitles people to double the price and I’d advise buying a diamond file from a trout fishing shop instead.

Diamond File Hook Sharpener, ideal for keeping your hookpoint pin sharp

My first and top carp hook is the Kamasan B175, this hook is actually a very heavy trout hook but many years ago carp anglers adopted it to our style of fishing as it lent itself perfectly to the knotless knot. The Kamasan B175 is a long shank hook with a straight point and a down turned eye, used with the famous knotless knot it has that lovely turn or flip effect when you draw the rig across your finger. One test I do is to try and pull the hook over my finger without it turning and digging in, due to the long shank and down turned eye this is very difficult, not only will you have difficultly avoiding the hook turning and taking hold, so will the carp!. Another good point about the B175 hooks is their price, we seem to have reached the £5 per 10 packet of carp hooks so at around £8 per box of 100 hooks, the Kamasan B175’s will really help keep your end tackle costs down. All in all, I’ve been using this particular pattern of hook for carp fishing for around 17/18 years now and where I’m allowed to use it, it’s my first choice every time.

Kamasan B175 Hooks, a brilliant hook for carp anglers on a budget, like me!

Next up is the Korda Kaptor Kurv Shank Hooks.Some carp waters have banned long shank carp hooks and my syndicate water is one of them. Having spent so many years having total confidence in Kamasan hooks I had some real confidence issues when it came to switching patterns. It took me a while to find a suitable alternative and unfortunately the hook that fitted the bill was one of the most expensive!. Price aside though, the Korda Kurv shank hooks have really been superb for me during my time in the syndicate, I’ve had no issues with hook pulls or missed runs and every fish has been nailed. The first thing you notice about the Korda Kurv shanked hooks is the hook points, in keeping with my liking for a razor sharp hook I really can’t fault these hooks. They are packaged perfectly with each hook clipped into the box and coming with a small hook point protector to ensure they stay razor sharp. I’m not usually a fan of Korda Tackle but I have to say these kurv hooks are brilliant. The Kurv hooks are quite big and I like a quite small hook so the size I’ve been using is a 12!. Tied either as a kd-rig for popups or with the hair exiting near the bend of the hook for bottom baits as per the korda instructions and dvd’s, these hooks have worked superbly well for me and they are something Korda have got absolutely spot on.

Korda Kaptor Kurv Carp Hooks, mega sharp and mega reliable for me so far

My third hook is the ESP Big T Raptor Hook in size 10. Although ESP recommend this hook for bottom bait fishing, I use the Big-T Raptor strictly for fishing up in the water, either with a floater setup or as part of a zig rig. This particular ESP hook lends itself perfectly to surface fishing and the size 10 is small enough to fool wary fish and strong enough to cope with the big ones. I generally use Drennan Double Strength mono for both surface and zig fishing and with only a 12% downturn in the eye these hooks lend themselves to a mono hook length nicely. Again the hook point is mega sharp and I’ve never had one let me down yet.

ESP Big-T Raptor Carp Hooks, great for surface rigs as well as bottom fishing

So that’s just about it for carp hooks, I do have a few other patterns in my tackle box, Drennan Super Specialist Hooks in size 6 and 8, I use these for surface fishing too or rather I did before ESP brought out the Big-T Raptor. Fox Arma Point SSP Hooks I found these to be mega sharp too but the Korda Kurv Hooks quickly run out winners for me purely because they are so versatile, I can use them with pop up or bottom baits. This is not to detract from the Arma Points, they too are a very good hook, me choosing the Korda Kurv was just personal choice but  I still keep the Armapoints handy just in case.

The above carp hooks are just my personal choice based on my own fishing, there are many other patterns of carp hook available today and if you put 10 carp anglers in a room I reckon they’d all have different opinions of which hook is best. No matter what hook you use, my final advice is to make sure you check the hook point before every cast, use a jewellers loupe and a diamond file to sharpen your hook if you feel the point isn’t sharp enough, make the process of checking the hook first part of your casting routine so you don’t forget to do it. If you can discipline yourself to carry out regular hook point checks prior to casting it will certainly help you put more carp on the bank.

Tight Lines

A useful clip looking at the basic and very safe carp hair rig I use for most of my fishing.

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