As winter finally comes to an end, I look forward to my favourite time of year, SPRING!
Frozen toes and the frosted days of winter soon become a distant memory and in turn make way for the warming sunshine and the sweet fragrance of blossom.
Nature’s fuse is once more lit and the catalyst of life goes off with a bang, breathing new life into the lake, and, as if by magic the carp begin to stir, awakened from their winter slumber, and bringing the promise of a new start!
So get in that shed, blow the cobwebs from your tackle and kickstart a new campaign!
Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your spring carping gets off to a good start; remember, effort equals reward, put the time in now and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of planning ahead! .
CHECK BACK ON PAST RECORDS
One of the best tips I can give you, which is what I’ve learned from my husband, is to get into the habit of keeping a diary and document your time on the bank.
Over the years this will become a valuable tool when it comes to maximising your fishing.
Peg, location, distances, features, weather conditions,bait used and of course those all important catches! It all goes in here and will help you stay one step ahead of other anglers.
You’ve already done your homework, so now is the time to reap the rewards.
GET OUT ON THE BANK
At this time of year the banks are, in most cases, a lot quieter due to the cold weather and are yet to see the maddening crowds!
Getitng out and about on your chosen venue,for the time being devoid of angling pressures, can reveal early signs and indications of fish activity, so take this opportunity to walk and survey your chosen water,clean and prime your spots and use this quiet time to your advantage.
Most clubs and syndicates at this time of year organise those all important working parties and often offer an early season incentive to worthy participants.
Not only is this a prime opportunity for you to get out on the bank and get to know your water but also an opportunity to speak to other anglers, share tactics and glean as much information as you can!
There’s also something very satisfying in knowing that you’ve contributed to the upkeep of your venue, and ultimately contributed to that all important carpy habitat.
DON’T IGNORE THE SHALLOWS
At this time of year don’t overlook the shallows, as they warm up fast!
Carp are of course cold blooded, and so are as only as warm as the water in which they live, so will naturally look for the warmest corner of the lake, particularly in spring.
Get yourself a quality set of polarised glasses; you’ll soon find the fish! Tread carefully, and minimal disturbance is of course key!
At this time of year the water clarity in most lakes is crystal clear and so sinking your lines and pinning everything to the deck is a must.
This is where backleads can come into their own.
Getting everything out of the way ensures that even the wiliest of carp can feed freely without running the risk of being spooked by pinging your lines mid water.
Whilst this is not always possible in the warmer months as heavy weed can take hold, “back leading”is certainly a tactic worth trying whilst you can get away it and it may just bring you an extra bite or two!
Replacing your fishing line on your reels from season to season should be a top priority as the last thing you want is to lose that fish of a lifetime as a result of a damaged or compromised line, this is true regardless or whether you choose to fish with mono or braid.
When choosing or replacing your line there are a number of factors you should take in to consideration, such as the size of your quarry, the environment in which you fish,the pressures which you subject that line to and ultimately what potential damage may be caused every time you wet a line.
For example a mainline used for fishing open water in a snag free environment is not likely in most cases to become damaged as quickly as one which is used to extract fish from a snaggy or weedy lake full of zebra muscles.
The majority of my own fishing takes place on the waters such as the latter and so having a line with high abrasion quality is a must.
For me I aim to land everything I hook, therefore a line of at least 15lb or 0.35mm is my “go to” breaking strain, however I will not hesitate to use heavier when circumstances dictate.
Some may argue that heavy lines can compromise your casting over extreme distances and I agree, yes it does, but for me there is no point in loading up with a low diameter line just to reach a spot if every time you hook a fish you end up losing it! This is bad angling and can only result in harming the fish.
There are a number of pre stretched lines available on the market, some with lower diameters, but with stated breaking strains exceeding those of a standard diameter line, which ultimately will aid your casting and yet still maintain a high level of abrasion resistance. These have worked well for me but again, find a line you have confidence in and don’t buck to trends.
So how often throughout the season should you change your line?
Well this will be different for every angler as we are all afforded different amounts of time on the bank, each fishing in a multitude of different conditions and venues and so some anglers will feel the need to change their mainlines maybe 2 or 3 times a year or even more, however if you look after and check your line for nicks and frays each session you will dramatically reduce the number of compromises and put more fish on the bank!
Start as you mean to go on and for me there is no better time to start than spring!
TIDY AND DE CLUTTER
Through the winter months and leading up to spring, when the lakes are frozen and you’re sat at home on the sofa with a hot cup of tea, use this time to tidy, clean, re organise and de clutter your tackle.
Get rid of any old rigs and items you don’t use, and prepare everything for your next bankside session. Take the time to practice using new concepts, and prime those new rigs.
Lightening your load will not only save your back but will aid you in becoming more mobile and help you track down the carp.
When it comes to rigs and presentation I have to admit that I have OCD, and have lost count of the amount of wasted hours spent on the bank fiddling about in the wet, cold and dark trying to get things right!
As a result I have got into the habit of tank testing my rigs and baits prior to use especially when it comes down to pop ups and critically balanced hook baits, as I found that no two are ever the same!
This ensures that once you’re on the bank your mind is allowed to focus on the task in hand and not cluttered with the mechanics and the niggling thought of your rigs not working!
A tidy tackle box will always ensure you have a tidy mind, will aid your fishing dramatically and allow you to fish well!
HOOKBAIT BOOSTING AND PREP
With the carp just starting to move I want to keep my baiting as light as possible even if this means throwing out a single.
For this reason at this time of year my hookbaits will be boosted with as much attraction as possible.
By enhancing my hook baits, not only will this amplify the food signals, but will also give me confidence that any presented bait will remain attractive to the carp and will not become tainted by accumulated silt and rotting vegetation from the previous winter.
This is an important factor as the likelihood is that your hookbait will remain in the water for much longer periods of time than perhaps in the warmer months.
My usual “silt busters” of choice will consist of a mixture of hi viz baits and one matching that of my chosen feed bait, but have a play around and find what works for you.
For an extra edge and something that particularly works well at this time of year is to add a little salt - carp love it!
Generally, in early spring, fish are wanderers and will tend to cruise around the lake; in most cases it’s hard to pin them down to one specific area.
On most lakes prebaiting is a no no so it is difficult, but where allowed it can definitely tip the scales in your favour, however I always go easy on the bait to begin with.
Finding a bait that you have absolute confidence in, and which delivers effective results every time is essential for any carp angler and at this time of year, as the waters start to warm I will look to a high protein based fishmeal food bait which is not only highly digestible but is loaded with exotic spices and is geared to get those carpy taste buds tingling!
When choosing your baits however my opinion would be don’t favour quantity over quality. Many companies have spring deals on so take advantage of these and fill your freezers for your yearly campaigns, but do your homework and don’t just plump for the biggest bag of semolina and sawdust you can find!
DON’T FORGET THE WEATHERMAN
Keep a close eye on the weather and look out for those windows of opportunity and those prime times of low pressure and stiff south westerlies!
There are a multitude of different weather applications available to download on your mobile so you can always have information at hand to help to locate those prime spots and maximise your time on the bank!
With lighter nights and fairer weather longer sessions on the bank are a welcome prospect!
For some the concept of feeding yourself whilst on the bank for long periods usually consists of meals fresh from the tin, dried rice and pasta and plenty of biscuits!
This topic for me has to be one of the most important as I am very passionate about cooking and healthy eating.
Being away from home and on the bank for me doesn’t mean that you should compromise on the foods you have and you should definitely be benefiting from the fresh and wholesome ingredients available from the high street.
Preparation is key; often I like to pre -prepare meals at home prior to venturing out and then quite simply it is just a case of putting the finishing touches together once on the bank.
Usually I have a variety of meats marinated to just pop on the grill such as steaks, chops, chicken and lamb. Accompany these with your favourite fresh vegetables, boiled or sautéed and you’ll have the perfect wholesome meal.
Cooking on the bank is much easier these days due to the extensive range of cookware and stoves available, so there are no excuses!
Start afresh this spring, get rid of all those heavy tins and cans and with a bit of your own culinary magic you’ll soon be cooking up a storm!
And last but not least, enjoy your time on the bank. Time spent fishing is precious, so enjoy every moment and I hope that the new season brings you all plenty of exciting new ventures.